Writer Wednesday: Author Fight Club Round 2!
Okay, this week we’re including last week’s video redux! Pardon my hair, I was out hiking this badass landscape all day today: Clifty Falls State Park.
Notes from this week’s In Bed With Red video blog:
- Last week for Writer Wednesday I asked: who would win in a fight, Asimov or Crichton? Watch the video to find out who the winner was.
Penelope Crowe chose this week’s pairing:
The GREAT JRR Tolkien vs
The man I lovingly refer to as “Uncle” Neil Gaiman, so much do I adore him.
So, tell us! Who do you think would win in a fight? If I chose your answer, you get to pick next week’s pairing.
- I answer reader questions from Rachel Isbell & Banci Wright! (one each on the video—the rest of Banci’s questions are below)
- The Wizard & friends! Download the updated “fortified” version for free. (You might have to delete the old version and then “rebuy” it for free. Links are here. Look for the orange seal on the cover to read shorts by Ash Krafton & Claudia Lefeve!
- Have a favorite book review blog? Email it to me at RedTashBooks at gmail.com if you think they would enjoy Troll Or Derby.
- CreateSpace fundraiser in support of March 2 Recovery is now over—thank you!
- Sue Grafton interview coming soon to LouisvilleKY.com
- Red Dwyer (aka The Other Red) interviewed me this week re: publishing my second book, and she’s giving away a signed copy of Troll Or Derby!
Here are the rest of Banci’s questions, and my answers!
And here’s his awesome drawing of Harlow (sans glamour, I think, as he is quite good looking with it on, in a very rough way):
1) Whats going on for you at the moment writing-wise?
So much! Just finished the first draft of A Laurents County Landfill Christmas, which will be part of holiday anthology I’m pretty excited about. Been watching as three amazing artists bring some of my characters to life in a couple of comics anthologies. Picking up momentum on That Crackling Silence, the sequel to my first novel This Brilliant Darkness. A head full of ideas about Troll Or Park, the next Roller Deb novel. Getting closer to finished a YA Sci Fi collaboration with Axel Howerton that’s been a pure joy to write…honestly, Banci, there’s so much. I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to write full-time. I’m in ecstasy.
2) How is Troll Or Derby going down amongst dark fantasy fans?
So far rather well. The reviews have been fantastic. My challenge is getting it in front of readers right now. It’s not a great time for book-buying, unfortunately. People are busy doing late-summer things! Every review has been great, though. There is nothing like waking up in the morning and seeing a Google alert on my book, only to click and find a five star review. I wish I could thank each of these people personally, but as it happens, I usually only get to say thanks to those who reach out to me. I guess I’m pretty fortunate that people like my stories—I hear from readers a lot! I feel like I know them all at this point.
3) And what is dark fantasy for dumb-dumbs like me who don’t know?
Well, there are different kinds of dark fantasy. There are high fantasy stories with a dark angle, for instance, someone who writes about orcs and necromancers battling dragons with swords and things of that nature. Then there are dark fantasies that straddle the line of horror, which is where I think my first novel ended up. Maybe not full-on shock, blood/guts horror, but “horror lite.” Then there is a book like Troll Or Derby which is neither old school fantasy, nor urban fantasy (can’t be urban in the middle of rural Indiana, can it?), nor is it horror, but combines some elements of each while telling the tale of rock & roll trolls, drugs, and roller derby.
In other words, I don’t know. ;)
Seriously, though, that’s an issue of some debate. It’s just not a clear-cut genre. I feel that is where my work belongs, though. Dark, funny, imaginative, leaving behind the real world but incorporating enough real world details to feel like “Hey, this could happen!” And very, very addictive. I feel like if a book isn’t addictive, how dark can it be? Then it’s just fluff.
4) What made you want to become a writer in the first place?
