The re-editing of Chroniech has passed the 50% point and is moving along fairly well. The itch to get back to work on Dragonverse Origins is growing but I'm sticking to my plans of revising, reformatting, and re-releasing all of my current books before I move on. I have had a couple of requests to write another Peacekeeper novel. My Galactic Alliance series is my money-maker and I will have to seriously think about putting Origins aside so I can satisfy my readers by writing another Peacekeeper novel. As of right now though, my focus is on making my books more professional. This means that this will be the first year since I started self-publishing that I have not released a new book. Hopefully, this will pay off in the long run.
I met Andi (not her real name) about a year ago when she decided to join our writer’s group. We meet once a month at the Mentor, Ohio Barnes & Nobles. She has a very outgoing personality and I took an immediate liking to her. I was surprised when the first story she read to the group was one with a dark twist. When it was my turn to read, I passed out my sample and watched out of the corner of my eye as she attacked my prose with an ultra-fine pen, furiously writing notes in the margins, between the lines, and along the top and bottom of the page. Her comments, however, were spot-on.
===== Interview =====
What was your inspiration for the Charming series?
I have always loved fairy tales. The magic, the heroes, the romance, and not just between characters but of how the worlds are crafted-- It’s an escape from the more mundane “real” world that we live in. And who doesn’t like a good happily ever after?
Okay, well, I don’t particularly like happily ever afters. Life is a bit more intense than that. People don’t fall in love in the span of a ball, no matter how much the romantic in me wishes that were true. I think that’s where Charming came from, my need to find the story that happened between the ball and when Prince Charming rescued Cinderella from her wicked stepmother. Of course, the question then became what if Cinderella didn’t need to be rescued but was the one doing the rescuing?
You prefer to use a pseudonym instead of your real name – Why?
Well, two main reasons. The first is that I write a lot of different things, different styles, different genres, and each different story hinges on a different part of my personality. They’re all a bit on the darker side, I’ve never really managed being light and fluffy, but it made sense to me to keep those styles as separate as possible and using a pen name does just that.
The second reason is I really don’t like being in the spotlight. Using my real name…yeah, way too easy to stand out.
We attended WorldCon 2015 together. I know the experience changed how I see myself as an author. Did going to WorldCon have an impact on you as well?
Definitely. It was really an amazing experience for me, from meeting some of my favorite authors to the inspiration that came out of it, it just blew my mind. The panels alone were worth the price of admission. I just wish I was able to get a video of them all because my hand started getting tired from taking notes.
As to its impact on me, I don’t quite know how to explain it. You go to one of these events and see all these amazing people and think shark and minnow, and then realize you’re not the shark. It’s intimidating and it’s a bit disheartening. How did they make it and not me? Of course, they’ve probably been at it longer than I have, so something to strive for. That’s what really impacted me at WorldCon. Not only do I want to be a Big Fish someday, but I want to use that to help others reach that same level. My goal has always been to write a novel I can be proud of, that will represent me and my style and appeal to my audience, be it however big or small that is. But I also want to work with writers, hone craft, and build a community. And if that community grows as big as WorldCon, then all the better.
The professional reviews posted on Amazon seem to indicate that you could have agented your book to a publisher yet you decided to self-publish instead. What drove this decision?
Ha, really? I need to read those more often. I’m like a fifth grader who gets the test back and turns it face down before I see the grade. If it’s bad, then I’ll never need to know. Never worked out in school though.
Okay, but seriously, I am published with a publishing company on a romance novel I wrote a few years ago. That was a blast and a huge ego boost. I think a lot of that had to do with me being in school at the time. I took it as a form of vindication, that I had the chops for the world and could publish so I should do it. If I’d done a bit more research… Not that I have any regrets. I’m proud and stand by my work, but I’m not in that writing place right now, and I wanted something different.
For this series, I didn’t want to have to worry about a publisher or an agent. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have a heart attack and die with a smile on my face if one contacted me, but the truth is it is really awesome being in charge of my own writing. The time frames are mine, the words are mine, the rights are mine. And as troublesome as formatting Word documents are, it’s fun too. It’s a huge accomplishment and I’m so proud that I took that step to self-publish.
You are an active member of at least two (that I know of) writers groups. In your opinion, does joining a writers group help an aspiring writer to improve their skills?
Three to four, depending on the month, actually.
But to answer the question: yes. The most important lesson I learned in grad school wasn’t how to join nouns and verbs together in pleasing patterns, but that having a network of readers/writers to talk to helps to make your work better. Writers groups are formed by people all looking to get better, so even when you’re critiquing a story rather than reading it, you’re learning something more about your own skills. Every time you as a writer look at someone else’s work and can identify what’s happening in it, you grow and develop your skills. Every time someone offers advice on your work, your style improves and changes and gets better even if you don’t realize it. Having a group of people who are similar to you and believe in the same things and want those same things is hugely important to getting better.
Your writing tends to have a dark side to it that seems to be in direct conflict with your personality. If you don’t mind my asking, where does this come from?
I don’t know what you’re talking about. I only write about unicorns and sunshine…
Oh gosh, actually answering this question will make me sound like a nutcase which is kind of answer enough? No, not gonna let me get away with that? Shoot.
The truth of the matter is, angst sells. As children, we want to read about happily ever afters and fairy godmothers and angels who will save us. As adults, we know better, that the only one who is going to save us is ourselves. And sometimes to do good or be good, we have to be a little bit bad, and bad shouldn’t be overlooked, and the darker the saving, the more heart strings you can pull on.
Besides, I can’t help myself. I just really like being the heroine and saving the tortured soul, and as a writer, I get to do that but I need a little dark side to pull it off.
You have an MFA degree. Not everyone can afford to get one but, if they could, is an MFA something all writers should pursue?
I actually went for my MFA because I wanted, and still want, to be able to teach creative writing to people. But what I found was that the program was more about building a community of writers (as well as developing your own style).
So MFA, should or should not? Yes, you should, but not because you want the letters, but because you want to find that group of people who share the same love and passion as you. Writers are a different animal compared to readers. We’re self-conscious and terrified of others reading our work. It’s nice to have a community to turn to, who can be your support and you can support in turn.
If you had to give an aspiring writer one piece of advice to help them advance their writing skills, what would that be?
Find other writers to share your work with.
Depending on what I’m working on, I fall into one of two categories. The first is: this is s*** and I should trash it now; the second: thank God I have a day job. Oh, right, those are pretty much the same thing. Okay, the second is: this ain’t half bad, maybe. The point is, no matter what stage I’m at, I’m not an objective reader. Your family, unfortunately, isn’t really objective either. I know, it’s a huge ego boost when your mom or your wife or your best friend reads your work and says it’s great, but we as writers don’t want a two word critique. Well, we do, but let’s be realistic here.
I really can’t express how important it is to have a good support structure for your writing and how important it is for you to be other writers’ support too. We’re a really solitary bunch of people, so it’s nice to know and have other people out there who are working for the same things you are.
Other than writing, what else do you enjoy doing (boating, mountain climbing, cave diving)?
Cave diving, for sure. Or not, the whole bats thing might freak me out a bit, or that’s because I watched Batman recently and have a newfound fear/appreciation for flying rodents, not sure.
I do a lot of reading, which is probably pretty obvious. I play volleyball. I spend a lot of time with my family. And I play the guitar. Not well, I might add, but I love being able to sing and play an instrument, even if it’s just the chords.
Do you have one author in particular that has shaped your writing and if so, who and why?