Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Amber Clement, YA and MG Fantasy

Hi! I’m Amber Clement and I write YA and MG fantasy. I’m currently querying my upper MG fantasy about magical girls.     

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: Back in elementary school, I loved creative writing assignments. I could never get enough of them, but every time, my story idea was always too big to finish. Even in my junior high and high school English classes, I would try to make stories out of the spelling word sentences they assigned us. My interests shifted to manga and graphic novels when I was a teenager. I would always try to make comics about my favorite characters, but found that drawing out my epic stories took too long. Around that time, I discovered fanfiction and that writing the stories was much faster. I kept writing fanfics for fun until I took a fiction writing class my freshman year of college. Looking back, I’m very embarrassed, because I would write fanfiction for my assignments. At first I thought the professor hated my work, because he’d mark them up in red ink, but one day he told me the opposite. I was absolutely stunned. He thought my writing was beautiful and he told me I should try writing an original novel. That summer I did, and the rest is history.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:  Oh don’t get me started on this haha. The answer to this is kind of complicated, because I made a lot of mistakes. The biggest one was that I kept restarting the book whenever I felt unhappy with how it was going. Which was a lot. This added YEARS to the time it took. I also ended up changing the book from YA to MG after getting feedback from several people. It took a whopping seven years to write the YA version, but then the MG version took less than a year.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:   My goal is traditional publishing. As a child, 90% of the books I read came from the library, so it’s my dream for my own books to end up at libraries so other kids can read them.   

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author: At first I would look on Twitter for critique on my writing. The writing community is amazing, but I found varying success with this. Many of these readers never finished reading, but the few who did were invaluable. More recently I get my betas from the two writing groups I’m in. One is the Forge which consists of PitchWars 2019 hopefuls and the others are the mentees from Avengers of Colour 2020. The people in these groups have been so much more reliable in their feedback. It’s also amazing to have a support system and whisper network. It makes the world of publishing a lot less overwhelming.  

How do you define success as an author?

Author:  Getting my books out there and getting readers. Someday I would love to be able to write full time, but until then, I’ll just be happy by having a small group of loyal fans.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: Right now, I’m big on all things fantasy. I’ve always enjoyed when stories have a bit of magic or are full of the fantastical.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:   It may be too soon for me to have a brand, but someday I hope it can be books full of latinx girls having fun and sparkly adventures. I’ve always had a hard time finding characters who look and act like me, so representation is very important to me.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:   My first goal was to get an agent, and that is still my goal, but now I have more realistic expectations. I now know that it takes time and there’s so much outside of my control. I also know that after getting an agent, there will be many more goals and challenges.   

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:  The characters are the most important part for me. I want my readers to see themselves in the them, and see people they can root for and want to befriend. Since I write MG and YA I also hope to spark creativity in my readers. I want them to be inspired to create, whether it’s through fanworks or original stories.    

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:  Right now I’m querying and getting ready to resume work on my next WIP.   

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:   I wholeheartedly recommend mentorships. Pitch Wars, Author Mentor Match, Write Mentor all of them. If a writer has a manuscript ready and fits the criteria to enter, they should take every opportunity they can. I applied to many of these since 2019, but didn’t get chosen for one until September 2020. I got to be a mentee in Avengers of Colour and work with Namina Forna on revising my book. Not only did her advice help me whip my book into the best it’s ever been, but I also learned a ton about my writing process. Thanks to her, I’m confident I’ll be able to write my next books much faster and at a higher quality. And also thanks to these programs, I’ve connected with some amazing writers. So even if you aren’t chosen, it’s a win-win.   

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:   I’m still working on my process, but I always start with an idea. Usually the characters come in my head first. I’ll sit on it for a while and try to explore their lives and world. Once I have a clear enough idea, I’ll make an outline. I’m a tried and true plotter. After the outline, I turn it into a very detailed synopsis and then have some readers give me feedback on if the chain of events and motives make sense. Once that’s set, I’ll read a couple recently published books in the same age group and genre. I’ve found this to be a game changer. It really helps me nail the prose as I go on to write.  Once I finish, I would send the manuscript to some readers and revise and repeat until the book is ready. I’m not sure how long this will take, but I imagine it could take anywhere from a few months to almost a year, depending on how much time I can devote to working on it.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:  Twitter’s writing community was a good starting place, but once I found my groups, we talk on discord. I’ve found it’s the easiest and safest way to be able to talk about many different topics without getting confused or overwhelmed.    

