First, let’s set the scene.
It’s 1998. A drizzly Western Washington fall afternoon. My eighth grade creative writing teacher turns off the classroom lights, illuminates some battery-operated candles, and spends the whole class period reading to us out of an anthology of stories that horror writers wrote with their kids.
Oh, maps, how I have a love-hate relationship with thee! When I was a teenager, I’d go straight to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of my local B.Dalton and look for books with maps. No map, no deal. Which meant that I read a lot of Fantasy, and very little science-fiction. When I wrote my first Fantasy short story, it was for an assignment in seventh grade for which we had to write a story that was at least six paragraphs long with at least one illustration. I wasn’t willing to display my lack of drawing talents to my teacher, so instead I drew a map and explained to her that all Fantasies had maps.
Pacing is something I think a lot about when I’m working on a novel. And something we talked a lot about in my Popular Fiction workshops: some genres, like romance, have specific conventions around when certain events (like the love interests meeting) absolutely must happen. Anne Leonard’s debut, stand-alone Fantasy Moth and Spark, took my expectations of pacing and threw them out the window in a daring and entirely fruitful way.
This impressive debut novel is the first book I’ve read in a long time that made me feel a perfect balance of tension between wanting to keep reading and wanting to write because I’m so inspired by what I’m reading. When I read something this good, feeling exactly what the writer wants me to feel, it reminds me that I could inspire the same feelings in readers.
In September 2001 I was sixteen years old and living in northern France. I was a high school exchange student, living in a family that wasn’t working out as well as I’d imagined they would. On September 11, my older host siblings told me there was something I needed to see on TV, and I watched the Twin Towers collapse live.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I've received didn't come from a writer. It was probably from a teacher, considering that she was talking to a group of students about taking our first trip to Europe. She told us to always look up.
It made sense as she explained it: most Americans are so focused on seeing specific things (the Mona Lisa, Notre Dame, etc.) that they forget to look up. They keep their noses in their guidebooks and their feet focused on the fastest route to their next destination. And by doing so, they don't noticed the amazing ceilings in the Louvre, or the precision with which Gothic arches fit together to become a cathedral's bones. And yet these things defined the places I was going to see even more than did the objects that drew the crowds.
Whenever I talk to people about e-publishing, the first thing I say is, "It's easy!" And it is, in a way. I can't think of many ways to make the actual act of e-publishing easier: all you have to do is fill out a webform or two. The hardest part is troubleshooting file upload issues.
It always fascinates me to hear about other writers' processes, with all their variations. I love hearing how they come up with characters, and how they interact with them--or don’t--both on the page and in their imaginations.
I've always been one of those writers whose characters talk to her. This is mostly true for the characters in my epic Fantasy series, who I've known since 1998 and who continue to surprise me. Like Jiminey Crickets for writers, they seem to talk to me most when I haven't written in a long time. Once, in college, I dreamed that they were plotting how to kill me. I don't remember what scene or change I'd been considering at the time, but I do remember that it had been a while since I'd written my novel--I'd let papers and other college assignments take over my time. I went back to writing very quickly.
I follow e-reader developments more or less everyday; it's always in the news I have delivered to my inbox, like Publishers Lunch and Shelf Awareness. I have a Kindle (third generation) and I’m quite pleased with it, even though I still do the bulk of my reading on paper.
About a week and a half ago, I thrust myself into the big, wide world of e-publishing by putting a Science-Fiction short story, "Mind Melding," up for purchase on the Kindle and Nook stores and Smashwords. I gleefully told my friends and coworkers, then sat back and waited, a grin on my face. I sold 11 copies on the Kindle, and for a few hours I even got in the top 100 in the Sci-Fi/anthologies category (not one I signed up for, by the way--I classified it in short stories); this only a week after publishing it!