I never wanted to be a writer. I have always been a writer. I wanted to be a dancer, a linguist, a teacher, a wife and mother, a rollergirl, a reader, a world-traveler, and I very much would like to be an artist, but there has never been a desire to write, any more than I have a desire to be an eater or a breather or a sleeper. It’s just the best way I express myself. As you can see from the videos, I open my mouth and sound a fool. I like to think I’ve got less of a chance of sounding foolish through my writing. There’s no chance to edit real life, sadly. When I write, I feel brilliant. That may be the most pompous thing any writer has ever admitted publicly, but it is just my thing and for me to act coy about it would be disingenuous. Writing is my high, my prayer, my drug—the bounce in my step & the sugar in my blood. It is what I love. It is The Work. And I may fail at it in terms of commercial success in the long run, who knows? But I have already achieved Writerlyness, and thusly, I’m content.
Professionally, I started freelance writing about a decade ago just because I was writing so much anyway, it seemed the thing to do. I had several blogs and a really big combined following, and it felt like the next logical step for me. It was. I became a nationally syndicated opinion columnist and then realized that I was getting so wrapped up in journalism that if I ever wanted to see my dreams of being a novelist come true, I needed to give up a paying gig for a whole new world. And that’s where I am now. On my way to stardom, I’m sure. ;)
5) What do you think it is like for writers these days with ebooks coming heavily into vogue?
I think it is like crazy scary, honestly. I think of all those indie bands on MySpace (remember them?) who wanted to be the next big thing. How many of them uploaded songs to iTunes and made something of their careers? A lot, yes, but so many others just treated it like a lottery. “Maybe I’ll make the bigtime!” Well, I think those musicians found out the hard way that you’ve got to promote the heck out of yourself to get anywhere with music. That’s where I think writers are today, in the ebook world.
Right now it is still a safer bet in terms of sales and exposure to publish traditionally and have a big print run of books shipping to bookstores around the country, and possibly the globe. But the publishing landscape—oy vey! It’s changing so quickly, who can keep up? I’m not certain agents can. I’m not certain editors can. I think writers who take the chance to go straight to the reader and who have the wherewithal to place their books in front of readers who will LOVE their work stand a great chance of success, without the tradition of querying hundreds of people and hoping the timing was right. I liken the old way to throwing a dart through a spinning tire swing, past a pendulum, and into a tiny dart board. Your timing has to be exactly right and your aim dead on to grab the right agent, who grabs the right editor on the right day, and everyone has to have had their coffee and be in the mood to like something new.
If you were in the business of selling books, what would you turn to? Proven sellers, or someone new? There are tons of very good writers out there publishing their own books now. There are even a lot of future “greats.” In my opinion writers have more opportunity than ever to be heard, whether they want to blog, freelance, write books, scripts, or whatever. The sky is the limit. It’s finally “okay” to be indie, just like it’s “okay” to be an indie musician, filmmaker, or inventor. Being an “indie” chef has been preferred for generations, over chain restaurants. Eventually the book world will catch on. Readers already have!
6) On to Troll Or Derby. The characters I found had such strong believable personalities. Were any of there personas taken from anyone you know?
7) What made you go the dark fantasy route? Do you plan to stay in this genre?
I am what I am. When I started writing This Brilliant Darkness, I thought it was going to be lighter than it ended up being. I was a bit embarrassed by how dark it got, honestly. By the time I was done, I needed a rebound book. “This time I’ll write something much lighter!” I thought. “This time I’ll write about fairies!” Next thing you know, there are drugs (scene one), sexual assault, biker gangs, more drugs, inbred Amish trolls, homeless kids, violent rock concerts…and I was absolutely rapt with glee the whole time. That was my version of light and fluffy.
I would still like to write something lighter. The collaboration with Axel Howerton, Joan of the ARC, is much lighter in comparison to Troll Or Derby. And maybe I will publish something completely different under my real name one of these days—a romance, perhaps. But, egad, all the ideas my muse delivers are akin to the chewed up, filleted mice my cats used to leave on the back door. I look at the gifts and recoil in horror, but what are you gonna do? I tell you what you do: you pet the nice kitty and praise her, then you do what needs to be done with the mouse. For me, that mouse is absolutely holy!
