Q: Yvonne...what made you become a writer?
A: I’m not sure. It was either insanity, or the persistent prodding of the Holy Spirit—which some might consider one and the same. So take your pick.
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: My typical day doesn’t involve much writing. For the most part, I wedge that into the rare and random uninterrupted spaces of my life.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: My prep work is mental – no outline, no character sketches, none of that OCD organizational stuff. A pox on outlines! However, before I start writing, I know my primary characters intimately from having spent a great deal of time with them in my mind. I know where my story begins, where it will end, and a couple of key events along the way. And I know the setting – which usually involves some research prior to getting started. All this simmers in my brain for quite some time before it’s ready to pour out.
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: That’s impossible to say. Every time I sit down to write, I go back and revise what I wrote last time, at least a little. That helps me get into the flow of the story and allows me to feel a bit more satisfied with the result of my efforts thus far. I don’t make major revisions until I’ve finished the first draft—for me, that’s when the OCD kicks in. My edits are merciless and seem never-ending. Sooner or later I have to call it quits, but because there is no perfection in this world, I’m never fully satisfied with a manuscript.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: Be brutal. Avoid being sentimental about any aspect of your darling, and don’t be too lazy to make sweeping revisions if necessary. Whatever it takes, make this book better than your last.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: If there are any tricks to this writing thing, I haven’t discovered them yet. It’s just plain work; no magic involved. But the results of our labors will steadily improve if we learn from other writers. What works? Implement those techniques. What don’t you like? Search out and destroy those things in your own writing. Always strive to be more concise, more vivid. Seek greater depth. Summon strong verbs and banish adverbs. Use colorful analogies and lively descriptions. Have sharp insight into character motives. And understate everything.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: I’m not sure I understand what writer’s block is. The stereotype of staring at a blank page (or screen) with a blank brain? Struggling to devise a believable solution to your protagonist’s impossible dilemma? If I have those issues, they’re resolved by a little physical activity, a change of scenery, or writing something entirely different. Once I take my mind’s forefront off the problem at hand, the back of my mind takes over—and honestly, the back of my mind is more creative. Sometimes the solution comes to me as soon as I walk away, and other times it takes a day or two. But the hands-off method has never failed me yet. The problem I struggle with most is finding the time to do any writing at all.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: Again, insanity. I never liked Christian fiction; I never liked science fiction. But, because God has a marvelous sense of humor, He put me to work writing Christian sci-fi. No one was more surprised at this shocking turn of events than I.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: I have a group of writer friends who are like sisters. They’re talented, knowledgeable, and honest in their opinions. I’d be sunk without them. But they never read my WIP until after the first draft is completed and I’ve begun revisions. That first draft is a very personal thing, and I don’t want any outside input.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: Odd to say, but I think my favorite is a sad, emotional scene almost at the end. I’m not sure I really enjoyed writing it, because I cried all the way through, and I don’t like to cry – it messes up my sinuses. But I loved writing the scene because it was so unexpected. I was about three quarters of the way through the book before one of my characters pulled me aside and said, “Look. This is what has to happen.” I said, “No! I can’t do that!” But even as I objected, I knew she was right, so by the time I got to that part of the story, I did what she said. And when I wrote the scene, it blew me away.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: Adam tries to keep his life simple and straightforward, but things seldom work out the way he thinks they should. Though he seems to have everything going for him, he struggles with insecurity. The excellence he continually strives for always seems to escape him, and at times he’s not even sure what’s expected of him. In other words, he’s a lot like the rest of us.
Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: I’m not able to make any recommendations on that because I’ve never managed to find anything that’s particularly effective.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
A: If you want more evidence of my insanity, here it is: I love negative reviews. The first time I got a 1-star on Goodreads, I’ll admit I went all hot and cold and needed defibrillation for a minute or two. But it didn’t take long before my heart rate evened out again and I realized it was a great review. Why? Because it demonstrated that the reader truly “got” my story. She didn’t like it, but she understood exactly what I’d wanted to convey, and I found that deeply gratifying. Much later, that same book got a 1-star on Amazon by a different reviewer. In both cases, the objection was not to the writing—everyone seems to agree it’s well written—but rather to the theology. In the first instance, the reader objected to its blatant portrayal of Christianity; in the second, the reviewer was a Christian but objected to what he saw as a “hidden message.” Both these reviews prompted me to take a close look at what they said and evaluate my writing in light of it. And that only makes my writing stronger. Not everyone is going to like everything—we should expect wide differences of opinions. Instead of taking offense when a reviewer’s opinion differs from our own, we should analyze the criticism and see what we can learn from it. And remember that a review reveals more about the reviewer than it does about the quality of the book.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: Not having to woo a publisher.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: Not being able to sell books.
Q: What is your current writing project?
A: I’m working with a friend to polish and prepare a nonfiction manuscript for submission to publishers. It’s a fabulous book about her recovery from debilitating depression. Although I’ve never done nonfiction before, I agreed to help because it’s a subject near to my heart and a story the world needs to hear. It was pretty rough when I first saw it, but we’ve gotten it whipped into shape and are investigating publishing options. Also: I’ve been approached by someone else about helping him with a memoir; and I have a new novel on the back burner, bubbling hard and in need of pouring out. Soon. Before it burns me.
Q: What are three of your favorite novels?
A: I hate it when people ask me that “favorite” question, because I don’t have a favorite anything. At least here, I’m asked to list three, not narrow it down to one. But… nope. Still can’t do it. I’m beginning to think “favorite” depends on my mood. I recently re-read a book that was one of my favorites when I was young, but when I read it from a more mature perspective, I was appalled at how terrible it was. Obviously, what appeals at one stage of life can smell like an outhouse in midsummer at another. That said, three books that left me with that “wow” feeling when I finished them in recent years were (in the order I read them, not the order I like them): DeNiro’s Game by Rawi Hage; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; and The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. There are probably books I liked as well or better than these, but it’s these three that came first to mind. Now, please don’t ask me any more of those “favorite” questions.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would you talk to them about?
A: Well, I don’t know. Why lunch and not supper? And who’s doing the cooking, him or me? If it’s at a restaurant, what sort, and where? I need more information before I can answer. But we’d probably talk about the food. I like food. I eat it every day. Oh, you mean, what would I ask him about writing? Hmmm… Okay… I think I’d like to talk to J. R. R. Tolkein and ask how long it took for Middle Earth to catch on. Because it seems to be taking our Earth a very long time to discover my world of Gannah. I’m also curious about that delightful hobbit-ish tradition of second breakfast followed by elevenses. Is that something Tolkein practiced, or something he just fantasized about?
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A: Give it up. There are already too many books in the world, and with a couple million more being published each year, yours would be lost in the ocean of mediocre-at-best schlock. You’d be well advised to find another outlet for your creative energies. Cooking, for instance. I hear chef school is quite challenging. However, if you’ve tried to quit but can’t because the need to write eats you from the inside out, then you might actually be A Writer. If that’s the case, then keep plugging away at it no matter what. Continue to study the craft and improve in every way you can in order to bring your writing to the place where it rises above the crowd. But don’t quit your day job.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
A: Did you just ask me for another favorite? I believe you did. And I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ignore this question.