Interview with Author Victoria J. Hyla – Ramona Portelli Blog

Interview with Author Victoria J. Hyla

Victoria J. Hyla is the author of the Hearts Drawn Wyld trilogy (In Death We Part, Running in the Mists, and Awake in Elysian Fields). She began writing seriously in high school, but she got the bug in third grade when the assignment was to write a “book.” Obsessed with the Oz world of L. Frank Baum, she tackled the task with relish, added her own tale to the Oz world, and got the top score in the class. She’s been writing avidly ever since, everything from short stories and poetry to essays, magazine articles, and blogs.

Victoria started writing her first book (In Death We Part) at age 15 when a high school crush slid into gym class and said, “Write about book about me.” Her response was, “Give me a character.” He did, and the rest is history. That book was originally “finished” as a 50-page short story, and although a publisher was interested, she felt it was not the time and put it on a shelf. For the next 18 years, she revisited it, revised it, and expanded it as she grew up, went to college, and lived life. She finally pulled the trigger and published it at age 33 when the life she’d planned was coming apart at the seams. The next book, Running in the Mists, came out a year and a half later because the story seemed to write itself with a clear beginning and end that just needed to happen as she waded through a tumultuous life situation. Life threw a few more curveballs, and the last of the trilogy was put on hold about 40 pages in as she went through a few more growing pains, but this time definitely for the better.

Now finally seven years later, the trilogy is complete with Awake in Elysian Fields, which could not have been told authentically any sooner. Victoria is now a freelance writer and editor by trade ( and spends her time writing and promoting her books when not otherwise working and living life. She resides in the far west Chicago suburbs with her husband, Marco, nearly five-year-old twins Joaquin and Mikaela, and stepson Dylan as well as a dog (Lancelot) and cat (Ralphie).

Tell me more about your latest book

My most recent book, Awake in Elysian Fields, is the endcap to the Hearts Drawn Wyld trilogy. Unlike the first two books that follow young Brianna Wylder on her journey of self-discovery and coming to terms with immense personal tragedy, this book focuses on the story of Elyse Brennan Wylder, a character that is alluded to during In Death We Part and introduced at the crux of the climax of Running in the Mists. This book jumps 10 years past the end of Book 2 as Elyse, now 20, embarks on a study abroad program in Paris. The plot is driven by Elyse’s search to find out more about her mother who died horribly when Elyse was just a child and why and how such a woman could end up with a man so horribly abusive as her father, who has been in prison since she was seven. All Elyse has to go on is an old photograph showing her France-born mother and a man named Michel performing at a nightclub in Paris. Upon her arrival in Paris, she meets Jérôme, an artist who turns her world upside-down and leads her down a path she could never have expected. Their journey together allows her to reconnect with her mother’s past in a variety ways—many good and restorative, but some that show the darkest side of Paris and of humanity, including the realities and horrors of the sex trafficking trade. It is the darkest of the three books, but also the most fulfilling.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

The biggest challenge in writing this book was how dark I had to go at times, both mentally and emotionally. In my life, it’s been a struggle to understand the role of sex and love and how they are separate but ideally interweave, and that conflict very much comes into play in this book. When I write, I live and feel what my characters do, so it took a lot out of me at times, plus I was nervous what people would think when they experienced the darkness that Elyse goes through. Readers have said that the book is gripping and not for the faint of heart, but they were hooked from the first page, so I feel like the emotional journey was worth it. On top of that, I came to faith in Christ in 2014 and really wanted to integrate that into the story in a way that made sense, but still felt authentic. Luckily the character names I’d chosen long before coming to faith leant themselves to this in spades with symbolism and history falling into place.

What is your normal procedure to get your books published?

Not sure there is a normal, but I choose to go through a physical publisher and enjoy the services they provide. I knew my stories needed to be told and needed to be read, so I purchased a publishing package way back when. Fortunately that meant I already had a preset contract for the newest book, so the process was incredibly easy.

What has influenced you the most as a writer?

