“National Novel Writing Month was coming up, so I went to the website and entered, thinking maybe I’ll just dabble in this for a time before I get bored or a more serious job opens up.
I wrote 10,000 words in the first four days, and in two months I had my first, very messy draft of Through the Veil. And while I knew I had a long road of editing and learning about craft ahead of me, I couldn’t stop writing. The floodgates had opened, and the stories poured out of me. I haven’t looked back since.”
College student Elizabeth Tanner is drowning in loan debt. In the process of applying for scholarship from the Trinity Foundation she accidentally becomes involved with something bigger than herself. She must save the magical races of Ireland from a brutal civil war. The Dark Fae want to use Elizabeth’s abilities to control the source of all power in the universe. At the mercy of Trinity and enslaved to the Dark Fae, Elizabeth finds herself alone on the wrong side of an Irish myth thousands of years in the making. Refusing to be a pawn in their game, Elizabeth has to fight her way back to the man she loves, but to do so, she must wage her own war against the magic that binds her.
2. When did you start writing?
I think my writing journey really began in early adolescence when I possessed so many wild, pent-up feelings. I needed to find an outlet for all of them. I began journaling and writing poetry, mostly bad poetry. As a teenager, I hosted a local poetry reading at a coffee shop with the beret and everything. My brother plays upright bass, so it was all very Mike Myers from So I Married an Axe Murderer. We were very Beat!
3. Do you experience writer’s block? And how do you overcome it?
I personally don’t experience writer’s block anymore, but I certainly did when I was younger and it led to a ten-year hiatus of not writing anything at all. I think the big transformation occurred for me during National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.
This is a “contest” of sorts where thousands of people sign up to see if they can write 50,000 words for the month of November. This was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It taught me to put faith in my writing in a way I never had before, to push forward and refuse to look back. If I get stuck on a scene, I write a few notes and keep going, keep writing, keep throwing words down.
If I reread what I write in that stage, I’ll most likely want to crawl into a hole and die. But once you have that 100K novel on your hands, you owe it to that manuscript to go back and refine it, shape it into something meaningful for an audience. This was something I didn’t understand as a young author, the idea of being in this for the long haul, to having faith in the process no matter how long it takes.
There’s a great children’s story I like to read to my kids called Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. In it, the main character Annabelle finds a magical box of yarn that never runs out no matter how much she knits. She creates sweaters for the whole town, for buildings and busses and trees. She keeps knitting and knitting, covering the whole world in this colorful yarn, and the box never depletes itself, never empties.
Writing is like that. There are days where I feel like what I’m doing is worthless or ridiculous, but those are the days I especially need to commit to sitting down to write because the more I do it, the more the ideas will come, the more my mind fills with color, with characters and worlds. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes I need to switch things up, maybe handwrite in a journal for a while, or write a blog post for a change of pace, but the point is to keep writing no matter what.
4. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I had two very real challenges on my journey toward publication. One was early on after I completed my first draft of my novel, and I had no idea what to do with it. I had a few very close, very dear friends look over it, and they provided me with so many great ideas as to how to revise. Even still, I had so much to learn about craft, even about basic fundamentals of fiction writing, which was incredibly humbling for someone who had just earned a PhD in literature. I felt like I had started over, and was embarrassed, ashamed that there were so many things I didn’t know about storytelling. I think women especially are afraid to show themselves to be a fool in public, and there was a moment when I almost shelved my novel because I was that terrified to share my shortcomings with the world.
But let me tell you one thing about the writing community. There are a few jerks out there. I know because I’ve met them. But every great writer, every great writer, (okay, sorry, this point calls for all caps) EVERY GREAT WRITER started writing crap. Sheer, utter crap. I was one. You may be one right now. But I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. It really is okay. There is so much love in the writing community waiting for you when you share your work because everyone started in a humble place. Everyone. The first time I sent my pages to a stranger in a writing group I found online, I darted to the toilet and threw up my lunch. But in the end, the feedback my peers gave me was so constructive and encouraging. They challenged me, but inspired me to become better. And I did.
The second challenge was in the querying stage when I went seeking a literary agent. Querying is like going on the worst dating site in the world and your profile is your entire soul laid bare for everyone. I tried to keep busy with writing and working on other projects, but it was mentally and emotionally exhausting for me even though I received a lot of really positive comments from several agents. I did have to take a break, though, for a while because it was taking a psychological toll on me. A week after I decided to stop to regroup, my current editor emailed me and asked if Entangled could publish my book. She is my biggest fan, and my literary soulmate in every way. We have whole email conversations in Harry Potter memes. She gets me.
5. What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing I’m working as an educator for a non-profit online university where I get the privilege of helping students achieve their dreams. I also have two small children who keep me very busy when I’m not writing. While some might say children cramp an artist’s style, for me, they’ve kept me grounded through this entire journey. Kids don’t care about your writing career in any capacity, and that can be so refreshing if you’re having a rough day. I’m also a musician, and I play guitar and sing. My husband and I are avid hikers, and we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world—the Driftless Area of Wisconsin—so we spend a lot of time exploring these gentle hills. I love to cook, and one of my favorite things to do is to have a few close friends over for dinner where we drink some local wine and watch our kids run around the yard.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I have so much advice, but if I could offer one thing, it would be to have faith in yourself and your vision. There were so many times when I felt this weird Fae fantasy romance was too out there, too silly, too ridiculous, and there were times when agents and writing peers uttered similar critiques. People told me paranormal was dead and no one would want to publish my novel much less read it, but I knew this story was special. So I kept working at it, developing my craft, pouring my whole soul into every word and sentence. Now I read Amazon reviews with readers saying how deeply they connected to my main character, Elizabeth, and how this story is exactly what they needed. Someone out there needs your story. Never lose faith in that.
Visit Colleen at http://www.colleenhalverson.com