Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: William Joseph Hill, Sci-fi/Action

William Joseph Hill,  Sci-fi/action author of CYBER FIGHTER, adapted from his original feature film screenplay

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I actually began writing stories in second grade, writing my own sci-fi stories inspired by my favorite TV show Space: 1999.  Most of my elementary school stories dealt with Commander Koenig from the show piloting the Eagle 1 to other planets.  Then Star Wars came out, and that got me dreaming about becoming a filmmaker.  When my family moved to Hawaii, I started writing and creating my own movies once I got into high school.  At the same time, I began training in martial arts.  My high school adventures that I wrote were very much “ninja epics”.  In fact, I actually made a ninja movie between junior and senior years.  I knew I wanted to have a career in Hollywood, so when I went to college, I took a lot of writing courses which helped me develop my craft.  Once I made the move to Hollywood, I started acting in film and TV professionally, while also writing on the side.  I was hired to write a few screenplays and started writing my own specs, including CYBER FIGHTER which began as a feature script before I turned that into the novel.

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

Author:      I started adapting my screenplay to novel form in 2018.  I finished it and first published on Amazon in November 2019.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:   The process from writing first draft to publishing took about a year and a half.  Most of the work was done in rewrites and editing.  Of course, since I was adapting the novel from my feature screenplay, getting that first draft out wasn’t too hard, as the story structure and characters were all there.  

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      You always learn from past experience.  Right now (along with pre-production on a short film version of CYBER FIGHTER) I’m working on mapping out Book 2 in the CYBER FIGHTER series.  I expect that once that’s written and editing completed, going live with publication will be much quicker than my first book.

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

Author:      I’d say more of a hybrid.  Though I began by self-publishing, I’m always open to having a traditional publisher come on board.  My main goal with publishing CYBER FIGHTER is to reach a fan base that will want to see the feature film. 

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I begin with what motivates me; what I like.  I love sci-fi and action movies, everything from Star Wars to Star Trek, to classic written sci-fi from H.G. Wells, Issac Azimov, Ray Bradbury, among others.  I grew up loving martial arts and action movies too.  Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are major influences in my action sequences.  I also like humor in the Monty Python vein, and works like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Folks who enjoy those kinds of works are who I’m targeting with CYBER FIGHTER.   

What is your publishing process?

Author:    After writing my draft in a Word Document (or Google Docs), I will import it into Kindle Create, where I can format the book for both Kindle and paperback/hardcover.    

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I’ve been exclusively using Amazon as I found it to be the easiest platform to self-publish.

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

Author:      I have many writer friends here in Hollywood and often get feedback from them.  I also hired an editor, Christina Gray on CYBER FIGHTER who did a great job with corrections, edits and feedback as well.  It really pays off to hire an editor if you can.  You need a second set of eyes looking at your manuscript in order to find things that you will definitely miss, no matter how many times you comb over it.

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Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I mainly use this program called StoryOrigin, which helps authors build mailing lists, get reviews and help with direct marketing by swapping newsletter mentions and promos with other authors.  I send out a monthly newsletter on the 30th of each month to share my recent news, or blog post articles that I write.  I also include other authors’ books in these, and they share my content as well.  It’s really helped me build my mailing list.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      For my next book, I plan on having beta readers do advance reviews for me, and I will also be doing pre-launch promotion via social media and such.  Now that I’ve built up a bit of a following, I can reach out to them first with my new works.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:    I’ve gotten reviews through StoryOrigin, and also by hiring a publicist.   I’ve been working with Charles Barrett of The Barrett Company, and it’s really helped get CYBER FIGHTER out there. 

How do you promote your content?

Author:      Along with StoryOrigin and my publicist, I do periodic social media postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  These generally help promote my film projects as well as my book.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Persistence is probably the best thing you can do.  Be willing to try different things and never give up.  Keep going till you find something that works, but don’t spend lots of money in the process.  Start with marketing you can do yourself and gradually bring on publicists when you can afford it. 

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Being able to make your living 100 percent from writing.  If you can sell enough books to pay your bills, and also land other writing gigs, I think that is the dream for most authors. 

About Your Work

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

Author:      I am mainly an actor and screenwriter, but have delved into writing fiction novels and short stories. 

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      I love writing sci-fi and action/military.  I grew up as a Navy Brat in Hawaii, so the military is a big part of my heritage and I like to incorporate it into many of my stories.

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

Author:      I’m the action-comedy guy.  It began from my actor branding and is the most popular thing I do.  I get lots of positive feedback from it and it just comes naturally to me, most likely from what I cultivated growing up in Hawaii and making my own kung-fu/ninja/sci-fi movies.

How many works have you published?

Author:      So far, I’ve published CYBER FIGHTER the novel, and a comic book adaptation as well, which is based on my short film script concept for the main book.  I have also performed and produced the audio book for CYBER FIGHTER too.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      CYBER FIGHTER is the story of a clumsy temp Brian Baldwin who takes a job at defense contractor Kirkman Enterprises, where he volunteers to test their latest software program on himself by getting black belt fighting skills downloaded directly to his brain via a Virtual Reality immersive experience, turning him into a human weapon.

