Interview with Jennifer Amriss

Describe your desk
My desk is a mess. There's no other way to describe it, really, at least in one word. It is an L-shaped desk. The right length holds a 10 gallon fish tank with three fish (who I have surprisingly somehow kept alive for three years), stuff to care for said fish, a cup with pens, my kindle, a phone book, a sudoku book, vitamin supplement bottles (because I always forget to take them when I wake up otherwise), notepad, Thor DVD, an old cell phone that I use strictly for it's alarm, some Christmas cards, an empty cup, a paintbrush, and some paint floater.

The middle segment that goes between the two holds my tower and subwoofer for my speaker system.

The front segment holds two monitors, two speakers, three dirty cups, two eyeglass cleaning clothes, some trash, one of those air things that amazon packs their merchandise with for shipping (I play with it when I'm thinking of my next scene), a dirty plate, some notepads, oh, and I'm using my diploma and its cover to raise my one monitor up so that it's level with the other one so my OCD doesn't scream at me. I also have a backscratcher in there somewhere, a picture of my son, a roll of packing tape, Carmex, and a candle.

This desk used to come with a pull out keyboard tray. Well, I like to lean on it when I'm getting serious about reading, so it broke. Instead of buying a new desk or ordering replacement parts, I used some scraps of wood and built myself a new, larger, sturdier keyboard tray that now has enough room for me to type, use my mouse, have extra space for keeping notes, as well as a small area to write. Recently, I added some finesse to it by decoupaging a black cloth onto it, and then painting that cloth to match the color of the desk. It is still a work in progress.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My father was in the US Navy for my childhood years, so I got to see much of the world. I started off in Patuxent River, Maryland. From there, my dad was stationed with us in Sigonella, Sicily. While we were there, I got to see Ireland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and England. Granted, I was very young, but I still have some very vivid memories of this time.

After that, I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and lived there for sixteen years. Now, I live in back woods Pennsylvania.

To tell the honest truth, I write more about forests and such than I ever did about the big cities I have lived in. I bring in cultural elements often from places I have lived, but rarely. However, the real influence that moving constantly has brought to my stories is Loss. I was always leaving best friends behind. People died. I traveled. Knowing that kind of loss in my own life, has enabled me to lift it off the page when it appears in my stories.
When did you first start writing?
That there is a loaded question, isn't it? I started writing, for giggles, in the fifth grade. It was mostly poetry. I would get struck in the middle of the night and go scrambling for a pen and paper, all while trying to be quiet so my parents wouldn't yell at me for being out of bed, and scribble down poetry that came to me either in a dream, or while I laid there trying to doze.

The poetry kept on through most of my school years. I experimented with it, and it started to lose its luster for me. As high school wore on, I found out through a few essay tests, that I am an above average bullshitter. (Pardon the language.) Without studying, I successfully passed several tests through utter BS and fancy writing. This varied from English essays, to Advanced Placement European History essays, to even biology. If I read the material, even half- awake, I remembered just enough to blow enough smoke up the teacher's skirt to make it seem like I knew my stuff.

Then, I graduated, and did the work thing. I went to surgical technology school and became a surg tech for a while. Then, life exploded. I had a son, fought depression, and went back to writing. It was horrid.

I finished my first novel in... 2009? Somewhere in there. It was garbage. Everyone who read it tried to be nice, but they all eventually agreed that it was utter refuse. I went through the normal denial/trial/error stage. Wrote a few short stories.

And then, April 2013, I don't know what happened, but I was smacked in the face with an idea. Three weeks later, it was my first novel in the Kings of Kal'brath series. July brought Julno, and I wrote book 2 in 10 days. I got burnt out, but kept at it. November brought NaNoWriMo, and book 3 was completed.

So, when did I first start writing? Do I count the poetry? The 100,000 words of gross? Or, perhaps the short stories?

Not me. I started writing April of 2013. Why only then? Because that's when everything "Clicked" and I finally knew what I was supposed to do.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
In short, contracts and deadlines. Having anxiety disorders, and being mentally disabled in general, contracts are a no-no. Deadlines would cause too much anxiety that I really isn't necessary.

There is also the fact that I write what I love, and I refuse to allow anyone to change my work unless it is such things as misspelled words, an error in word usage, or something glaring like mixing up two characters. I will, of course, listen to suggestions from beta readers and critiques, but I only bring in those suggestions that I feel bring something of worth to my story and make it more of what I love. You just can't do that with traditional publishing. If an editor says it needs changed, chances are, you'll get bullied into changing it, or so I have heard.