Oh so much, but at the core, it’s life—this imperfect experience we have while on this planet. Although it has been overwhelming to think about at times, for me it is the fact that I am one person, and I have all these thoughts and experiences as an individual. No one else gets that front-row seat from that particular perspective. My writing comes from various aspects of my human experience. I have often said that I feel like I’ve lived many lives, been many things, felt many feels. I realize now that all of that, the good and the bad, was preparing me for being a writer and doing what I truly love. Every book I write stems from one facet of the varied experiences in my life. Maybe that’s a path not chosen, maybe it’s a past trauma I’m trying to work out, maybe it’s an event or person that just made me smile or cry. Whatever it is for that particular story, it’s all life, and it’s all mine.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written three books that make up the Hearts Drawn Wyld trilogy: In Death We Part (Book 1), Running in the Mists (Book 2), and Awake in Elysian Fields (Book 3). Books 1 and 2 are currently in audiobook production. All three books are in the process of being translated into Romanian as well. Going forward, I’m writing an as-of-yet-untitled book in a new world with different characters. The new story stems from a “what would have been” path surrounding my own study abroad experience in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. I’m excited about it because the characters are older than my norm with a lot more baggage to work with, a lot of which stems from real-life situations. I also plan to eventually write my coming-to-faith memoir, and several friends and family members have asked me to write their stories in a fictionalized way, so I anticipate being able to do this thing called writing for years to come.

As an author, do you prefer the traditional book or online version? Why?

Honestly, I like books in all forms. With my twins, it’s often challenging to sit down with a physical book, so currently I listen to a lot of audiobooks as I go about my day. I appreciate the convenience, affordability, and the portability of the ebook format, but I find that I tend to forget book titles and authors when I read that way. There’s something about holding that physical book in my hands, being able to muse about the cover image as I read or keep that mental picture in my head. That makes traditional books my favourite medium overall. And they smell good.

How hard or easy is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?

Being a writer is easy. Making it a lucrative career is the challenge. It is incredibly difficult because the money doesn’t come in right away or very easily. Although I freelance all kinds of things to bring in some money, it’s not always enough to pay the bills. I’m fortunate in my current situation to have a grace period to get this career flowing and keep the writing dream going. Self-marketing is exhausting and often daunting at times, and being isolated with work from home can introduce self-doubt more than I’d like to admit. You just have to keep at it and keep the faith that someone, somewhere wants to engage with your stories and add a little of you to their own human experience.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

My biggest piece of advice for new writers is to write. You can’t be a writer by just sitting around thinking. Even when they’re half-baked or not perfect, get those thoughts and words and scenarios down on paper or into your computer. Until you see it out of your head and very real and concrete, it’s just unorganized thoughts and voices. Moreover, writers need to be readers and absorbers of expressive art in all forms. Reading good, published literature shows you technically “how it is done” and expands your vocabulary and grammar knowledge beyond what you will ever get in everyday communication. Everyone has their own writing style, but every writer’s style has been inspired by someone or something. Inspiration comes from everywhere; mine runs the gamut from Shakespeare to Lin-Manuel Miranda, from J. K. Rowling to Joss Whedon, and from Isabel Allende to Sister Hazel and the Barenaked Ladies. The key is to open yourself up to inspiration and be honest about what delightfully makes you “nerd out.” Somewhere in that beautiful mess, you’ll find your authentic voice. As far as technical advice, don’t feel like you have to write a story from beginning to end; therein lies writers’ block madness. I tend to start with the most intense emotional scenes somewhere in the early middle then write a beginning, decide where I want it to end and then fill in the arc to make the journey complete and satisfying. Don’t worry about word count or page count. The story is the thing. Let that be your guide and your inspiration. Beyond that, just stay with it, be open to critiques, and be confident that you have a story to tell that will resonate with someone.

Visit Author Victoria J. Hyla’s book links:


Reader Group:

Hearts Drawn Wyld Trilogy

In Death We Part

Book Trailer:

Running in the Mists

Book Trailer:

Awake in Elysian Fields

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