Hello everyone! We’re just one week away from my May tour dates in Ohio, so this seemed like a good time to remind you guys about exactly where and when you can come talk about the books/get your copies signed/etc. in the next two months.
Tuesday, May 18, 7 p.m.: Joseph-Beth, 2692 Madison Rd., Cincinnati, OH
Wednesday, May 19, 7 p.m.: Books & Co., At the Greene, 4453 Walnut St., Beavercreek, OH
At both events, I’ll be appearing with the fabulous Ellen Schreiber of VAMPIRE KISSES fame, so how can you resist us both? Also, I’ll be a guest on the “Cover to Cover” radio program on May 18, so tune in.
June 3-6: Madrid Book Fair in Madrid, Spain! I don’t have specific dates/times for this one yet, but stay tuned; I’ll share more as I learn more. I’m really looking forward to my very first trip to Spain and, hopefully, to meeting plenty of you there.
Sunday, June 20, 10 a.m.: Un Mare di Libri festival in Rimini, Italy! I don’t have more specific location details at this point, but I should closer to time. So, Italian readers, wouldn’t a weekend by the seaside be perfect?
Also! I’m going to be doing some ARC giveaways the rest of this month. First batch: the mysterious STRANDED, by J.T. Dutton; the scary EARLY TO DEATH, EARLY TO RISE by Kim Harrison; and the magical WAYFARER by R.J. Anderson. How do you win? Just email me at evernightclaudia at gmail dot com with the subject line “May ARC Giveaway #1,” and include the name and address I should send your books to if you win. One winner gets all three books, when I pick that winner at random on Monday, May 17! (But don’t despair if it’s not you, because there will be more giveaways this month, plus more to come in future.)
I hope to do some interviews with the authors of these ARCS, and sure enough, I got started this week — though I cheated a bit, as R.J. Anderson is a friend of mine from way back. Instead of an interview, we basically had a conversation, which is either due to our long-lasting friendship or my inability to stop blabbing. We talk about her books, how we write, why love can never be perfect, and more. Hope you enjoy!
CG: Sorry I’m late.
RJA: No problem, I was late too. My 4 yo was having a meltdown over a game of CANDY LAND.
CG: Well, admittedly, those are high stakes.
RJA: And he was SO CLOSE to winning, too. Twice. Then that dreaded Plumpy came up… and it was all over.
CG: The Molasses Swamp has destroyed better men.
RJA: Curiously, we have never got stuck in the Molasses Swamp. Not once.
CG: It waits. It bides its time. Okay, onto chat. First question isn’t even a question: Tell my readers about your series, including your new book, WAYFARER.
RJA: Well, my books are about faeries, but of the small winged variety as opposed to the tall, dark and sexy variety. (Which is not to say that small faeries can’t be dark and sexy too, of course, but… you get the idea.)
CG: But they’re still not entirely what we might think of as “traditional” fairies, right?
RJA: Right, because the faeries in my book have lost their magic and are forced to struggle for survival in a hostile environment — the modern human world. So instead of flitting about granting wishes or enjoying adventures in some pretty fairyland, they’re trying not to get eaten by crows and foxes. The first book, FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER a.k.a. KNIFE (in the U.K.), is the story of a fierce young faery who fights to save her dying people while concealing her forbidden friendship with a human boy. It’s part mystery — the mystery being, how did the faeries lose their magic, and how did they get cut off from the human world? — and part action/adventure, and part (gasp!) romance.
CG: I love the romance in the first book — Paul is so not the typical hero, and yet he brings out the best in Knife.
RJA: Thank you! I wanted to write characters who are flawed and struggling, but could also have a relationship that readers would enjoy.
CG: Perfection only works in small doses, I think — those moments when we get to transcend ourselves. But if they’re more than brief moments, nobody believes it.
RJA: The second book, WAYFARER a.k.a. REBEL, takes place fifteen years after the first one. It’s the story of Linden, the youngest faery in the Oak, who must take up the challenge of finding other faeries who can help her people. She enlists the somewhat unwilling help of a human boy — Paul’s young cousin Timothy — and they embark on a long and dangerous journey, pursued by the emissaries of an evil faery Empress who wants them both dead.
