Life, On Writing

the week of editing: a suffragist aboard

I need to finish this current draft of my novel by Sunday the 11th. I know. I’ve got a deadline. ‘Ness,’ I hear you say. ‘Are you ready for that deadline?’

I laugh at your question. I howl with laughter. September was such a busy month that I don’t think I had the umph to touch my novel. And here I am – a week to get it finished off.

Join me? (Or exit this right now because I’m taking you with me – whether you like it or not. So. There.)

SUNDAY THE 4TH – RESOLUTION

I give myself a talking to in the mirror. As per my Plot Spreadsheet, I delete three chapters of Act One. I suddenly realised I haven’t introduced the key concept of the novel. I do that. Poorly. It’s getting late and tomorrow is going to be … a complex day at work, so I need sleep. And also to squeeze in a bit of reading. (Priorities.)

one must always have breaks to enjoy the world around you – said the hypocrite who does this once a week at the MOST

MONDAY THE 5TH – AHHHH

I think that working from home makes the work/life boundaries blur a little – it’s hard to know when to stop and also to not feel guilty about it. (There’s always so much to do!) But I’m trying to learn. I do a bit of 7 Minute Chi to stretch out a little, have a cup of tea, play the recorder, paint my nails, check reddit and … okay, listen, sometimes a girl has to chill. And then, finally, I’m ready to get down to business to defeat … the Huns. It’s 8:47 pm. Let’s do this.

It’s 10:46 pm and it’s time for bed – I conquered an entire chapter which … is not the pace I need to set! If I were a creature right now, I’d be a snail. Tomorrow? I need to mash three chapters into one. And then hopefully the pace will pick up and Act One will be complete by Wednesday.

I LAUGH IN THE FACE OF FUTURE NESS.

TUESDAY THE 6TH – AHHHHHHH

I was a fool. Work was crushingly busy and I worked late and missed Bible study because of it. Then I played the violin. Then I had a mental breakdown in the kitchen. Just your usual Tuesday activities. No writing was done.

WEDNESDAY THE 7TH – AHHHHHH

No.

THURSDAY THE 8TH – HA.HA

No.

FRIDAY THE 9TH – …

No.

SATURDAY THE 10TH

Despite having a bit of a lie-in, I’ve tided my work space and am ready. Candles are flickering, my nature sound app is chirping out bird songs, and some soothing music plays. I’ve got blocking apps on my computer and phone to take away temptation to browse mindlessly.

It is time. The aim is not to have a completely polished draft – that isn’t going to happen over a weekend, no – the aim is to make sure that the story is legible. All three acts go into one word document. I attempt to crack my knuckles. I fail. It’s 12:00 and it’s on.

It’s 18:52 and I feel as though I am hitting my groove. I’ve no idea how far I’ve got to go but I have tea and a fresh candle. I have had breaks to:

  • make popcorn
  • do a spot of cleaning
  • watch youtube videos
  • browse the ‘net
  • etc

But using blockers on my phone and internet is really useful for cutting out distractions. I work late into the night; determined to reach Chapter 28; I can do the rest tomorrow. I have to. It’s the deadline after all.

candles add atmosphere and soothe also – if any thief comes into your house, you can always toss one at them. effective? no. but will it make you feel better? OBVIOUSLY.

SUNDAY THE 11TH – THIS IS IT, WE ARE IN THE ENDGAME NOW

It’s 12:07 – music on, tea made, candle burning. This is it. I have to get this finished today and not into the wee hours of the morning; I have to go into the office tomorrow and that means driving early. Ain’t nobody got time for sleep-deprivation in this scenario.

So let’s get crackin’.

It’s all done. It’s finished. It’s sent off. I haven’t cried in relief, nor was it sent super late. I am rather impressed with myself; I’m always pleasantly surprised when I actually achieve something. And I did it. Life is glorious. I can now leave this project until November, when Editing/Feedback Week will happen.

