Story Geniusis a foolproof program that saves writers from penning hundreds of pages only to realize that something’s not working and they have to start again. Informed by story consultant Lisa Cron’s science-based insights into how story structure is built into the architecture of the brain, this guide shows writers how to plumb the nitty-gritty details of their raw idea to organically generate a story scene by scene. Once writers reach the end of Cron’s program, they will have both a blueprint that works and plenty of compelling writing suitable for their finished novel–allowing them to write forward with confidence.
Lisa Cron starts off by asking “What’s the biggest mistake writers make?…The answer is easy: they don’t know what a story is.” What an epic statement!
This is one writing craft book that’ll really keep you thinking on your toes. What am I really writing about? How does this affect my protagonists inner journey? Time after time, again and again, Lisa brings us through a case study of a real manuscript by writer Jenny Nash. Skillfully causing us to ask ourselves what is it that I’m actually writing about? What is my story? How does this affect my story?
Put this one on your TBR list to read and reread. High fives to Lisa Cron for pulling this one out of the hat.
You’ve completed the first draft of your novel–now what? Chances are, it’s not perfect…at least not yet. In order to increase your chances of getting a literary agent, selling your manuscript to a publisher, or garnering an audience for your self-published work, you need targeted, practical instruction on tackling the problem areas and weak spots in your story. You need Troubleshooting Your Novel.
In this hand-on, easy-to-use guide, award-winning author Steven James provides helpful techniques and checklists, timesaving tricks of the trade, and hundreds of questions for manuscript analysis and revision. You’ll learn how to:
ADJUST elements of story progression, from causality, tension, and setbacks to plot twists, climaxes, and endings.
DEVELOP authentic, riveting characters by exploring their attitudes, desires, beliefs, and more.
LEARN narrative techniques for elements such as dialogue, flashbacks, suspense, voice, subtext, and flow.
ENSURE reader engagement by aligning with their expectations, fulfilling promises, and instilling trust.
CHECK issues with context and continuity.
You owe your book more than just a polish and a proofread. Strengthen your story, prepare it for the marketplace, and make it the best it can be withTroubleshooting Your Novel.
NO ONE TELLS A STORY LIKE STEVEN JAMES- Benjamin Thomas
1. What exactly is organic storytelling and can it be learned?
Many people I speak with are simply not interested in or very good at outlining a book. For all of us, there is another approach.
Organic writing is the process of allowing the story to emerge as you work on it rather than plotting it out or outlining it beforehand. It’s a more natural and intuitive way of approaching any art form than imposing predetermined constraints on it. As far as learning it, unfortunately there are few books that really teach it. Most offer a repackaging of the traditional approach of structure and plot. I offer one approach in my book Story Trumps Structure: Who to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules.
This is awesome! Two words stick out to me in this statement. Emerge and organic. Trusting the story to emerge as we’re writing it is very intuitive.
2. In another interview someone asked how you keep track of plot because you’re an organic writer. You stated the following: “I’m a big believer in context determining content” Can you expand on this?
Within every scene you will find a variety of narrative forces pressing in on the narrative. For example, believability (the scene needs to remain believable within that story world), causality (every event has an impetus and an implication), escalation (tension continues to tighten), and pace, flow, voice, and so on. The context that precedes a scene will affect the emergence and affect of these forces. Really, any scene edited out of context will suffer in one of these areas. Writing great fiction does not consist of filling in the blanks, but in allowing the context and the unfolding promises and their payoff to inform the direction that the story takes.
I love it. Can’t wait to get more into this.
“Writing great fiction does not consist of filling in the blanks, but in allowing the context and the unfolding promises and their payoff to inform the direction that the story takes.”-Steven James
3. What are the major facets of storytelling?
Beyond the ones I mentioned early would be implied and explicit promises. So, is you start a story by showing how perfect Anna’s home life is, with her doting husband and obedient children and daily yoga lessons, it’s an implied promise to readers that things are about to go very wrong very soon. You’re not telling readers this, but they understand the movement of a story and anticipate it. I strive to always give readers what they want or something better. And much of that comes from making big promises. And then keeping them.
This sounds simple yet profound. I totally agree with readers understanding the movement of the story. When all is well in the beginning there’s a certain amount of anticipation and suspense built up. Excellent.
4. What are the biggest hindrances to storytelling?
It’s lonely. Every novel I write requires at least a thousand hours of solitude. At times it’s hard to feel motivated, especially on a project that’s so large and daunting. So, many of the hindrances deal not with content or ideas, but with words and perseverance.
That’s amazing! A thousand hours of solitude rounds out to be 41.6 days steeped in the organic writing process. You just elicited the Wow factor.
“Every novel I write requires at least a thousand hours of solitude.” -Steven James
5. What do you love most about telling stories?
Not going insane by keeping them caged up in my imagination. If I keep them chained up, they start looking for their one way of escape.
I can totally relate to this. This is the real escapism for authors. To gladly unleash our imagination to the world.
Here’s a short poem I couldn’t help but write after hearing about the writing process of Steven James. Here it goes…
A THOUSAND FOR THE MASSES
He gave himself; to the power of solitude, willingly.
Kevin T. Johns is an author, writing coach, ghostwriter, and podcaster who is passionate about helping writers.
Were you born and raised in Canada?
Yup. I’ve lived in and around Ottawa, Ontario, most of my life. I did a brief stint in Toronto after high school, but, for the most part, Ottawa has been my home.
I’ve yet to go to Canada. Can’t wait to tour the country!
What sparked your love of literature?
Comic books and Stephen King. I wasn’t a big reader before the age of ten or eleven, but around then I started reading super hero comics and Stephen King books and it just took off from there.
I started with a comic bent too, but I didn’t start with novels until much later. I should’ve asked you about your favorites.
After studying literature in college what 3 things have you come away with? (Besides debt)
1. An understanding that we all bring different lenses to our reading experiences, i.e. a book can be read with a feminist lens, a structural lens, a post-colonial lens. No one point of view is the “right” one. Each lens will provide different take-aways from a work of literature, all of which will be valid.
2. Literature (and art in general) plays a massive role in defining the culture we live in. We generally think of storytelling as escapism or just entertainment, when, in fact, it’s often key to formulating the world around us and how we understand it.
3. The analytical skill-sets used by literary scholars are applicable across a wide range of disciplines and situations, and are, therefore, well worth developing.
I love it. These 3 are great nuggets to chew on and appreciate.
What drives you to help other writers?
I believe books and stories are profoundly important to our world and to people’s happiness in general. But books, and novels in particular, are exceptionally difficult to create. If I can help make the writing process a little bit easier for someone, I feel like I have a duty to do so. Shawn Coyne said something when I interviewed him for The Writing Coach podcast that I totally agree with: “When you learn a particular craft, it’s kind of your responsibility to share it so that we can take storytelling to a new level.” Sharing what you know, helping others as a teacher and a mentor, is how we all get better. So there’s a certain moral responsibility to sharing what I know about writing. I also just love working with writers. For whatever reason, it’s the thing that lights me up and makes me happy.
That’s awesome! I’m all about taking storytelling to the next level. It’s fun to work with writers!
~A brand is a story that is always being told- Scott Bedbury
Can you name up to 5 common problems you see most in writers?
1. Not writing (procrastinating, overthinking, delaying, giving-in to resistance, avoiding doing the work, etc.)
I’m definitely guilty of some of these. But if you don’t know the problem then you can’t fix it.
The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.-Sandeep Jauhar
What are some of the ways that you help them?
The great thing about being a writing coach is that I can tailor my help to the individual writer’s situation. While there are certain common challenges every writer struggles with, the way each writers overcomes those challenges is totally unique to them. I don’t have a one-size- fits-all approach to helping authors. There is no secret answer or push-button solution. My job is to work with writers to explore options and find solutions that allow them to excel in their own special way.
I like the tailoring approach to helping writers. That’d be the most beneficial because everyone is so different.
Tell us about some of your own writings.
My novels The Page Turners and The Page Turners: Economy of Fear are young adult horror/sci-fi/fantasy mash-ups about a group of teenager who accidently unleash their favourite fictional villains into the real world.