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:  I’d like to think I’m a somewhat fast writer, but I don’t sprint. I try to keep a steady pace without distractions. I’ve found the pomodoro method helps most with that. You set a timer for twenty-five minutes and then take five minute breaks. Technically you take a longer break after the fourth set, but I’ve found the five min breaks are enough for me.    

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:  For the longest time I put a wild amount of pressure on myself. I wanted to finish my book and be ready to query ASAP. I also was of the belief that I had to write every single day. These two things caused me to be severely burned out. I almost thought I might quit writing. Thankfully I learned to have grace on myself. I give myself goals that are challenging, but doable and iI forgive myself if I have a bad writing day. I also take a lot of breaks. I take at least one day a week off and I’m currently taking a month break after revising my novel. With this method, I notice that I’m much more productive and can get quite a bit done in a short time. 

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:   Querying has been discouraging for sure. I went in bright eyed and bushy tailed thinking I’d get an agent in no time. I started querying a little more than a year ago and am still at it. It’s an extremely long process. My advice for writers is to keep their eyes on their own paper. There are people on social media who will talk about getting multiple requests in one day or having a 70% request rate. This is NOT the norm. A 10% request rate is more like the norm and it only takes that one yes from a good agent.  

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:   Take your time and try not to stress over the little thing. It’ll take quite a bit of time to learn the process that works best for you. Also be sure to set aside time to write and try to form a habit.  

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:    I would have written my entire first draft without starting over. This would have saved me years of rewriting and frustration. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:  I usually write around the same time each day so that it has become a habit. I also will take a week or even a month off after hitting certain goals. I think this helps keep it fresh and fun for me.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:     To be quite honest, writer’s block hasn’t been too much of an issue for me. I’m a big plotter, so I always have an idea of what will happen next. Another thing that keeps my creative well flowing is that I enjoy drawing in my free time. I think it’s important to have a fun creative outlet besides writing.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them? Author:    My family is pretty supportive, but I think they get annoyed at me sometimes when I lock myself in my room to write. Sometimes I have to shoo them away when they try talking to me while I write haha. THankfully most of my writing is done first thing in the morning when everyone is sleeping.  

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I listen to video game OSTs. Stuff with lyrics are too distracting, but video game music puts me in a happy and nostalgic place. I don’t know this for sure, but I would think that the music is made to make players want to keep playing, so I’d like to imagine the music makes me want to keep writing.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I write in my bedroom. Thankfully there’s enough space for a desk and comfy chair.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      I don’t really eat snacks while drinking, but I always have a water bottle at my desk while I write.

Twitter: AuthorAmps

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Nina Castle, YA Urban Fantasy