Being a discovery writer instead of a plotter is a little tricky but I suppose as long as the end result is a definite ‘HA I KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING ALL ALONG’ that is what’s matters. I’m low-key excited. Right now A Suffragist Abroad is not at all perfect but by George, I’m going to make it so. Or at least, I’m going to make it so I’m happy with it.

Also: there’s slow-burn romance and unicorns and a Wizard and stoic scribe and a monster. It’s inspired by:

  • Norse mythology (though you’d never know)
  • Portal fiction
  • Unicorns
  • A daydream I had whilst in a Moldovan church
  • Suffragists
  • Medusa
  • And so on …

It’s zany and it’s weird but I had fun. So there we are! Watch this space, world! Something might be coming from it.

Life, On Writing

the rise and fall of my freelance career

IN A WORLD WHERE CIVILIZATION HAS CRUMBLED AND CRUMPETS ARE KING, ONE WOMAN MUST STRUGGLE AGAINST THE TERRORS OF THE TOASTERS AND FREE HER PEOPLE.

a blurb no one will ever pay me to write

For six months – from January 2019 all the way through June 2019 – I operated a fiverr account. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly successful account; but I received enough orders to put money towards my groceries while I was volunteering as an English Teacher in Moldova – and that was a badly needed blessing.

Here’s the two gigs I offered:

  • I would write the back blurb of a book
  • I would provide plot outlines/story ideas if you were in the middle of a block

THE RISE

I’ll never forget the first order I received. I was home for the holidays, I was excited and … I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was going to be totally professional and very, very awesome. So awesome. The awesomest.

Reader, I read the whole book in order to write a blurb. The. whole. book.

Don’t be like me. Never assume that you need to read the entire book in order to write a blurb. It will leave you despairing of an impulsive decision to be a FREELANCE WRITER! (woot woot!)

You can be sure that I learned my lesson. Trial met error and eventually I worked out what, er, worked.

He was alone, and he was scared … would he ever pay his mortgage in time?

Genre? Horror. Book? Unwritten.

THE GOLDEN ERA

I stumbled upon how to do it correctly – worked out how long a gig would take me to do, tweak the descriptions, made my own bio just quirky enough to grab prospective customer’s interest.

I wrote blurbs, some very interesting, some highly unusual. I wrote blurbs for a comic series, for an album (well, my roommate helped me with that one. I don’t have the first clue about music really, other than: huh, this sounds nice), for books that were factual and works of fiction.

I wrote outlines for stories (ACT ONE, ACT TWO, ACT THREE, a list of characters – helpfully labeled ‘A, B, C etc’) – I sat on my bed or on the windowsill in-between planning lessons or writing my own book, and forced myself to get on with it. To write blurbs that made me giggle, blurbs that were for books that seemed so personal to the author, blurbs that were to replace other blurbs and so on, and so forth.

For a dedicated procrastinator, I’m proud that I managed to get everything done on time. (It’s been long enough now for my memory to conveniently blank out any failings.)

It gave me satisfaction, it was entertaining, but most of all – and less romantically speaking – it put some money in my pocket.

the windowsill of occasional writing

THE INGLORIOUS END

I came home from Moldova and kept going … but then gigs were taking longer to fulfill, the hole that fiverr was filling wasn’t as gaping or anxiety inducing anymore. I put the price up to deter customers (when someone purchases a gig on fiverr? You can’t refuse it.) The freelance work dribbled, it drabbled, it gave a cough and a splutter and then I called it quits; I had a full-time job. It was time.

In total, I had done 70 orders, studied blurbs (THE SCIENCE OF IT! IT IS A LEGIT SCIENCE) plotted books I’ll never write, worked out that I was terrible at setting prices, and mainly had a very interesting time of it.

I know – I should break this post in two – it’s getting long … but HA, I’m not – let’s talk some do’s and don’ts:

DON’T READ THE ENTIRE BOOK TO WRITE THE BLURB. DANG IT. JUST DON’T.