AWESOME. I’d definitely like to check out some of your writings!
Who are some popular Canadian authors?
I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Canadian literature. My reading tastes are more focused on the cannon of “great literature” without much concern for the nationality of the author. There are, of course, certain Canadian authors everyone knows and reads like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, but that’s not really my thing. I guess some of my favourite Canadian writers would be indie comic book guys from Toronto like Chester Brown, Joe Matt, and Seth.
Just wondered. I’ve been meeting so many writers from Canada I couldn’t help but ask.
How can we sign up for your podcast?
On my podcast, The Writing Coach, I speak with all sorts of people who, like me, work with authors, be it editors, coaches, or book marketing experts. You can check out the full archive of past episodes and subscribe via iTunes right here.
Sweet. I listened to one these a while back and really enjoyed the production and audio quality.
Tell us about some of the services you provide.
My one-on- one coaching offers support, accountability, and expert advice to authors via weekly video-conference coaching sessions. Each week, I hop on a call with the writer and we dive deep into their writing, goals, and challenges.
My group program is similar to the one-on- one coaching, but takes place in a group context. I have an amazing collection of authors in the program right now who have created a wonderful community of support for one another.
I also have an online course, The Novel Writer’s Blueprint Master Class, which consists of video tutorials that walk aspiring authors through the entire process of writing a book, from idea creation all the way through to completed manuscript. I’ve set up a coupon code for your readers, so if they use the code WRITINGTRAIN at the checkout, they’ll get $200 off the course.
I also work as a ghostwriter. Successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and business people hire me to help write their self-help, business, or other non-fiction books and articles.
Sounds like a great deal that offers a lot of good services. You sound really busy!
Are you currently working on a project or novel?
This fall I’m releasing my latest novel, M School. It’s an action thriller with an all-girl cast. It deals with issues of violence and mental health, and I’m super excited to share it with the world. Folks can get some free goodies if they join the book’s early notification list here.
I just signed up. Curious about your new novel!
M School by Kevin T. Johns
DUE THIS FALL!!
Favorite inspirational quotes.
I often come back to the Ernest Hemingway quote:“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
There’s a story behind every writer. The author is not only a storyteller, they are a story. Let’s find out more about today’s guest, Kylie Day!
A word after a word
after a word, is power
– Margaret Atwood
Kylie is a blogger, author, introvert, professional coffee addict, incurable reader, and apparently she sings in the shower.
Yay shower singing. I love shower singing. (beat-boxing is epic in the shower)
Let the show begin…
*You’re from Sweden, I think? What’s it like?
Yes, I currently live in Sweden. It’s not like living in a small county as Sweden has affected my writing. The internet gives everyone a chance at being international, no matter where you’re from or where you live, and I think that’s really exciting. Especially for writers who have the chance to reach millions of people with their written word (whether that’s actual books or blog posts).
Awesome. I love the ability to be international. The opportunity to reach millions with our words is at our finger tips!
*What’s your genre?
I write non-fiction for writers, and then have a pen name for my fiction stories which are set in the fantasy genre.
I have all of Kylie’s Busy Author’s Guide books. They’re purposefully short and designed to get you back to what you love to do—writing!
How to Outline Your Book with Pre-Outline questions
How to Outline Your Story with “What If” Questions
How to Get to Know Your Story’s World with Wordbuilding Questions
HOw to Get to Know Your Characters with Character Interviews
“A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.” -Vladimir Nabokov
*You studied literature in college correct? If so l, tell us about your studies and what led you in this direction.
Yes, I’m still working on a Master’s Degree. My love for reading was what led me to study literature. Literature has always been a big part of my life so it wasn’t a difficult choice. And my studies have also given me the opportunity to develop my own writing skills because I’ve been given the opportunity to read and study works of fiction that I might’ve never thought to read before.
Kylie, I would love to pick your brain regarding your reading experience and what you’ve learned in literature. You’ll have to come back!
*What have you learned about the craft? (Don’t hold back let her rip!)
Wow, that’s a huge question, one that can take me hours to answer. But at the end of the day, what I’m most excited about having learned about writing is that the first draft is always crappy. The important thing is to get the story written. If you don’t get the first draft done, there is nothing to work with. And, honestly, the real work starts when the first draft is done. While that notion scared me a couple of years ago, it’s become a huge relief to me now. My first draft can be bad, really bad (I usually skip descriptions because I move so fast through the first draft), but I know that I can add that when revising the draft. So, instead of going back into the story every day, just to add descriptions I think are necessary, I skip that completely until I’ve finished the first draft. This way of writing has made it so much easier to finish my first drafts, something I struggled with a couple of years ago, and I’ve actually finished more first drafts the past year than I’d done during the ten years previous to that.
I love that. This is so true! I’ve slowly been learning the same principle. You can’t edit a blank page. Nor can you revise a blank one. You’ve got to get it out of your head and onto the page. Without the clay there is no pottery. This is my experience with poetry, fiction and even blog posts!
*Can you tell us a little about your current WIP? (Work in progress)
I’m currently working on an ebook on character creation for my non-fiction. My fiction WIP is actually a series of short stories that are set in a fictional fantasy world that’s quite dark and gritty, a bit gothic, mysterious, and corrupt. I can’t say that I’ve read anything like it before, so there’s nothing I can really compare the series to, but it’s a lot of fun to write.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with! Keep us posted!
*How long have you been working on your WIP? (Work in progress) I’ve been pondering mine for at least 2 1/2 years now.
I think the idea to the first story in my fiction series came to me at the beginning of this year (January or February). I’m editing the first two in the series and have just finished outlining the 6th story, which I will begin writing any day now. The ones I have at the moment are between 4.000-10.000 words, so they don’t take very long to write. And I’ve been lucky enough to consistently get new ideas, which keeps the ball rolling.
Awesomesauce! Totally looking forward to reading it!
*What’s it like publishing non-fiction? I’ve been thinking about this a lot and would love to publish some someday.
Publishing non-fiction is quite simple, really. One of the differences between fiction and non-fiction is that non-fiction is categorized into a niche instead of a genre, and you can get a lot more eyeballs on your non-fiction because of the targeted keywords you can use (both in the keywords list on Amazon, but also in the title and sub-title of your book). One of the things non-fiction is used for a lot nowadays is to grow the business behind the book. The book may serve as a lead magnet to an online course or to get people to hire you for speaking gigs, etc. But you don’t need a business to write non-fiction. My initial thought behind my own non-fiction was (like I said before) to get my thoughts out on paper. I didn’t think about creating a whole business out of it. With that said, it doesn’t mean that I won’t create online courses on writing in the future (I do have some ideas, but I also need time to execute them properly).
I have several ideas for non-fiction and can’t wait to dive into it.
*Can you tell us a bit about your blog? And desire to help other writers? I personally have benefited from your blog and appreciate your writing.
I started my blog as I started writing The Busy Author’s Guide, to get my thoughts about the craft of writing out of my head. Then, as I began to develop The Busy Author’s Guide series I saw the blog as another means to help writers who might’ve been as overwhelmed as I was. I read a lot of books on writing long before I started the blog, and I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I was with all the information (which actually led me to spend more time reading about writing than I actually spent writing). The idea behind the blog and The Busy Author’s Guide then became that smaller steps were easier to take. The Busy Author’s Guide are short ebooks because I don’t want writers to spend time going through yet another full-length book instead of writing. I also believe that exercises actually lead people to take action, so that was always a big part of the books. The blog has developed into something more than the books, I think, and some of my focus on the blog is to inspire people to write. I do have posts with exercises and such, but I also publish story structure case studies because I believe story structure is such a big part of writing fiction
Check out Kylie’s blog at: The Writing Kylie. Please see below for links to recent posts.
Neil Gaiman wrote in an essay, something like: “You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if?” I love that quote because I use it all the time when I outline my stories.
I love the *what if* question. The possibilities are endless.
“I love the possiblity of fiction” -Benjamin Thomas
*Favorite novels or writing books?
I have to say that Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art is a must read for all writers (all creatives, really). The passages about resistance are golden and has helped me a lot.
