UncategorizedIndieView with Stefanie Wilson and James Wilson, author of...

IndieView with Stefanie Wilson and James Wilson, author of The Backpack Years


Stef:… But we got so much feedback from other people about wanting to hear more about our relationship, that it eventually developed into a story about us.

James: So it actually was not our idea at all. But I think everyone else was on to something, and the book has turned out much better for it.

Stefanie Wilson & James Wilson – 10 June 2022

The Back Flap

Part travel story, part romance, part tale of sucking at life, The Backpack Years intertwines two memoirs, charting Stef and James’s turbulent six-year journey from happily wandering to miserably settled and back again.

Straight-laced Stef left America to study abroad in Spain, letting loose and falling head over heels for two things: a handsome local and travel. Travel won out.

James had a “slowly-lose-the-will-to-live” job in England and a future he felt he’d already destroyed. Fueled by crippling debt and a deteriorating relationship with his father, James fled to Australia in search of something better.

Though they are heading in different directions, Stef and James fall in love in Sydney and ditch the carefree single life to forge a path together.

Can the two navigate their way through red-tape, relocation, miscommunication, and a last ditch, make-or-break trip to try to save their relationship, or will this be their last adventure as a couple?

Spanning thirteen countries and four continents, The Backpack Years is a story about how far we’re willing to go to be with the one we love.

About the book

What is the book about?

Stef: The book is a dual-perpective travel memoir written by me and my husband, James. It starts in the year 2000, when we are 21 years old and had no idea what we were doing with our lives.

James: And it follows us as we travel through thirteen countries over the next six years. And in the end—

Stef: We still have no idea what we’re doing, but we’m six years older.

James: Yes, but that’s a terrible pitch. Basically, I wanted to escape my father, my job, and my anxiety over the debt I’d accrued, so I quit my life in England and fled to Australia to figure things out. Stef was studying abroad in Spain, but fell in love with traveling and decided to rethink her whole future. We met in Sydney, and even though we were headed in different directions, we fought to make it work.

Stef: It’s a book about how far you’re willing to go to be with the one you love.

When did you start writing the book?

James: Seven very long years ago.

How long did it take you to write it?

Stef: Well, I’ve actually been working on it even longer. I always wanted to write a travel memoir, so I had actually already written one, but it was not very good. I told James I might just throw in the towel, and he suggested we write one together instead.

Where did you get the idea from?

Stef: I kept journals from every place I traveled, so originally, we wrote a collection of travel essays organized by theme. But we got so much feedback from other people about wanting to hear more about our relationship, that it eventually developed into a story about us.

James: So it actually was not our idea at all. But I think everyone else was on to something, and the book has turned out much better for it.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

James: The funny stories came easily, because a lot of them are stories we tell people anyway. And they’re fun to tell. I struggled the most with the difficult topics. My dad, the debt. I hate thinking about that stuff, so I put all of those topics off until last. But I think writing about them actually gave me some closure.

What came easily?

Stef: Like James said, the funny, embarrassing stories that I’ve told a million times. I say in the book that I’m what you’d call “incident-prone.” We both are actually, so we’ve got some good material to work with.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Stef: Everyone in the book is real, but all names are changed.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Stef: Elizabeth Gilbert is a big influence, not just because of Eat, Pray, Love, which is obviously a favorite of mine because of the travel theme, but she’s very honest in her memoirs. It took me some time to get to that point, just leaving it all out there, but in the end, I had to. Somehow readers know when there’s something you’re not telling them! I also love Bill Bryson. I really wish I could write like he does. He can make literally anything funny.

Do you have a target reader?

James: Fans of memoir. Travelers, or people that want to travel. It’s also a kind of “finding-your-way” story, so maybe people that like to see growth in characters? And there’s a romantic element to the story, but it’s not a romance romance. You know what I mean.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Stef: James really needs to be in the mood to write, but I can just sit with the computer in front of me and go. But the first round is kind of throwing everything down onto the page. Then I go back through it again and again making the wording tighter and prettier. But I do not usually have much of a plan ahead of time.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

James: In the plotter / pantser debate, we are pantsers. In as much as a non-fiction writer could be a pantser.

Stef: I really like the Michelangelo quote — please know I am definitely not comparing us to Michelangelo — but the quote about the statue already being inside the block of marble. I feel like memoir is like that. You’ve got your whole life, but you can not include every detail, even if there are some really great ones, because then you can not see the story you are trying to tell. You have to chip away all the parts that do not belong to find the story inside.

James: What?

Stef: I’m just saying that we included everything at the beginning and then had to hone it down, and cut some stuff, since we did not have a plan. Cause we’re pantsers.

James: Okay.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Stef and James: Both.

James: This is version 192. Thousand.

Did you hire a professional editor?

Stef: We worked with Jean McConnell. She beta read twice, copy edited, and then helped us with the blurb. She is amazing! Highly recommend.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

James: I do. I like electronic music.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Stef: When I wrote my own memoir, I did, but did not get any responses. But with The Backpack Years, we did not.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

James: Stef went back and forth, but I always wanted to self-publish. I want full control over my work. Also, I’m a graphic designer, so I knew I could do the cover, website, marketing, etc. myself.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

James: Oh, I already answered that. Yes, I did all designing myself.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Stef: Book blogger blitz? Is that a term? Well, that’s what our plan has been. Again, we’re trying to DIY it. We’ve queried a ton of bloggers, podcasters, Instagram and TikTok influencers, you name it. Fingers crossed for good results!

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Do your research! There is so much advice out there — use it! Do not try to figure it out yourself, listen to the ones who have already done it.

About You

Where did you grow up?

Stef: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.

James: Warrington, England. United Kingdom.

Where do you live now?

Stef: We live in Pittsburgh.

What would you like readers to know about you?

Stef: I think they’ll find out all there is to know in the book. Every embarrassing detail! But I hope by the end, they’ll feel like they really know us. And I hope they like us.

What are you working on now?

James: This book took seven years — I’m never writing anything again.

End of Interview:

For more from Stefanie and James Wilson check out their website.

Get your copy of The Backpack Years from Amazon US or Amazon UK.



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