If you want to write blurbs, don’t read the entire book. Ain’t no one got time for that. You can, if you want – but let’s face it, some of these books aren’t going to be your cup of tea. This is business. (Oh yes. I took myself seriously.) I asked for the following criteria:

  • details about the book – its genre, length, setting etc
  • the book summary
  • key info about the characters
  • things that the author was excited about in the book

Using this info, I was generally able to write a blurb that satisfied the customer. It was like a puzzle, attempting to understand the heart of the thing, and then how to put in a way that would leap out and grab any prospective readers.

Lost, far away from home, and cast into the dark depths of despondency by the loss of her One True Love, Hunter ManlyMan, Leena must wrestle with a terrible choice – tea … or coffee?

No one paid me to write this one either. A true shame.

DO BE REALISTIC

Be realistic about how long something is going to take you – and communicate with your customer. Always. Be realistic about the price – if you are getting a load of orders at a certain price, perhaps – when you’ve received enough reviews – you can put the price up.

But, like, my dude … maybe don’t take my advice on this one? I was generally:

  • insecure BECAUSE WAS MY WORK … WORTHY? OF THIS PRICE? (give yourself a stern talking to if you’re worried about this one.)
  • impulsive … research into the ‘market’ was really daunting so I winged it. Yeah. Maybe. Don’t do that? Or do?

DO MAKE BOUNDARIES

Writing blurbs for erotica wasn’t quite my thing. So. I learned to write on the gig’s description exactly what I was willing to write blurbs for. Or rather, what I wasn’t. There were some narrow brushes, but after one unfortunate … er, blip (or blurb) … I learned my lesson, set my boundary and cheerfully got back to plotting a book series out and writing a blurb about trees talking to us (genre? Factual.)

DON’T LET IMPOSTER SYNDROME SEIZE YOU

Imposter syndrome, feeling a fraud, ‘not good enough’ – I think this afflicts a lot of us. It afflicted me. How do you get past it? My friend – you fake it. Don’t feel confident? To heck with that! Write your bio, your descriptions, your interactions as if you are Maria belting out:

I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN SUNSHINE, I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN RAIN, I HAVE CONFIDENCE I CAN DO THIS STUFF AGAIN AND AGAIN.

legit lyrics from the sound of music

And then? You back that up. You say you’re dope? You can write tip-top blurbs or outlines? You do your best. Your very best. And then you send it to your customer and keep going.

(That’s the secret – keep going. No matter what doubts beset you.)

DO TRY TO HAVE FUN

Be professional but don’t strangle your quirkiness . Experiment with what works and what doesn’t. If you dislike something – it’s going to shine through. I always tried to be enthusiastic about what I was writing – attempted to be a maybe-reader and try to grab my own attention. Yeah. It was meta.

I have a full-time job now, but for those six months, I desperately needed something extra to keep going; and my brief brush with freelance writing definitely helped. I don’t know if it was a brilliant run – it certainly wasn’t enough to live on – but it helped. It really did.

And as a bookworm? It was hella interesting.

happy reading/writing etc etc

On Writing

hayden wand visits the blog

Today, I have Hayden Wand on my blog. I’m dead chuffed because I read her review blog for years and now I get to examine her brains about everything. I mean, to interview her. Asking questions. Politely. Nowadays, she’s over at Leatherbound, is an author herself, and has excellent taste*.

*And by that I mean – amongst many other wonderful things – she is a fan of Batman and doesn’t mind when I message her out of the blue about him. NO. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM? Why do you ask?

So, grab a beverage of your choice. Stand, sit, or lie down. Pop your headphones in or retreat to a quiet place. Or don’t do anything. Don’t let me tell you what to do – except for this: enjoy, because we are in for a treat! We’ve got books (of course!), writing (THANK YOU), a controversial opinion on Jane Eyre (* le gasp*) and Batman (!!!). Buckle up! Let’s go …

TRADITIONAL GIF IS NOW TRADITION!

Quick! Three random things about your day to day routine. GO!

1- The first thing I do when I wake up is make my bed. My day goes so much better when my bed is made.  

2-TODAY has a special wrinkle in my daily routine because my family and I are going to a ball tonight! Years ago, some friends of my family started a biannual heritage ball. We all dress up in our best finery (I have curlers in my hair right now) and then dance like it’s 1810 London. 

