This interview was originally posted at www.ohheybooks.com as part of the Stuck Blog Tour in 2018.
Hi Ashley! Thanks so much for hosting me and the Stitch Trilogy at Oh Hey! Books – it’s great to be working with you again and I’m so excited to hear what your readers have to say about Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3)!
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Oh, it’s definitely intimidating!! For me, I’m the kind of person where I don’t do anything without a plan – so my writing is no different. When I get an idea, I always start with an outline. First the basics of the plot (inciting incident, turning points, crisis, climax, resolution) and the character profiles (history, personalities, looks), then I break up each of those plot points into a chapter-by-chapter outline so that I never have to sit down without knowing exactly what I plan to write. I find that doing this level of planning makes the actual writing part a lot more productive from a practical standpoint, and a lot less overwhelming from an emotional standpoint. But, of course, it’s always a little scary no matter how much you’ve planned. After all, putting pen to paper (or more likely, finger to keyboard, haha) means you’re pouring a piece of your heart out to share with the world – and it’s never easy to put yourself out there like that. But I’ve found that the connection I’ve built with readers and the joy in the act of writing itself makes it all worth it!
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Typically, I have aimed to do a couple chapters a weekend, depending on if I’ll have time, as my fiction writing has mostly been done “on the side” with the majority of my time being taken up by work (pre-kids) or mom duties (post-kids). That being said, I found myself on a MUCH more aggressive and structured schedule with Stuck in particular… I’d struggled to make time to write ever since my son, Kiran, was born, so when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Mia, I knew I would be really hard pressed to find the time once I had two children running around here. So I set of goal of finishing the first draft of Stuck before Mia was born… and then I looked up about two months before she was due to arrive and realized I’d only written two chapters! (Out of a planned 50!!) So from that point forward, I really had to make it a priority to crank out a chapter or two a day (knowing there would inevitably be days where I wouldn’t be able to work), which was definitely a challenge! But with *a lot* of help from my parents and in-laws, aaaaand a little too much YouTube time for my son :-/ I managed to complete all but two chapters before Mia made her appearance (I got derailed at the end there by a surprise stomach virus which resulted in an early induction!). And then, sure enough, those last two chapters plus an initial read-through of the manuscript took me two months to complete after her birth, so I was really glad I’d frontloaded as much work as I did!!
Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
This makes me laugh because it’s SO TRUE, in my case at least. I often find myself doing public speaking or holding leadership positions, so many people who know me from those roles are surprised to learn that I’m an introvert. But I really do need time alone (or with just my immediate family) to recharge my batteries. I came across a great meme the other day about Things Introverts Love and seeing “cancelled plans” on the list made me chuckle. It absolutely warms my heart that my friends care enough to want to see me (and I do like to see them, too!), but to feel that affection without actually having to leave my house or speak to another human being? Glorious. Lol.
Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
I think so! Though the one thing that’s especially wonderful about writing (if you are lucky enough to do it full time) is that it gives you so much flexibility in your schedule. So, I guess we’re a little abnormal in that, unlike our friends who work typical hours, you might find us out and about during the day and “working” at odd hours of the night/morning (especially for those of us who are also parents!). But overall, I’d say yes, we are normal human beings! :-)
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
As I mentioned above, I definitely set a plot – but at the same time, I try not to be rigid to allow room for inspiration and improvements. For example, in Stuck, one of the characters must decide at the end whether to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save everyone else. And though the initial way I had this unfolding worked fine, one of my beta readers suggested another way which both tied in an important subplot and upped the emotional resonance of that decision to make it even more selfless. So I decided to rewrite parts of that scene to take advantage of a great idea, and I think it really paid off!
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest thing, for me, is coming up with the ideas. I’m very good on the execution side because I’ve developed very good time management skills and I’m self-motivated, so not typically a procrastinator. But coming up with the ideas for the story – especially all the nitty gritty details – is where I can run into the dreaded “writer’s block.” Between Books 2 and 3 of the trilogy, in particular, I had a lot of upheaval in my personal life which resulted in a combo grief/mommy-brain that left me struggling to even get through the day for many years. Trying to come up with ideas for how I wanted to bring the series to a close (especially given the complexity of all the various subplots – I literally have a 28x13 matrix in my notes to keep straight which characters know about which twists!) was just more than I could handle for a long time. So I am *very* relieved to have finally accomplished it, and I can’t wait to hear what readers think!