JENNA ELIZABETH JOHNSON
Hi Jenna how are you? Tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! I am doing well and have been keeping myself busy this year so far with a handful of book projects. A little about myself … let’s see … I was born and raised in California and still live in my hometown in an area known as the Central Coast. I attended the University of California at Berkeley partially on a track and field scholarship and studied art practice and Celtic Studies. I love reading, of course, as well as sewing, drawing, camping and gardening, and one day I’d love to visit Ireland, Scotland and England.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
I have always been a fan of fantasy, but in both my Oescienne and Otherworld series, I draw heavily on Celtic themes. This comes directly from my time spent studying the ancient Celts in college. Having read and interpreted books such as Beowulf and the Mabinogion, as well as other Irish myths and legends, along with the culture of the ancient Celts, I had a nice wealth of information to draw from.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
Both my series are in the fantasy genre and I think I chose to write in that particular genre because I have always liked fantasy as opposed to other genres; I like the freedom fantasy allows the creator – there are not nearly as many limits as there are in other genres and fantasy challenges the writer to continually be creative. The Oescienne books are more epic or high fantasy, which gives me more room to maneuver. The Otherworld books are more urban, paranormal fantasy. It can be difficult to balance the two, but not too difficult. The biggest problem I have is that when I want to take a break from one and write more in the other, I have to give myself time to become immersed in the story and different world before I can really work with the characters again. I think this is true for any two different books or series; I don’t think the genres have to be different because even if both books or series are middle-grade, epic fantasy adventure, for example, there are two separate story lines and an entire set of different characters to get to know.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a lover of stories. I used to act out scenes from my favorite movie as a child (I often pretended to be Dorothy walking along the yellow brick road when I was very young, or acting out scenes from Robin Hood), but I didn’t become an avid reader until I was out of high school. I enjoyed shorter chapter books before then, but not until I started reading Harry Potter did my need for longer books really develop. In middle school, I enjoyed writing poetry, but nothing much longer than that. I was often dreaming up tales in my head, but didn’t start writing anything substantial down until after college.
How long have you been writing?
In the final year of college, in 2005, I had an epiphany of sorts. I was flipping through my sketch book (I had to keep one for art) and it dawned upon me that all of the drawings of creatures and maps and scenes were part of a larger story, and that if I didn’t start writing it down, no one would ever read it. That was how I began my writing career, in the span of a few minutes of realization. That summer, I began work on my first novel, The Legend of Oescienne – The Finding, and I’ve been writing ever since.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I stick mainly with the fantasy genre, and so far I’ve written a middle grade epic fantasy series – The Legend of Oescienne (that still needs to be completed) and a young adult/new adult paranormal romance series with the Otherworld books (which was only supposed to be a trilogy but has grown into a series now with no foreseeable end – basically, I’ll stop writing books in the Otherworld series when the characters stop talking to me). All my other back burner ideas are also within the fantasy genre. Some are for younger children, some for young adults and a few for a more adult audience. Some of them are more epic and take place in an entirely new world while others are more urban and take place in our world. I also have ideas that involve vampires and werewolves (I know, these themes have been very popular of late, but I’m hoping to add a twist to them and they are still developing, so who knows where they’ll end up).
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
Oh, I strongly believe, like the arts, that writing/reading/storytelling have enormous cultural value. The human race has based so much of their existence on storytelling, ranging anywhere from entertaining children around a campfire to creating the building blocks of our religions. Some part of our soul needs the ability and the exposure to stories. Since the dawn of time we have used tales to teach lessons or to bring peace to one another; to tell our own stories and to relay information. It’s almost as if storytelling has been an instinct since we first learned speech and I can’t imagine a world without stories, whether they be told in writing, the spoken word, or in performing and painting.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
I personally was raised Catholic, but follow a more new-age pagan way of thinking: do no harm to others, be kind, and love the Earth. I love nature and I love being in nature when I can, but I also hold true to some of the things I learned going to a Catholic school run by Irish nuns. There were times growing up where other students were unkind to me, but never did I feel left out or shunned by the nuns who taught us. I grew up learning not to judge others and to treat my fellow human beings with respect. I try my best to hold true to these values today. I feel more connected to the natural world and when I feel I need to seek peace, I’ll go out into my yard and walk amongst the trees or, whenever I get the chance, plan a camping trip to Yosemite where I can recharge my soul. John Muir had it absolutely right when he described Yosemite Valley as being one of the grandest temples of nature. I consider him a kindred spirit and fellow lover of natural things :).