3- You know those fancy jade rollers you can use on your face for a massage or to apply serum? I have one of those and I love using it before bed. I feel very rich and glamourous when I do so. I immediately turn into a wealthy Hollywood Star circa 1938.

If you could read a book for the first time again – what would it be?

I think I’d have to say Pride and Prejudice, just because reading it for the first time was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. When I first read it, I knew nothing about it, and what’s more, I didn’t really know anybody else who’d read it either! So it was basically this book I no preconceived notions about and ended up—to my shock—loving.

I’m a little sad that overexposure to the story has taken away a lot of its charm for me.

What’s a classic you think is underrated?

Hmmmm….would the world kill me if I said Jane Eyre is overrated, and I enjoy Charlotte Brontë’s Villette much more? Even that isn’t my favorite (The Brontës and I don’t get along very well) but I think it’s weird how EVERYONE has heard of Jane Eyre, but like…no one knows about her other books.

If you had to turn a book into a flea, put the flea in a box, put that box into another box, mail it to yourself and SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!! … what book would it be?

OKAY- so this book shall remain nameless, BUT there was this one novel I read that basically used religion (and Biblical imagery/paraphrased quotes in particular) as an example of Men oppressing Women. I knew the novel would be more feministic than I’d probably agree with, but I’d hoped it would more nuanced. Nope. It got RIDICULOUS by the end to the point of not, “men and woman are equal” but “women are literal goddesses and men have usurped our place & used religion of their own to strip us from our power because they are jealous.” It was such a mess. 

you have no option – turn it into a flea

I followed your old review blog and you read a lot of Christian fiction – what are its strengths and what do you think it needs to do to improve?

Oh goodness. I was the BIGGEST Christian fiction reader back in high school, but now I’ve learned I can enjoy it much better in small doses.

One thing I think Christian Fiction does pretty well is just how they are usually just about Christian characters living their lives in the context of following Christ. I enjoy it when the characters are simply & unapologetically Christian. Even in “clean” books the characters often behave in ways that don’t match up to my own values, even if it’s implied they are “religious.” So finally getting a chance to spend time with heroes and heroines who believe the same things I do are a nice change from secular fiction.

But there are a lot of ways I think the genre needs to improve. Many of them follow the same plots they just reshuffle over and over, especially when it comes to spiritual issues; the writing itself can be a little bland and lack personality, and sometimes they can even be too worried about being “clean” at the risk of not being true or realistic to the story they set out to tell. I am excited that I’m seeing Christian fiction branching out, though—and it seems we’re finally getting more Christian sci-fi and fantasy writers out there, even if they don’t write strictly “Christian fiction.”

Now, you and I have discussed Batman in the past (YOU WERE A LIFE SAVER!!) – you’ve been given the opportunity to write a Batman comic (!!!); what’s the plot?

askjhdzfgdhszkf YES! (I LOVE our Batman discussions!!!) This is the BEST question. OKAY. It’s a detective noir-styled comic with high stakes BUT it’s also focused on the whole Batfam working together. Do they always get along? Of course not. BUT BRUCE ALSO LOVES HIS KIDS AND THEY WORK THINGS OUT AND SAVE GOTHAM.

But that doesn’t mean the story is touchy-feeling emotional stuff. Not. At. All. There’d be a lot of focus on organized crime & I think Penguin and Riddler would be the main villains, simply because they are my favorite. (Catwoman is actually my favorite, but at this point in MY comic run she is more of an anti-heroine and totally a part of the batfam as she was always meant to be). 

I also picture it being a bit “vintage”—not purely historical, but with that classic old-school comic book feel. Kind of like in the style of Batman: The Animated Series.

write this. WRITE THIS NOW. (please).

Fanfiction – what are your thoughts on the subject?

