Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Q&A: Heir of Pendel and a Bit About Writing

I get lots of questions about my books and writing in general, so here's a post addressing those topics. Thanks to those of you who submitted questions!

How long does it take to write a book?

As long as it takes! Lame answer, I know. But really. It depends on the person and the book. I've gotten faster, the more I've written, but then my stories seem to grow with each installment, which ends up taking more time anyway. It took me about three years to write Gaia's Secret and only about six months to write Keeper's. Breath of Dragons ended up 40% longer, and it took me almost a year (plus I had a baby in the middle of it). This last one (Heir of Pendel) is quite beefy and is the longest by far, at a whopping 161K words. (Also had a baby in the middle of this one.) So, yeah. It depends on your speed as a writer and the length and content of your book.

Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre?

Because it's my favorite one to read! That's not to say I won't deviate...

How do you write a book? 

Oh, gosh. Well, there are entire books on this subject, but!...for the sake of this blog post, I will keep it short. It really depends on the person. Writers seem to fall into one of two camps: pantsters or outliners. I fall into the latter.

Pantsters may or may not have a plan. They might see a character or a setting or a plot idea in their mind, and then they just start writing, laying out the story as they go. That stresses me out. I just...I can't even. I have to have a plan, so I outline. Extensively. This would stress out my dear pantster, because they would say that outlining a story before-hand steals the magic of journey. Well, I can't relax and enjoy the journey if I don't know where I'm headed. Is one method better than the other? No. You have to go with whichever method works for you. Maybe it's some really delicate combo of the two with a sprinkling of pixie dust. What matters is that it works for YOU and gets you to a completed draft, which is the hard part.

This isn't to say that my stories end up EXACTLY as I've outlined them. They usually don't. I write my (exhaustive) outline, and then use my first draft to see which parts of my outline do or don't work. I like to keep my outlines fluid, so that if I'm struck by sudden inspiration, I have the power to keep writing in that direction.

But writing is more editing than anything. I write out a draft, and spend the rest of the time rewriting and fixing it.

How do you keep your thoughts organized with four books in a series?

How, indeed? Haha. It's tough! And with each book, it gets harder because there are that many more elements to keep organized in my head. What's saved me with this last book has been my writing software. It's been a great place for me to keep all my made-up things stored for quick and easy reference. Before that, I had multiple word doc's with lists of everything I'd made up - organization is key! And my critique partners and beta readers are awesome for pointing out things I've forgotten or accidentally contradicted. (You geniuses, you!)

Do some of your characters relate to people you know?

Yes! Except I'm not saying who :D We have to draw our inspiration from somewhere! So far, I don't have any one character that is an exact copy of someone I know, but I do steal personality traits and quirks from those around me to implement in my characters. Some are more obvious than others. There's a new character in HoP who is probably the closest copy I've ever made to someone from my real world. Sometimes I steal quotes, too, and my uncle is always claiming copyright infringement.

Do some of the instances in your books come from your own life experiences?

All my life experiences bleed into my stories in one way shape or form. We can't help it. We cast everything we write in the light of our worldview. But are there any specific instances? Eh. There are little things, like Daria is impervious to boiling liquids, and so am I. Much of the trekking through wilderness I write about comes from my own love and experiences hiking and traveling, so I definitely draw upon those. Oh, and dragons. I ride them in my spare time. Definitely.

What made you decide to start writing books?

I loved reading them so much I decided to start writing my own, and it was love at first...paragraph?

What's your biggest challenge with the writing process?

Self-doubt. Hands down. I try repeating the mantra, "artist first, critic later," but some days it's just hard. Some days those voices pummel you over the head with "this is terrible" or "you're in way over your head" or "no one really cares" or "the dog could write this better." It goes kinda like this:


As if wrestling with your own demons (or hair) isn't enough, there's the world beyond. You know not everyone is going to like your book(s). Some people hate cookie dough. I don't understand it, but it's true. But the internet has made it so easy for people to hide behind walls of data and code and just...be, well, mean, like there's not really a person on the other side of that cover. It doesn't seem to matter how many good things you hear, because the equation goes something like this:

1,345,671,312 good comments + 1 negative comment = 1 negative, very terrible comment

It's some mathematical anomaly I just can't seem to figure out. Writing is hard enough without all that. So take a moment to thank your favorite authors. (And you'll almost always hear back!)

What is Indie Publishing and why did you do it?