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My goals for writing the Legend of Oescienne series were to tell the story that was trapped inside of me – give voice to the characters in my head – and to preserve, in my own way, the place where I live before it becomes overdeveloped. My goals for writing the Otherworld series were similar. I wanted to showcase my hometown, tell my characters’ stories, and most importantly, inform younger readers about Celtic mythology.
Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book?
Much of the research done for my Otherworld series was done during my time in college. I guess I could talk a little about my professors, since they were the main source of my information. I tended to take profuse notes in my Celtic Studies classes, and the classes were often so small it was more of a discussion group as opposed to a lecture. One of my favorite professors was from Australia and her lessons were so detailed and full of information that I often took two to three full pages of written notes per class. Another professor I had for one of the Norse mythology classes I took liked to add humor in with each lesson. These wonderful people made learning so much more interesting and fun, and because of that I think I retained more of what I learned and can now apply it to my own writing.
What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Fortunately, I had kept all of my college notes and books from the Celtic classes, so I had those to turn to when I needed to recall a certain detail or two. The nice thing about writing fiction, however, is that one doesn’t have to research as much as an author writing non-fiction might. The sort of research I did was to visit a few places in my local town (that’s where the Otherworld series is set) to make sure I had the details just right. The ever-knowledgeable internet was also a great resource whenever I didn’t feel like digging through my notes :). Besides all that, daydreaming and just thinking about my scenes and characters helped work out many problems.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Ah, good question … I don’t think any one thing characterizes my writing. My Oescienne series is written in third person, my Otherworld series is written in first person. In both cases my main protagonist is female, but I give equal presence to my male characters as well. My characters are all people or beings who have suffered through persecution or bullying or some sort of hardship during their lives. With every author I think they have what is referred to as Voice – that element to their writing that rings true and captures the reader, but is unique to each writer, sort of like fingerprints. It’s not just the style of their writing, but something about how the words and pace and characters make the reader feel. I feel my own Voice has some depth, a pinch of humor and strong characters (in their own way) who are demanding to be heard on a level that takes time to develop. I cannot define my own Voice as well as I’d like, at least not at this point, but maybe some of my readers would be better at this than me ;).
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
For the Legend of Oescienne – The Finding, the hardest part was figuring out what the heck I was doing. That was my first book, and by the time I was done with it and ready to start thinking about publication, it had been split up into two books. Now I’m having a hard time getting back into that series and finishing the fourth novel, and moving on to the fifth. I have been away from it so long that it might take some time to really get back into that world. For the Otherworld series, I think the hardest part about writing those novels was having the gumption to stick with my intuition with regards to what perspective to write it from. When I was working on Faelorehn, the first book in the series, a friend recommended I switch back to third person because she thought my writing was stronger in that perspective. I spent a good month trying to get myself to write it in third person but it just wasn’t working out. Finally, I gave in and told myself that my Muse and my main character didn’t want it any other way. In retrospect, third person would have made it easier in some ways, but I don’t regret sticking to what my characters wanted and what my instincts told me.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
For my Oescienne series, I enjoyed describing the different aspects of the world of Ethoes (geography, creatures that live there etc.) and actually sketching out the creatures that live in that world and the map to go along with it. For the Otherworld series, I think I enjoyed weaving what I learned about Celtic mythology with the modern world (and adding my own unique twists and interpretations) and setting up the scenes that took place in specific locations in my home town.
Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those.
For both series, yes. The world of Ethoes (Eth-oh-ess) (for the Oescienne (Aw-see-en) books), has a whole set of names that are unique to the series. I include a pronunciation guide in the back of the book for names of characters and places on the map. In the Otherworld series, I have created a number of words and phrases for the series. For example, Eile (Ee-lay) is the name of the Otherworld. A dolmarehn (dole-mar-en) is a passageway between realms or locations within Eile. Cumorrig (koo-more-ig) are the demon hounds of the Morrigan. Shil-sciar (sheel skee-ar) is a type of communication done telepathically. Those are just a few examples.
Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
For the Oescienne series, my main protagonist is female, which isn’t always the case with epic fantasy. Not only is she a girl, but she is a tomboy who does everything a boy character would be expected to do. Most young girls in epic fantasy novels are princesses. Not Jahrra. She is found and raised by dragons and is not afraid of challenges. For the Otherworld series, Meghan and her friends are all the ‘outcasts’ of society. Meghan is somewhat awkward and odd, Robyn is a Goth girl and rough around the edges, Tully is kind-hearted but chooses to spend time with Meghan and Robyn, Will is a band geek and Thomas is gay. I wouldn’t say that these types of people are underrepresented in literature, but they aren’t always the heroes. Also, I would have to say that my subject matter for the Otherworld series is underrepresented. There isn’t much out there with regards to Celtic mythology.
Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? If so, explain.
Absolutely. I think the biggest misconception people have about my books, in general, is that since they are self-published, they might not meet the standards they expect in traditionally published books. When I tell people I’m an author and I’ve written such and such books and I describe the plot and genre, they seem interested. As soon as they ask who my publisher is and I tell them I’m published independently through Create Space, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing, a little of that enthusiasm falls away. Although independent publishing isn’t what it used to be, there is still a stigma that the indie publishing industry is trying to shake off.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn't so?
I guess the biggest thing they think they know about young adult paranormal, or even fantasy in general, is that the spectrum is so much greater than just sword and sorcery or vampire romance. I think people perceive fantasy as nerdy and silly and won’t even try it because of the fact that magic and unrealistic creatures and events exist in the worlds of these books, but that is only a small facet of the fantasy genre. Fantasy novels, good ones, at least, are not about magic and dragons and elves and werewolves, but about the underlying themes of good versus evil and man versus himself etc. There is so much more to fantasy books than the labels people place on them. If they can just get past that aspect, they might find a wonderful story beneath the magic they have been missing.
What is the most important thing that people DON'T know about your subject/genre, that they need to know?
That the young adult genre isn’t just for young adults, and neither is the middle-grade genre. I have several readers who are older than me who have enjoyed my books. Also, paranormal romance isn’t just for the girls. I have several male readers who proudly proclaim they like the characters and the story. The same can be said for fantasy. You might think you don’t enjoy a certain genre, but you never know until you try it.
What inspires you?