I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea because as a writer myself, people taking other writers’ characters and ideas to do their own thing seemed a little…weird to me. Especially because so much fanfic can be inappropriate and sexualized. Nothing annoys me more than when someone’s taken a relatively clean and wholesome form of media and rewrites it to be…dirty. BUT if it’s clean and it’s written well, I’ve come to really enjoy fanfiction—especially for comics and TV shows/movies. It’s also very therapeutic to peruse when characters you love end up with stupid or tragic endings.

I also do occasionally write fanfiction myself and find it to be incredibly fun! Except once I wrote the first three paragraphs to an Emma sequel, then forgot about it until YEARS later before finding the document and realizing that I had 1) no memory of writing it and 2) no idea where the story was going. Which I’m still annoyed about. It probably would have been a masterpiece. 

By the way, congratulations on the new book! What was your favourite thing about the writing process?

Thank you! January Snow has been a long time coming, so I’m glad to finally get her out there! (Even though the whole publishing process was an absolute mess this time—everything from accidentally uploading files with typos to issues with the cover coming out the wrong color—I. Was. Pulling. Out. My. Hair.)

BUT my favorite parts about writing?

I LOVE the planning! Making maps. Creating character names. Writing down detailed plot ideas and fitting them all together like puzzle pieces. There is nothing better than suddenly getting the answer to a plot issue that you’ve been stewing over for days. Or when you realize that you accidentally foreshadowed something? OH it’s the best.

Also, not going to lie—the point where you’re finished and publish the book and then people buy it and you get money? I’m also pretty fond of that part.

How did the story sprout – did you plan it or did it spring into being?

The setting is my family’s car, eight or nine years ago. Topic of discussion? Disney princesses.

My brother Harrison: “I really just can’t stand Snow White.”

Me: “OH? How can I FORCE my brother to LIKE this story and character??? Hmmmm…ah, yes….I shall add MOBSTERS!!”

Of course, that first idea went through MANY changes. In fact, my main character’s personality was completely different in the first draft. Unfortunately, that character was simply not right for the story, and it made the plot and tension really, really, weak. But once I figured out who January was—when she “clicked”—everything else finally started falling into place!

What does your writing space look like?

So my desk is *actually* a dresser in my room that has a space for a bench underneath. It works pretty well…except for the fact that sitting at a bench for long periods is not great for my back, so if I have a lot of writing to do and the house is quiet, I’ll sit downstairs at the dining room table.

But even so, I do love my dresser-desk. I have a row of classic books behind my computer, and they sit below a bulletin board full of random papers and artwork and fairy lights. I also have a daily “Shakespeare insults” calendar that I got from my parents for Christmas. 

Today’s insult is, “You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face,” from King Lear.

I take undue interest in staring at other people’s writing desks. This has drawers. And books. So – perfection?

Pandas or llamas?

Llamas! I even have a sweater with a llama on it. And an Emperor’s New Groove mug. And also llama lights around my bulletin board.

What’s a really good story you’ve imbibed recently?

I feel like I’ve just been banging around pots and pans lately yelling “watch Tangled: The Series!! It’s too good to languish in obscurity!!!” to the point where everyone is probably tired of it. It is good, though—and after being Greatly Frustrated by animated shows that started out well and then crashed and burned later on, it’s SO NICE to finally have a show that’s been consistently enjoyable. This one is true to the original characters, actually includes character arcs, has great plot twists, and is genuinely funny. I’m just mad it took me this long to get around to watching it!

Thank you so much for having me, Ness! I very much enjoyed it 😀

Thank you, Hayden!! When Disney + arrives in the U.K, Tangled: The Series is at the top of my list. THE TOP.


You can find Hayden on her blog here, follow her twitter here, and check out the stories she’s spun right here. (I recommend ‘For Elise‘. The writing style – very Gothic but in a modern setting – tickled my funny bone and I thought the storyline was terribly sweet. I also thought it was called ‘Fur Elise’ for ages. Apparently, I cannot read.)

On Writing

i also did not kidnap kyle robert shultz for an interview.

