Written by Sydney Walters
Sydney Walters, indie author of novel State of Grace, the first in a young adult series based on true events, is also a copywriter and marketing professional from Washington, D.C.
Her story is based solely on the tragedy of the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, USA. Sydney was inspired by these true events to write her debut novel.
The Inspiration Behind State Of Grace
In the year 1962, a coal mine eruption took place beneath the town in a coal mining vein. The damage was catastrophic, nearly destroying many parts of the town and eventually lead to an evacuation of it’s residents. However, not everyone was willing to leave so quickly.
Sydney later discovered that the stubborn ignorance of small-town America can run as deep as coal, and it disturbed her down to the core.
As the town is still burning below to this day, she was baffled that there were hundreds of people who decided to stay and raise their families on such literal broken foundation.
As Sydney did a deep dive into some archives on the town, she discovered a story about a young boy who had fallen through a sinkhole in Centralia. Luckily, this young boy survived, but Sydney knew that that was just it: it was all luck.
How this many people could be living in a town where hell was burning below them sparked a fire of her own inside Sydney, and thus her story, State of Grace, was risen from the ashes.
Writing State Of Grace
The story follows the young protagonist, Grace, and what it’s like for her to grow up in the crumbled town of Centralia with her baby brother, Sam. After some unexpected tragedy and loss, Grace must fight for her life to get out of the town and move forward, while simultaneously addressing the past that she cannot escape from.
On November 24th, 2019, Sydney sat down at a favorite local spot of hers, trying to find some inspiration for a short story.
She had been suffering from anxiety for years and was trying hard to get back into writing as an outlet, when she used the research on Centralia to write a story of her own. On that same day, she had written over 2,000 words and was so excited, she almost forgot to pay her bill on the way out of the restaurant.
Finding Her Voice
Growing up, Sydney was the quiet and shy kid in her class. She recalls numerous times of being interrupted, talked over, or completely ignored for many years, which greatly effected her self esteem. So, Sydney turned to writing as a way to sound her voice.
If nobody would listen to Sydney, she thought that perhaps they would read her words instead. Writing from an early age, around ten years old, by the time she was 23 she had a full manuscript ready to be sent out into the publishing world.
Indie vs Traditional Publishing
Indie publishing was the obvious choice for Sydney for a few reasons: Creative control, timing, and owning the rights to her work.
Being an author means creating original work, whether it be from your heart, soul, or a complete brain-dump of information. Originality is important to Sydney, and she did not want to give that up. While traditional publishers will sweep through a manuscript and perform an entire content edit, indie publishers focus on grammar, punctuation, and consistency.
Time plays a huge part in why she chose this route as well. Traditional publishing often takes much longer, with a process deeming as long as the publishers see fit, no matter what the author had foreseen for a launch date. When done Sydney’s way, she was able to have specific dates and deadlines mapped out for her, and it gave a heavy sense of relief.
Owning the rights to her work was important to Sydney. To have her story re-written for what someone else says will sound better or sell better removes the authenticity of the art form, and it was not something that she wanted for her book at that time.
Sydney vowed to send her writing into the world straight from her mind, to her hands, and finally, to the printer.
The Power Of Story
Sydney has overcome struggles of her own by writing through her protagonist, Grace, and hopes that her story will reach young girls that felt the way that she did when growing up.
She also hopes that her story will reach readers that struggle with dyslexia, as she had the book formatted with certain fonts, page colors, and line spacing so that it is easier to read.
In a world where women and girls are far too often silenced, Sydney’s words speak loudly enough to shine a light in the darkness, through the smoke and the ash.