Anything and everything. There are things I continue to go back to (instrumental music with a Celtic theme is always good for writing and brainstorming, as well as getting away from the computer screen and just walking around in my back yard), and there are also things that might inspire me on a whim. It could be the color of a flower or the way someone behaves in front of me in line at Starbucks or a picture of a person I see on Pinterest. Inspiration can strike at any time.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
Lots of hard work, perseverance and a willingness to learn and grow from my failures. There is the old saying that one must fail several times before they succeed, as if failing at something is the worst that could possibly happen. I might have stuck to that mantra when I was younger, not anymore. Failing isn’t the worst thing that could happen, but losing your purpose or the drive to continue on toward the thing you love. To me, that is worse than failing. I know I’ve failed at several things I’ve tried, but when you have a clear end goal, the failures along the way are just the speed pumps you have to slow down and pass over before continuing on. In all honesty, I can’t think of a time when I’ve failed to the point that it really brings intense pangs of regret. I think this is because I’ve learned to use these small (or even big) failures to my advantage. So this method didn’t work or this path led to nowhere, time to shrug my shoulders and veer around it.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
J.K. Rowling and Christopher Paolini have had some affect in their own ways. With Rowling, I really got back into reading with the Harry Potter series and it may have been the first series that made me feel like I was escaping into a different world. I loved that feeling and wanted to do the same with my books. With Paolini, I had already started working on my Oescienne series when I read Eragon and realized they were similar and that I hoped to have the success he did one day. Other authors (Sharon Shinn, Maria V. Snyder, Ilona Andrews and Sherwood Smith) have impressed me with their world-building and characters. Although most of them haven’t influenced my current books, I have a few projects on the back burner that have been direct world/plot ideas from having read these other authors. The final two are Amanda Hocking and Rick Riordan. Hocking’s Switched features the Norse theme of the changeling myth and she started out publishing independently and has been hugely successful. Her success inspired me to sit down and write the Otherworld Trilogy. Riordan’s Percy Jackson books also influenced me. What he was doing with Greek Mythology I wanted to do with Celtic Mythology.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
The neatest thing about writing books, I’ve found, is that just about anyone can do it, if they are willing to learn along the way. I never took any creative writing classes, instead, I learned to write books through the process of reading them. I was capable of writing, I could string sentences together and always did well on my essays in school, but I had never really ventured too far into creative writing. I think the most destructive aspect of learning how to write is giving in to the critics. And by critics, I’m including the people you know and even yourself. Not everyone is going to be as supportive about your writing a book as you’d hope, and sometimes you have to set aside the negative criticism these people send your way. You also have to learn how to embrace the negative criticism that comes your way while you’re working on your manuscript and take it with an open mind. Finally, you must learn not to be overly critical about your own work. It is good to realize what your strengths and weaknesses are, but it isn’t good to dwell on only the negative.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I consider myself a full-time writer with a part-time job. In my opinion, there is really no such thing as a part-time writer. You can be a writer with a full-time or part-time job. It isn’t like other occupations – it is a state of being. If writing is your passion, you find time to sit down and type away. Even if you aren’t physically writing or typing, you are always thinking about your current story or the next project, wondering what your characters are going to get themselves into next.
What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
Right out of college, I moved back to my hometown and got a summer job at a pet store. I stayed there longer than the summer, jotting down notes and plot points in a small notebook during my lunch breaks. After that, I took a job as a full-time instructional aide at my old elementary school. I’ve been there ever since and now I’ve cut back my hours to part-time. In the next year or so, I’m hoping to focus entirely on writing. That is my end goal. Having said that, working at the school for the past ten years has been great because it has given me lots of time off to write, and working with kids helps me with writing for their demographic.
For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
I would suggest those interested in Celtic mythology start with a book of Irish myths and legends. The Mabinogion (a Welsh collection of tales) is also a good place to start.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I love ebooks because of their convenience and price. With ebooks, I can have several at my disposal either through my Kindle or my iPhone and usually they cost less than paperback or hardcover books. I don’t mind physical books and I know many people who still prefer them, I just enjoy ebooks for the reasons I mentioned above. Plus, if I discover a new series and I finish the first book and want to start reading the second book right away, I can get it immediately in ebook format instead of waiting days for it to arrive if I were to order the physical book. I’m also becoming highly addicted to audiobooks. I don’t care whether a book is published independently or traditionally, as long as it’s good, I’ll read it. I read books by both traditionally and independently published authors. What I care about are strong characters, and interesting story line and a well-developed world.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
People will always need stories, it is something we yearn for as human beings. I can’t say reading and writing will exist forever in our future, especially with the popularity of movies and such. Having said that, there will always be a need for the creator to write the script, and there will always be the actors and actresses and directors who will have to read that script. I don’t think it will ever come to this (at least I hope it won’t) because there is nothing quite like reading a paperback or ebook, or listening to an audiobook, to help one relax and let their imagination have some play time.
What process did you go through to get your book published?