I am a social creature. Clearly. Today, I have the marvelous Kyle Robert Shultz with me. (I mean, not literally. But in spirit.) Shultz is the author of multiple series set in the Afterverse, a parallel universe where myths, fairy tales, and classic stories are real events and part of history. He lives in self-imposed exile in the southern Idaho desert, far enough away from humanity to protect innocent lives should he lose control of his awesome fictional powers and rip a hole in the space-time continuum or something.

So sit down (or stand), grab a cup of tea (or a pint, or a horn of ale, or coffee, OR HERBAL TEA OR NOTHING) and settle in – we’re in for yet another treat.

***DON’T READ ON … if you’d rather not touch on how Medusa is possibly misunderstood, ponder the best parts of book birthing, and dive into the deep depths of escapism and reading.***

apparently, this gif is tradition now.

I’ve been really enjoying Deadwood. Clearly you have an excellent sense of humour. What makes you laugh? Puns? Sarcasm? The ridiculous? Naked snails?

Why, thank you! So far as types of humor are concerned, I am very much on the dry, snarky end of the spectrum. The Twelfth Doctor is my spirit animal…either him or Peter B. Parker from Into the Spider-Verse; it varies. Though that doesn’t mean that a well-executed, totally goofy pun won’t elicit a snort of mirth from me from time to time. And of course, the vast comedic potential of naked snails is not to be underestimated.

The weird thing is that my style of humor varies depending on what character I’m writing, or, to put it another way, which part of the world I’m writing in. Todd Crane’s sense of humor in the Crockett and Crane series is decidedly American, and those books are a little more goofy in tone. Nick Beasley from the Beaumont and Beasley series, on the other hand, is a gruff, no-nonsense Londoner (or rather, Talesender, in this case) inhabiting a world with a distinctly Wodehousean flavor to its funny. I’m not a Brit myself, but I have immersed myself in a great deal of Britishness over the years through books, audiobooks, radio plays, etc.

Favourite mythological figure – from any culture! – go!

You want me to choose? Have you no mercy??? Okay, I’ll take a crack at it. I think I’ll go with…Hades. I mean, his relationship with Persephone is actually pretty sweet in quite a few versions of the myth; he once trapped two would-be kidnappers in magic chairs, which is hilarious; and he literally named his gigantic three-headed monster-dog Spot. He’s awesome.

Is Medusa maligned? I feel as though she, like sharks, have terrible PR. What are your thoughts?

Yes, I think that’s very accurate. The oldest myths about Medusa describe her as having been born with her unfortunate powers, so it’s hardly her fault, even if she did end up a little homicidal over time. I mean, who wouldn’t, in that situation? Perhaps if Perseus had just taken the time to have a conversation with her instead of getting all head-choppy, the conflict could have been resolved in a more civilized manner.

so when does this book come out?? YOU CAN WRITE IT. I’LL WAIT.

Why centaurs?

No, no, you’ve got it wrong. The question is obviously “Why not centaurs?” After all, they tend to appear in one of only two over-used archetypes: the barbaric monster or the star-gazing soothsayer. It’s high time they got more diverse representation in fantasy. You’re welcome, centaurs of the world.

However, to answer your question, I will have to rewind to the original draft of Crockett and Crane Book 1: Horseman, which was entitled “Horse and Man.” The book was much, much too long, and as I was editing, I realized that there were far too many instances of my main character Todd saying “I leaped astride my mettlesome charger and, wheeling into the wind, cried out, ‘Hi-ho, Cedric! Away!’” 

Slashing these reduced the draft from 200,000 to 50,000 words. But what of poor Cedric, and Todd’s need for transportation? Then, HARK, a brilliant idea: what if Todd was his own transportation? And so, Todd became a centaur. (Part-time, anyway.) This was clearly the most straightforward solution to the problem.

What’s a key component of your writing routine?

Writing. Which sounds like a really dumb and/or sarcastic answer, but that is not my intention…let me explain. What I mean is that if I don’t sit down with the intention of actually putting words on the page, one way or another, I’m not going to get any writing done that day, or possibly ever. I don’t necessarily write every day, as some people advise, but on a day when I’ve set out to write, I only allow myself a few minutes of “planning” time. If my brain hasn’t succeeded in coming up with a workable plan, and the clock is ticking, I say, “Okay brain, you’ve had your chance,” and just launch into freewriting. Some of my best ideas have come from this method.