*You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
What initially inspired my writing was that I needed to sort out the things I had in my mind. I’m also a very curious person, so I ask a lot of questions and spend much time searching for answers. I’ve learned that keeping my mind open – and my eyes – to the smaller things in the everyday life has helped my creativity a lot.
Reading books was what initially sparked my interest for writing. I think that a lot of people in my generation were influenced by the Harry Potter series (as was I). Those books were the starting point of my own more serious approach to writing fiction (I’d done it more for fun before). The whole process behind writing fiction was then the foundation on which I created The Busy Author’s Guide series. I wanted to get my thoughts of my own writing process out on paper, and while I wrote The Busy Author’s Guide I also honed my process of writing fiction. So, while my focus right now is on fiction, writing non-fiction has helped me develop as a writer.
I can’t wait to pick your brain regarding your reading experience. Come again! My other interview series is called, Forensic Lenses. An investigative and exploratory approach into the mind of voracious readers.
*What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
My goal has always been to publish fiction. At the moment I’ve only published non-fiction but am working on my fiction writing as well. I don’t have any further goal at the moment.
Drop us a line when you get close to finishing your fiction. Pinky promise?
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
I can’t really think of three things, but the one thing that’s hindered me before is a major one: fear of judgement (which I think most creatives have). That can be really crippling.
Yeah, I think fear is pretty much universal. Don’t let fear hold you back from your dreams! Let’s show him who’s boss.
Sparring with fear—knock em’ out!
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
The thought of making up stories by writing them down for the rest of my life is what keeps me going. I can’t think of anything I want more than that.
YESSSS. I’m in the same boat.
*What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
Again, fear of judgement or fear that people won’t think I’m good enough is something I struggle with. But, at the moment, my determination to meet the goal of publishing fiction is stronger than any fear (let’s just hope that lasts :)).
We all have that fear. But hey, let’s put a good fight! Our determination is much stronger than anything fear can muster up.
*Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
I think that a lot of people quit because they doubt themselves or because they realize that writing something (whether it’s fiction or non-fiction) is a lot harder than they thought.
These are valid reasons. Doubt is a big one. Hard work is the other.
*What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
If you have a story inside you, then I urge you to keep writing. I’m sure that your story is worth sharing. Sure, all of us have our good and bad days, and we may want to quit on our bad days. But if you stick with it, write the crappy first draft, work hard on edits, and get your story out in the world for others to read, you will feel like the struggle was well worth it.
“If you have a story inside you, then I urge you to keep writing” Kylie Day
I am a self-published author and an unbridled enthusiast, moonlighting as a middle manager. I started my blog with one purpose – to finish a novel. The good news is, that after almost two years of constant writing, editing, and more editing, I have finished one. It’s a comedy, and it is now available on Amazon. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing.
The sequel to Shizzle Inc, Indiot is now AVAILABLE. Ana also blogs about the book marketing game over at anaspoke.com . Have a look at the “book marketing” tab for lists of resources and my personal experiences testing various marketing gimmicks.
Ana is also the founder of Comedy Book Week. An awesome event with an official website, over 60 participating authors and 111 books! It should be even more epic next year! If you’d like to sign up see the link above or contact Ana.
* What part of Australia are from? Were you born and raised there?
I live in Melbourne, Victoria, and it is currently the middle of winter here. I was born in Russia, but I’m technically Ukrainian, and I’ve lived in the US for 14 years. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia but, arguably, the largest center for culture and arts.
Wow a world traveler! Melbourne sounds like a neat place.
*What’s Australia like?
It’s great, if you don’t mind the kangaroos, which are everywhere. Just kidding! Australia is more laid back than the US, but just like the US, it’s huge and varied in climate and local culture. In the US, I lived in Florida, so I still can’t get used to Melbourne’s crazy weather – it really can have “four seasons in one day.” Yesterday it was freezing and raining with hail (that’s the middle of winter for you), but today the sun is up and it’s warming up quickly. In summer, it’s not that unusual to have temperature drop by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in a space of an hour, when the wind changes direction and starts blowing from the Antarctica. To make me even more miserable, while I’m freezing here, I hear it’s almost 90 degrees in Darwin, Northern Territory.
One of the things I like best about Australia is its multi-cultured mix of people. In Melbourne, about 40% of residents were either born overseas or had at least one parent born outside of Australia. So, being a foreigner is not such a big deal, and I felt accepted from the very first day. Such a mix of people also means you can get any ethnic food you desire, and it would be authentic, too.
Another thing that’s different from the US is that in Australia, most people live in cities, so the rest of the country is barely populated. This means a lot of untouched, wild “bush” nature. It also means crazy property prices in the city, tiny apartments, and tiny backyards, if you are lucky enough to have one. I think most Americans would struggle with the size of an average family home here.
Sounds quite fascinating! It’s good to experience different cultures. Thanks for sharing your experience.
*Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I’ve gone to school on three continents! I’ve studied landscape architecture, microbiology, environmental science, and project management, and have 1.3 Ph.D.s to show for the total of 13 years of full- and part-time study. I’ve never studied literature or writing, but over the last 2 years I’ve put myself through a self-designed and managed Masters of Self-Publishing (sort of). I blame it all on a combination of curiosity, short attention span, and a life-long addiction to the endorphin rush that comes with achieving goals.
That’s quite a blend of academic studies. I do remember when you were agonizing over your debut comedy novel Shizzle Inc. in some blog posts. Now it’s out! Impressive.
* What was your career track before pursuing writing? You mentioned about being a middle manager on your blog.
Still doing that, although I am currently finishing up my five-month long service leave. I work in a government agency, managing a small group of people and putting together management strategies. Maybe that’s why I could not resist starting #ComedyBookWeek – I was missing the rush that comes from organizing something new and nurturing it to grow into something big.
That’s again very impressive. Especially since it’s something fairly new and grew so quickly. You’re hired!
* Do you have any major hobbies you enjoy?
Currently the only one, obsessive, and all-consuming hobby is writing and marketing. I’ve had others– from breeding rare fish to kiteboarding, but they tend to come and go (see the previous comment about short attention span and endorphin rush).
Ana, I have to say, you’re a very interesting individual. I’ve never heard of kiteboarding and organizing anything makes my eyes cross.
*What’s your genre and why? Will you branch out?
My life-long genre is humor. It’s in everything I do, so even if I ever write something different, it will be funny. Perhaps a hilarious erotica series?
I love it. Everybody needs a good laugh right?
*Tell us about your upcoming book, the sequel to Shizzle.
Indiot follows Isa Maxwell to India, where she was supposed to help a mysterious prince win back his fortune. She also hopes to convince the prince to use his wealth to help the orphans, and maybe write a book about it. Needless to say, noting goes as planned. It’s a mad romp that goes from bad to worse, and then, just as she sighs with relief, it plunges her even deeper into trouble.
Sounds wildly entertaining! I’m finishing up Shizzle now and will press on to Indiot very shortly.
*What have you learned in your experience writing Shizzle?
I think the biggest lesson was to trust myself and to believe that somewhere in the world, there are people who would enjoy reading my books. I was so insecure about my ability to tell the story of Shizzle, Inc., that it took forever to finish it, and then even longer to get the balls to self-publish. Along the way, I just wanted someone to say, “Hey, this is not absolute garbage!” Now, thanks to my fans, I have an audience that’s eagerly awaiting Indiot’s release, and already asking about the third installment. It’s an amazing feeling, and a powerful fuel to keep going.
*Can you tell us about your experience in self-publishing and marketing your book?
I’m strange in the sense that I now love the experience of self-publishing, and even more so –marketing. I had a lot to learn – the launch of Shizzle, Inc. was basically me saying “Thank God, it’s finished” and pressing “publish.” It took me another three months to publish a paper copy and to figure out some of the basics of book marketing. This time around, I am better prepared. The ebook and paperback are available at the same time, I have some early reviews thanks to fans willing to review ARCs, there’s paid marketing, Goodreads and Amazon giveaways, and of course, #ComedyBookWeek. Fingers crossed, all that effort will pay off. More importantly, I am learning so much, I have no doubt that the third book will be even better.