At first, I tried going the traditional route by sending out query letters to agents. After ten rejections (not that many, by publishing standards) and after learning that some authors queried for ten years before getting an acceptance, I decided I didn’t want to wait that long. I polished my book a little more and started researching indie publishing options. An author friend of mine used Lulu.com and I started with that, then moved to Create Space when I learned my books would be available on Amazon.com that way. After that, I formatted my books for Kindle Direct Publishing and Nook Press, then finally Smashwords. Along the way I learned how to format and also found some beta readers and editors to help fine-tune my final manuscript. Now, when I finish a manuscript, before it’s ready to be uploaded on to those websites for publication, I read through it once or twice, then send it to my beta readers, then send it to my editor. During this time, I let my readers know the book is on its way, do a cover reveal and maybe post some snippets on my Facebook page or website. When I get it back, I peruse it one last time then format it for ebook or paperback book submission. Once everything looks good and it’s as polished as it can be, I am ready to publish. I usually post the first chapter, as well as the cover, on my website at this time to give my readers a preview.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
For the Otherworld series, I think my use of Celtic Mythology makes it unique among fae or paranormal themed books. I’m not saying it’s the only series that utilizes Celtic myth and legend, but that theme is definitely one that isn’t found too much in fantasy books.
How do you find or make time to write?
Fortunately, I work in the school system so I get summers and long holidays off. That gives me the time I need to write, but when I’m in full writing mode, I set aside time each day or each week to get work done. Since writing is a major priority in my life, I am able to make it work with my schedule. More often than not, my schedule works around my writing. Sometimes I’ll write in the afternoons and sometimes I’ll switch things up and get up very early in the morning to get my word count in before my day job starts. It all depends on my mood, but if I don’t write for an extended period of time, I start to get restless.
Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
I think I do both. I let intuition lead me, then logic trails behind to set things straight. The important thing is to get all the words and thoughts down on paper (or into a Word document) and then go back with the tools of logic to make it all make sense and work out. I try to finish the story before I start revising, and I never write in chronological order. Some stories might start out that way, but never have I finished writing something from beginning to end without pausing to work on scenes that are out of order. This is the intuition side: I write what is there when it comes to me so I don’t lose it. Then, when it is all out, I go through the manuscript carefully and piece the scenes together.
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
Promotion takes up so much time, and it isn’t always very effective. I try to set up ads on websites and blogs throughout the year, and I try to keep my Facebook page and website as up to date as I can. Having my books in themed bundles (Faery Worlds and Faery Realms) helps also. Much of my promotion is done at book events (local craft fairs and festivals, book fairs etc.). I’ll be taking part in the L.A. Times Festival of Books in a few weeks and not only do I aim to sell books, but I give out a lot of free bookmarks and posters, as well as hosting a book drawing. I also host lots of giveaways on my Facebook page and occasionally on Goodreads. I try to make myself as present as possible at book events and online as well, and I count on my readers to spread the word about my books. All of this definitely takes up time, but it is something required of all authors, especially indie authors, if they want to be seen and heard.
What is your role in the writing community?
Good question. I guess I can talk a little bit about my endeavors off of the page for this one. The California Writers Club has recently taken steps in setting up a branch in my area and I have been attending meetings and taking part as much as I can. In that aspect, I hope to shed light upon, and to connect with, writers in my own hometown, especially young writers who have dreams of pursuing writing as a full-time career and specifically through independent publishing. I hope to be an example to them that it is possible to succeed in the writing industry and make a decent living off of writing and do my best to help them reach their own dreams and goals while continuing to work on mine.
What do you like to read in your free time?
I enjoy mostly reading my genre and I’ve really gotten into audiobooks lately because I can listen to those on my way back and forth to work. Gives me the chance to read when I’d otherwise not be able to. I’m currently listening to the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I’d read it before, but there was a lot I forgot. Moning also uses Celtic history in her books so it goes well with my series (although the Fever books are definitely for adults and not YA readers).