When Brian discovers that the eccentric main programmer Humbert Cloogey has sold him off to the Army for induction, he makes his escape, assisted by his only ally Dr. Kate Rand,  a neuroscientist who works for the company, but who has some secrets herself.

Simultaneously as Brian is undergoing the experiment, a Triad crime boss and part-time cloning engineer Lau Xiaoming, operating out of North Korea, hacks into the U.S. server hosting the software, planting a Trojan program into Brian’s brain that holds the secret to “Project Starfish”, his plan for world domination.

Brian finds himself pursued by not only the U.S. Army, and FBI, but also by Xiaoming and his minions, all looking to grab him for their own exploits.

The core of my story is Brian’s journey, going from a middle-aged man who gave up on his dreams, to suddenly finding himself empowered with skills he never thought he’d ever achieve.  Almost overnight he acquires an almost superhero status.  But he discovers that he apparently hasn’t achieved any more control over his life than before.  In fact, his life seems pretty much out of control now.

My message to the readers is to not just keep dreaming, but also be prepared for when you do achieve those dreams.  Because there will be forces out there looking to use you for their own means.  This story is also a satire on the U.S.’s military industrial complex and how it’s run almost like a corporate entity – completely profit driven.  I’m also sending up popular action movie tropes in a fun, comic-book way.

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

Author:      My common elements include action sequences and humor. A lot of my humor comes from growing up in Hawaii.  Martial arts are a big part of local culture, and that’s where I began my own training.  I also like to incorporate some references to my upbringing by giving a character a name from Hawaii Pidgin English.  For example, in a screenplay I was hired to write years ago, I named one of the villains Hanabata, which is a Hawaii term for the snot that comes out of your nose.  It’s an inside joke to fellow Kama’ainas (a Hawaiian term for residents).  Hawaii and its culture are such a big part of who I am today, even though I was born on the mainland.  Whenever I can infuse a bit of it into my writing or film projects, it helps to personalize them.

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

Author:      My main goal was to just build an audience for CYBER FIGHTER, an audience to anticipate the feature film.  But I’ve enjoyed writing a novel so much that I plan on writing the next two books in the trilogy, even before any of them are made into a film.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I have a YouTube channel, Four Scorpio Productions (http://youtube.com/fourscorpio).  I put a lot of CYBER FIGHTER content there, as well as our web series That Darn Girlfriend, which I’ve created with my lovely and talented actress wife Pamela Hill.

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

Author:      I’m hoping that my readers have fun reading the story and have a few good laughs, along with being thrilled by the action sequences I have in the story.   I’d also like them to think about the scientific possibilities that the story explores.  As we spend more and more of our lives online, the idea that you could learn skills via Virtual Reality is becoming less science fiction and closer to actuality.

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

Author:      Marketing!  There’s just so much out there to learn how to get my book to reach a wider audience.  The challenge is finding where your readers like to hang out online, and how to reach out to them organically without trying to hard-sell them.

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

Author:      I really enjoy writing.  The process of creating characters and exciting adventures has always been fun.  It’s the most creative part of the process; I can focus on the artistic expression rather than the business part of publishing.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I follow Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur, both on his YouTube channel and his website.  He’s got a lot of great content to help you self-publish, especially his free AMS Ads course

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      The closest book that I read similar to my story is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.  It deals with virtual reality and 80s pop-culture references too, elements that are also in CYBER FIGHTER.

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’ve always loved science fiction.  One of my favorite novels is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; it’s where I first fell in love with the time travel theme, even before Back to the Future came out.    I also loved reading Asimov’s short stories, and Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles

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

Author:      I tend to be more plot oriented, but I often find that I will hit writer’s block when I focus too much on the plot.  That’s when I’ll switch gears and become more of a pantser, writing a passage or two as a character, giving their inner thoughts.  When I write by the seat of my pants, it tends to go a lot quicker, for some reason.  Probably because it’s a stream-of-consciousness method.

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

Author:      I use StoryOrigin to network with other authors, mainly with my newsletter swaps.  I also use Facebook, more so with my acting contacts, but also a few writers there as well.

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

Author:      It really depends.  Some days I crank out a lot, others I can’t do more than a paragraph.  So, it would probably average out to a “sprinting turtle”.

Struggles

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

Author:      Self-doubt.  That fear that you have that no one will be interested in your work.  The inner critic that tries to sabotage you from accomplishing your aims.  I have to consciously keep plugging away and not let those doubts take over.  If you go step by step, you will become an author.

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

Author:      Along with those self-doubts, it can be frustrating when you face the fact that you are trying to get your work out there amidst all of the noise competing for attention.  It can be easy to get discouraged.  Just keep plugging away, and you will get your first book done.

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

Author:      While writing your book, learn as much as you can about self-publishing.  In many ways, it’s the best way to get your work out there.  I recommend Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur website and YouTube channel; it was a big help to me.