*You’re a writer; so what’s your story? What inspired you to take this journey?
I think I was meant to be a comedian – books are just one of the outlets for my never-ending clowning around. I literally can’t put a lid on it, and keep my colleagues laughing at work, and my family at home. At one point, I was even a comedy actor but, unfortunately, you have to wait for someone else to give you a role and write your material. With books and my blog, I can channel my gags straight at the audience – no middle man necessary.
I wanted to be comedian when I was a kid. I can totally relate to you on this level.
*Now that you’re published what’s your GOAL (S)? What’s the next step?
One of them is to continue writing the Isa Maxwell escapades series – I’m not finished yet or, rather, Isa is not finished. I trust she will tell me when she’s had enough. I also want to write a new book, and have a multitude of ideas noted down – it will be a matter of choosing one. It will definitely be funny, although it will have a different “flavor.”
I’m all too intrigued to see what you come up with next. You got me on my toes.
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
Lack of self-belief had to be the most significant one. I consider myself to be a confident person, but even so, it’s pretty scary to say to yourself, “Hey, I think I can write a whole novel, and make it worth someone’s time.” The second obstacle is time – my “regular” job is demanding, and it’s hard to be creative after a full day. And finally, lack of knowledge – with the first one, I had to study plotting, character development, and editing alongside of writing the actual novel. If anyone is writing their first book, I would highly recommend undertaking a self-designed Masters of Writing. There are so many books on writing to choose from, plus you may find local courses or online resources. And if you want Cliff Notes on self-publishing and marketing, then read my blog!
A lack of self-belief is a big one across the board for majority of writers. I can relate to the lack of time! Especially after work and kids. Writing is such an subjective process it can be overwhelming for new authors. Then the objective side of learning the monstrosity of putting together a complete novel is a large undertaking to say the least.
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
A vision of myself as a full-time writer, plus the positive reviews on my books. I have read and re-read the reviews many times over, and each time I vividly imagine that person, laughing out loud on a train or “snorting tea everywhere.” That’s what keeps me going, especially after I get an occasional bad review. There are people out there, on the other side of the planet that have never met me, but have loved reading a story that I made up and published. It’s an amazing “head trip” for me.
YES. I’m so happy for you AND very jealous. I’m also one of those far away peeps cracking up when everyone else is asleep.
*What’s your main ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way of you accomplishing your goals?
Some unpublished writers think getting published is the only hurdle. Currently, I’m the boss of my antagonists and demons, and ploughing away every day. Again, this is thanks to the small successes along the way – positive reviews, supporters of my blog, and sales of my books. There have been times when I’ve questioned my investment of time and money, but I got up in the morning and kept going, and the Antagonist got weaker and weaker. I don’t think I will ever be completely free of self-doubt, but I’ve learned to manage it. Marketing your book is a much bigger hurdle than publishing. I hope writers understand and embrace it – and hey, it can even be fun! I would say that unpublished writers should have reasonable expectations of sales of their first book, and then continue working every day on improving their craft, as well as packaging, marketing, positioning, platform, and all that jazz. It’s a snowball, and it takes a long time of pushing it around before you start seeing it grow.
This is great info and inside scoop for us newbies looking to get out feet wet. Thanks Ana! I’m glad you keep going despite the hurdles you had to overcome. You must be good at track I suppose?
*Why do writers give up, quit or abandon their dream?
I have not studied this enough, but I would say self-doubt coupled with negative feedback could kill any dream. I would recommend striving for smaller, intermediate goals on your way to “success,” whatever that may mean to you. That way, there are bursts of positive energy all along the way that will keep you going.
Good practical advice here. That way we don’t set up ourselves for failure.
*What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
It’s a very personal issue, and this industry is not for the faint of heart, so I would ask them what it is they really want. It may not be writing – in my case, for example, it’s the desire to make people laugh. There are other outlets for it, such as acting or stand-up. If, however, the person truly wants to be a writer, I would tell them to stop acting like a victim, get it together, make a plan, and try again. What can I say, my Russian is showing.
This is good stuff here. I like your Russian.
*What else is coming down the pike for you?
Well, #ComedyBookWeek is shaping up to be quite a celebration. It’s hard to think it was just a vague idea six weeks ago, and now it’s an event with an official website, over 60 participating authors and 90 books. Based on the level of interest I’ve been getting over the last few weeks, the next year will be huge. Another sharp learning curve for me, and another blast of endorphins. Bring it on!
I thought about a few famous quotes, but decided to live the interview with a fresh one. My nephew-in- law has written a musical called “Einstein, Master of the Universe.” One quote from the play truly resonated with me:
“Pursue a problem, and it soon becomes a prize.” It worked for Einstein, and it would work for any of us.
Please Welcome H.M. (Hannah) an avid reader, aspiring author, blogger, adjective lover, Big Sister, Sweater-wearer, Fangirl, Coffee drinker, Christ follower, and TEENAGER. She has a very beautiful and impressive blog over at Plottingertwist. Very impressive for a young person! Here is a link to a recent post My Thoughts on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series.
Hannah and I first bumped elbows on Twitter and since have become blog-buddies. She’s a very impressive teenage writer, blogger and reader! I can see the talent literally pouring out of her hears, and as an INFJ, she’s also one of the rarest personality types on the planet.
So here’s a high five for being an awesome person
(I’m the blue guy by the way)
So where are you from?
~ I am from a tiny town in Texas. (Buffalo, TX if you need a specific one.)
I’ve been to Texas several times but I’ve never heard of Buffalo, TX. A lot of Buffaloes must roam there eh?
How did you come to love books so much?
~ I grew up in a book-loving family! My great grandmother collected books & she passed the tradition down.
That’s so sweet. I grew up in a TV-loving family, I defected later. Books are much better. I find that family is always so instrumental in our early reading habits. I love how your grandmother collected books, what a good pattern. My grandmother helped us out a lot when we were wet behind the ears. And when our ears dried she was still tireless. Kind of like an older version of the Energizer Bunny. I miss her dearly.
“Between the earth and the sky above, nothing can match a grandmother’s love.”
A grandmother is simply the practicality
of love at its best;
burning forever true,
and never knows when to rest.
Even though my grandmother passed some time ago, her love never entered the grave. It fervently lives before us; bright as coming day, tugging on our souls forevermore.
What childhood experiences had a major impact on your writing?
~ I was homeschooled, so one of my favorite bookish memories is my mother teaching me to read. Along with that, my father used to read to me before bed every night. Together we went on many adventures with Doctor Doolittle, Mr. Popper’s penguins, & Ramona with her sister Beezus.
It’s astounding that parents can give the gift of reading to a hungry child.
Favorite childhood books?
~ A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle & Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit were two of my favorites as a child. And even as an adult, I still continue to go back & reread my old favorites. There is something special to me about both stories!
YES we always come back to the classics!
Who are your favorite authors today?
~ I enjoy reading the works of Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, and Jane Austen.
Nice. Uh, mine were probably Dr. Seuss and the incredible Hulk. I suppose they’d make a nice team. Lol!
What writing project are you currently working on?
~ I am currently working on several projects, but my primary one is called Polaroids + Postcards. It is a story about a serious guitar-player & a free-spirited travel blogger who cross paths and are forced to go on a road trip across America together. (It’s been an especially fun project thus far because I am uploading each chapter on Wattpad, so my blogging friends can read it & give me advice as I write.)
That sounds like a pretty interesting story premise. Haven’t used Wattpad before but I’ve heard of it several times.
You’re a writer; so what’s your story or what inspired you?
~ It all started with books. There was something almost magical about the moments when my mother would sit with me curled in her lap, reading my favorite picture-book for the thousandth time. And this feeling only grew when she took me to the library for the first time. And when she taught me to finally read on my own. I felt like I wielded some kind of super-power when all the words melded together into sentences, and that’s when the burning first began. I knew that I wanted to write a story of my own! And I finally did. And it was terrible. The cringe-worthy picture book was entitled Princess Butterfly. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that I illustrated it myself! (Need I say more?)
