Q: J.W....what made you become a writer?
A: While I have always enjoyed writing poetry, I never saw myself as a writer until recently. When I was unable to continue teaching due to health problems, I suddenly found myself in a position where there was no excuse not to write. I spent a couple months working out my world lore using my history background on ancient cultures then sat down and started writing. It is the best career choice I ever made.
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: I have some sleeping difficulties, so I don't have a set schedule. I do however make myself write something, or at least edit a chapter, every single day. Currently I am doing a lot of gardening and summer projects, which has cut into my writing, so I have only been writing 500-1500 words a day. I think the most I have written at one sitting was a bit over 8000.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: I don't outline in a traditional sense. What I do is write notes for each of my characters. I have a notebook for each. I write down their motivations, fears, and the direction they are heading in the story. I like to let my characters drive the story. I discovered early on that if I created too much detail in my plot it restricted my ability to grow the character organically. So now I develop my characters and let the story unfold as I write with a basic skeletal plot. It works for me.
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: I revise a lot. I write what I call a rough-in chapter. I am a horrible typist so I scan it for typos then print it. I read the chapter and cross out large segments while I re-write in the sidelines. Then I type the edits and do more edits as I go. Then I let it sit for days or even weeks and come back with fresh eyes to see if more edits are needed. When the novel is finished, I read the entire book aloud and make more edits. I also use beta readers and will edit per their advice. Then I send it off to an editor.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: If you are struggling, walk away and come back with fresh eyes later.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: Being dedicated to the process. What I mean by this is I will deny any other aspect of my life in order to get my daily writing completed. The key for me is immersion. I need to be immersed into my world and my characters. If I stray too long from my story, it becomes a slow and arduous process to get back to a place where the story flows naturally.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: I can always write. What happens to me is I find places where the story doesn't feel right. It feels forced. Sometimes I take a break and do chapter edits so I can return later with a fresh perspective. Other times I put on music and pace, letting my mind wonder aimlessly about the characters and the story. If the segment is hostile or contentious, I play something hard like Rock. If it is more of a playful setting, I play something fun like Pop. I have numerous playlists that correspond to the emotional situation in my storyline. This always seems to work for me.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: I have always loved fantasy. Reading Tolkien and then Terry Brooks when I was young forever burned a fondness in me for epic fantasy. There is just something wonderful about being drawn into an exotic setting where the fantastical becomes real.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: Yes. I loved the input from my beta readers so much during my first book I decided to add three more to read my second. Even the suggestions I don't use are enormously insightful. Being able to get into the mind of your audience is invaluable. I can't think of a single reason not to use them. Of course, I am very thick skinned and value criticism. That is not easy for everyone.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: That is a tough question. I love writing action scenes of course but I also love when I can write something that will touch my reader in a personal and heartfelt manner. If I had to pick a single scene, it would be the chapter where Jasa, a child pickpocket, is introduced. When I was writing the scene, it felt flat and uneventful. There was some emotional dialogue early in the chapter but the end felt like a contrived walking off into the sunset moment. It drove me nuts. I eventually decided to add this sharp streetwise child, and he completed the chapter in a surprising and wonderful way. He immediately became a core character for me, and was a favorite character for my beta readers.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: Meeka. For me it is her ability to maintain a level of innocence while maturing with the story. She endures some tough moments without being the stereotypical whiny teenager. I despise whiny characters. She is also fiercely loyal to her friends and loved ones, even to her own demise. She is compassionate yet she will not hesitate to kill if she believes it is needed. I dislike stories that think female characters can only be tough once they have suffered some tragedy that "toughens" them up. Meeka can be your best friend or someone to be feared. I love that.
Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: I am horrid at self-promotion. I don't even hang my plaques and awards in my office because it makes me feel arrogant. Promotion has to be done though. It comes down to networking I think and making new friends in the industry. Allow yourself some pride in your accomplishments and set aside some time each day to put yourself in as many social venues as possible.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
A: I haven't had a full negative review yet, but as long as it is constructive, I would welcome one. I always look for opportunity to grow so negative reviews are just growth opportunities to me. The moment we think we have reached the summit, there is no place to climb.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: I like being on the cutting edge of things. I think there is an enormous shift coming to literature and I love being in the middle of that change. It's fun feeling like a pioneer.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: Promotion. It just sucks up time I would rather be typing away on my story. Plus, because indie publishing is in its infancy, there is a lack of venue for promotion that isn't drowning with the surge. It reminds me of the early days of the internet when everyone had a website but nobody could ever find you.
Q: What is your current writing project?
A: I am working on the second book in my trilogy, The Bow Maiden Chronicles. Guardians of the Grove was book one. I haven't settled on the next title yet. I expect to be at the halfway point by the end of the month with a release date toward the end of this year .
Q: What are three of your favorite novels?
A: 1) A Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I loved the irreverence and humor. 2) Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. I loved the journey into a dark place of the human soul and then emerging on the other side. 3) The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks. This was the first fantasy book I ever read outside of Tolkien. I love it because it ignited in me my passion for fantasy and it is just a fun read.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would you talk to them about?
A: Samuel Clemens [Mark Twain] hands down. I love irreverent humor and a sharp wit. I would let him beat me at billiards while we discussed religion, politics, and the silly and horrible things humans do to one another.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A: Be fearless in your pursuit and don't run from criticism, engage it. Be humble enough to allow yourself to become better.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
A: "Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." - Mark Twain