What projects are you working on at the present?
I just finished a novella for the Otherworld series and that is currently with my editor. It will be featured in a book bundle, Faery Tales, and will be released sometime later this spring. I’m also nearly done the first draft of a novel that will also take place in the world of the Otherworld, but it needs some work before I can send it off to my beta readers and editor. I’m also trying to get the audio edition of Luathara (Book Three of the Otherworld Trilogy) complete. The fourth book of the Oescienne series is also long overdue and I would like to get that finished up in the next few months.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I have a lot planned for the Otherworld series. There will be at least nine or ten more books in that series, maybe more. I want to finish writing the Legend of Oescienne – I have two more novels to write in order to wrap that one up and don’t have any plans, as of right now, to expand on it. After that, maybe I can squeeze in some time for some of those back burner projects I’ve got waiting in the wings.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not that I’m aware of. As an author, I’m already strange so I don’t think I’d recognize anything that isn’t the norm. I tend to write my stories in bits and pieces and out of order, but then again I think lots of authors do this. When I’m on what I like to call a writing rampage, I lock myself up in my writing room with a pot of tea, my writing music (Celtic instrumentals mixed with similarly-themed soundtrack scores (The Lord of the Rings, Twilight etc.)) and plenty of snacks. I often get up during my writing sessions, every twenty minutes to a half an hour or longer, and go outside to walk around in my garden for a bit and clear my head. When I feel revitalized, I go back inside to write some more.
What book do you wish you could have written?
Recently, I finally got around to reading (well, I actually listened to the audio version ;)) the Mortal Instruments. I have only made it through the first three books, but I love the character dynamic and the world Cassandra Clare invented (and I absolutely love Magnus Bane. Why could I have not created that character?). I wish I could have written this series, or perhaps Harry Potter or Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series as well as a dozen or so others. Whenever I read a book and the characters really get under my skin, I find myself wishing I had been the one to bring them to life :).
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Here’s just a short list of authors whose books or characters or writing style have inspired me: Sharon Shinn, J.K. Rowling, Maria V. Snyder, Sherwood Smith, Karen Marie Moning, Lindsay Buroker and Ilona Andrews. There are others, of course, but these authors have created books and worlds that keep me coming back for more.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because I see my characters being unique people and it’s hard to picture them as being portrayed by anybody else. Having said that, I have thought about it, of course. I imagine my Oescienne series working better as an anime film, but for the Otherworld Trilogy I can see that as live action. I created an IF List (Imagine Films List) for the Otherworld Trilogy and some of the top contenders are Brock O’Hurn or Brant Daugherty as Cade MacRoich, Alix Elizabeth Gitter as Meghan Elam and Elizabeth Gillies or Zooey Deschanel as Robyn Dunbarre to name a few. I would also love to see my characters portrayed by new talent; actors and actresses looking for their big break. Of course, this is all just a dream right now, but who knows what the future might hold?
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Names are somewhat important to me. Most of the time, it’s all about how the name sounds and if I think it fits the character. I will sometimes write a good majority of the book before settling on a final name. In other cases, I’ll purposely pick a name because its meaning works well with a character trait. Other times, the name comes to me and I can’t shake it. This is true for Meridian, Meghan’s spirit guide merlin in the Otherworld series. The name Meridian came to me without much contemplation and it stuck, leaving me with the task of writing a scene around Meghan giving this name to her animal companion.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Another good question. I would have to say completing my first book, The Finding, and then taking that step into the world of self-publishing. I really had no idea what I was doing or where it would lead me, but I think having done so got me pointed in the right direction. I have always been secretive and timid about my projects, and with the completion and release of that book, I was facing one of my biggest fears. True, I still have moments where I will avoid something because it’s ‘scary’, but I’m slowly getting over that fear and learning that if I want to reach this dream of being a full-time, successful author, I need to face those challenges head-on time and time again.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully I’ll have another ten or more books under my belt and maybe even a movie deal. A movie deal for any of my series would just be icing on the cake. I think all authors have that dream of seeing their books adapted into movies and although readers often complain that movies are never as good as the books (I am one of those readers ;)) it would mean bringing more awareness of my books to those who haven’t discovered them yet. Plus, it would be totally awesome to see how another artist/writer/creator envisions my story and it would be so cool to see it come to life. So, in ten years it would be great to see the film version of my books.
