Author Q and A
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I'm a visual artist at heart, and grew up drawing and painting along with scribbling stories for my own amusement. Artistic integrity has always been very important to me, and I swore I would always stay true to those values. After writing my first book I tried traditional publishing for a few years, but had a difficult time getting my foot in the door. Years later, I now believe it was meant to be, because I think I would hate writing if I had editors chop up my beloved stories until they were completely unrecognizable, or publishers dictating what I should write and how I should write it. The reason I started writing was for my own personal enjoyment. I wasn't finding the kinds of books that I wanted to read, so I wrote exactly what I wanted to read. I don't write to trends and I'm not sure I ever would, unless it was to make a mockery of it. I'm proud to be an indie author and I deeply value the creative freedom it's given me to write what I want and stay true to who I am.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There are two particular joys for me. The first one is watching a character come to life and then take on a personality of their own. For example, Talvi was originally supposed to be sweet and somewhat naive, but we know that's a far cry from who he actually is. It was like he flipped me the bird and told me, "Oh no, no, no, love. I'm not doing that. I know you want me to, but I have other plans...and they're better than yours."
When my characters talk back, I listen to them. So far I haven't been disappointed. I have been surprised, though.
The other greatest joy is when a reader tells me how much they've enjoyed a story or how much they love a particular character or scene. When they say they got teary-eyed or laughed out loud, then I've done what I meant to do, which was to invoke genuine feelings in others. I've heard from readers whose paperback was falling apart from reading it so much, and others have said they want to see my stories in film or on TV. That's one of the most amazing feelings ever. I seriously have the best fans, and consider myself very lucky.
Who are your favorite authors?
I mostly read non-fiction, but I absolutely adore J.K. Rowling, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Herriot, Anne Rice, & Oscar Wilde.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I told stories with pictures since I was old enough to hold crayons, but "Away with Mitzi" is the first one that I officially published. It was in the third grade, and I won my elementary school's "Outstanding Young Author" award, which I still have.
What is your writing process?
Since my background is in making fine art, I create stories the same way that I draw pictures: I start with a few sentences as a loose outline of where I want the story to end up...then I keep adding and erasing and adding back in and highlighting certain areas until I've pantsed my way from point A to B. That means I venture down a lot of rabbit holes. I used to dream of being a spelunker (cave explorer), so it makes sense that I'm totally ok with this strategy of blindly groping through the dark. ;) Also, I can't stand formulaic storytelling, whether it's in movies or books. I've tried to plot things out in a 3-act structure and it wasn't the magical writing tool for me that it is for some people. I prefer to have a basic plot and then focus on character growth (or demise) and then revise, revise, revise. And then I revise some more. If I didn't hop around so much and try to cram so many little nuggets into my books, I'd probably write faster, but I don't know that I'd enjoy the finished product as much.
Another part of my process for the Annika Brisby series is the dreaded cliffhanger. I know some people hate them because they hate waiting. You know who else hates waiting? Small children and animals. I think cliffhangers can be used poorly, as in a cheap sales gimmick to make people buy the next book, but let's be real here. First, no one can make someone buy a book. Not even college professors. Second, we are talking about a friggin' book here, not an organ to become available for a transplant. Waiting for a book will not impair your quality of life, whereas waiting for a liver might actually kill you. Third, if all I wanted was to make money I never would've gone to college for drawing with charcoal and playing in porcelain mud. For me, having a cliffhanger is the 'magic feather' that propels me into the next book. It lets me hit the ground running and gives me direction. Without it, I'm left staring at a blank canvas, which leads to artistic anxiety, which means no words are going on the page, which means you'll be waiting even longer to read the next book. So maybe that cliffhanger isn't really so bad.
How do you approach cover design?
Once upon a time, I did them myself. Eventually I realized that graphic design was not my area of expertise. I tried a couple designers before I met my current one. She not only specializes in designing for my genre, but she also has her ear to the ground about marketing it. I give her lots of info about the story, like theme, plot, and character personalities, and then she comes up with absolute magic.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I have three Pembroke Welsh Corgis that don't understand the concept of sleeping in. They're smart, adorable, and kind of insane when they combine forces. Ask any parent of multiple Corgis. Their level of enthusiasm in the morning is pretty motivational.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have a few different jobs that keep me active, like painting/plaster & drywall repair, designing custom picture frames, and working on call as a stable hand at a farm. I like DIY home improvement projects, gardening, cooking & baking from scratch, riding horses, and spending time with family and friends. And there's nothing like lounging on the deck with my husband and dogs, surrounded by plants and a enjoying a glass of wine. Too bad northern summers are so short!
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on the next book in the Annika Brisby series. I'm also a co-host of the Wine Wars podcast, the ONLY rated R program about wine and Star Wars. We try to be educational and entertaining. Mostly it's Anne Spectator and I cracking jokes at our husbands' expense. Check it out, but be forewarned, it's not for the faint of heart!