Author Gurpreet Kaur Sidhu’s writerly instincts developed when she was quite young; in fact, she still has the very first “book” that she wrote, in seventh grade, to “remind myself of how far I’ve come in my writing career.” She’s unable to count the number of times that a teacher caught her secretly writing stories in class.

Growing up, Sidhu was heavily influenced by the Harry Potter books, but, as a self-confessed romantic, she was also drawn to the love stories of Nicholas Sparks. Her interest in thrillers arose not so much through the page as through the screen: “I love watching shows like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder.”

As Sidhu came of age and pursued a career in business management—serving as assistant manager at a Fortune 500 company—she continued to find a haven from life’s stresses and disillusionments through writing creatively. In her debut novel, Storm, she takes an imaginative approach to themes of truth and personal accountability. Storm is a thriller focused on past lives, reincarnation, and doppelgängers.

“I believe in reincarnation and that karma determines what kind of life we will lead in our next life,” Sidhu says. “I wanted to mess with the idea of creating a character who remembered who he was in a previous life, but he wasn’t a good person, to say the least.” She began to wonder how characters might deal with the burden of their malicious actions from previous existences.

Sidhu says Storm takes a long look at the multifaceted nature of human beings and their capacity for treachery and duplicity. The book came about in the aftermath of a personal betrayal and in response to questions that Sidhu found herself asking: “Was I too trusting? Do I need to have my guard up? Will this happen again with a different person? Now, having put those experiences behind me, I wanted to incorporate them into the story, and creating a doppelgänger was a way to do that.”

Sidhu set out to publish her novel traditionally. “In the very beginning, I was dead set on getting an agent and having my work published through a big publishing house,” she says. But she was pragmatic in her approach, weighing the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing. The latter won out.

“After getting rejected over 50 times, I decided that if I wanted the world to read my work, I wasn’t going to wait around or be dead by the time they discovered Storm,” Sidhu says. She also recognized that she’d need some expert advice in order to effectively navigate the world of self-publishing and hired an editor and a publicist—a move that she strongly recommends for first-time authors.

When it comes to balancing her professional role with her writing life, Sidhu is sure to make deadlines for herself and to adhere to tight schedules: “It really comes down to creating a task list for each project you’re working on and then setting deadlines for each duty.” She is hard at work on the sequel to Storm, titled Shadow, which she plans to publish in 2020.