CG: I take it this empress has her magic intact? Or does she have other ways of hunting them down?
RJA: Well, it’s only the faeries in the Oak who have lost their magic, for reasons explained in the first book. But there are other faeries in the world who live in a very different way and have a very different attitude to that of the Oakenfolk, and they have some very powerful magic. The Empress especially.
CG: So you have the faeries not only struggling to survive in the modern world, but battling each other.
RJA: Yes. But my book doesn’t deal with the faery courts the way many other faery books do, and you won’t find characters like Oberon and Titania and so on. My faeries have their own particular struggles and politics. That is, I suppose, where I diverge most strongly from folklore — although there’s a lot of folklore behind my stories, particularly in the second book where I draw on some little-known Welsh legends about faeries.
CG: This story has been with you a long time, hasn’t it? Do you remember its specific inspiration?
RJA: There were a lot of influences on the book. The FLOWER FAIRY books I read as a young child — those gave me a fondness for faeries who looked like humans with wings, as opposed to green-skinned imps and so on. As a teen I read a lot of superhero comics with strong, fast, powerful females — particularly Frank Miller’s ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN — and I was also somewhat fascinated with various incarnations of the story of Peter Pan, including (so help me) Spielberg’s HOOK, which is terrible in many ways but did leave me feeling sorry for Tinkerbell being in love with a human…
CG: Tinkerbell + Electra = one kick-butt faery.
RJA: Pretty much, yes! Also, the character of Paul is my response to two particular authors, Madeline L’Engle and L.M. Montgomery, both of whom wrote disabled male characters that I came to love, but felt were poorly served by the books in which they appeared. I wanted to write a physically handicapped character who was attractive, healthy, strong… not saintly and an Example To Us All, nor doomed to die heroically, but who could actually be the romantic lead.
CG: Now, you and I are very different kinds of writers. Tell us more about your process and how you do it.
RJA: I am not sure I have a process, so much as a series of stages of authorial torment. Sort of like the fabled circles of hell.
CG: We all have our different circles of hell. Writers could keep Dante busy for eternity, describing each of our Hades. Hadeses? I never needed the plural of Hades before.
RJA: It usually starts with a character, who refuses to tell me anything about him or herself until I have found the right name. Once I have the name, I generally get a strong impression of what that character looks like, and some notion of their personality. Then I start to think about what kind of story a character like that would have…
In the case of Knife, I knew her name right away, I had a very clear idea of her appearance and personality, and what she did for a living — being a hunter. But then I had to ask myself, what kinds of dangers and conflicts would come into her life? What could be the biggest threat or challenge she might face? And by puzzling through all these questions I started to get a notion of the book, and the other characters involved. But none of it came together in any coherent way until I sat down and just plain started to write. I have worked with outlines, but I have to keep them very general (three disasters and an ending, basically) and not get too wedded to them. To me, the only real pleasure in writing a first draft is in discovering how the plot happens along the way, and how these seemingly random bits I threw into earlier chapters turn out to weave themselves into the resolution at the end. (Or don’t, in which case I cut them in revisions.
CG: I love the “three disasters and an ending” approach. As you know, I’m a big outliner. I’ve come to think the main difference between outliners and pantsers is the ability to endure preparation versus the ability to endure rewrites. What do you think?
RJA: I’m a rolling reviser — I like to polish and tweak my writing as I go. I often stop in the middle of a book and have go back to revise the earlier chapters before I can see my way clear to the end of it. But I definitely prefer revision to the challenge of getting that first draft down.
CG: See, I’d rather be bled than do infinite revision. Of course, I do rewrites and edits like anybody else, but I’ve gotten to where I want to have my major plot struggles before I dive into the first draft.
RJA: I find that I can’t get the ideas I need from writing them out in outline or point form. They happen organically during the writing process. And then revision is just making those rough ideas better and better, which is much more pleasing to me than the agony of having to come up with them in the first place.
CG: I think this means you’re a more patient person than I am. Which would not be surprising, really.
