Interview with Spencer Avery

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do actually. It was a story about me and a boy I liked in high school. In retrospect, it spoke to a lot of what was happening in my life: there was a lot of self harm, depression, and yearning to be accepted, all of which as a teenager, I was experiencing. I still have the original notebook and this past winter, read through it. It's wonderful to see how far I've grown in terms of writing, and self love.
What is your writing process?
I love, love, love to outline. I usually take a week with most of my length ideas and sit down and work on them: outline character names, locations, the plot, different races, gender, ect. It's one of the key things that really sets up the world for me and allows for me to start the process. After that, I draft, usually trying to write a minimum of two thousand words a night, and write until the story is told. If those two thousand words do it, then that's all I do, but if there's more I let it go until I know it's done.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first story, but I do remember the book that's had the biggest impact on me: Shannon Hale's "Goose Girl". I first came across it in seventh grade in my reading class. It was one of many books we could check out from the teacher. I remember checking it out so much that the spine began to fall apart, and by the end of the year, she gave it to me as a gift because I loved it so much. I still have that copy, and read it every time I travel home for the holidays.
How do you approach cover design?
Honestly, I don't have a formula. Usually, I chose something key in the story: a color, a quote, and try and transform that into a cover that makes sense with the title and story. I don't draw digitally, so most of my covers are made with premade assets, but I have a lot of ideas and try and transfer them as much as I can.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Oh man, that's a hard question. Here goes, in no particular order:

1. The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield
2. Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto
3. The Goose girl by Shannon Hale
4. Mardock Scramble by Tow Ubukata
5. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

I'll go in order and give you some brief reasons "why".

The Uglies Series was one of the first major series I read outside of Harry Potter. I got each book right when it cam eout, and devoured them, falling into the futuristic world the was built. They spoke to me because at the time, I was going through middle school and into high school, where image problems were a big deal and hurt a lot. Seeing a character like Tally, the protagonist, overcome things like that and fail despite being the hero was very relatable and comforting.

Kamikaze Girls by NovelaTakemoto has the same kind of feel: it features two females, one sporting a Japanese fashion style called "Lolita" and the other a girl in a gang. They have a very uncanny friendship, but overcome life out in the boonies and make their own path. It's very much a coming-of-age book, and when I found it in college, it kind of put things in perspective for me. It's sitting on my bed right now, in fact, because I want to read it again already!

The Goose girl by Shannon Hale, like I said, was a favorite of mine, enough that the book began to fall apart on me from how much I read it. It's a really good retelling of the original Goose Girl fable, and has a very likable female protagonist who can speech to the elements and is very brave. It's also got a lot of funny parts and really inverts traditional fantasy -especially high fantasy- tropes, something that I've always liked about wriitng.

Mardock Scramble by Tow Ubukata is a Japanese novel that I found by chance. It features a female lead named Rune Ballot who suffers grave injuries at the hand of a man who has been, essentially, pimping her out. It's a revenge story, which Japanese authors do really well: they know how to make you quake and feel very strong emotions. It's also the only book I've ever read that has multiple chapters on how to successfully cheat a casino in a cyberpunk world, so if I can ever manipulate electricity, I'm set.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce is a very tough retelling of Little Red where two sisters fight and hunt Fenrirs, the werewolves of this world. It's dual perspective really lets you get to know the characters, and you feel for them: they're two orphans who are burdened with the truth of the world, and have chosen to fight it. It's a super good book that I recommend as much as I can.
What do you read for pleasure?
Fantasy. [laugh] I answered that really quickly. But fantasy, hands down. It's an escape: for an hour, I can be a princess or a knight, a chandler or a hostler, and I can play with dragons, cyber tech, fly through the skies, or fight witches. It's all about that escape from reality.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use a Nook Tablet, though I have a new Samsung Tablet that lets me access both Kindle and Nook, so that's really nice.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Honestly, I'm really new to this, but I really like using social media: everyone is on there, and you can continuously keep up the conversation about your projects. Tumblr has been really useful to me too: it's very easy to be transparent about the process of writing, and I've found a lot of people like to see that kind of "behind the scenes" feel. It makes it more personal, I think.
Describe your desk
Messy but organized. There's lots of pens -I have a thing for pens- and sticky notes, and my aloe plant, Patchouli, keeps me company next to my printer. I also tend to have a snack: I get voraciously hungry when I write, so it helps to keep me energized and going. Oh, and I have a cute little humidifier that changes colors too.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Mesquite, TX, a city right outside of Dallas. As a kid, I think I loathed it: it was quiet, felt small, even though as of 2010, there's 144,416 people -I guess 15, sans me- living there, so it's not small at all, but incredibly big. Still, with a rodeo, chill cook-off, and lots of mom and pop stores, it always felt very rural to me, unless I went into the big city.

Now though, I see a lot of influence in my writing from there: a lot of my supernatural pieces get set in Dallas, with vampires roaming hotels or mermaids in the Trinity River. It's become my setting because it's home. I also tend to write pieces set in very rural places: small towns with a single college -like my home- and a "everyone knows everyone" feel. It's comforting now, but as a kid, I think I couldn't have ever written my home into anything.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing in 2007 on fanfiction.net. I was a big part of the Naruto fandom: it had just come out in English, and I jumped on the slash hard. In fact, my first story is still up, and reminds me of how far I've comes. I'll be honest: it's... pretty bad.
Published 2015-11-02.
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