Hello! I go by Nina Castle, and I write mostly YA urban fantasy (always with a focus on amour.) I am working on my BOUND BY BLOOD series, in which the love between a fairy girl and human Hunter forces them to reevaluate the legal system which subjugates the fay—and their roles within it. Think Romeo & Juliet with racial tensions between fairies and humans.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      Like many authors, I fell in love with writing as a child. Much like an artist adds paint to a blank canvas, the euphoria of creating a new world or person on paper with all the complexity of reality was a challenge that enamored me. For years, I never dreamt of publishing. It was purely for the pleasure of writing.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      In high school, I began my first attempts at writing a complete book. Since then, I’d started a ton of stories but never worked one from beginning to end. I often wrote only the scenes that interested me most, leaving gaping holes for transitions with little inspiration to fill them. When I started BOUND BY BLOOD, I forced myself to write chronologically, and ninety percent of the book flowed out in about two months. After that time, I returned to my full-time teaching position, and it took me the rest of the year to squeeze out the last couple chapters.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I wrote the story as it came to me, and I wrote the story that I enjoyed reading. Like I said before, I didn’t start off writing to be published. So, for better or for worse the book follows my personal tastes.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I met many of my critique partners through twitter contest communities, and I hired a couple beta readers from Goodreads. The latest stage of BOUND BY BLOOD is awaiting edits from an editor I found through recommendations on Twitter.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      As an unpublished author, I am hoping to get published through traditional means…So, getting picked up by an agent and obtaining a book deal would ideally equal success. Though sales are extremely important and easy to quantify, I think the most rewarding feeling is knowing your story was lived and enjoyed by other people.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I have found I most enjoy writing fictional stories containing a measure of fantasy. Reading as a form of escapism has culminated for me with worlds that have a magical element we can’t see or experience in our own reality.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I will always and forever have romance in my books. I can remember playing with my barbies as a child and making up love stories for them. While I recognize the vitality and impact of love in our lives through other types of relationships, the intrigue of romantic love has followed me into adulthood.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My first goal was just to translate the story playing in my head on paper. I never imagined anyone would read it! Obviously, that goal has changed. I hope not just to be successfully published, but to have a book worth publishing. I desire the honor – and like Thor, hope to be worthy – of having reached people with my words.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      I hope that readers are not only entertained by my work, but also feel and grow through the lives of my characters. I’ve always believed that good art evokes emotion. The music we connect with most are songs that either strike the same chord as an emotional experience we’ve endured, or send us staring through the eyes of another. The same is true of a good book.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      As I said before, the first book of BOUND BY BLOOD is hanging out with the editor. I read the best thing to do when you are waiting (and that goes for during edits, critiques, queries, etc.) is to put your time and energy toward another project. At the moment, I am working on completing the first draft of the second book in the BBB series.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I have to say, connecting with other writers who share your hopes, dreams, fears, successes, and failures, has been my favorite part of the process (minus the actual joy of writing.) It inspires me to see so many people from different parts of the world and walks of life coming together to support one another and sharing their experiences.

You didn’t ask this, but editing is my least favorite part of the process…though once I start querying seriously, I’m sure getting rejections will trump that.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I used to read a lot more literary fiction, which I believe impacts my intentions to instill deeper meaning into my stories. However, when the affliction of adulthood hit, my free time became more limited. This forced me to narrow my scope of books I read for enjoyment, which led me to my niche. Before writing BOUND BY BLOOD, I altogether stopped reading in that genre with the fear that I might accidentally take on elements of other author’s stories in my own. I’ve since learned that is the opposite of what you should do, according to agents and published authors. They say to read widely and often, which is a goal I’m bringing with me into this new year.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      Ironically, in every other area of life I am a hardcore planner. But when it comes to writing, I begrudgingly fall into the pantster category. For the most part when a story comes to me, it’s like I’m watching a movie in my head in small spurts over the course of many months…sometimes years. While I’d like to think some inner genius lurks beneath the surface, the truth is that the stories seem to come from outside of me. It is my job to translate them to the page. How well or not well that is done is on me. Since I’m still working on polishing BBB, I don’t really know how long the process will take. Years, I guess!

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Twitter, for sure. I’ve joined a couple writers leagues, but those are so large and impersonal (not to mention, pricey). Social media can be an amazing and free resource for writers to connect with one another.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      The hardest things to overcome are the concepts of time and uncertainty. Time in that it is not the quick rise to fame or fortune we all daydream about (admit it, you do it, too.) It can take years and years of work to write, polish, pitch, edit again, and then several more years publish. And if you go the traditional route, there’s no guarantee you will be published after all those years of hard work and investment, even if you get an agent. And then again if you’re published, there’s no guarantee your book will be bought or read. I’ve heard it likened to winning the lottery. Even with a streak of gamblers blood running through my family, I still find it hard to wrestle with those odds. That’s why you have to love it. Love your book and love the process because that may be the only reward.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      As a currently unagented and unpublished author, my tip is to persevere. While a support system is essential, no one else in the world is going to write your book for you or care more than you do about its success. If you give up, no one is going to stop you. So, cry at your failures, take breaks when you need them, and work at your own pace. But at the end of the day, it is you who must decide to persevere.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:      On the technical side, I learned about “comps” or “comparable titles.” For those who don’t know, a comp is a book/movie/show that is comparable to your own book in some way. This alone helped me to understand the flaw in not reading in my genre, like I mentioned before. Agents need to quickly know the feel of your book and how they would market it. Saying, “My book is unlike anything else out there,” translates to “There is no proven market for my book. I am a major risk (and likely haven’t done enough reading to know the market, anyway).”