Does a book come fully formed into your mind like KABLAM! THE BOOK IS IN YOUR HEAD! Or do you spend years plotting methodically? Or do you metaphorically fly by the seat of your metaphorical pinstriped trousers?

KABLAM! is actually a very accurate synopsis of my process. That’s not to say I have every last detail of the story in my head from the beginning, though…at least, not consciously. Typically, I get a tidal wave of inspiration for a story, then start writing madly until I’ve at least gotten the most crucial or difficult scenes on paper. After that, it’s more or less smooth sailing. I wouldn’t quite call it “pantsing”—or is it “trousering”?—because I do have at least a semblance of a plan. I just don’t write the plan out on paper because it uses up valuable energy and spoils all the fun surprises. Plus, I look terrible in metaphorical pinstripes.

Favourite part of the entire book birthing process? (That’s a weird analogy. I apologise. BUT STILL.)

No, it’s actually a great analogy. Can we authors help it if there are similarities between the two processes? Stop judging us, tiresome normal humans. I think my favorite part is actually the middle-ish part of the story, when I’m completely caught up in the creative flow and I know exactly where I’m headed with my various arcs. Granted, when it’s over, I find myself surrounded by empty coffee cups, wildly scribbled notes on any scraps of paper to hand, and unconscious people who dared try to interrupt me during the process, but it’s all worth it.

Hardest part of the biz? (For me it’s the fame. It’s just so difficult to handle.)

The fame is crushing. That said, I think the hardest part for me is balancing the business with the art. Mainly because I’m weird and I actually enjoy the business side of things, so I can easily get too caught up in one or the other. There has to be a balance between the two, or it just doesn’t work. It’s no good trying to create my own evil business empire to rival Disney if I’m not spending plenty of time just writing books. And, on the other hand, no matter how much I love simply sitting down and writing, I won’t get very far if I don’t pay attention to my business.

Are you ready for two deep questions?

Not remotely. Back, fiend. Back, I say.

TOO LATE. I often hear that reading is a form of escapism. Personally my answer is complicated, never succinct and always essay length. What’s yours?

I’m tempted to write an essay as well, but I’ll try to control myself. My simple response to this criticism would be, how is it a criticism, and what’s wrong with escapism? Now, granted, there are probably unhealthy forms of escapism, but I have yet to meet an average reader who is “too absorbed” in the worlds of their favorite books. I would say that the particular kind of escapism which comes from books is exceptionally healthy, especially since it puts the imagination to work more than other forms of entertainment. My books are frequently referred to as “harmless fun,” but it’s usually not in a derogatory context, because harmless fun is often what people want. So it doesn’t offend me in the slightest, nor would I call anyone out for saying it. 

Also, they are most definitely not harmless fun, Steve B. on Amazon, and if you don’t see the very weighty philosophical message in Chapter Twenty-Seven of The Reckoning of Rumpelstiltskin, then that is entirely your problem, you Philistine.

Our world seems a little darker and our lives can be difficult – how do you feel picking up a book can affect that? And, as a writer, how do you feel writing a book can help?

Speaking as a reader, I believe that picking up a book—especially a work of fantasy or science fiction, since those are my go-to genres—allows me to step outside the madness for a while, which gives me both breathing space and a fresh perspective. Granted, in order to accomplish that, it needs to be the right kind of book—the kind that I attempt to write myself. There’s a certain degree of idealism in my fiction; it’s definitely not “gritty” or “grounded.” But I believe that writers of the “fairy story” (the catch-all term which both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used for fantasy, mythology, etc.) have a responsibility to sprinkle at least a little idealism into their work, especially when writing from the Christian perspective. Our stories should incorporate what Tolkien called the “eucatastrophe,” “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).” Especially since, as Tolkien goes on to say, “the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.” (quotes from Tolkien’s “Letter 89”)

And finally – the VERY LAST QUESTION – what’s a solid tip, saying, sword, sentence, paragraph and/or elf that will help an aspiring writer?