Were you already a great writer? Have you always like to write?
I wouldn’t say I was a great writer before I took the first step to becoming an author. I was a good writer – I knew how to put together a good essay and I’d had great teachers throughout middle school, junior high and high school. I wouldn’t say I always liked to write. I joke with people about how ‘new’ my dream to be an author is. Many writers I meet will express that they have wanted to be writers since they were small. I haven’t always enjoyed the actual writing down of words, but I have always enjoyed dreaming up stories.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
1. Write everything down, even the silly stuff. One day it might make a great prompt for a new book. 2. Don’t be too hard on yourself and set realistic goals. Writing is tough, no matter what other people might try to tell you. Give yourself time to make the story work and it’s okay to set something aside if it isn’t speaking to you at that moment. 3. Read, read, read. Authors get their ideas not only from life experiences or from daydreaming, but from reading other books. On several occasions another author’s work has sparked ideas for my own books and by reading I learned how to format a story and put chapters together in a meaningful way. 4. There will be days when you think your writing is the best stuff ever created, and then the next day you might feel like it’s garbage. This is normal. Don’t throw anything away or erase it. Set it aside and come back to it later when you’ve emerged from the doldrums. 5. Negative reviews, for the most part, are opinions. Don’t let them get you down. Not everyone is going to like your work. If the negative reviews do get you down, step away and look up your favorite books and read some of those negative reviews. This helps remind me that yes, there are people out there who won’t like what you’ve written and that’s okay.
If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?
Now that’s a hard concept to grasp ;). I never really could settle on focusing on one subject in school to turn into a career. Even in college, I wasn’t sure. I ended up majoring in art practice and minoring in Celtic Studies because I liked both subjects, but I also like sewing, gardening, the natural sciences and a handful of other things. I guess if I didn’t enjoy writing, I would take up a cause with one of those other things. Perhaps I’d make a living on Etsy selling my tea cozies and quilts, or find a job in the National Parks system. Right now, I have a part-time job as an instructional aide at a school. I suppose I could go on doing that, but now that I’ve found my true calling, it’s tough imagining doing anything else.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes, I do. I read every one that I find. Some people tell you not to read reviews, but I think it can be a very helpful habit. You just have to remember to keep some perspective: this is someone else’s opinion and not everyone is going to like your book. I feel that some reviews have information in them that can help you with your writing. If someone didn’t like your book and they wrote a well thought-out review, then there might be some feedback in that critique you can use to improve your future writing. Maybe in the last x amount of ‘negative’ reviews, the reviewers keep bringing up the same points (she keeps using the same word over and over again, her secondary characters are too flat, this book could have been edited better etc.). Information like that can help you work on those problems in your next book. I NEVER respond to bad reviews. I might share them with my readers if they seem way over the top (without displaying the name of the reviewer, of course), but I never contact the person who left the review. This is a big no-no. Like I said above, people are entitled to their opinion and I appreciate the fact that a reader took the time to write a review, negative or positive. I will also share some of the positive reviews on my Facebook page from time to time, but the only time I would respond to a review is if the reader emailed me personally. I have yet to receive a negative review via email, but when I get nice emails from readers I make an effort to respond to each one personally, thanking them for once again taking the time to reach out to me and answering whatever questions they might have. I LOVE interacting with my readers and getting their feedback.