Yet as bad as that little story of mine was, seeing my parents smile at my poor attempt at a masterpiece added fuel to the fire. I didn’t stop there, and my stories grew in depth & complexity. Now, at the age of 18, I’ve lost count of the number of stories I have penned, the notes I have scribbled, and the characters I have crafted. None can quite compare with my debut work, Princess Butterfly, but it’s safe to say that I am glad of that!
AMAZING STORY. I love it. You’ve definitely got the fire. I can almost see the smoke and embers.
What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
~ My “surface goal” is to become a best-selling fiction author. But this is just scratching the top layer of my aspirations. In my journey to become an author, I dream of sharing my deepest thoughts & feelings through the written word. I hope to inspire others the way my favorite authors have inspired me. I want to not only entertain my readers, but also help them grow by writing stories that ask hard questions & make them think for themselves. And I desire to write something that will touch people & make them look at the world with a new perspective.
Impressive! You just elicited the WOW factor.
What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects? (CONFLICT)
~ Time-management has ALWAYS been a challenge for me. Sometimes pulling away from one project to work on another is hard for me, because I like to give my everything to one specific thing at a time. But along with that, I also tend to be distracted quite easily. So you can imagine how quickly that can get out of hand… Lol! (Darn you, Twitter & Pinterest!)
I completely understand this one. The quicker you get a handle on this the better off you’ll be. You’re headed straight to the bestseller’s list one day kid…Tell em’ I sent ya.
What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream? (DESIRE)
~ First of all, writing isn’t just a hobby for me—it is a calling. I truly feel like it is something God has planted in me, so I honestly think it would be impossible to completely stop writing. But at the same time, the idea of becoming someone’s favorite author & them being inspired by my work makes me want to work even harder at it!
I already know you’re a hard worker. It practically jumps out of your pores. But, HAVE FUN IN THE PROCESS. Don’t let pressure, stress, or even the work, take away the joy in writing.
~The conscious mind is the editor, and the subconscious mind is the writer. And the joy of writing, when you’re writing from your subconscious, is beautiful – it’s thrilling. When you’re editing, which is your conscious mind, it’s like torture.~
Author Anne Janzer in her book, The Writer’s Process Getting Your Brain in Gear, speaks of balancing and utilizing both parts of your brain in the writing process. She points out knowing when to implement or inhibit, the editor and the muse in different phases of the process. I highly recommend it to any student of the craft.
What’s your ANTAGONIST? What’s in the way?
~ Honestly, I think most of the time we are our own worst enemy. We allow ourselves to be discouraged, get bored, be lazy, be distracted, and it makes for a tough battle to win. So I would have to say that goes for myself as well. It’s an uphill climb! You live, you struggle, and you learn from your mistakes.
Are you sure you’re only 18? License and registration please.
Why do writers give up, quit or never complete their projects?
~ I know that for me, personally, this often happens due to my strange attention-span. I will have inspiration for stories at the oddest of times & feel the need to start working on it immediately, temporarily abandoning the unfinished project I was currently working on. (But I rarely work on ONLY one WIP at a time. I usually have several that I add to, which helps me to never let my brain completely shut down if I reach a dry spot on one story.)
But another reason I think writers do this is because of boredom. Sometimes we get discouraged after reading the same piece of writing over & over, and it just seems increasingly uninteresting, so we scrap the idea altogether. The key here is not allowing yourself to become discouraged. Remember, even the greatest authors of all time had first-drafts of their novels!
Yes. This brings to mind many thoughts. Many of us have the same experience trust me. *raises hand* Having ideas is one thing, but being able to grasp and develop it into a compelling story, is craft. This is what I’m learning right now. Here’s a profitable remedy for distracting story ideas:
When you read a book, what do your eyes see? What do they perceive?
Writers extend to virtually every corner of the earth; east, west, south, north and arguably are the most fascinating people on the planet. Well if you ask me, they arethe most fascinating people on the planet. It’s no great secret that I take great joy in interviewing them. To discover and share in their craft, learn how they tick, or don’t. Fascinating indeed.
I had a crazy thought of interviewing writers from a completely different perspective. Most writers began their journey as readers so why not get a view into this experience? So here it is, the Forensic Lenses series. An investigative and exploratory approach into the minds of your favorite authors.
Do you–follow the reader?
Her name is KM Weiland.
K.M. Weiland is an award-winning, butt-kicking, internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel books. She writes speculative and historical fiction from imaginary lands. Her blog helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com is regularly ranked in Writer’s Digest top 101 Best Websites For Writers every year, but is #1 in my book. She puts up with writers like me who don’t know grammar yet. Way to go Kate!
In the history of the blogosphere, there has never been such a defining moment until today. As a token of our appreciation we bestow upon you, KM Weiland, the ever noble…
Seal of Awesomeness
Wear it with dignity and honor.
*applause, standing ovation*
Alright, so let’s cut to the chase.
Was reading Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter, the inciting Incident in your path of becoming a writer? You mentioned how this sparked your love of history, laid the groundwork for your book A man called Outlaw, influenced your novel Behold the Dawn and not to mention your desire to write historical fiction.
That’s an interesting way to look at it. The Scottish Chiefs was definitely a formative fiction experience for me as a child. But I think it was more of a “feeding” of my love for stories, than it was an inspiration to actually start writing. I didn’t start writing until several years later and certainly not with any intent to actually *be* a writer. I actually really like that I kind of slipped sideways into writing. It was never an ambition. It was more just an out-breathing of myself.
But Scottish Chiefs definitely influenced me, on at least a subconscious level, in regards to *what* I would end up writing: medieval-esque epic and heroic tales–what I call “blood and thunder” stories.
Never was my ambition either. Funny how that works huh? So it was more of a feeding your love for stories, great! How reading affects us on a subconscious level and fuels our imaginations is quite a mystery. Perhaps we should we call it, Fuelination? Whatever the term, early reading habits in children serve as the impetus for authorship later in life. Then all it takes is a small spark of inspiration to ignite the flame. BOOM. The passionate flame has been lit, begetting another writer. A particular breed of humanity.
How has your reading experience and love for stories evolved from childhood, teenage, to adulthood?
I have always loved stories. They have always been my language. But I was a very undisciplined reader as a child and teenager. My parents weren’t readers themselves and weren’t able to guide my reading choices. I read and loved and re-read (and re-read and re-read) a few classics like Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, The Black Stallion. But I also read a lot of highly forgettable children’s novels–and probably every book in the Star Wars Extended Universe that had been published to that point. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I started discovering better quality fiction and disciplining myself to read widely and broadly–especially in the classics. It’s my goal to read all the classics before I die. I’m working my way through the authors alphabetically. So far, I’m up to M.
I find it interesting, even though your family wasn’t a reading family, you still became a voracious reader and ultimately a writer. I’m wondering if you got your books from the library or bought them on allowance. It sounds like your learned that discipline through reading experience on your own. Versus someone telling you this is good, or that is bad. You had to cultivate it yourself. Which I think had a big role in making you who you are today. You’re probably more keen because of it.
How has being a writer affected your reading? Is it a killjoy because you have more of a critical eye? Or does it yield more appreciation for the story? Take us into your realm as a reader.
Most of my childhood reading was from the library. My grandparents and aunts bought me a lot of books as well. I tended to reread the books I owned a lot–hence the multiple visits to Anne of Green Gables and Co. As for writing affecting my reading… You hear a lot about authors who find that their own awareness of the principles of writing turns them into hypercritical readers and robs them of the joy of reading. But I’ve never really experienced that. Maybe because I’ve always been hypercritical! :p For me, writing has only enhanced my reading. Instead of *just* reading for pleasure, now I also read with a writer’s eye and get to explore and enjoy the psychology and craft of every new author’s work. It brings a whole new dimension to my appreciation of a good book.
I really appreciate this. Having a writer’s eye, exploring and enjoying the craft are all pluses!
AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME…
As a reader what are your 3-5 pet peeves and why?
Flat narrative voices that “tell” instead of “show.”