RJA: Oh, I don’t know. I think outliners are probably the more efficient writers in the end, and I envy and admire those who can work out their plots and then just motor ahead and write them. Alas, I have found that my brain just will not work that way, and trying to make myself work that way just ends in disaster. I have often envied you, knowing you have those lovely detailed outlines to work from and are not in danger of writing yourself into a corner. I never have that assurance until I’ve finished the book, and sometimes not even then.
CG: I think this is one thing a lot of beginning writers don’t realize at first — that it’s not about finding THE right way to write. It’s about figuring out who you are as a writer. The same thing that’s perfect for one person will be death to another.
RJA: Yes, and I spent two years learning that lesson the hard way. I nearly ruined myself for writing altogether, by trying too hard to use other people’s methods. What I learned in the end is that if your process works and results in a finished book, do not mess with it. Efficiency is over-rated.
CG: Yes. I mean, I think it’s important to experiment occasionally, but it’s all in the service of finding what works.
RJA: Right! It’s one thing to TRY other ideas and methods, because you may well find something that helps you. Just don’t get down on yourself if they don’t work for you, or try so hard that you destroy your own natural process.
CG: That’s well-put, I think.
RJA: I have learned that if I write 50,000 words a month I will hate them all and they will be useless to me. But I can write 25,000 words a month (in a pinch) and feel quite satisfied and able to go on.
CG: I can write 50K words in a month and be delighted with them. But the next month, I’m writing about two paragraphs and watching a lot of HGTV.
RJA: I think fallow time is an important part of the process, though. I need weeks or even months between projects to refresh myself and get new ideas flowing.
CG: I am still finding out how I’m going to pace myself, workwise, now that I write FT. When you have a day job, there’s no question when and how much you’ll work — it’s as much as humanly possibie! And I agree with you; ideas sometimes need to lie fallow for a while. You need to travel and reconnect with friends and read. To “refill the well,” like Julia Cameron says.
RJA: I’m not one of these “write every day or else” writers. For me, that’s a sure way to make myself miserable and hate writing altogether. Although the downside is that it’s then quite difficult to get started on a new project, it’s a bit like warming up an engine — rr – rr – rr…
And I often get more work done on my days that are structured/time-limited than on the days when all my kids are in school and I have plenty of time.
CG: Yes. I don’t write every day either. I do *think* about my writing every day, though. I think the value of the time spent just rolling the idea around in your head is easy to underestimate.
RJA: Yes. And if I get any particularly brilliant ideas during that time, I jot them down for future reference. Then I look at the note a few weeks later and think, “I have no idea what this means,” and throw it out. But you know, the intention was good.
CG: I feel like, as a writer — you have these different ideas, and you love them, but they have to meet each other in your mind and create story. You know, the one good idea isn’t enough. A mistake I made starting out was often writing about a premise, rather than a story.
RJA: Oh, that’s an interesting way of putting it! Can you elaborate?
CG: A premise is — an interesting character. An interesting setting. A “what if” question on its own. To me, though, a story is what makes that premise come alive. The most colorful character/setting/initial problem for a novel doesn’t mean anything if you don’t then have story to propel it forward. Would you agree?
RJA: Oh, yes. Definitely. You can have the most unusual and interesting character and setting in the world, but if nothing happens to that character or within that setting to shake things up, there’s no story. That was the problem with my earliest drafts of KNIFE a.k.a. SPELL HUNTER — Knife didn’t grow or change very much over the course of the story.
CG: How did you change that for her?
RJA: Well, an editor who took an early look at the manuscript pointed out this problem to me — Knife’s lack of a character arc, and how that made the story a lot less interesting than it should be. So I had to think about where she might be wrong in her thinking and attitude in the beginning of the story, and what mistakes she might make along the way to figuring things out and becoming a wiser and better person. But at the same time not making it a big moralistic thing, but a journey a reader could enjoy and sympathize with.
And in the second book, where I have two viewpoint characters instead of just one, it’s really Timothy (the human narrator) who has the strongest character arc, as he wrestles with his doubts and his feelings of isolation. Linden has a bit of a journey too, but it’s not nearly so pronounced.