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

Author:     I would have definitely had my editor go over my manuscript before I had imported it and edited with Kindle Create.  Since she didn’t have that software, I had to give her a PDF to work from, which was more difficult as she couldn’t add notes directly in the document file.  That probably would have streamlined the publishing process.

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

Author:      I am indeed driven and self-advocating, but I have to give a large amount of credit to my wife Pamela who is really good with PR and she will often encourage me to take new steps with promotion.  She was the one who found me my publicist and gave me the encouragement to reach out to them. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      By creating a schedule and sticking to it best I can.  But I try not to beat myself up about coming up short.  Writing is a process; if you can’t enjoy the journey, then you should try and do something else.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      If I have writer’s block, I’ll try to focus on the world-building aspect of the story I’m working on.  Maybe write up a backstory or bio on my characters; often that will help jump-start ideas for my plot.

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

Author:      I knew nothing about ISBN numbers, how you get them from Bowker, what they are, and how Amazon has their own ASIN numbers that you can use instead.  I did a lot of research about them so that I could understand them better.

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

Author:      They actually really enjoyed my book a lot.  Even those who really weren’t into the martial arts genre; it was a nice surprise.  I’ve had some family and friends tell me that they’ve re-read CYBER FIGHTER multiple times.  That really means a lot to me.

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

Author:      Oh, the biggest myth about writers and authors would probably be how they’re all introverted hermits.  That misconception comes from just a part of the process where you have to be a bit of a hermit when you’re writing, but the rest of your day is spent just like anyone else.  We like physical activity – I continue my martial arts and fitness training five days a week.  So that keeps me balanced.

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Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I love listening to movie or video game soundtracks as I write.  I try to listen to something that gives me the feeling of the genre I’m writing in.  So it can vary from an orchestral soundtrack to a more electronica sound.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:     In CYBER FIGHTER I had one of my characters, the bombastic Buzz Kirkman, CEO of Kirkman Enterprises use one of my dad’s (who was a Navy Captain) favorite sayings:  “No doubt about that in my military mind.”    I also have a reference to the old G.I. Joe cartoons from the 80s:  “Know I know…and knowing is half the battle.”

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 can write anywhere I can bring my laptop, though usually at my kitchen table.  But I’ve also written while acting in film/TV projects, from the green room or my trailer in between filming my scenes.  There’s a lot of downtime for an actor, and that’s a great way to get lots of writing done.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:     I’m reading Rising Wind by Dick Couch.  He’s a former Navy SEAL and this story takes place partially on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor where I grew up in Hawaii.  In fact, the author was stationed on Ford Island at the same time I was living there.  So, it’s really cool to read a book with real locations that I actually know!

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m more about pop culture tropes; I’ll often put those into my writing as a fun “easter egg” reference.  Like the G.I. Joe catchphrase, or the classic Kung Fu movie tropes I infused into CYBER FIGHTER.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:  The more I infuse my upbringing into my work, the more original it becomes.  I consider my growing up in Hawaii not only the most influential time in my life, but also what separates me from other creative artists out here in Hollywood.        

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

Author:    I think what director Bong-Joon Ho said when he won the Oscar for Best Director: “The most personal is the most creative”.  That is so true; it’s what makes each author unique.    

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:   A great cup of coffee, especially when I start in the morning.  Later on in the day I love to munch on pretzels and drink flavored seltzer water.  

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:   I’m a solo act when it comes to writing novels.  But my wife Pamela and I both write the episodes for our sitcom web series That Darn Girlfriend. That show is an homage to classic 1960s/70s sitcoms.

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

Author:    This goes back to when I was studying acting.  An acting coach once told me that the parts of myself that I wanted to hide were actually the most compelling and interesting parts of me, and what would make me relatable to an audience.  To embrace vulnerability and be willing to share that is what makes your work unique and interesting.

Author Website:     http://williamjosephhill.com and http://fourscorpio.com (production company website)

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CYBER FIGHTER the novel on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081SJRMJ1

The comic book adaptation: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZL6X6W6

My YouTube channel for Four Scorpio Productions:  http://youtube.com/fourscorpio

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Megan Lally, Psychological Thriller & Horror

Hi! I’m Megan Lally, I’m a young adult author who specializes in psychological thriller and horror— all the creepy things that go bump in the night. I’m represented by Mandy Hubbard, at ECLA, and we’re working on edits of my latest manuscript right now, actually. It’s a YA thriller about a girl who wakes up in a ditch, covered in blood with no idea who she is, only to be collected at the police station by her father and brought “home.” But it’s not home at all, and he’s definitely not her father.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I started writing in 2009? I think? Somewhere in there. My son was just born and someone gifted me the box set of Twilight for my first Mother’s Day and it was the first time I ever read YA fiction. After that, I started reading everything, and eventually I started picking apart characters and endings and wishing they’d done it differently, etc, until I eventually opened a fresh document and started writing a book of my own. It was terrible, haha, but I loved the process! I loved being creative in that way. And I just never stopped writing stories down. I’ve been writing for about 12 years now. Which makes me feel super old.

