This week’s post is a little different, and I hope you’ll be willing to help me out. I’m putting together a media kit for my website, which includes a Question and Answer section. I’ve answered four standard questions below and I’m looking for feedback, and suggestions if you think there is a question I ought to include.
|Q||How did you get started writing?|
|A||My parents tell a story of a two year old version of me entertaining them with a complex fantasy story on a long drive. Tales being what they are and having no recollection of this myself, I’m not sure if I can count that as my first step as an author. Still, storytelling has been with me for as long as I can remember. Even as a young child I remember having dreams with fully formed plot structures and recurring characters. My imaginative play involved complete other worlds with sets of rules all their own.
So often you hear about oral and written forms of storytelling as a progression; first was the art form of oral storytelling and then the written word conquered all. I believe that the two use completely different skillsets and are equally essential to our world. My sister and father can both have you howling and wiping away tears from their delivery of a handful of words and a few gestures. Not me. I discovered long ago that my strength comes from a private, quiet, well thought through place with the option to edit. My parents supplied me with writing technology at every opportunity, and first on a typewriter the likes of which you generally see depicted by crafty rubber stamps these days, then on more modern electronic ones and eventually computers, I typed away.
I won some recognition for stories I’d written in elementary school and a silver medal for an Academic Decathlon essay in high school, and was the head editor of my high school newspaper my senior year. The extra attention and support I received because of these events likely fanned my enthusiasm for the craft. As for my own internal voice of encouragement, I’d say that spoke up in my teens when I wrote about twenty pages of a story I’d been writing in one form or another since I was ten. The section that I wrote convinced me that I had a story to tell (that story will emerge in book 4 of the Far Side of Dreams Quintilogy). Despite all of that momentum, though, I nearly stopped writing altogether after college. For a year after graduation I couldn’t stomach anything more than a short story. I read every fairy tale I could get my hands on, followed by short story collections in brittle yellowed books from a century or so prior. I couldn’t have chosen a better way to set the groundwork for the writing to come if I had tried.
My mother deserves credit for staying on me in my adult years, pushing me to publish long before I felt that I was ready and encouraging me to continue writing, especially with my weekly blog, in those times when I lost confidence. Eventually I began to get feedback from people I didn’t know, and that adds sustaining fuel to a writer’s fire. Writing is my passion project, my guilty pleasure in stolen moments between work and motherhood and “life.” It feeds me like a vacation without the stress (I’m a mom, remember).
|Q||What is it about your chosen genres that appeals to you?|
|A||Fantasy fiction speaks to my spirit while science fiction invigorates my mind and children’s stories warm my heart. Urban fantasy is a new favorite that allows me to worry less about the lines between fantasy and science fiction, and just enjoy going where the story leads. Non-fiction is less comfortable for me, probably because there is no layer of insulation between self and story and I feel vulnerable. That said, it ends up being cathartic, since inevitably a question comes into the piece that requires answering – and it wouldn’t be a good piece if I didn’t offer options for a solution at the least. Poetry leaves me red-cheeked and hoping no one will notice, yet the poems tend to be the most liked posts on my blog. Go figure.
I tried, for the first year of writing my blog, to stay within the fantasy genre. People tend to want an author to be consistent, etc. That way they know that if they liked one read they’ll enjoy the next. My hope is that the diversity of what I write can feed the joys of many. The plain truth is that I can’t help myself. The stories that come to me don’t do so in an orderly fashion.
|Q||Where do you come up with your ideas?|
|A||I have a unique relationship with my dreams. They’re vivid and complicated, and often more than a little aggressive with me. Where some people have recurring dreams, I had recurring characters growing up. Much of the groundwork for The Statues of Azminan and the following series stems from these dreams. ONYX:05, which I haven’t published yet, presented itself as a fully formed story in a dream. I meant to write it down but a couple of months slipped by while I continued to think about it. Then one morning I woke up from a dream where I was being ordered to write it out. It happened to be a Saturday pre-children, so I sat down and wrote until midnight. I slept for eight hours (those were the days) and did the same the next day. I crawled into bed at midnight on the second day having written a novel over a weekend. Sapphire Sun, the sequel to ONYX:05 (also yet to be published), woke me up at around 3am every night for about half a year with each new installment or edit.
Not all of my stories come from dreams. Some of the really fun short story ideas are born of idle wonderings during my commute or an absurd thought that’s given permission to roam free. Very rarely do I set out with a clear objective in mind. I enjoy the surprise of a storyline unfolding. One idea leads to another until the underlying story begins to solidify between the words and I pursue it. I savor the editing process, carving away until I’m looking at the true form of a tale. It’s sculpting, but with concepts and language.
|A||My mother made me do it. Just kidding… sort of.
I was starting down the path of sending out queries and submissions, following all of the discouraging advice out there and losing confidence when a friend told me about a printing company that grad students were using to create books. I looked into it and discovered that there were ways to self-publish that were completely within reach. I regained some hope but didn’t leap in right away. It helped to know that there was a resource but ‘this source recommended X and that source warned Y’ and my manuscript was good but could be better and… my mom finally yelled at me. It would never be perfect. It was time to stop agonizing over queries and submissions. The resources were available and she was just about done waiting. I published The Statues of Azminan and maybe sold one copy to someone I didn’t know.
I then spent a few years writing but not publishing. In 2012 I started my blog and a number of good things happened. Foremost was a boost in my confidence as a writer. Producing a short story every week meant writing at a frequency that I hadn’t kept up before. It also got me out in front of an audience larger than my immediate circle of family and friends. The Cinnamon Circus and The Parallel Abduction came out of this period and more is on the way.
Self-publishing gives me freedom and control over my projects. I have an exciting line-up of finished manuscripts that I look forward to rolling out in the near future, and being a mother of young ones, it’s great to be able to put these projects together at a pace that works for me.