Self-indulgent authors, who are obviously too in love with their own story worlds and characters to be objective about the reader experience.
Overuse of character names when addressing each other in dialogue
It’s good to be aware of these. Thanks!
I’ve often heard you say you must read all the Classics before you die. It must be high on the bucket list! So why this journey through the Classics and what impressions do you have?
For the purposes of challenging myself to read all the classics, I define a classic as any book published before 1966 with a title or author I recognize. I started the challenge really just as a way to get myself to read the important literature landmarks from history. It’s been an interesting journey–tedious at times, but, overall, definitely worth the effort. I feel like I’ve vastly broadened myself and my understanding of people, the world, and writing. It’s made me read books by authors I never would have touched otherwise–from so many time periods and countries and about so many different topics. I estimate I’m about halfway done (I’ve just reached the “M” authors). I’ve found it incredibly rewarding.
I’m looking forward to your response when you’re finished as well. I’ve been thinking a lot about the most influential authors of the century. How they left their footprint upon society and the craft of writing.
Every great writer has left their footprints in the craft. We gladly follow in their footsteps. But as we do, we don’t realize we begin to make our own.
BONUS: Your mission should you choose to except it, would be to note the changes in the craft while reading the Classics.
The primary facets of good storytelling have remained the same over time: structure, character, and theme. I would cite two things in particular as the biggest changes over the years:
1) The visual style. Television, the movies, and the Internet have made the far corners of the world accessible to everyone. As a result, complex descriptions of foreign places and things are no longer necessary. Writers today need only a few vivid details to bring a scene to life for readers, who can then fill in the blanks for themselves. At the same time, however, due to the overwhelmingly visual nature of entertainment these days, authors also have to be much more evocative in their descriptions. Readers want to see a “movie” in their heads, which is why “showing” (instead of “telling”) has become such a touted technique.
2)The pacing is much tighter and faster these days, for the most part. Again, the culture in which we now live is faster-paced and more than a little distracted. Readers today aren’t as patient with long, flowing passages. They want to get to the point.
Excellent! Thanks so much for sharing.
*Please see KM Weiland‘s Amazon author page and her award winning books!
Everybody say hello to fantasy author James D. Priest! He’s the author of the KIRINS fantasy trilogy, a retired physician, husband, father, podcaster and currently enjoying life in Hawaii. You can check out his official home page at www.kirinbooks.com.
I was born and raised in Minnesota, went to high school and college in Minnesota, and went on to medical school at the University of Minnesota. However, since then I have lived in Japan, California, and now Hawaii.
Nice. I’ve been to the twin cities a few years ago and to the gigantic uber mall there. I used to live in So. Cal, would love to visit Japan, and never been to Hawaii.
*You used to tell stories to your friends on the bus. How did that come about? Or how did you pick up the knack for storytelling?
Storytelling on the grade school bus came from what I have since discovered is an ample imagination. In composing my fantasy trilogy, I borrowed a few names from real people or situations, but the vast majority of what I created and wrote is directly from imagination.
I’m lovin’ it Jim. Just by looking at your fantasy trilogy I can see you have a very vivid imagination.
*What was it about Tolkien that drew you into fantasy?
I loved his world building, creating an alternate universe, Middle-earth, from nothing but his imagination. His conflict between good and evil. His characters, such as Frodo and Bilbo, are genuine and likable. His Gollum is a work of creative art, the likes of which fantasy authors should strive for, as I have with an urgol, Gian, in the third book of my trilogy.
Yes! You’re touching on some of the things I love most about being a writer. CREATING AND IMAGINATION are my favs. Don’t hate me, but I haven’t read Tolkien yet. I’ve seen all the movies though. Gollum is probably the most compelling character to me in the whole book!
*Did you want to be writer before going into medicine?
I think I’ve always had somewhere in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a writer. And I was a writer while in medicine, where I published about 30 medical articles.
Ah yes, I’m all too familiar with this kind of writing. Not my favorite honestly, but necessary.
*How has studying English in undergrad, graduate school and participating in professional medical writing prepared you as an author?
As they say, practice makes perfect. I think the more writing you do, the better you get. But I’ve also learned that every writer needs an editor. We’re only human, and we need guidance both on a grammatical level, and in the line of reasoning, the logic, of your writing.
Yep, you nailed it there Jim. We desperately need good editors, especially us intuitive types.
*First, give us a knockout summary of your trilogy.
My trilogy is published in print, ebook, and audiobook. But there is, in fact, a fourth book, a sequel, not yet published.
KIRINS SERIES SUMMARY:
My trilogy, The Spell of No’an,The Flight of the Ain, and The Secret of the Hanging Stones, tells the epic tale of KIRINS, a race of tiny, magical beings who live throughout Earth today.
Dwelling in elaborate tree homes and underground sanctuaries, they enjoy a strong kinship with the animals and birds of their region. In the distant past humans knew them well. But an ancient rift occurred between the races, and kirins chose to separate themselves from humans. Sadly, we humans are now unaware of their secret civilization.
For thousands of years kirins everywhere lived in calm. But now a mysterious, dark force threatens their existence. Knowing little about the enemy they face, the kirin clans choose a party of five daring adventurers led by the wise magician Speckarin. On the backs of birds they travel thousands of clan-dominions across land and sea to Stonehenge, to save the kirin race. But what the journey holds in store for them, they could never have imagined.
In the fourth book, The Seer of Serone, a sequel, Speckarin and his intrepid party journey to Alaska to attempt to bridge the chasm between kirins and humans, and to rescue a kirin lad captured and forced into loathsome service by a human. Assistance in dealing with the offending human is provided by a powerful local wizard, a kirin, The Seer of Serone.
Review by Mary Logue, award-winning writer and poet, author of Dancing with an Alien and Snatched: “Having read all three books of James Priest’s wonderful trilogy, I have nothing but praise. The scope of this work, which takes us from the middle of North America across the Atlantic on the backs of birds to Stonehenge, is extraordinary. I enjoyed every moment I spent with the kirins. Priest’s work resembles Lord of the Rings, but is more rooted in nature and gentler in tone.”
This looks so fascinating! Love the cover images on all three books. You’ve got some great reviews too on Amazon.
*You’re a writer; so what’s your story, or what inspired you?
Having always liked the idea of writing, I challenged myself to write in a genre I’ve enjoyed, fantasy. I decided to write a story set in today’s world. Every culture has mythical small beings. In Ireland they are leprechauns, in Norway and Denmark nisse, and in Hawaii menehune. People want to believe they exist in gardens, trees, and nature. In my tale they are kirins. Because I have always liked small things, the story is of a race of tiny, magical beings, kirins, living throughout Earth today, though humans are unaware of their existence.
Wonderful. Creative little creatures!
*What’s your GOAL in becoming a writer?
Like most or all writers, to become a bestselling author, and to leave something in this world that will make it a better place.
Excellent. No shame in that. It shows you’ve got heart!
*What 3 things have hindered you from completing your projects?
Finding time to write was a problem while I was practicing medicine. Getting the books into all three formats, print, ebook, and audiobook (self-narrated), has taken years to complete. As with almost all writers, promotion and marketing have been a challenge.
WOW! That’s unbelievable! You wrote these books while practicing medicine, had them formatted AND self-narrated them? That’s more than amazing. Promotion and marketing are challenge, no doubt.
*What keeps you motivated in achieving your dream?
I like to work, but writing fantasy was never work for me. It engrossed me so much that it made me forget about anything else. If I went too long at the keyboard, I would become fatigued, tired of writing. I didn’t want that, so learned to pace myself and take time off when necessary. I never had a specific time of the day to write. I wrote when I could, and loved it.
I am motivated by two factors:
1) I want to create something for all the world, especially my family, to appreciate, and 2) My books are good, and thus I keep working in promotion and marketing. KIRINS is a fantasy in the classic tradition: epic storyline, an immersive all-new world, great characters, powerful and mysterious magic, plot twists and turns, an immediate threat, romance, and heroism. And the books are suitable for readers 10 to 110. No vampires, werewolves, zombies, blood, guns, drugs, car wrecks, or post-apocalyptic landscapes. No obscenities or erotica. No superheroes, just heroes.