Reason number three would have to be the fact that I have such a stellar support group in my writing community. With so many indie authors there, I already know most of the ropes just from interacting with them as they publish their own works.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My greatest joy is creating my own living, breathing, vivid worlds. I don't understand how people agonize over this, because my brain just instantly sprouts these things like weeds. I know no two brains are alike, and... if that's the case, I'm glad I got the one I have. I have spliced one of my worlds with our own modern one, created new worlds from the oceans to the highest peaks, insects to vegetation to animals, and had fun creating different mythologies for several different worlds.

Creating new worlds lets me explore in ways that I am unable to in the real world. I traveled most of my young life, across the globe and back. Now that I'm stationary, my brain is still traveling, and I'm reaping the fruits of its journeys.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Pain. Literally. If I lie in bed for too long, my muscles ache, so I have little other choice. However, this system works for me. It keeps me from appearing as lazy as I am, and it gets my butt back in its indent in the computer chair where it can be comfy. You see, getting butt into its indent is essential for writing. A comfy butt is a happy writer who can then spend hours on end writing without any need... other than the occasional food run and bathroom break... and let's not forget the oceans of tea that fuel that creativity. Teeeaaaa...

*Cough* Yeah. Forgive me. *Wipes away the drool* I haven't had tea in a few days... Anyway! Pain, and the instant need to... Oh, you don't need to hear about that either. Hmm... I would say my dreams, but no one needs to ever see those. Ever. What I dream remains in my head, better forgotten, because they are too strange for fiction. However, they do sometimes turn into bunny fodder, or skunnies (imagine a plot bunny crossbred with a story skunk... it sprays, and all plots turn to crap.)

On very, very rare occasions, I will have woken up, pain free, and just be rolling around in bed when the next scene in my story smacks me in the face. If you count abuse as inspiration, sure! Though, if it keeps up, I may have to get a restraining order against a few of my characters...
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Playing video games, chatting with other writers, talking to my cat (and sometimes my fish), reading, and, on occasion, watching Netflix.

So far, my favorite video game is still Dragon Age: Origins. Though, I'm learning to like Mass Effect. I'm still a baby gamer, so don't you even tease me! I'll get to the new stuff when I get through the old stuff that I've fallen in love with.

Reading... I'll read anything that doesn't put me to sleep. Though, I have to admit that some of my favorite authors are those I interact with on a daily basis. It's a privilege to be able to read manuscripts, or even bits of manuscripts before they're even prettified for publishing. ...Wow. Prettified is a word? Neat! Thanks for teaching me something new, Chrome Spellchecker!

My Netflix tastes run from random documentaries (especially about ancient egypt, any area of any mythology, early Christianity, all religions, the ocean, and UFO stuff), a few series, like Angel, Arrow, and My Little Pony (don't you judge me.), and a few movies. My newest favorite that I found was Dinotopia. It was beyond adorable.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I, unfortunately (or perhaps very fortunately), do not remember the first story I ever wrote other than it consisted of a talking bear. I wrote it for a class assignment in a writing class at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida. Note that I only attended for four days.

I do, however, remember the first novel I ever wrote, as it is in a binder next to me, tucked safely between the legs of my desk and a drawer system I use for odds and ends. It was about an Angel falling in love with a half-drow, half-fae. Both were male, of course. I was desperately into gay romance back then. One of the worst things about it, was that the angel was given the gift of becoming a woman so he could have a baby.

I did not think that through at all. I may revisit that project in the far future, but for right now, it is just a trophy as the first lengthy work that I ever finished and nothing more. If I do revisit it, it will definitely be wholly changed from what it is now.
What is your writing process?
1. Sit butt in chair.
2. Put on headphones.
3. Turn on Techno.
4. Write until I can't write anymore.
5. Repeat once I've had food and performed other necessities.

I don't plan much at all. I don't outline. I just get an idea in my head, and put fingers to keyboard until the characters quit throttling me.
What do you read for pleasure?
I will read anything except non-fiction. For non-fiction, I watch documentaries, unless it interests me in an extreme way.

My favorite is fantasy, though science fiction is a close second, and mysteries are a very close third. I have read the three genres crossed in the same book once, and about squealed loud enough to land a job as a siren.

As I write fantasy (and dabble in science fiction), I read those the most often, both for pleasure and for study so that I can make my own writing richer and learn techniques to enable me to become a better storyteller. Though, I have to admit, most times I get so sucked into the story that studying gets tossed out the window for pure joy.
Published 2013-12-26.
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