This interview was originally posted at The Cover Contessa as part of the 2012 Stitch Blog Tour:
1. How long does it take you to write a book?
I’ve only got my experience with Stitch to draw from, but I’ll give you the rundown on that one. I started planning the book over the Christmas holidays and filled up lots of pages with notes and outlines. Then I wrote 3-4 chapters a weekend from January through March and had a finished first draft at the end of March. I took a few weeks off before I started revising, then I tackled the revisions slowly from May to June whenever we had time (spring/summer was pretty busy for us this year!). In July I focused on final tweaks and getting the formatting and printing and marketing all ready to go for the August 1st release date. So overall, it took about 8 months start to finish!
2. What do you think makes a great story?
Surprise. I have an uncanny knack for guessing where a story is going to go, so it’s rare that a book or movie really surprises me with a big twist that I didn’t see coming (or if it did, at least managed to do it in a way that didn’t leave me totally confused). So that was what I tried to achieve with Stitch – I wanted to write a story that I would have loved to read because it would have totally gotten me, but at the same time, it was well thought-out and actually made sense if you look closely at the details.
3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I actually work full time during the week for my business writing clients, so I wrote the majority of Stitch on the weekends, usually on Saturday and Sunday mornings from around 8 to noon (maybe a little Friday evening thrown in there depending on what our plans are) and then finished up revising what I’d written that weekend on Sunday evening. It depends, though, on our schedule – I find I’m the most productive in the morning, so I generally aim for then, but I will write where- and whenever I need to. I actually wrote a few chapters of Stitch on a plane and then in the rental car on our way to our vacation condo! So I’m pretty flexible, but I do prefer a quiet environment.
4. How do you balance family and writing?
For me family always comes first, over writing, work, anything, but I’m good at managing my time so I just do my best to understand when I’ll be most productive at which task and schedule things accordingly. At the moment, I don’t have any kids (only a very spoiled cat!) so luckily I don’t have too many personal demands on my time, but I when I do, my plan is to just squeeze the writing in whenever I can find the time. Writing is my escape, so it’s important for me to make time for it – it’s the only way I relax.
5. Where do you get your information for your books?
I went to a LOT of different sources for Stitch. I love things to be as historically and scientifically accurate as possible to make the more creative aspects more believable, so I of course did a lot of research online, read some non-fiction books (including some Stephen Hawking, which was fascinating), and of course drew from my own experiences when describing settings and that sort of thing.
For the Stitch series, I also reached out to a scientist from the Federation of American Scientists (a think-tank that advises the government on national security issues related to science and technology) who was INCREDIBLY helpful in understanding how easily and quickly the world we live in could devolve into a post-apocalyptic future with the misuse of nuclear or biological weapons. It’s actually very scary.
And of course, my beta readers used their own knowledge to help as well. For example, my uncle caught that in an earlier draft, Isaac was listening to the radio, which is unlikely to have actually happened in 1917. Though radios were invented then (which I did look up to confirm), apparently my uncle knew that they weren’t in popular use in homes (even wealthy homes) at that point in time. So I ended up changing the radio to a phonograph, since it would have bugged me even though most people probably wouldn’t have questioned it.
6. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How well people are responding to it! I went into it thinking that Stitch would really be a niche novel and that most readers would probably find it a bit weird, especially since it draws from multiple genres. But so far the vast majority of reviewers have been very positive, so I’m absolutely thrilled that so many people are enjoying it!
7. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Stitch is my very first one! Definitely my favorite thus far, haha.
8. Are your characters based on anyone you know?
Oh absolutely – I don’t know how else I would write them! They’re all based off a combination of traits from my friends and family and myself. But they’re mixed up enough that no one is really going to look at any character and be like, “Hey, that’s me!”
9. How hard is it to get published?
My impression is that it’s VERY hard, which is why I didn’t even bother trying and just went the self-publishing route. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I loved the idea of having full authority over every aspect of how my book is formatted, published, marketed, etc., plus it enabled me to get it out to readers much faster than if I had spent months searching for an agent and a publisher and trying to push a deal through. From what I’ve read about the traditional publishing route, it just seemed like a nightmare to me – a lot of begging, a lot of rejection, a lot of time – and I found the whole prospect very discouraging. So when I realized that Amazon and Smashwords had all the tools I would need to do it myself and produce a very professional-looking final product, I jumped on it.
That’s not to say self-publishing was all roses, though. Formatting the book in particular was a bit of a killer and took many hours of online research and trial and error until I got it right. And the self-publishing tools available right now are NOT as user-friendly or easy to figure out as I expected them to be, but it’s still a burgeoning industry, so I expect that things will only get better. Now that I’ve done it once, I think it will be easier in the future.
10. What do your family and friends think about your books?
They’ve all been AMAZINGLY supportive! Even the people who don’t read YA fiction have been recommending it left and right. I really can’t ask for anything more. Though they’re probably all sick of hearing me talk about it – sorry guys!
11. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read! That’s my favorite thing to do, though between Stitch and my business and my wedding and buying my first home (all in the same year!), I haven’t had as much time to read lately as I would like. I’m also a big eater – I love food and I really enjoy getting all the latest good stuff from my farmers market every week and making delicious meals at home, or going out for a nice meal. I hate exercising but I like to play sports and hike. I haven’t done enough of those recently either, but I’m planning to find a basketball league and work more hiking into my schedule once I get settled in my new house. (When I was living in Seattle, we did a lot of hiking and I played in basketball, football, and roller derby leagues, all of which were super fun!) Besides that I just like to spend time with family and friends, catch up on all my favorite TV shows (my DVR and I are very close), watch movies, play some video games (anyone else eagerly anticipating the new Resident Evil??) – the usual. J
12. For an aspiring writer what do you feel are certain do's and don’ts for getting their material published?
My advice would be this: Don’t be intimidated, and don’t give up. If you believe in your book and the traditional publishing route doesn’t seem to be working for you (or like me, you just aren’t excited at all about doing that), go ahead and self-publish. I was very wary about this at first because as a first time author, I felt like I needed validation from the industry that my writing was good and was wary about establishing a less-than-stellar reputation (because there was always the chance that my book was actually terrible and I just didn’t realize it yet). But then at some point I realized that it’s readers’ opinions that really matter, not the industry’s, so that’s who I decided to look to for the validation I wanted. And what I’ve found is that readers and reviewers are not shy – if your book is good, they will let you know (and if it’s not, they’ll let you know that too!).
13. What are you working on now?
Well right now I’m just trying to get through my wedding, honeymoon, and house closing and renovations – which are all happening concurrently with the blog tour – so my book writing is on hold at moment! But I’m planning to start up on the sequel to Stitch, Shudder (see the sneak peek at the end of Stitch!), in January and am hoping to release in summer 2013. Can’t wait!!
A HUGE thanks to Brooke who stepped in at the last minute to fill in a gap in the schedule. You’re the best!
Also, the print book giveaway at Crossroads Reviews is ending today and there are only 17 entries – get in there while the chances are good!
Tomorrow we’re headed over to I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for an author interview and winner’s choice giveaway of 1 e-book OR print copy! Don’t miss it!