CG: It’s such a fine line, isn’t it — between giving a main character flaws and an arc, and yet keeping her relatable and likable. I often think we’re harder on female characters, too. That the same flaws we’ll forgive or look forward to fixing for a male character are sometimes reasons we reject female characters outright.
RJA: Yes, very (and sadly) true about female characters. And that’s why I also have tried to write a variety of female characters with distinct strengths and weaknesses. Knife is very popular with readers because she’s so dynamic — everybody loves a heroine who can kick crow butt and take names. But I didn’t want to write a carbon copy of her for the second book, so Linden is in many ways Knife’s opposite — she’s not a fighter, she’s not recklessly brave (although she does do some pretty courageous things), and she’s much more in touch with her emotions.
CG: Tell me a little more about writing with a male and a female MC in the same book. I’m going to be doing this in BALTHAZAR, and it’s the first time I will have tried that, so I’m interested to know if there were any interesting bits of that experience.
RJA: Well, I grew up with three brothers and no sisters, and I’m also the mother of three sons, so I don’t find it as difficult to imagine how boys might think and react as some authors do. And Linden and Timothy are such different characters — that’s part of what drives the book — how different the two of them are, and how that works both for and against their friendship — that I didn’t find it hard to keep them distinct. It would have been different and probably more difficult if I’d been writing first person narrative, but the faery books are in third person. So it was more a matter of remembering which things each narrator would recognize and take for granted, and which things would be foreign and bizarre to them.
As opposed to worrying a lot about how to make Timothy “sound like a boy” or Linden “sound like a girl” or what have you.
CG: I think one thing that makes me look at it more is simply the differences in dealing with a romance. Thus far, I primarily write romances, whereas your stories *have* romances but are as much about adventure. Would you agree?
RJA: I think that’s fair. I actually love romance, but always feel the need of a strong plot to bring out the romantic aspects and make them more interesting and compelling to me as an author (and hopefully to the reader). I find that a thumping good plot can throw the romantic bits of a story into sharp relief, whereas if the story is all about the heroine’s feelings (or the hero’s feelings for the heroine) then it’s easy for the subtleties to get lost in a sort of romantic haze.
CG: I always have to have a plot to go with as well, yes. Though the love remains front and center. I have a brother as well, but growing up, he was not acting a lot like a romantic hero. He was mostly about hiding under my bed to scare me at inopportune moments.
RJA: LOL, yes. Mine, also. And I think that’s why I don’t tend to write romantic heroes who are otherworldly creatures — or at least, they don’t behave that way. My favorite romances are the ones between ordinary, flawed people, with a spark of humour involved — like Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, or Albert Campion and Amanda Fitton. In fact I used to joke that I read mysteries for the romance.
CG: So how do you find the “ordinariness” in your faeries?
RJA: Well, I did try to make them different from humans — particularly in their emotional awareness and their sense of community, both of which are generally lacking in the faery world. But that then gives a chance for them to discover those things through interaction with humans, either just as friends or as something more. So there’s a kind of culture shock going on, and a fascination that goes with it.
CG: So what are we going to be seeing from you next?
RJA: Well, my third faery book ARROW will be out in the UK this coming January. After that I have a paranormal YA thriller called TOUCHING INDIGO, which will be out in mid-2011 in both the UK and the US.
CG: I LOVE Touching Indigo, as you know, so can you tell us a little more about it?
RJA: TOUCHING INDIGO is the story of Alison, a 17-year-old girl who hears colours, sees sounds, and tastes words (a phenomenon known as synesthesia). She ends up in psychiatric hospital after the mysterious death of a schoolmate, trying to prove her sanity and clear her name of a murder charge… but her synesthetic abilities are getting stronger all the time, and sometimes she wonders if she might actually be crazy (and guilty) after all…
CG: This is such a great mystery and such a good book. I’m so looking forward to it!
RJA: Thank you!
CG: Thanks again for chatting with me about your work! Since we’ve been friends since before either of us ever became published, it’s a thrill to me that we’re on this journey together.
RJA: It is pretty awesome, isn’t it? Hugs all around!