The very first ones, no--because they were scribbled in hundreds of stapled-together "books" starting when I was a toddler, and make zero sense as an actual story. But the first time I sat down and seriously tried to Write A Novel... that was when I was about 13. It was about a woman that finds out that her dead father is actually still alive. It only ended up being about 30,000 words long, but I packed those words with so much angst that it's exhausting to go back and reread it now.
But I guess that the story served its real purpose, which was to spark a love of novel-writing in me. Because since that day, I have never stopped.
What is your writing process?
My ideas "simmer" in the back of my mind for a long, LONG time before I ever start drafting them. I write copious notes beforehand, basically just talking to myself about the plot and characters and settings. Nothing ever starts for real until I have a handful of scenes alive in my head. At that point, I usually start writing--just to get the beginning of it down, set the tone for the book, try to get a handle on the characters' voices. Then I'll go back and do a lot more notes, chewing away on the plot until something resembling an outline emerges.
The whole book then follows that kind of back-and-forth pattern: write more notes to figure out where I'm going, write a little more of the draft to see how it pans out, write more notes. I never operate without an outline, but I do confess that sometimes my outline has big pieces that just say "????" until I am almost done with the book.
What do you read for pleasure?
Given that I am a fantasy author, it should come as no surprise that I read mostly fantasy, mixed between YA and adult target age ranges. I also love science fiction, but if I read too much of it I start wanting to WRITE science fiction, and I'm currently up to my neck in writing my epic fantasy series and cannot be distracted. In my "guilty pleasure" catagory, I also read fluffy comtemporary YA coming of age stories.
Describe your desk
My husband and I share an L-shaped desk that is built into the corner of our office. It's kind of disgustingly tidy, most of the time anyway. There's a shelf above my head that contains a collection of our video games, that I have gotten really good at ignoring. On my half of the desk I keep drafts and proof-copies of my novels, as well as my notes for my current work, a copy of my "Flip Dictionary", and a Darth Vader themed Mr. Potato Head (the Vader Tater). Also usually a cat toy or two, because that is the only way that I can mostly keep my cat from using my pens as playthings.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My parents owned a house set in the middle of a nice little patch of woods that objectively wasn't as vast and sprawling as the one depicted in "Calvin and Hobbes", but certainly felt that way to a child. I would go outside just about every day and get lost in my own imaginary world. I cannot guarentee that I would have had a more limited imagination if I'd been raised in a less open environment, but the woods surely helped to cultivate my ability to spin out a thousand stories.
What are you working on next?
My primary focus is on getting the rest of the books of The Beacon Campaigns finished up, but I am in the preliminary stages of putting together a couple of standalone novels. I have one that's a steampunk dystopian romance, and another that's a splashy sci-fi time travel adventure, and a third that's another fantasy novel set in the desert and deals with prophetic dreams. No, I do not like being confined to just telling ONE type of story. What can I say? My imagination runs in all directions.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Abstract answer: I like the act of creation, the process of making something where previously there was nothing.
Practical answer: Editing makes my heart sing. I love taking a messy draft and turning it into the best version of itself.
Misc answer: Making readers cry. Sorrynotsorry.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Two main factors:
There is, of course, creative control. I like running the whole operation--choosing the covers, picking my own titles, deciding when and how to release the book, even little things like what font do we use in the paperback? The thought of giving up any of that makes me twitchy.
The second factor is just that I don't like the idea of gatekeepers. I UNDERSTAND the argument behind them, but I don't agree with it. I don't like the idea of someone else, some faceless stranger I'll never even meet, telling me that I can or cannot publish my book. Listen, I'm married to an open-source software developer, so certain ideas of creative and intellectual freedom leech out into the rest of my life. And as an artist, I don't know, it just bugs me to give someone else that power over my work. I stand by my books. They'll either sell, or they won't, but that's not for anyone else to decide FOR me.
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