Essentially, after I'd racked up nearly 200 rejections for "The Sundered," the last half-dozen agents had the most interesting reactions. They would (1) ask for the full manuscript, (2) tell me how much they loved it, then (3) apologize because the publishing industry would not take a risk on weird, and since my book was weird, they couldn't sell it, even though they loved it.
I was told if I changed the protagonist's gender, or added a love story, or changed the ending so it would be more "normal," then they could sell it.
The last agent rejection I got was the kicker. With the partial manuscript in hand, he gave me the same spiel about being unable to take it because it was weird... then asked me for the full manuscript because he HAD to know how it ended.
That was confirmation for me. Traditional publishing is wonderful, but I didn't fit into that mold, and perhaps I never would.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Oh, dear. I do. It was a My Little Pony story. The Princess Pony (I really don't recall her name - it was 30+ years ago) was kidnapped by the snake kingdom, who MURDERED ALL THE OTHER PONIES, but she was so sweet and precious they just couldn't kill her.
I was eight, okay? I also typed the whole thing on my mom's typewriter with red ink because I thought it was pretty. The snakes taught Princess Pony all their strange snake-magic, and she became completely kickass and had adventures defeating Darth Vader.
Pink and kickass. The Force. And she spoke snake. I dunno, it made sense at the time.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the woods with no friends, and it made me into a storyteller.
I know that sounds kind of bleak (and often it was), but here's the thing: without electronics to distract me, and only books as my friends, I developed a mind that thought in stories. I thought in battles and protagonists, in enemies and allies, in the power of friendship and the unreliable gift of magic. I thought of a world that didn't just have humans and animals and boring, ordinary, understandable things, but one with beings and principles and powers beyond human understanding.
It made me into a person with hope; a person who saw situations in terms of stories, even the bad situations. And it made me a person who wanted to give stories like that to other people. If I can help anyone else see the world as less bleak, then I have done my job.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I can't answer that! How about this instead: five books I've re-read the most in the past two years.
1. "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown," Holly Black. I don't even know why. I just love this book to death. Characters, unexpected plot twists, Gavriel... the awesomeness goes on. 2. "Gilded," Christina Farley. Oh, man, what's NOT to love about this? Everything from the fantastic heroine to the amazing and wonderful setting of Seoul (she made me want to visit the place)... just wow. 3. "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. Storytelling candy. A sprawling epic nearly as grand and vast as Tolkien's, but with far more approachable characters. 4. "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher. I. Love. Harry. Dresden's voice. The way he reacts to things, his perspective, and of course, the brilliant world-building... yup. Yup, yup, yup. 5. "World War Z," by Max Brooks. This is one of THE best epistolary novels I have EVER read. If you want to know how to develop a massive, world-wide story through individual eyes, this is the book for you.
What is your writing process?
In the hopes this may encourage other writers out there, I will be completely honest: my writing process is kind of a mess.
Sometimes I work under incredible inspiration; my most successful writing day included a 15,000 word burst. Other times, pulling words out seriously feels like trying to remove my own bones; it's slow and arduous, and on those days, I'll be lucky if I can get more than three sentences out.
It's rough. It can even be discouraging. This is where those crucial words come in, so very, very true: DO NOT GIVE UP.
When I have a week where I'm too drained or distracted to write anything, I DO NOT GIVE UP.
When I look back and what I wrote and realize it's terrible, I DO NOT GIVE UP (and also put the extra bits in a separate file just in case they aren't as terrible as I think).
That way, when energy returns, when inspiration returns, when my brain starts functioning on all cylinders, I'm in position to write on. There is no other way to do this: you just have to never give up, and eventually, the words will come.
Your muse might just have to take a black eye in the process.
What are you working on next?
One hell of an epic novel.
It covers 15,000 years.
It reboots the idea of vampires and where they came from (biological warfare is involved).
It includes all the characters from every other book I've written so far, and hurtles the history of the world into a new and frightening era.
The title is Notte, and you can look forward to it in 2015.
Who are your favorite authors?
Patrick Rothfuss, J.R.R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, Jim Butcher, Ilona Andrews, Faith Hunter, V. E. Schwab, and Neil Gaiman are the always-reads, but I enjoy a plethora of indie authors, as well. Julia Suzuki, Moira Katson, Scott Cramer, Katie Roman, and many more.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember the first one that meant anything: it was Beowulf. I was about nine years old, and homeschooled, and reading pretty much whatever book was in the house. I liked the cover (this one, in fact: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/166773992426972735/ ) and when I read it... wow. WOW.
I fell in love with archaic language (hey, it helped my SAT score) and improbable imagery. I adored the feel of battle, and impossible odds; and I wept and wailed over the ending. That story impacted me in many ways, and the biggest one might just be that wallop of an ending. To this day, I write endings that wear iron knuckles.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I own a Kindle Paperwhite - but my phone also has the Kobo app, and my computer has the Nook app. Essentially, I'll read on anything.
How do you approach cover design?
An excellent question, since as it happens, I design my covers myself. I follow ten steps (five for the front, five for the back), which I go into with great detail here: http://amongthemythos.com/perfect-cover-design/. But for the summary....
1. Careful font choice. 2. Neutral Space. Neutral space serves one basic purpose: to point your focus back to what matters – the title and/or author. 3. Prominent author’s name. Platform means putting myself out there in a way that says I'm confident the reader will enjoy my book. If I were ashamed to have my name splashed on it, then design wouldn't be my problem – confidence would. 4. Readability. Even the fanciest covers are still readable. 5. With a few exceptions, the title and author tend to fall in one of three places: the top third of the cover, the center, or the bottom third. Make of this what you will, but the rule of thirds isn’t just for photography. 6. On the back cover, all the text blocks USUALLY line up with the blocks on the front cover, which is something you don’t catch unless you open the book. 7. The back cover text starts with a stand-out sentence or two. Sometimes it’s a quote; sometimes it’s an intro to the book (a tagline). 8. Two or three paragraphs follow this. The first paragraph sets up the character and world. The second and third paragraph says, “and here’s the big issue.” 9. After that comes reviews. Often this is done in a slightly different font, or size, or color. Just make sure it’s complimentary. 10. And of course, I have to leave room for your barcode, which means careful alignment of design elements.
As for how I pick images, colors, and fonts, it's a mad game of try, try again, in which I paste a billion images that caught my eye into Photoshop and stare at them until they feel right (or wrong, in which case, they're deleted).
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