This is another topic with oodles of information circulating out there. What it boils down to is this: There are two routes for publishing. Traditional Publishing and Indie Publishing (aka Self Publishing). Tradition publishing means you've probably gotten yourself a literary agent, who then shopped your book to a major publishing house, like Simon and Schuster or Random House, etc., and then THEY sell your books. Indie Publishing means you handle everything yourself. But that doesn't mean you do everything yourself.

I like to think of it like building a house. I could hire a contractor (traditional) or I could contract everything on my own (indie). Indie/Self-pub has gotten a bad rap in the past because what makes it great is also what makes it terrible: Anyone can publish a book. Yes, anyone. So, you get a wide spread from the really great to the really terrible. (For that matter, there are some pretty bad books that get published traditionally, but you can at least expect the level of writing to be above a certain threshold...)

Indie has risen leaps and bounds over the past decade due to the surge in ebook popularity and the option of Print-on-Demand (POD). Authors no longer NEED a traditional publishing house to build a platform to sell their books; authors can use the internet to connect with readers and sell on major websites, like Amazon. Also, because of POD, Indie authors don't need to buy 2,039,403,298 copies of their own books to sell them. Createspace, a division of Amazon, prints them as they're purchased. Genius.

I chose to go the "indie" route because I wanted to have the ultimate say in what I did as an artist. Granted, I still have a professional team around me. I have critique partners and beta readers and an editor and cover artist who are all BRILLIANT. The difference is that  _I_  got to pick them. That's not to say I would never try the traditional route. I believe both routes have a lot of very different and very good things to offer, and I've enjoyed this crazy indie road every step of the way!

Now for some actual book questions...

Now that Daria and Alex are separated, how will we get updates on both sides of the story?

Good question! Heir of Pendel will alternate between Daria and Alex's POV, with a few interjections from Stefan. You wanted more from Alex? More than half the book takes place is in his head. :D For the record, it took him awhile to open up to me. He likes to keep his cards close.

Will there be lots of Thad in Heir of Pendel?

Yes, though Thad would probably argue there's not nearly enough. (I honestly don't think he'll be satisfied until he gets a memoir.)

Will we get to see more dragons? And what drew you to dragons?

Absolutely. As far as what drew me to them, I've always been intrigued by dragons and books about dragons. There's something just so...magical about them. And terrifying. It was Skyrim that ultimately pushed me over the edge, though. By the way, Skyrim is the greatest game ever. Who knew you could have that much fun making venison stew???

Does Stefan know that his sister has gone to marry Danton?

Not at the end of BoD, but he finds out in HoP.

Do you see Alex and Daria living in the real world?

That's a great question. :D

Who are Vera's parents, and why did Mercedes take her in?

There's a short answer to this in Breath of Dragons. Vera's parents died in service to Mercedes when Vera was very young, and as an honor to them, Mercedes adopted Vera, though I use "adopt" loosely. There will be more background on Vera in HoP.

What was your inspiration for Gesh?

For Gesh, I knew I wanted something tropical, like a natural spa. There'd been so much dreary cold and winter, I needed to thaw. There isn't any one thing that inspired Gesh, though. It's mostly a culmination of things I love. For instance: the Roman Pool at Hearst Castle in Central California inspired the baths in Gesh. If you've never heard of Hearst castle, or its Roman Pool, here you go and you're welcome:

Oh, and this picture:

Fantasia's Night on Bald Mountain inspired the emergence of the white dragon. The rest, I just had a lot of fun with while trying to make the setting as warm and romantic as I possibly could, so that Gesh could serve as a kind of respite for them.

Will Daria really wear red to her wedding, and will Alex rush in and declare his love? (because he seriously needs to lighten up a little)

Haha! As for the first part, I can't really answer that without, you know, the usual SPOILS, and Alex...well, he's rushing around a lot, lately. He's learning a lot about himself, too. How's that for an answer?

When will Heir of Pendel be released?

The question I hear the most. I have some good and bad news is. The bad news is that it will not be released in January, as I'd hoped. It's looking more like summer of 2015. But the good news is that the reason it's taking longer is because the story is so much longer. If you consider that good news. :D I'll keep you posted if it changes. I have the best husband in the entire world, and he was off last week and let me run off to a coffee shop for a few hours every day while he watched the kids, and I was able to wrap up this monster draft! Which means I will now be editing and editing and editing some more.

If I haven't told you guys lately, I love you...thanks so much for caring and sending your enthusiasm my way while I work hard to finish this series!

Oh, and don't forget...if you want to receive updates, discounts, and exclusive content for my books, join my email list HERE.


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