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Stories, books drive ambitions of Westfield woman

Submitted Photo Shannon Reber stands in her bookstore in Westfield.

WESTFIELD — Westfield resident Shannon Reber has spent the last several years publishing an astonishing amount of books. Since she started writing in 2015, she estimates she’s written 56 books, 30 of which are novels, while the others are short stories, anthologies or novellas. But with all her books written, and with the ones on the way, Reber is looking to make them accessible in a different medium.

Reber is in the process of transferring her written books into audio books, which she has recently found a good service for. Until recently, every service Reber had found required a big payout, but the program she is in currently shares royalties with everyone involved. Reber’s passion is in writing, but the push to get as many of her things in the audiobook format is personal to her.

“I’m legally blind,” Reber said. “So audiobooks are the way I get books as often as I can. It was really important to me to do this. I’ve heard some amazing audiobooks recently, and I was really excited for this. They’re really well acted.”

As of now, Reber has five of her books available in audio. Two each from different series, and the first book she ever published is available as well, which is the first of a trilogy. The transition to audio does not mean that Reber is going to stop publishing other books. Though she admits she’s experiencing a little burnout right now, there are still things in the tank for her.

“I am a little burnt out right now but I’m still working,” Reber said. “Honestly I’m so obsessed with stories that it’s really hard for me to stop writing. Even when I have writers block on one, I’m always writing something else. I’m working on four different things but nothing is actually getting completed. I haven’t published anything since February, and that’s massively unusual for me.”

Burnout is certainly understandable for anyone in this circumstance, but Reber’s passion for writing allows her to keep going. She’ll tell you she’s obsessed and has a problem, but this is her way of dealing with her own insecurities. Because she is legally blind, she started telling tales at a young age, but learned to write them down instead of saying them out loud.

“Being legally blind messes with your psyche when you’re a kid, when you know everybody else is ‘better than you,'” Reber said. “So I started lying. It took me a long time to stop doing that, and the way I worked out my issues was instead of speaking my lies, I was writing them. It’s my way of dealing with my own insecurities about who I am. My way of dealing with life.”

Reber’s blindness is due to her being albino, meaning she has a huge sensitivity to light. Because of this, the way she writes is also impacted to accommodate for that.

“All I do is write on Google Docs and jack the font up to 48,” Reber said. “When I have to format for a publication, it obviously has to be taken down to a normal size. Sometimes I can make out letters but I can’t always read them.”

Reber’s continued inspiration for ideas comes from her interactions with people and her own experiences. Her specialization in writing is fantasy writing, meaning that the topics of her books can come from any source.

“It can pretty much come from anywhere,” Reber said. “The first book I finished came from a dream I had. It was this image that stuck with me and that image translated into a book after a while. I have conversations with people and get inspired by them.”

Reber’s most popular work is her novel “The Girl in White,” which is a paranormal mystery series. “The Girl in White” is the first in a series that is currently on it’s ninth iteration, and will continue for the foreseeable future, as it’s the series that Reber is most attached to.

“I will not kill the main character,” she said. “That is a serious contract I have with myself that I will not kill Madison Meyer. I have such an attachment to the series. I know all the characters and I have a relationship with each one. Every book is different but it refers back to things from the past. Currently Maddy is 19 and she’ll be 97 in a nursing home still solving mysteries.”

The pandemic affected Reber in an interesting way as well, in that her sales went way down. Even with people looking for ways to spend time, the sales of her books dried up. On the flip side of that, in October, Reber and her husband opened a small bookstore in the YWCA in Westfield, which has been a great place for Reber to do her writing and share her passion with others.

“The bookstore was supposed to be a pop-up store,” Reber said. “But they liked having us and asked if we wanted to stay. We’ve got local authors and used books. It’s small but we have a big variety.”

Reber said that writing is something she’ll continue to do forever, and her passion for it will never run dry. Reber’s bookstore, Genres Bookstore, is at the YWCA in Westfield, and all of Reber’s novels can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Shannon-Reber/e/B0141BHIDK%3Fref=dbs–a–mng–rwt–scns–share

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