Indie Author Interviews
I am a devotee of clever nonfiction. If I can enjoy myself while learning something, I am delighted. Given that I write contemporary fantasy and want to be as accurate as possible when it comes to magic and creatures, I end up with a strange assortment of books on my night stand. I am beyond grateful when their authors are entertaining while dictating the requirements of ceremonial magic or the possible physiology of Bigfoots.
I do not much read the genres I write, as some may assume. There is nothing specifically wrong with these genres – I wouldn’t be working in them unless I found them valuable avenues for storytelling – but I don’t want to find myself unduly influenced, either in style or content. Yes, there is a fair bit of dross to be found in those sections of the bookstore, but I think that is the case if you look anywhere. At least these ones allow for the speculation of “what if?” which is one of the most valuable questions we can ask.
What do you feel are your earliest influences on your writing?
My parents were very encouraging. When I went through a precocious poetry phase in elementary school, they enrolled me in an adult poetry writing group at the local library. For some reason, that group chose to indulge me, too, though my poems were filled with images I thought to be poetic rather than anything I felt or thought. This possibly is to credit for why I no longer write poetry.
From the moment I could read, I sought about books on the paranormal, which naturally bled over into fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels. Goosebumps couldn’t sustain me very long, but Scholastic Book Club flyers were godsends when it came to finding the sort of pulpy YA novels I wanted. I wrote the sort of things I read or, more often, wrote what I wanted to read because I found the available stories inadequate. I can’t imagine what I would be like had I access to a Kindle then, but the lack of things worth reading made me a better writer in the long run.
As an adolescent, I went through the predictable literary infatuation I recommend to any young writer: Kurt Vonnegut. There were many train rides back and forth to girlfriends where I read a Vonnegut book and felt pretentiously unpretentious. Like with any young love, I shuffle my feet now when anyone asks how much I then loved Vonnegut, but his books were crucial to my development.
Did you write as a child?
Incessantly. I think it was clear to everyone – aside from me – that I was a born writer (I was certain, depending on my age, that I would be a train conductor, artist, actor, director, or psychotherapist). I was always scribbling one story or another. They didn’t always make sense, mind you, but I wrote them anyway. I distinctly recall my sixth grade teacher happening on a story I had been writing and commenting in red pen that it was too adult for me to have written. By that, I think that she meant the phrase “heaving chest” a bit more than she did the length and content, though.
Neil Gaiman is a constant inspiration, both on the page and off. Primarily, he writes the sorts of stories that take place in universes I covet. I attended one of his readings last year and found him strangely approachable – though I did not get the opportunity to do more than have copies of my first two books sent to him, for which he later thanked me – a feeling that persists in how he interacts with his fanbase online. When I had questions about an invitation to be a guest at a convention, I asked him and he was kind enough to reply with solid advice.
I fold a lot of nonfiction into my novels. Given the nature of what I write, I have found some inspiration in the book Postmodern Magic by Patrick Dunn and the philosophical work of Robert Anton Wilson, who both write of reality as moldable. I find fiction to be a wonderful playground for curious ideas I am not ready to wholly admit to believing.
Tell me about your recent writing? Do you prefer short stories, novels, novellas?
I am currently working on the fourth book in the Night’s Dream series, one that will connect the first three novels together, end one of the story lines, and provide a foundation for the novels to come. It is about 80,000 words and shows no sign of slowing, which means my editor will have her work cut out for her when taming this beast. Recently, owing to one of those trips through Wikipedia that starts on a simple article about beets and ends an hour later on an article about the Enochian alphabet, I happened upon the template for two characters that immediately shouted to be let into this book. I am in the process of seeing where their scenes take me and if they will both survive to the end. Several of my friends insist I must keep them alive, which only encourages me to lead them to bloody ends. So far, they are alive, but I can’t promise it will last.
I prefer writing novels. Whenever I start a short story, I have a hard time wanting to end it before I have really tried the world on for size, an act that takes more than a few pages. When I am writing my novels, I tend to see each chapter as its own short story (or even just a few scenes) within the same world at the same time. Artificial Gods, my most recent book, was my first attempt at a novel in a more consistent format. Originally, it was told entirely from the perspective of the main character, Jasmine Woods. Before I submitted it to my publisher, I went back and fleshed out the story with scenes from the perspective of other characters, so it ended up 80% Jasmine and 20% everyone else.
Do you find the writing community online to be helpful?
I did when I originally worked on We Shadows, if just because the critiques I would get would sometimes be so strange that I knew I was onto something. One that stuck with me was a man arguing that I meant the nonexistent word “forment” where I had written “foment” and judging the rest of the chapter based on his misapprehension. Had he let himself read the chapter as written rather than as he assumed I must have written it as a fool who didn’t even know a simple word like forment, I would not have seen all the parts he thought were too weird and opt to make them weirder still.
I will shove my manuscript at friends and family – only a few of whom respond – but I can’t see as much value in strangers. This is my issue, however, and not that of the online writing community. I am a hermit when it comes to my writing. If I could pull a Salinger and write in seclusion – aside from the royalty checks - I likely would. However, that is not the landscape these days.
There are a few authors whom I am friends with, Michael Mammano and Angela Lovell in specific, whose rough drafts I would snatch out of their hands to critique immediately. It is a crucial step in writing, but I work better when I am focused on pleasing a few people rather than, in Vonnegut’s words, making love to the world.
I do find National Novel Writing Month useful, however, though I admit to not interacting nearly as much as one is supposed to. I like the invisible peer pressure, as I simply cannot allow anyone on the friends’ list to have a higher word count than I do. For all I really know, the numbers (and my friends) are invented constructs of the website, but they get the job done.
What would you most like to do, which you haven't already, that would help with your writing?
I would love to commission someone to draw out the characters, so I would have a visible representation of them while I am writing. I have dozens of folders of pictures that embody some element of my characters, but none have the authenticity an artist would bring to it. While I appreciate the book covers Deron Douglas at Double Dragon Publishing creates for my book, the women on those covers are not exactly how I imagine Shane or Roselyn.
Also, my last editor rightly chided me on forgetting what hair color I had given a crucial character in Artificial Gods, so I have no need to embarrass myself.
It would be hard to pick just one, however I have been underlining line after line from the “Girl Who…” series by Catherynne Valente. I cannot stop appreciating a writer of books for children who does not treat them like simpering morons. Fairytales can be clever still, instead of pandering to the direct-to-video knock-off market.
I direct newer writers to the site A Place for Writers to help them get published (or at least more of those valuable rejections). Pred-Ed is an essential resource for anyone hoping to avoid being scammed by those dirtbags who prey upon beginning writers with more hope than sense. Also, I think beginning writers should follow the blogs of their literary idols, when possible. It helps to ground these authors in reality, as they too struggle with their publishers and contracts, and gives better insight than one may find in books on writing.
And Thomm's page.