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

Author:      My first book probably took about a month, month and a half to draft. Haha. BUT, that’s because I knew nothing about writing a book, so it was 120k words of nonsensical word vomit. There was no plot, or character development, and the dialogue didn’t make any sense at all. People just wandered around being surprised about everything for 30 chapters.

I’ve found that the more I learned about writing the longer it took me to get the words down, because I’m constantly applying all that knowledge to every scene. So now it takes quite a bit longer to reach “The End.” If we’re talking about how long it took for me to finish the book that got me my agent, that’s closer to 5-6 months or so, and my latest book took closer to 8 months.

About Your Work

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

Author:      All fiction, all the time. Couldn’t do a memoir, my life has been too boring. Haha. And I’m not made for short stories. They all end up being 40k words, because I’m long winded.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      Thriller and horror mostly, though I do love to dabble with fantastical elements so I may try a horror fantasy combo in the future. I also have a long lasting love of historical/historical fantasy, so that may make an appearance some day too.

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

Author:      This is still evolving a bit, as I work my way toward a debut, but I think my author brand is probably a collection of terrible, creepy things, happening to incredibly strong people. All things dark and terrifying, but with a twist of hope and a whole lot of spunk and sarcasm.

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

Author:      I’m a big fan of red-herring twists, and almost every book I’ve ever written has had a thread of romance. Even in the midst of the creepy and terrifying, there’s always another connection there, and it’s kind of like a balance between the light and the dark, in a way. I’m also a huge fan of the em dash, snarky dialogue, and badass girls who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

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

Author:      My first goal probably goes back to me reading all those YA books and imagining them happening in different ways. There would always be books I’d read, and sigh, and hold tight, thinking, “I wouldn’t change a single thing about this one.” I wanted to be the one who wrote one of those for someone else to read and sigh and hold tightly with that same feeling. I still want that.

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

Author:      That the darkness in the world doesn’t always win.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      Courtney Summers, Karen McManus, Kendare Blake, Barry Lyga, Maureen Johnson. I found most of them from the book store in the thriller/horror section, or on Goodreads. Also from recommendations from friends and fellow writers. LOVE them. Courtney Summers is like, my idol. I love her.

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:      No, I started reading in romance and YA paranormal, and I actually started writing in that vein when I first started, before I discovered my love of creepy things and true crime. But I still read very widely. Romance, fantasy, science fiction, YA, MG, thrillers, contemporary, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, historical. They can all teach you different things.

I think it’s vastly important to know your genre really well and understand what kinds of tropes and trends are out there, but it’s equally important to read ALL the things. You can learn a lot from the types of books you write but being widely read will teach you things about world building, character development, romantic arcs, endings, twists, tension, opening pages, and prose that you can’t always get from reading the same types of books over and over.

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

Author:      I’m a HUGE plotter. I can’t pants a book, it would give me anxiety. I can pants a chapter, sometimes? If I know what needs to be there, I don’t need all the details but I’m a tangent writer so if I tried to pants a whole novel I’d start off on chapter one, and end up writing a whole different book, and ghosts and dragons would show up in the middle, and it would be a mess. I need the structure of plotting to keep the story on track.

Typically I start with post-its. I’ll take my spark of a book idea and break it up into the major plot points I want to happen and I’ll write them all down on a separate post-it. Then arrange them in an order that makes sense on one of those foam presentation boards. Then I add more, to fill out the scenes in between. What starts out as 5 or 6 major plot twists, will turn into 30 or 40 scenes, all sketched out on the tiny squares. Then I group them into chapters. After that, I transfer all that information to a word document, broken up chapter by chapter in bullet points. Then I add more details, and sometimes snippets of information and dialogue. My outlines are typically about 5-10k words long. Sometimes longer. Once it feels like it has enough detail, I start with a fresh document and I start writing.

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

Author:      Twitter and Instagram mostly.

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

Author:      I sprint. A lot. I typically procrastinate with a lot of my writing time, and then I’ll get really into it and fast draft like a whole chapter in a couple hours, and then I need a nap. Haha. My creative energy has always come in bursts. I’ll never be a writer who can sit down and stay on task for 8 hours a day, but when the burst hits, I can draft quite a bit in a short amount of time, so I guess it all balances out?

Struggles

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

Author:      The self-doubt. 100% the hardest, though I don’t think I’m alone there. Self-doubt is the enemy of so so many authors because being creative is hard! It takes such a long time to not only learn how to do this writing thing, but then to trust that we know what we’re doing. Every time I start a new book I somehow convince myself I’ve forgotten how to write, when the reality is, I’ve just been in editing mode on a much more polished draft, and a fresh manuscript and all it’s flaws is a very different beast.

Struggling with something doesn’t mean you’re incapable, or bad at it. Writing is hard, revising is hard, querying is hard, going out on sub is hard, and you can struggle through all of those things and still be damn good at what you do. That’s been the hardest to learn and internalize.

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

Author:      It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. A lot of excitement, a lot of waiting, and a lot of anxiety. Haha. It’s just really hard to take this thing you’ve poured your heart into and fling it out into the world for other people to read and have opinions about. I was a mess when I went out on sub for the first time, but it’s a whole process of growing that thick skin that authors need so badly.