8) Do you read a lot of fiction and do you find this helps with your writing process?
I used to read a lot more than I do now! (See video for more talk about raising kids & how they impact all your free time.) I also had some seriously heavy life events in the past year. Until someone has been pregnant, homeschooling three kids, and caring for two dying parents, I don’t think anyone can understand how I never had time to read during that period. It was just way too intense to kick back and see what Sookie Stackhouse was up to, or whatever.
Now that things are settling down and I’m starting to put to bed some of that mess, I’m reading a lot more. Friend me on Goodreads, where I post frequently about what I’m reading! http://www.goodreads.com/RedTash
9) Are there any writers in particular you admire and who would you recommend to people watching this interview?
I always enjoy Neil Gaiman. You can really watch his storytelling skills improve across his body of work, as well. He only gets better & better. I love Stephen King, but most people have given him a read and either like him or don’t. Same with JK Rowling, although occasionally I still hear of someone who hasn’t read the Potter books (unbelievable—I don’t want to live in a world without Harry).
If you’re a fan of my work, in particular, I would recommend you also try: JL Bryan, Axel Howerton, Holly Black, Melissa Marr, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Ash Krafton, Jessica McHugh, Stephen Fry, Penelope Crowe…really, there are too many to list & I’m sure I’m forgetting some.
I admire most authors & artists, because what we do requires a lot of work, and the kind of focus that most people don’t give to most areas of their lives. I admire the heck out of Christine Demaio-Rice. God, I could just start and never stop. I’m not sure Santa would be able to compete with my list! Marian Allen, Patrick Wensink, David Dalglish, Debora Geary, Shéa MacLeod…
In some cases it’s because I’ve come to know the writer and admire him/her personally. In some cases it’s because the work blows me away—but I confess, that is rare for me. I am a hell of a reading snob, truth be known. All those years of reading growing up turned me into an erudite bitch & a half and now that I write fiction professionally I have become even harder to please!!! That’s part of why I don’t like to write reviews for other authors. I would rather be a “recommender” than a “reviewer,” as Ed McNally says. As much as I love and idolize JK Rowling, her last book was awful, and I know I wouldn’t have felt that way if I hadn’t started writing fiction as more than a hobby.
10) Describe a typical Red Tash day in terms of creativity.
Wake up, make a cup of coffee, open gmail and facebook, close them immediately, open them again just for a second…close them again! Look at list or writing projects. Decide which has either nearest deadline or feels the most neglected. Hop in and start writing! Come up for air when strictly necessary. (For me that usually means when the kids are all awake and ready to start the day—it’s a great thing that I type FAST.)
I keep spreadsheets to keep me on track of where my ideas were supposed to go…I don’t always follow them. I have learned that despite the BEST outlines, the thrill of creativity happens for me when the characters take over and start telling me what to type.
If I get stuck, I may think it over later in the day while I shower. I also like drawing as an alternate creative activity in the afternoons, and I sometimes have been known to illustrate badly-drawn cartoons and voice them. AS IF THAT AIN’T ENOUGH, I keep another journal that’s mostly unrelated to Red Tash stuff, so I pretty much blather about all over the place until I have something useful for one of my stories, then I park it there. ;)
11) I have seen that you have written stories for comics as well. How was that and do you enjoy the process of collaborating with others?
Collaboration is awesome! I love it! I look forward to doing more in the future, for sure. I have a few more in the works. Hoping they pan out. It’s so cool that writers and artists can find one another this way now. I feel blessed to have these opportunities. This time last year I never dreamed I’d have comics coming out, or have a really funny SciFi adventure in the works. It’s just so awesome. What a blessing.
12) Are your friends and family supportive of what you do?
