1. When did you discover your passion for writing?
I’ve been writing prose since the fifth grade, at least, because that’s when I remember writing what was basically a black girl Anne of Green Gables, only she was from Nova Scotia instead of PEI. Hilarity. In second grade, I remember my teacher being proud of me for writing poems, but that was not my forte. (At. All.) Let us never speak of it again.
In junior high, I was in an after school writing club – I had no recollection of what I was writing, other than that awful poetry, but my English teacher, Mrs. Stanley, who had written episodes of Star Trek: Voyager (!!!!), taught us the proper format and protocol for snail mail submissions – which of course is all there was at the time. What I recall most about that period is just having someone who took my passion and her belief in my ability very seriously. In 8th grade, I started my first novel.
2. How important is feedback while writing and editing a book?
This differs for everyone, I’m sure, but writing is not a wholly solitary endeavor for me. I have two people who have for years and years read everything I write as I write it. I’m not writing for myself. I’m writing for anyone who likes it, and I love the feedback of people who know my voice and style and can help me clarify the story and picture I’m trying to convey, without overstepping and trying to alter that vision. I also have other critique partners and beta readers; I really just love the interplay of writing and critique. I love revising. I think back to the novels I wrote before I was aware of the market and before I had people sort of partnering with me, and those are the manuscripts that I would buuuuurn! 🙂
3. To some readers, villains make the story. How do you craft effective villains?
Villains are so important, when they’re part of the story. Of course some stories don’t have a particular antagonist, but when they’re in the story, they have to be a multidimensional character, with a history and a thought process. ‘Evil’ is lazy, most times. The villain is someone whose purpose is contrary to the protagonist, not necessary someone with blood lust. I simply need to believe in their belief of that purpose, that for its fulfillment, they would do horrible things. But I also sometimes want to believe that in a protagonist… 🙂 I think for me, it’s just important not to have cut-and-dry, one-dimensional characters on the page, because that’s not real people.
4. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time?
I watch a lot of TV. I love it. I love storytelling. I love that format in particular and hope to one day work in it. I’ve just come off a drafting bender (LLoA 2!) so it’s hard to remember anything else I do! I love spending time with my boys, my hubby and my son, and I love being a teen mentor and youth leader, and I love love love my little circle of friends. I love a lot of people, but there are my smaller number of confidantes, and those are the people who you can spend entire days with, on the couch, quietly doing your own respective things, talking sometimes and not talking others. No performance necessary, they just let me be my outgoing introverted homebody self.
Bonus! What advice do you have for writers who want to be published?
For writers who want to be published, my advice is to research, study, be aware of the market. Because if you want to be published, my assumption is that this is not just your hobby or even your art. You want other people to read your work. You want other people to buy and sell your work. That requires a lot of respect for the fact that this is an industry. Standards and craft and investment matter.
It’s so accessible now, via twitter, industry blogs, agents’ online presence, Publisher’s Weekly, Publisher’s Marketplace, Absolute Write, Queytracker – you can learn so much not just about protocol and procedure, but about how to vet and submit. And then, of course, there’s reading. Which I feel is the given. If you want to get into the marketplace, I assume you consume from that marketplace and also know what’s already in it, etc. This is my passion, my job, it’s something about which I’m very serious. I don’t think that everyone’s story is the same, but I certainly don’t know how you’d sustain during rejection, confusing, silence, et cetera, if it weren’t. You’ll need to know what you want to make sure you get there.
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