So my advice is to remember that not everyone is going to like your books. Some people may hate them, and that’s fine. I’ve read some hugely popular books that I didn’t like either. Personal taste is a real thing, and it’s real when you’re querying, it’s real when you’re on sub with editors, and it’s real as a reader. It’s been a long process to learn how to not take that personally and step back enough to ask myself “Am I happy with what I made here?” and let that be enough, ups and downs be damned. Write for yourself. Write books that you love, and there will always be someone out there who will love it too.

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

Author:      Grow that thick skin. Don’t shy away from feedback, every “problem” pointed out is an opportunity to make your book even better. Get yourself some quality critique partners, and swap pages. Get used to taking good and bad notes with stride. Learn the market. Read widely, and read critically— seeing how authors pull off difficult scenes, how they describe things in that “wow, I can really see this” way, how they engage you with the dialogue, how they keep the tension. Learn everything you can from the authors you love the most, and it’ll all morph together in your own writing style. And most importantly, keep going. Even when it’s hard— because it will be hard— don’t give up on yourself.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I try to write my way through it. Usually writer’s block is brought on by a sense that you’ve lost your way a bit in your story, so I’ll take a look at my outline again, and the scenes that came before I got stuck, as well as what I had planned for the next scenes. And then I’ll set a minimum amount of writing time a day (typically around 30 minutes) where I tinker with those scenes until something lights that bulb and I find my way through the problem. Talking things out with critique partners is also immensely helpful. If you look at “writers block” more as “I am lost” it becomes a mission to find your way back, rather than a wall you can’t break through.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      All the things. I have about a hundred Spotify playlists for various projects. I’m a big fan of writing to music with lyrics, which I know a lot of people hate doing, but I also have a bunch of classical lists, or ambient noise for when I’m struggling to focus. I love making playlists for fight scenes or kissing scenes, or super scary scenes (there are a ton of classic songs that have been slowed down and remade to sound SUPER creepy and I’m totally here for all of them.) The music is a big part of my writing process.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      Not a specific word every time, but one of my best friends challenges me to throw random words into each manuscript. This latest one was “eggplant.” Haha.

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:      Tiny office, for sure. My house is pretty old (1930’s) so I think it used to be like a micro bedroom or something, but it’s mostly just a desk, a loveseat, and piles of books everywhere. I also have a whiteboard on the wall for drafting or revision notes, and a big board hung up for my post-it plotting. It doubles as a guest room when we have company. But there’s a really cute coffee shop a couple blocks from my house that I love to write in too. It’s all bricks and mismatched furniture. They make an amazing lavender latte.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m a sucker for a good love triangle, and enemies to lovers!

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coconut covered cashews from Trader Joes, and lavender lattes!

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

Author:     “The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to exist.”

Or possibly, “Don’t compare published books to your first draft. Published books have been revised a hundred times, and you’re on draft 0, that’s not fair.”

Both have been immensely helpful to me, in really seeing how unfair the expectations I put on myself are sometimes. A first draft will NEVER be perfect, it’s just not going to happen. So if it’s a little messy and filled with notes and problems, that’s fine. That’s what revisions are for. But I can’t revise what doesn’t exist. And it can’t exist at all if I expect it to be as perfect as a twelve times polished published novel. That’s like cracking an egg into a bowl and wondering why it doesn’t look like the quiche I saw on Instagram.

I’m on Twitter! @Megan_Lally

And Instagram! @Megan_Lally_

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

Author Interview: Laura A. Barton, Fiction & Nonfiction

My name is Laura A. Barton, and I write a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I used to consider myself strictly a fantasy author, and, while the novel that has taken up the bulk of my life is fantasy, I wouldn’t consider myself exclusively a fantasy writer anymore. At this point, I like telling stories. Toni Morrison is quoted as saying, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” This resonates with me and is at the core of what I do.

Recent Fiction WIPs: Killing Secrets (High Fantasy) and The Assistant (Romance) Recent Non-fiction Publication: Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars and Project Dermatillomania: Written On Our Skin (Second editions, 2020)

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     

        I started really getting into writing when I was 9 years old. I had all these stories floating around in my head, and I felt the need to tell them. Reading has always been a big part of my life, and the stories I read or even the ones I saw on TV inspired my earliest works and drive to write fiction.

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

Author:     

        I wrote many “books” starting from that young age, but the first one I really had ambitions of publishing took me 4 months to write the first draft. I don’t think I had a computer yet, and I was writing everything out by hand. I kept all the pages in a special binder and dated my progress each day so I could keep track of how I was doing. I was absorbed by that story and wrote almost every day. I was super proud of that book, and the story and characters still mean a lot to me, but I don’t think I’ll ever publish it.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:

        I don’t have any fiction books published, which is not for lack of trying. I’ve written, and revised, and queried Killing Secrets since 2005, but it’s just not there, yet. Hopefully, it will be in print someday in the near future.