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Probably the revising. I shouldn’t hate this part, but I think I do because it is so time-consuming and is the most tedious/toughest part in my opinion. Writing the story is so much fun, but revising is the chore I dread the most because I have to go through anywhere between 25,000 words to 160,000 words (depending on the book) and painstakingly make it all flow nicely and work together. That being said, once I’m done and the book is completely finished, it is one of the most euphoric feelings ever.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I can’t say I’d never write about one subject or another, because at one point I thought I wouldn’t like reading (or writing) in the paranormal genre, and look where that took me. I can tell you some of the genres I really don’t care for at the moment and can’t see myself writing about anytime soon. In general, I’m not a fan of non-fiction. I like to read about recent scientific discoveries and things like that on occasion, but it’s not something I look for when browsing my local bookstore. Another genre that I don’t think I’d ever write in is anything having to do with sports. This is odd, because for a long time I was a shot put and discus thrower (throughout high school and college). Perhaps spending so many years as an athlete has made me disinterested with regards to sports books.
Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Surprisingly, writing the love scenes has become easier for me. First of all, they aren’t as detailed or racy as most romance novels because, so far, I have kept them tame for the young adult genre. However, when I start getting more into the new adult and adult side of writing, I’m sure I’ll have a difficult time putting them together. At first writing those scenes, as tame as they are, was a bit awkward, but once I cleared that hurdle it hasn’t been so bad. I’m assuming it will be the same should I ever venture into the more adult-themed books I have on my backburner. I think the hardest part for me is writing the scenes between scenes – the transition scenes. I tend to write in patches, one scene here, another there, then I weave them all together. It can be quite tedious at times trying to get them all lined up so that the entire story flows well and makes sense. Some of the other tough scenes are those featuring dialogue where I’m trying to convey a certain emotion or reveal something important to the plot without giving the ending away entirely. These scenes can be tricky because I want to get them just right and it isn’t always easy to find the right words.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
I started writing The Legend of Oescienne series first. The Finding, The Beginning and the Awakening are the first three books in that series, with Tales of Oescienne a short story collection to go along with it. I still have two more books to complete before the Oescienne series is finished. After writing The Awakening, I decided to take a break and write the Otherworld Trilogy (Faelorehn, Dolmarehn and Luathara). I wanted to keep that series to three books, but then my other characters started asking for their own stories and the series continues, to this day. After the initial three novels, I wrote Ehriad (three scenes from Faelorehn told from Cade’s perspective), Ghalien (another Cade POV short novel), Lorehnin (a spin-off told from another character’s (Robyn’s) perspective), Caelihn (a short novel taking place right after Lorehnin) and finally, Faeleahn (a Cade and Meghan short story taking place right after Luathara to be released later this spring). So all in all, nine novels and three novellas.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I am currently working on Faeleahn, a novella and an addition to the Otherworld series. Faeleahn is currently with my editor and is going to be exclusively published in a multi-author bundle titled Faery Tales. I have included Faelorehn and Ehriad in two other similar bundles, Faery Worlds and Faery Realms, and this latest Faery bundle will be available (hopefully) sometime in May. I’m also nearly done with another Otherworld-themed novel, Faeborne, that I’m hoping to publish shortly after Faery Tales becomes available, and for the past several months I’ve been trying to finish the long overdue fourth book in my Oescienne series, The Ascending.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. Have you ever found yourself in similar situation?
Yes, but mostly when I was a kid ;). As I got older I learned how to avoid those types of situations. Also, my characters tend to get into situations of a fantastical or Otherworldly nature. I don’t know what I’d do if I were to walk down my street one day and come face to face with some Otherworldly monster.
What is your biggest fear?
Besides dying in a plane crash? I would have to say losing my current momentum with my writing. I’m at a point where I am almost doing well enough to let go of my part time job and focus entirely on writing and all the promoting and such that goes along with it. My fear is that the books I release from this point onward won’t do as well, or my readers will lose interest and I’ll have to go back to working full-time again. I was miserable working full-time and trying to do everything that needed to be done for my writing. For someone who has a creative mind, the typical nine to five job is very hard. We don’t do well in that sort of environment. Hopefully this won’t happen, but it is a fear I try not to think about.