Frequently Asked Questions
Where do you get your ideas?
Where don’t I get my ideas? Books, movies, documentaries, college lectures, pictures, dreams,
people . . . I keep scratch paper with me in my purse, car, and various places in the house. Sometimes I can’t get to sleep or wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, so I keep a pen and paper next to my bed and write it down before I forget (sometimes these notes are illegible since I write them in the dark!). Most of my ideas don’t make it into my stories or end up in a different story than originally planned, but they are all part of the creative process.
What is your writing process?
I have a confession, I am not a fan of outlines. To me, creating outlines locks me in and dampens my creativity. If I create an outline, I stick to it. I am a very organized person normally, but not so much when it comes to my writing. I let my characters tell their own stories. While I generally have some idea of who my characters are and information about the world they live in before I start writing, often times, my initial story plan becomes completely derailed. I may think I know where the story is going, but usually I don’t. Sometimes I am in the middle of a scene, typing away, and realize suddenly that a character is going to die or someone is going to be kidnapped or there has been an enemy in the midst of the group that everyone (including me!) thought was loyal. Once the story is written (the entire story, as in the entire series!), I go back through all the books to make sure the facts and storyline are consistent.
What is the easiest part about writing for you?
It may sound cliché, but the easiest part is writing. When I start, sometimes it is difficult to stop (even when my stomach loudly demands food). The ideas flow and it is up to my typing fingers to keep up (and my computer to process it all). My favorite type of writing is dialogue, especially between James and Mariel.
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?
Beginnings. Not hooks that are designed to entice the reader, but the initial story-building aspect. While I wrote the prologue for Royal Outlaw in a notebook on a camping trip when I was eighteen and it remains relatively unchanged from the original version, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve edited and rewritten aspects of the first several chapters of Royal Outlaw. The issue is not a lack of ideas, but an overabundance of ideas. How do I successfully convey the world I’ve built with its complex history, politics, economics, religion, and people without bogging down the story?
You have a history degree, will you write any historical fiction novels?
As of right now, no. That’s not to say I don’t love to read historical fiction, but I am not interested in writing it. Ironically, when I was thirteen and wrote my first partial book, it was historical fiction, but I find that fantasy uses more of my imagination. I’m also something of a perfectionist and would be such a stickler for facts in any historical fiction book I wrote that it would likely never meet my approval for publishing ready. However, I love to use my knowledge of the social sciences to create a new world and discuss real social issues in the guise of an imagined world. Here’s an insider’s tidbit: the rant Mariel goes off on about the difference between the rights of the peasants versus the rights of nobility in Royal Outlaw Chapter 12 are all based on historical fact.
What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?
Practice, patience, and perseverance. The only way to improve your writing is to write and to write a lot. You have to love writing and want to write for yourself. It is okay to take major ideas from your favorite novels or movies and write about them in the practice phase. The patience comes with realizing that not all of the work you create will be published. Think of each new story you write as a stepping block to being published. Once you believe that you have reached a writing level that is good enough to be published (and others agree) start to query agents. This is a time of perseverance. Don’t let one rejection letter discourage you. The publishing business is very subjective and if you are writing fantasy there are few agents willing to even look at proposed books from unknown authors. Don’t discount self-publishing, but be sure your book is really ready for publication before you pursue that option.
What does it feel like to be published?
Amazing! I’ve always wanted to share my stories with other people and now I have the opportunity to do so. I love to hear positive feedback from readers and how they connect to my characters. At the same time, it is also utterly terrifying to have my work out there. There are plenty of people who don’t like the Royal Outlaw books for one reason or another. I try to keep the perspective that it is inevitable that not everyone will like what I write. After all, I am very picky when it comes to finding fantasy books that I like. I am also not a fan of advanced algebra and I won’t set foot in a room where a horror film is playing, but there are a lot of people who like what I don’t. That perspective can be hard to remember when I’m reading a negative comment.
Are you going to write more books about Mariel or her world?
I dedicated five years of my life solely to writing Mariel’s story and it is time to explore new ideas. I am currently working on a duology (series with only two books) for a new world and have a lot of ideas for other worlds as well.