I still love the original fantasy writers, Lewis, Tolkien, and Alexander. Their vision and skill as writers, and thinkers, just amaze me. I have deep respect for the lives they led and they continue to inspire me. I would love to have been a fly on the wall of The Eagle and Child pub when the Inklings were meeting there. Lewis’ writings in particular have mentored me since the day I first picked up "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and felt God reaching out to me through the pages. As a child I read that series over and over again, until the books literally fell apart in my hands and had to be replaced. I can only dream of having that kind of an effect on one reader, let alone the countless thousands that Lewis has touched with his body of work.
What inspired you to write your first book?
In a way, insomnia was my first inspiration. When I was a kid, I had a very difficult time going to sleep at night. I didn’t have a TV in my room (not that there was cable back then anyway), and cell phones and tablets didn’t exist yet. There was nothing to do but stare up at the darkened ceiling of my room, cuddle with my cat, and wait for the sand man to show up. So I started a story in my head. It was a fantasy story, with castles, swords, a tragic young prince, a brave princess, and of course, the evil nemesis one kingdom over. Every night I added on a little more to the story, picking up at whatever point I had finally fallen asleep the night before. It became quite an expansive tale, and I totally fell in love with the world and characters as though they were dear friends. Eventually I outgrew the need to put myself to sleep in this way, but the story stayed with me. I knew one day I would have to write it down.
The opportunity finally came in college. I was working on a fine arts degree, but sucking up paint fumes in the art building was starting to lose its charm. One spring break, instead of working on my art, I borrowed a friend’s computer and started working on that story. Once I started, I found that I couldn’t stop. Art was fun, in small doses, but writing was my real passion. The book turned out to be way too long, and not very polished. I think I only shared it with one kind-hearted friend in the dorms. But the process of writing it made me realize that I had to change my major—fast! I kept art in my studies, but shifted my major to writing and was incredibly glad that I did. That shift started me down a path that led to a YA book that I wrote for my senior thesis, and eventually to "Journey to Aviad," my first published work. Twenty years later, writing is still my passion and I haven’t looked back. One day I just might go back to that original story and do it right, but that probably won’t be anytime soon!
What is your writing process?
I am a firm believer in creating an outline before I start writing a book. Without that it would be all too easy to lose track of important details and let tangents run my plot. For my current series I also took the time to make a comprehensive historical timeline that goes back all the way to my world's creation story. Every important historical event, figure, group, piece of writing, etc. has been documented. My timeline is over 20 pages long. Yeah, admittedly a little crazy, but necessary.
Going this process really helped me figure out what makes my world tick...where people's core beliefs come from, what fuels their hopes, fears, ambitions, conflicts, even their spiritual development. I can see my world's progression unfold from ancient to "modern" and not lose sight of how much time passes between significant events. The timeline has become a huge help to me and I refer back to it regularly. Aside from that, my process for the actual writing is pretty simple—just get it done whenever I can, whether I have 20 minutes or 2 hours.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My main characters, Elowyn and Morganne, began their journey in an online roleplaying game. I developed their extensive histories and personalities over time as I interacted with other players and created an in-game storyline for my gaming guild.
Roleplaying is actually a very good writing exercise that I highly recommend. I had to learn to speak, think, and react the way my characters would in any given situation. To do that on the fly, you have to know your characters pretty intimately. They grow beyond the confines of the flat page and become real, three-dimensional people with needs and feelings all their own.
When I quit the game, I wanted to keep them alive in some way, and so I started writing a new tale in a new world...one that preserved the essence of my characters and their histories. I also felt called to give the story a deeper spiritual meaning. Writing this series has been a journey of faith for me that is still ongoing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
As I was finishing the writing for "Journey to Aviad," my first impulse was to find a traditional publisher. But the more I looked into that process, talked to other authors, and researched my options, the less appealing that idea became. I realized that many of the benefits of traditional publishing that I assumed would be there, such as comprehensive editing and marketing services, were actually a thing of the past.
Additionally, more than one traditionally published author I spoke to had run into copyright issues. Some were even involved in lawsuits against their publishers just so that they could keep writing more books. Since I knew that "Journey to Aviad" would be the first book in a series, I did not want to run into the same problems others had experienced. Despite the stigma that is sometimes associated with self-publishing, for me it meant freedom. Freedom with my creativity and message, and the ability to maintain control over my own work, for better or worse. I believed at the time that self-publishing was the future of publishing, and as I watch the industry grow, I still believe this is the case.
What are you working on next?
Book two is nearly complete and scheduled for release in 2015, which is very exciting for me! I think the second book is even better than the first and can’t wait to share what happens with everyone.
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