        I do have two non-fiction books published though. The first of those, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars, began as an idea in 2012 and is an anthology of works from people who live with excoriation (skin-picking) disorder (also called dermatillomania). Between receiving submissions, editing, and then formatting, it took a couple of years before the first edition was published in 2014.

(If applicable) Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:

        I would say my publishing timeframe has improved since that first publication. I put out the call for submissions for the second non-fiction book I published, Project Dermatillomania: Written On Our Skin, in February 2016, and then it was published in March 2017. Again, it was a matter of working with the submissions, editing, and formatting, but I at least had a sense of what I was doing this time around.    

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

Author:     

        I’ve always had dreams of traditional publishing. Part of that was because when I was younger, self-publishing and vanity publishing were both still very much seen as being the lesser option. The idea was that anyone could self-publish, but only those with true talent got publishing deals. I definitely know how flawed that thinking is now.

While I’d still love to be traditionally published, I have also been considering the indie publishing route. There are so many authors that I love and look up to these days that have gone that path and are doing great. I know it’s a lot of work, which is daunting, but I can see it now as a possibility.

        For my non-fiction books, I self-published them. My target audience—others with excoriation disorder, their support systems, or people just wanting to learn more—is niche, and I didn’t think a traditional publisher would pick up the books. Additionally, I wanted full control over them. I wanted to be able to say what the books looked and felt like. I’m confident I made the right decision for them.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:     

        Target audience is an interesting one for me, and in some regards, I think I’m kind of all over the map. Looking at my oldest WIP, Killing Secrets, to my more recent WIPs and publications, things feel vastly different to me.

Part of the problem with Killing Secrets is that I started writing it when I was 15. I wasn’t quite aware of audience when I started and didn’t really take that sort of thing into consideration. It was just a story I wanted to write, so I did. As a result, however, it’s complicated matters this late in the game. In university, I majored in English Language and Literature, which gave me a more acute sense of audience and readership. Now with each revision or rewrite, I’m almost having to reshape to consider not only age range, but, to some extent, the area of interest. While I believe in writing what you’d like to, audience still plays an important role in the end product.

        As much as I’ve always loved learning literature and writing, I think some part of me felt that learning the craft wasn’t really necessary when it came to being a writer. Realistically, though, it’s so key and has helped me vastly improve how I approach both my fiction and non-fiction writing, in particular with audience. With what I know now, other fiction works I’ve done, like my other WIP, The Assistant, have come more easily because I see how much being aware of these things can shape the story.

What is your publishing process?

Author:   

        For my fiction novels, the publishing process has been a long journey of writing, revising, getting feedback, more revising, and so on. Since I haven’t gotten to publishing those yet, I’m not sure what the end of this process is going to look like, but I can’t wait to find out.

        As for my non-fiction books, being anthologies, the process was pretty much idea, call for submissions, edit submissions, organize submissions, formatting, then publication.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:    

        I’m a fan of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), although in the past, I’ve also used Blurb. Both are good platforms and have their benefits. I feel KDP better fits my needs, however, and will be sticking with that for any indie publishing I do.

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

Author:     

        Input for my books has come from a number of sources: family, friends, beta readers, critique partners, and others involved in the book’s process (for my non-fiction books). I also used to post online to websites like Fictionpress and deviantART, but I steer away from those these days because of some of the strictness with traditional publishing requirements. The first beta readers I ever worked with, I connected with via a beta reader group on Facebook. The first critique partners I worked with, I connected with on Twitter. Social media can be a great asset for these situations and provides the opportunity to connect with a wider range of people instead of just those in your circle. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and family, but it helps to get wider perspective.

My most recent publication was actually a dual publication. In December 2020, I published second editions of Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars and Project Dermatillomania: Written On Our Skin. The reason I wanted to do that was to clean up spelling, grammar, and formatting issues that were missed the first time around, as well as have both books formatted for both print and ebook. Both books were originally released when I was still mostly learning how to navigate putting a book together, let alone publishing anything. I’m grateful for all the help I received for those books and don’t mean to take away any of the work others put in. What I did with the second editions was more of a polish job than any significant changes.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:     

        My primary platform for marketing my work is social media. Again, this is a powerful tool, especially for indie authors. I can’t say I’ve mastered it, but I’m doing what I can.

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:     

        When thinking about launch plans, I think about what I like to see and what draws me in. With others launching their books, I like teasers and visual marketing material. The teasers don’t even have to be chapter previews. A good chunk of the books I’ve read lately drew me in because of teaser artwork, aesthetic content, or even an attention-grabbing quote from the story. At its basics, I hope to adopt that sort of launch plan.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:     

        Reviews are not something I’ve mastered in the slightest. Basically, right now, I just ask people who’ve read my books to leave reviews, but I know that moving forward, I should amp that up. My plans with my fiction novels in particular are to have ARC copies to bring in some reviews, which will hopefully encourage others to read and review as well.

How do you promote your content?