My husband and kids are terrific! The kids do sometimes ask me why I don’t write for the paper anymore, but they’re getting over it. My friends have been pretty awesome, too. You really find out who loves you when you do something rogue like publish your own book. Either people disappear from your life completely or they step and proudly tell other people about you. That’s a huge honor and responsibility, and I hope I live up to it. I was raised by wolves, so my friends have always been my family and their support means the world to me! No one supports me in my writing more than my best friend & husband Tim Tash, though. He’s a saint.
13) Are you going to be doing a lot of book signings this year and what areas can we expect to see you?
This year I’ll be at That Book Place in Madison, Indiana for their Labor Day book event. (I know they are taking pre-orders, for any locals planning on going.)
That’ll be my first book signing, ever, actually. I used to go and speak to groups once in awhile as a journalist, but it was never my favorite thing. I always imagined (hoped) someday that I’d have a line of eager readers waiting for me to sign my novel for them, but now that the prospect of actually meeting readers face-to-face could happen, I confess I feel rather shy about it. The local library asked me if I would be interested in holding an author event if they ordered my book, and I totally chickened out.
Still, I’d like to meet readers, and I’ll be part of the Heroines with Heart book tour in 2013, appearing in Louisville and Indianapolis. I think the “celebrity” sort of book tour that I used to dream about will have to wait until I’ve got some huge contract with a six-figure advance. In the meantime, I’ll be mostly sticking around the home front, writing like hell and working my way into your hearts from Fort Tash!
14) Do you believe in the philosophy of you can either write or can’t?
I’ve never heard of that one, but, um…probably, a little bit. A lot of people desire to have written something, whether that is a newspaper column or just a freelance piece, or a poem in their church bulletin. A lot of people want to check that off their list of things they have done. Most people think they have a book in them, but writing an actual book-length work isn’t that tough. It just requires several sessions of sitting down to write. It is the rest of it—the thinking, the plotting, the rewriting, the editing, the proofing, the plot-hole-searching, the big picture vision and the minute detail inspection that most people have no desire to do. I bizarrely happen to like that stuff. I suspect that if you don’t have that kind of personality, then you will probably have a steeper learning curve if you try to write a book or direct a movie or compose a Broadway musical. These are just really BIG sorts of works. It’s okay to start small and play around with imagery and voice and techniques. I am no painter, but I imagine it’s much the same as taking painting classes in college. You do it until you discover whether or not it’s your thing, then you take it on the run, baby, and make it your own. Nobody starts out painting the Sistine Chapel, and no one writes ground-breaking mind-splitting-open literature on his/her first try, either—not without years and years of effort put into it, in my opinion. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but that’s my opinion!
15) What advice could you offer young writers wanting to break into fantasy writing like yourself?
Take writing classes, keep a journal, read a lot in the genres you enjoy, and then write a little bit every morning until your story is complete. Randy Ingermanson (the snowflake guy) is a great resource for how to plot stories. Your favorite authors are going to teach you more about world-building and character development than most literary training programs—MFAs are lovely, but I see a definite divide between commercial success & literary accolades. Decide if you are in this to be an artist, or to be a best-seller, or one of the select few who is both. Maybe you want to be neither of those—maybe this is just your hobby and you want to hear from readers more than anything. Maybe you want to order your books as Christmas gifts and give to friends—you tell me! Whatever your motivation is, whatever your goals, STICK TO THEM. You will see other writers having varying levels of success. It’s okay to amend your goals if you truly would rather sell books than win contests, for example. But make sure you are following your heart in this matter, because a book is SUCH a huge commitment, and when you receive criticism & face set-backs (and you will), you need to be able to take it in stride, as part and parcel of your vision and your goals!
I have met so many wonderful authors who set their goals at high commerciality for their books and crank them out fast. They work with editors, they hire cover designers, and they are doing great sales-wise for their genres. You can do that, too. I have a different process and different goals, I guess. I don’t think I’ll ever be a “new book every month” sorta gal. I have major respect for those who are, though. They’re outselling me like crazy.
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