Hah! I love it. Your vision and motivation is very clear.
*What would you say to a struggling writer who’s given up?
If he/she wants to be a writer, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
Amen, and amen. I’ll add, if you can’t pick yourself up, join a supportive writing group. They’ll pick you up and keep you going.
*Who’s your favorite author?
*What’s your favorite quote?
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” -Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Do you love stories? We ALL do right? It’s no secret writers have some of the most gripping minds on the planet. The characters they’ve created; worlds they’ve crafted, and plots they’ve weaved together, have left their imprint upon the world. This series is dedicated to them, published or unpublished.
~Every author isa story~
Everyone please welcome
YA Fantasy Author
First off, I’d like to pay a special tribute to my friend Caroline. She may be largely aware of this, but she inspired me in a very particular way as a writer. I was stuck in a dreamy state wishing and wanting to be a writer. There I was, sitting on the sidelines cheering and watching everyone else’s success. She had just published one of her books (can’t remember which one) and I got so excited and genuinely happy. I proceeded to ask her the question. Kind of like, what’s your secret sauce question. So I asked; what’s the difference between those who dream, and those who achieve their dreams? Then she dropped the line on me. BAM. Just like that, it smacked in the face like a ton of bricks. But what she said was utterly simple. Make a plan and do the work. That’s it. Make a plan and do the work. I’d like to plaster these words on my forehead in neon ink. Possibly a green, or orange color would suffice.
You may never know how your words affect other people. Words have power. Lasting power. Enduring power. A single word, phrase, sentence can last a generation. It may ignite and inspire an entire generation. It certainly did with me.
THANK YOU CAROLINE
*Give honor to whom honor is due*
~Make a plan and do the work~
*Are you originally from Kent, UK?
I am! I live ten minutes from my family \home so I get to see my parents all the time. I currently live in a little village which is famous for being where Winston Churchill lived. Lots of tourists come here in the summer. It’s a very typically English town (pubs, teashops and the like!)
Wowsers! Winston Churchill, thats amazing! I saw some pictures online and it Kent is a very beautiful place. Would love to visit there someday. Here’s some juicy quotes by Winston Churchill.
“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure”
“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.”
~ Winston Churchill
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
~ Winston Churchill
*Did you love books as a child? Name your favorites.
I did, I was brought up in a strict diet of books and The Beatles haha. My dad used to read to me all the time and, as he was a bigger lover of fantasy, even read me books like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was probably much too young for them!
I remember him reading me the first couple of Harry Potter books but I was old enough to read them myself by the time the third one came out and was absolutely hooked! Some of my all time favourites were His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, The Healer’s Keep by Victoria Hanley, and any of the Katherine Roberts books (I actually won a signed copy of one of her books which I still have!). They were fantasy books for young teens, my particular favourite was Spellfall. I used to read it every time I was sick off school.
I’m beginning to realize that reading begets writers, and writers beget readers. It’s an endless cycle. It seems to affect only a select group of individuals though. Obviously everyone who reads doesn’t become an author. But somehow when it reaches kids at a young age; and their combustible imaginations, it takes flight. Then in turn your words will indeed beget more writers, enable more readers. Awesome.
*What influenced you the most in your early years towards being an author?
It’s a bit of a cliche but I grew up in the golden age of Harry Potter. The stories just captivated me and I began writing around this time. When I was older one of the things that really resonated with me from this series was that feeling of pure excitement about a novel coming out. I used to queue up at midnight to buy the books from my local supermarket and I wanted to write something that made me feel that way again. I can honestly say my debut series excites me as much as they did, if not more!
Yes! I love it. Exciting isn’t it?
*Would you write anything besides YA fantasy?
I have a few science fiction ideas but, through no real intention of my own, most of my ideas tend to be based in the fantasy genre. I would definitely move around a bit perhaps into something a but more paranormal. I have a massive document dedicated purely to ideas so any time something comes to me it goes straight in there!
Yes, having something like an idea folder is quite critical. Especially us writers who have ideas literally coming out of our ears. That in itself sounds paranormal. 🙂
*Did you study literature in college?
I didn’t, I actually studied Zoology. One of my other passions in life is animals and I never actually considered a writing career as a possibility until the last few years. I always just assumed writing would have to be my hobby until I realised there was nothing I wanted more than to do it fulltime.
Awesome! I always find it intriguing when I hear this. Lawyers, Physicians, journalists, engineers etc. all have had an unquenchable desire to write. It never ceases to amaze me; that those in top notch professions would be willing to put them aside and pursue writing! Passion is powerful.
*Tell us a bit about your series
My series follows a sixteen year old boy on a journey through the seven worlds to save his sister from a curse. Each world is locked by a Gateway and a challenge must be completed in order to receive a key. An enemy is on the rise who is looking to thwart them at every turn and Oliver’s family is much more involved with him than he could ever have imagined. It’s got a bit everything from action, magic, adventure, to romance!
I always enjoyed a book with a journey in it. I love the organic feeling of movement in a story that is always heading toward an end point.
Journey wins every time. Let’s take a look at some of your books.
*Can you tell us a bit more how you made the transition from zoology to being a full-time writer? What was the tipping point
I suppose I’m the sort of person who follows her heart – mushy as it sounds! I try to do things in life that make me happy. I don’t believe in ‘one day I’ll do this’, instead, I make a plan and start working toward that goal. So I guess the tipping point was leaving university and after several failed interviews for jobs my heart wasn’t even in, I asked myself what I wanted to do. The answer was writing. So, I decided to work for my family business and on the side start writing my fantasy series with the goal of one day doing it fulltime.
YES. I. Love. It. Not mushy at all. You totally sound like a go getter. Keep following your heart!
*What made you chose the self-publishing route?
I, like I imagine a lot of self-published authors do, tried to get an agent first. I was so unbelievably naieve to the whole publishing world I didn’t even know anything about self-publishing! After being rejected…a lot…I discovered Amazon’s KDP programme. I learnt about building an author platform by blogging and getting out there on social media. I started to really look at being an author as a business and now (having five years of experience in my family’s business) I had a good background in what made a business work.
It was another year before I was ready to hit publish on Amazon with my first book last December and I haven’t looked back!
Nice. It’s certainly not easy to take this route. I’m glad you overcame those hurdles.
*What was your goal (s) in becoming a writer? (GOAL)
The number one reason I’m writing this fantasy series is that I love it. I couldn’t stop writing it whether I had people reading it or not.In fact, for the first years it was just me and a whole lot of self-doubt. It wasn’t until I got the first book out there and I started getting reviews that I really started believing I had written something worthwhile. So I suppose my goal in becoming a writer was to write something I love and, now that it’s out there, all I want is for the people who read it to love it too!
This is better than going to the movies. Seriously. I wish I had some popcorn right now. Your passion is tangible! I highlighted your words because they’re so inspiring.
*Now that you’re published, do you have new goals in view?
It’d be a lie to say that it’s all sunshine and rainbows in self-publishing. There has to be a certain amount of planning, deadlines and marketing that goes on behind the scenes. My goals now are to get out books regularly (every 90 days) which benefits the fans and keeps my books up there in the new releases etc. so I don’t fall off the radar. I suppose my short term goals are to have this series out over the summer and have hopefully started a new one before the year is out.
I’m floored. Self-publishing has done a lot for authors though. Its been a game changer on many fronts. I think its also cultivated authors to become entrepreneurial in today’s world. Every 90 days! Wow! Hey, if you’re sending out review copies in the future drop me a line.
*Do you have any major conflicts hindering you from attaining your goals? (CONFLICT)
I think the one thing self-published authors are always battling against is visibility. Amazon changes the way it ranks books/publicises them/presents them all the time. So we indie authors have to try and keep up with that, constantly adapting to try and stay visible. With 2,000,000 ebooks on Amazon Kindle alone it’s no wonder a single author has to battle for their spot in the limelight!
You’re not kiddin, and there’s alot of people casting shadows. Hopefully there’s enough limelight to go around.