Author:     

        Promoting my content is something that I always thought was simple. Put it out there, mention it, and you’re good to go. With social media as my main platforms, however, the sophistication of the algorithms makes that a challenge. So while I do still create visual content for my social media accounts, I’m also reading into other ways to promote books, such as through ads and so forth. In the past, I’ve also done giveaways, author interviews, and things like that, which are also effective.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:     

         I think success will look different for everyone. For me, having a finished novel, bound in a physical book, is success. I love physical books, so it’s extra special when I can hold my own work in my hands.

About Your Work

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

Author:     

        I write fiction and non-fiction. My fiction work is currently focused in on novels. I used to voraciously write short stories and poetry as well, but haven’t really written anything new in those areas in many years. My non-fiction work, so far, consists of two books and online content like blogs, web copy, and so forth.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:     

        Fiction-wise, I mainly write high fantasy and romance novels. For non-fiction, my main subject matter is mental health.

How many works have you published?

Author:     

        I’ve published two non-fiction books and a fairly large body of mostly non-fiction work across the internet. I was also published three times in Brock University Creative Writer’s Club anthologies while I attended for post-secondary studies. Those were the first time I really saw my work in print.

        Being both a fiction and non-fiction writer, I find my brand as an author is both interesting and a challenge to balance. I feel like people think of author brands as whatever their main genre of writing is, but with the way I dip into both the fiction and non-fiction world, it can be difficult. Do I want my brand to be as a fiction author or as a mental health writer? Can I have both? Ultimately, I think I can. I think of authors like Matt Haig, who writes both fiction and non-fiction works and is known for his mental health advocacy. I hope to be able to achieve that sort of balance as well.

I also aim to be personable and approachable. One of the coolest things to me in this day and age is being able to connect with authors and interact with them. When I was younger, I would have loved the opportunity to be able to do that with my favourite authors, but, instead, they were these faraway figures that I only had a connection with via their works. With the advent of social media, it’s possible to connect with authors in an entirely new way, and I love it. I’d love having that chance to connect with my readers.

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

Author:     

        One of the things I strive for when I write, and perhaps my most common element, is realness. For my non-fiction work, that comes out with candor. I’m honest about my experiences and share them without shame. For fiction, it’s an effort to create believable worlds that have rules and consequences. My characters will never find themselves in a situation where things can be miraculously solved by magic or a challenging situation is just readily accepted and swept under the rug because it’s convenient. It needs to make sense. Yes, fiction is about the suspension of belief, but the stories that resonate the most with me are those that have an edge of veracity to them.

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

Author:     

        I mentioned previously that a reason I got into writing was because I had stories to share, but I’ll be honest, when I was a kid, I also had dreams of being a famous author. On my first “novels” that I wrote when I was 9, I even drew trophies to declare the works as award-winning books. In some regard, I would still like to be a well-known author and to use this craft to support myself financially, but that isn’t the ultimate goal anymore. Now, it really is just about the storytelling and sharing these worlds and characters that accompany me wherever I go and that I love.

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

Author:     

        For this question, it depends what they’re reading. Fiction-wise, I want readers to first and foremost enjoy the story, but I’d also love if they found a little nugget of something to take with them. Maybe it’s a nugget of wisdom, maybe it’s a lasting impression of the story, or a connection to the characters. My favourite novels are those that have a lasting impact beyond how much I enjoyed the story.

For my non-fiction writing, I want readers to feel seen and heard. The reason I write mental health works is because I could have benefited from having those resources when I was younger and deeply struggling. For those who aren’t approaching those works from experiences of mental health struggles, I hope it helps them have a better understanding of how people live, struggle, and cope with various mental health conditions.

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

Author:     

        What I’m studying the most right now is marketing my work and myself as a writer. This is useful as a writer in general, but since I’m contemplating the indie route of publication, I know that’ll bear some extra weight. I feel like I have things like writing, beta readers, critique partners, and formatting a book pretty well down pat. The marketing of the work, however, is still fairly alien to me.

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

Author:     

        My favourite part of writing overall is discovering the story and the characters and getting to know them. I love the magic there is in that, even for books that don’t have magical elements. Getting lost in a narrative is just an incredible experience.

        My favourite part about querying is finding an agent that I feel really fits what I’m looking for and then reaching out. Although there is the aspect of waiting and maybe not hearing back, I don’t get discouraged about these things. I know it’s all part of the process.

        As for publishing, in terms of the self-publishing I’ve done, I love when everything is falling into place, lining up in previewing tools, and being able to hit the submit button. Such a great feeling.

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’ve always loved fantasy novels, urban fantasy and high fantasy in particular. When I was younger, I also heavily read horror novels, which definitely influenced my writing for a long time. The scarier or gorier I could make my work, the better. Killing Secrets’ first draft was largely built on the idea of writing a fantasy-gore novel, although it’s since steered far from that. I’m not a super fan of that kind of thing anymore.

        I do read in my current genres though: one because I enjoy the stories, and two, because I know how important it is to be familiar with your genre. It helps with seeing what’s popular in the genre, which I can then play into either to add a new twist or give people fan favourite aspects of the genres. In addition to those genres, however, I also really enjoy dystopian fiction, which I don’t write. As much as I love the genre, there’s just a certain finesse to it that I don’t think I have the talent for.