On the social side, “imposter syndrome” is a term that I quickly learned. At some point, we all feel undeserving of the title of “writer” for one reason or another. Can you imagine doing a writer’s interview as an unpublished author? *cough cough* But if anything, knowing we all feel that way is just another reason to persevere. Your favorite author felt that way at some point, and if you keep going, you may get to be someone’s favorite author, too.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      At my core, I am as shy and introverted as they come. Sharing something as personal as my writing doesn’t come easy for me, so my husband is the only member of my family to have read BBB so far. If I ever become successfully published, I will owe it to his continued love and support.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      That we pumped out our dream book in a month, get published within the year, and are then able to jet around the world on tours with our instant millions. I see this happen in movies and shows all the time and it makes me green with fictional envy.

Fun Stuff

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Confession time – I must be completely comfortable to write, so I write laying in my bed. I can’t have a lot of distractions, so it’s just me in front of my laptop living in my head for hours at a time.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      My pups sometimes lay with me, and my writer friend Cristina Meraki also motivates and supports me in the process!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      I don’t know about one piece of advice, but I will say experience has been the best teacher for me. Jump into writing contests and communities. Ask questions, even if you think they’re dumb. Swap writing samples with people who are both stronger and weaker than you. Write that query letter. Odds are, you aren’t going to be immediately successful, but by doing these things you can only improve. Here’s wishing you the best of luck within your own writing journey!

Nina Castle on Twitter @timsheloquence!

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Raven Eckman, Dark Fantasy

Hi everyone! I’m Raven Eckman, book editor and author. My debut novel, entitled Shadowspeak, comes out February 23, 2021. I predominately write Dark Fantasy.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: I started writing after I read Twilight and wanted something more, something that reflected my thoughts on vampires and werewolves. Prior to that, I was just an avid reader. From that first ten page story, I began dabbling in fanfiction, took writing classes in high school, and continued to read whatever that grabbed my attention. College was when my writing really became a part of me.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:  Shadowspeak was nurtured, deleted, re-written, and completely ignored for a five year span prior to finishing the first draft and the eight more that followed before being queried.

About Your Work

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author: I have yes. I always enjoyed fantasy and have stuck close to that genre. I believe it is easier, in some aspects, to write new stories because I know the popular trends occurring. On the flipside of that, it is harder to be unique when a lot of those first ideas have already been written and explored in some way.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: Interestingly enough, my writing process has changed since finishing the very first draft of Shadowspeak till now with finishing the final proof. I tend to plot everything out, what I want, what the characters are named, snippets of conversation that are “musts” to include, and then I just write. And write. And write. As I prepare to start the prequel/companion to Shadowspeak, I find myself less planning the story out and just itching instead to write and see what happens.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author: It really depends. Most days, especially with a deadline, I’m motivated to keep at it (revising, editing, writing) but some days I just can’t get anything done that I am happy with. Other days, the best days, I write and write and lose track of time.   

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author: This question really speaks to me. There has been a decent amount of roadblocks, some small as to delayed deadlines, and others more personal and more intimidating to handle. The hardest thing to overcome, and something I’m still apprehensive about, is the thought of sharing my work with the world. Shadowspeak has been my manuscript baby for years and now it is as ready as it can be and I have to make peace with that.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: Can I be all three? I have a decent amount of promotional plans and one some days send out anywhere from 10 to 20 emails … Then FLOP and I’m all gun-shy about trying to contact anyone for interview opportunities or guest posts appearances, or collabs. A goal of mine for 2021 is to be more proactive each day for marketing.

Fun Stuff

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: So much learning has occurred since I returned to my writing. From different methods that work, or don’t, to what motivates me to write, or not, I continue to explore my writing and what stories are just waiting for me to listen. When in school I had a professor tell me I was exploring different genres too much, that they didn’t seem to be me … and that hurt. Who was I as a writer? Why did I have to have only one genre of focus? By returning to my writing, and not holding back, I feel so much freer and ready to see what I’m made of. Just need to remember to ignore the imposter syndrome. Everyone grows at their own pace; everyone falls down at times.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author: My German Shepherd, Atlas, is usually close by when I sit down to write. He gets all the ranting and spoilers and has yet to complain, or spill secrets, so far!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author: Don’t let the imposter win.