*What keeps you motivated? (DESIRE)
I think a simple passion for my stories is what keeps me going. In a funny way, I‘m as excited to find out what happens as the fans! I get the same joy out of writing as I do out of reading. I can’t deny receiving great reviews and emails from the fans doesn’t make my heart absolutely sing though. Knowing someone out there is waiting for the next installment of my book is the best motivation an author could ask for.
“I get the same joy out of writing as I do out of reading” … This is so amazing. Joy and passion working together in unison.
*What’s the main antagonist in your career?
The antagonist of my career! What a brilliant question!
I suppose Amazon is the antagonist and the protagonist. It can be the best and most helpful thing in the world when its algorithms are in favour of my books but it’s getting Amazon to work for you that is the most monumental task for an indie author.
That kind of sounds like an anti-hero with evil algorithms.
*Why do writers give up? And what would you say to inspire them?
I can see why writers give up. It has been a seriously long road to where I am and, now that I’m here, I can’t just sit back and enjoy the view. It takes constant work to keep yourself out there. I think anyone looking to write fulltime, self-published or not, should do it because it’s their passion because at the end of the day it’s hard work!
Also, I’ve looked into whether there’s a magic fix or formula that makes your books blow up and get sales but I can honestly say that the key is consistency. Stick at it and you’ll get there. View this as a life long thing not a quick fix.
I read a self-published author’s advice somewhere (and I wish I could remember who it was now!) but they said something that has really stuck with me: when you independently publish an ebook it has unlimited potential. Over the course of the rest of your life, your book has the potential to return revenue to you. What other business has that much possibility?
Yup. I think Joanna Penn calls this scalable income. It definitely has unlimited potential. You’re on the right track, keep running.
*Writing is marathon. Are you a distance runner?*
BONUS: What are your favorite quotes?
I’m a big Pinterest freak! I love looking at quotes on there that give me a boost when I need it. So, instead of sharing my favourite book quotes with you I’m gonna share a couple of my favourite motivational quotes that make me believe anything is possible.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Suzy Kassem
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” – J.K Rowling
Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode on the Writing Train. Well today is very special because it’s the day we’re kicking off our new series! Check it out.
What is forensic lenses? First, it’s another reason for me to interview people. Second, it’s an interview with a particular view in mind (No pun intended) hence the name forensic lenses. But whyforensic lenses? The word forensic means: pertaining to, connected with, or used in courts of law or public discussion and debate. So far I’ve been interviewing so many wonderful writers both published and unpublished. Writers from all backgrounds, levels and walks of life. Now, I’d like to interview them as…wait for it…..READERS. Yes you read that correctly. Readers.
A lens is defined in part, as a substance that changes the convergence of light rays, as for magnification, or in correcting defects of vision. In other words, they help you see things you wouldn’t normally see. They make things bigger, or magnified, that wouldn’t normally stick out. But the most simplistic definition is that they help you see. Everyone’s eyes are different, and everyone’s lenses are different in how they affect eyesight. We were all born with two embedded scanners in our heads, but we still see things in our own particular way. So when you’re reading the next bestseller what do you see? What do I see? What resonates you to tears may bore me to death, and vice versa.
Personally I LOVE eyes for some reason. Research estimates that eighty to eighty five percent of our perception, learning, cognition and activities are mediated through vision (Vision Is Our Dominant Sense). Before there were writing conferences, retreats, blogs, and how-to-do-everything, there were just books. Good old fashioned tangible books. How did the great writers before our time learn the craft so well? BREAKING NEWS: They read a lot. Sounds simple eh?
Forensics naturally solves crimes by scientifically providing evidence to be used in a court of law. To prove one’s guilt, or perhaps their innocence. In other words help solve crimes and catch criminals. As a reader do you have any pet peeves? Have you ever read something that made you throw the book across the room? Or made you close it, never wanting to open it again? Most of the time it’s not that dramatic, but it could be something small and equally frustrating. These are what I consider crimes so to speak. Things that violate your emotional resonance. That’s on the negative side. The positives are things you enjoy, observe, or witness that prove to be worth your time. It’s the evidence of a great read, and possibly a re-read!
Reading is dreaming with your eyes open
Let’s get started with the first guest of the series!
Elizabeth S. Craig
Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries and Memphis Barbeque mysteries. She also has one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 best websites for writers. Feel free to visit her over at: elizabethspanncraig.com. Receive a free ebook, updates, recipes by signing up for her newsletter click here.
*How did you begin reading habits as a child? Did someone in your family read to you?
My father was an English teacher and my grandmother was a retired English teacher. Reading was as much a part of my day as eating and sleeping. Everyone in my family read to me and continued reading to me, even when I was able to read for myself. Sometimes the settings of the books we read together, the Oz complete series, for example, were almost more real to me than my own home.
YES I love this. It always begins with reading. That’s great you had English teachers in your family AND experience collective reading habits from family members. Amazing.
*Who was your childhood favorite? Scooby-Doo, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys? Why?
Nancy Drew was an early-elementary school favorite because she seemed so calm, collected, mature and brave as she unraveled genuinely creepy mysteries. By late elementary, I’d shifted my loyalties to Trixie a bit. That’s probably because Trixie was closer to my age and actually misbehaved in the stories…she seemed a little more realistic. The interesting thing about my childhood favorites; Nancy, Trixie, and Scooby; is that they all embody the ‘friends as sidekicks’ approach to sleuthing. That had a tremendous influence on me as a writer…no solo sleuths or lone wolf detectives for me.
Yeah, I think the lone wolf characters are kind of boring honestly. Unless something really sticks out.
“Reading… a vacation for the mind….” ~Dave Barry
*In your bio, you state “I started in on the Agatha Christies. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot made me a lifelong mystery fan.” What was it at this stage of reading that made you a LIFELONG mystery fan? Something had a major impact here.
Agatha Christie and the other masters of the genre turn mystery reading into an interactive experience. Their mysteries grab the reader and drag him in. A good mystery, such as the ones Christie wrote, make the reader feel as if he or she is in the sleuth’s skin, solving the mystery as they go. It’s this armchair detection, the ability to feel the thrill of edging closer to a dangerous killer, all from the comfort and safety of one’s home. To me, there’s nothing else like it—it’s the ultimate escape.
Wow! I had an escape just by reading your statement! Excellent.
*Currently, who are your top 5 mystery writers and why?
For cozies, my top pick is M.C. Beaton. Her ability to write quirky characters and an engrossing setting is second to none. For police procedurals I like Elizabeth George, Deborah Crombie, and Louise Penney—their sympathetic portrayals of their detectives and how they balance their personal lives and professional lives makes their books both realistic and a joy to read. For a darker story, I go to Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø…the grittiness of his stories sometimes just hits the spot, as a reader.
Elizabeth George is absolutely amazing. Can’t wait to read more of her books.
*Since you’re an experienced reader in the mystery genre, is it easy to figure out whodunit? Or does it make it harder to enjoy a good mystery book?
Unfortunately, yes, I usually figure it out. I absolutely love it when I’m wrong. I love twists, I love being surprised. But if the writer has done a good job wrapping up all the loose ends of a mystery and circled around to the beginning of the book from the conclusion, I’m still satisfied as a reader, even when I’ve pegged the killer.
Man, just was thinking how hard it must be to fool an experienced mystery reader.
*As a reader, what are your biggest pet peeves? (Writer Crimes)
I’m really not keen on plot devices and seeing writers manipulate plot and make characters behave out of character just out of convenience. This kind of Deus ex machina, especially at the end of a book, feels contrived and can contribute to a flat ending.
This is a very interesting viewpoint. We must be the ever skillful writer to avoid things like these.
*After all these years of reading, what makes a good mystery? Or a great one?
I think greatness ultimately is attained through the sleuth’s personality. We don’t have to like the sleuth, but we have to relate to or understand him or her. A good mystery will have an interesting or appealing sleuth and a cast of supporting recurring characters that either act as a sleuth’s foil or play up his or her strengths.
I love this. It comes down to character and more specifically his personality. Understanding him or her makes all the difference. Sweet!
Thanks so much for joining us Elizabeth! Please come again.