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

Author:     

        I am a pantser 99% of the time. Pretty much all of my novels start based on a single idea or a single scene from my head, and then I open up a Word doc and run with it from there. The Assistant is one of the first novels where I’ve really sat down to plan after that initial idea. The idea came from a dream, which I wrote down as a note, but then I later opened up a Word doc and started fleshing it out. I wrote character profiles, did research, wrote out a beat sheet (something I’d literally never done), and then started in on the novel itself.

                Whether I’m pantsing or planning, however, from idea to polished work is a process. I write out the first draft, then when that’s done, I duplicate the document to work on that for the second draft, and so forth with each significant change. I like having a record of the progress because it’s fun looking back to see how things have changed and because it’s useful to have those original ideas in such an accessible way in case I change my mind and want to reincorporate something.

                As is evident with Killing Secrets, it can take me years to get to the polished work, but at the same time, there have been many polished versions of that novel along the way. I think that’s one thing to keep in mind: there may be several versions of the story that you feel are polished, and it’s okay if you end up needing to go back over them to polish some more.

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

Author:     

        Twitter and Instagram have become my go-tos for connecting with other writers. I particularly love Instagram for the ways authors share about their stories visually. I do also use Facebook to some degree, and while I have a LinkedIn account, I don’t really connect with other writers there more than just accepting them as connections.

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

Author:     

        Definitely somewhere in between. There are days where I can barely get a sentence out, and then there are other times when I can hammer out 10,000 words in a day like it’s nothing (that’s not an exaggeration). I very much enjoy those days because that’s when I feel most connected to the stories and immersed with my characters or whatever I happen to be working on.

Struggles

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

Author:     

        Time has been one of my biggest struggles. I used to have this idea that if I wasn’t published by age X, then I was failing as an author. It’s been a learning process to see that an author’s success isn’t weighted on how young they are or how quickly they get their book out. You can be older and still have success as an author.

How long I’ve been working on Killing Secrets does weigh on me, mostly because I want to be able to share this story with people, but I also know that it’s not ready yet. Handling that idea is a struggle, too.

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

Author:     

        My tip for budding authors is that the querying and even the feedback process don’t have to be scary. Not everyone is going to like your work, and some people will be super rude about it. It ultimately says more about them than it does about you as a person or about your work. If you come across someone that doesn’t like your work, definitely process those emotions, but also look for ways that you may be able to benefit from the experience. Maybe you’ll find something useful, but even if you don’t, it’s perfectly okay to set that person’s opinion aside and then get back to it.

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

Author:     

        If I had to do it all over again, I don’t think I’d change anything. Everything can act as a learning experience and each part of my journey has helped me grow as a writer and storyteller. Was everything perfect? No, but I see value in that imperfection.

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

Author:     

        I’d say I’m a driven, self-advocating author, even if I don’t quite have the solid strides to do that yet. I feel like it’s just about learning the methods, but otherwise, I have no problem sharing about my work. There are many areas in my life that I’m meek, anxious, and insecure. Writing, incredibly, has never been one of those areas.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:     

        I’m not going to lie; sometimes motivation is nowhere to be seen. What keeps me motivated is honestly seeing other authors thrive and reading fantastic stories by others. It pushes me and reminds me why I love doing what I do as a writer, even if I can’t get my butt in gear at that exact moment.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:     

        I try not to fight it. Sometimes, the brain just needs a break or I get stuck. I’m okay with letting this percolate for a bit, and I’ll find a new book to read or even a new show or movie to watch. Although there are other times where it’s helpful to push through whatever scene I’m stuck on and just worry about cleaning up whatever that mess is later.

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

Author:     

        This is a mixed bag. I have people in my life that support me fully as a writer. They’re eager to read my work, they think I have what it takes to publish, and they cheer me on. One of the things that’s stuck with me the most, however, is being told when I was a child that I needed a “bread and butter job.” It used to bother me, but reflecting back, I get it. Writing is a precarious and competitive field, and the family member who’d say that to me just wanted to make sure I could grow up with a career that would pay the bills. Still, I can’t seem to get that out of my head, and, on some level, it still does feel like someone not believing in me. I’ve had to learn to be okay with that.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:     

        A lot of the time, I listen to whatever I’m obsessed with listening to at the moment. I’m the kind of person that gets hooked on songs or a band, and then I’ll listen to it on repeat for hours on end. I’ve also, in the past, created playlists for my novels, which can help with motivation and setting the mood. I love when I find songs that speak to the narrative of the story or the characters individually. I’m just a big fan of music in general, though.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:     

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 wherever I can. With moving to a work-from-home setting, I’ll write at where I’ve set up my work station when I get free moments during the day, but I also write while sitting on the couch or the bed. I’ve also been known to write scenes or notes on my phone wherever I happen to be if an idea suddenly strikes me.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:     

        I love to encourage critical thinking. This stems directly from my time studying literature in university and doing literary analyses of the books I read there. I’m fascinated by the various ways that novels can be interpreted and by making arguments for those interpretations. Nothing is ever black and white, and that’s something I try to push with my creative writing in particular.

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