Never tell anyone, including yourself, that you don’t know what you’re doing. Of course you don’t; you’re a writer. If you knew what you were doing, there wouldn’t be any surprises, and you wouldn’t have any fun. Pretend you do know what you’re doing, write the story anyway, and it will all turn out fine in the end. Trust me. I know exactly what I’m doing.

(And I do apologize for the deplorable lack of helpful elves.)

Thank you for stopping by, Kyle! It’s been a pleasure having you on here. I will forgive you for the lack of helpful elves one day.


You can stalk Kyle here, check out his brand-new release right here, or check out his book design business right here. (You might not need anything book designing-wise but you can still be nosy muhahahaha.)

(And if you just want a smile, go here.)

Characters, I think I just rambled, On Writing

writing wrestling – failure, me, and my characters

Of all the scenes I’ve ever written, there’s one that stands particularly vivid in my memory. It’s part of a trilogy that I wrote and the character – Nefna – is just having an awful time. Not an ‘arghhh I forgot that my tea was cold and also this isn’t my tea this is old mouthwash and WHAT HAVE I DONE’ day. But a ‘I HAVE BEEN MISTAKEN FOR THE WRONG PERSON AND I AM GOING TO DIE but on the plus side the snow’s dope’ day.

She’s kneeling on some flagstones and her blood is staining the snow and it’s just SO dramatic and terrible. I think I may have had tears in my eyes; it felt very real and vivid. One of those magic moments that happens when you truly connect to the story you’re weaving.

But despite that, that’s something that happens to Nefna. It’s not her fault. It’s just a huge misunderstanding that she’s going along with because of VERY VALID REASONS. It’s not a personal failure. (THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND SOMEONE’S EYESIGHT – THOSE HAS FAILED HER.) but she hasn’t.

And I think, that I don’t let my characters fail as much as I should. As someone who hates failure – I mean, who doesn’t? and takes it to a dramatic level …

PAUSE FOR EXPLANATION:

There was this one time that I was doing this work and I did it WRONG and basically it was awful and no good. Did I react maturely?

NO. You bet your sainted peanut I DID NOT.

I ran up the garden and climbed a tree. And considered a life of nomadic Tarzan-ing but with more clothes and FAR LESS MUSCLE. And so much shame and guilt.

That’s me. And yes, that was young me. But my gosh, I still do that inside.

If anyone else fails – you bet I’ll be there, thrusting both hands out to help them up. I can’t bear to see people fail. I can’t bear it because when they do it, I feel it. And it sucks. Because it does.

I think I have this issue with my characters – I can’t bear to let them fail. I can’t let them because it’s painful and killmenow to write. I haven’t noticed properly until quite recently, but I can see how it has seeped into my subconscious and oozed out of my fingertips.

(Also. That analogy was icky. I beg your pardon.)

But I think I’m going to let them fail a little more. And perhaps – be kinder to myself when I fail as well. After all, it’s pretty prideful to expect constant perfection of myself. Or, like, any perfection.

We’re flawed and we fail but we’ve got God and so it’s okay.

And my characters … they’re going to fail, and it will hurt and I won’t enjoy writing it. But perhaps it will help me a little as well. I wouldn’t say writing is therapy, but I would say that I look back and see myself reflected. Glinting at me through the sentences. A little piece here and there.

I’ve always thought that I was disassociated – even divorced – from my stories. That they and I were different things entirely. Ha! But I WAS WRONG.

I look back and see – hopes, dreams, bad spelling – all of it.

And maybe I’ll look back and see failure and won’t be horrified. Won’t want to bury myself in a pit of dark duvets. Or travel to the tip-top of a high mountain and be a monk, looking serene and untroubled and having my meals delivered by an elaborate system of pulleys that I’ve already have-planned.

So, here’s to failure.

To forgiving and learning and dusting yourself off and continuing on regardless.