Last week I interviewed author Emily Moreton on my blog; this week she is interviewing me on hers. I talk a little about my writing and how I came to write ‘Annabeth and the Wolf’, as well as answering questions on time travel, the one thing I’d want with me on a desert island and my dream travel destination. Pop on over and check it out.
I’m pleased to have author Emily Moreton on my blog today. Emily is one of my fellow authors from the Torqued Tales anthology and has over 30 published short stories to her name. I found we have lots in common (we both spent our uni days studying Primary Teaching and writing fanfic and we both had our first stories published in charity anthologies for victims of natural disasters).
Welcome to my blog, Emily, it’s great to have you here. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing?
I’m mostly a short story writer, because I get bored once I know how what I’m writing is going to end. I’ve tried to write a novel a couple of times, but usually by 40,000 words, I know what’s going to happen next, and then it stops being fun!
Most of the characters I write are military or ex-military, which is odd since neither I nor anyone I know has been in the military (well, my grandmother was an OWL during WW2). I’ve always been interested in fighter jets though; my parents took me to several air shows when I was a kid, and many time to see the Red Arrows, so I suppose that’s where that one came from. I even wrote about a Red Arrows engineer once, though I’ve never submitted it anywhere for publication.
How long have you been writing for?
I’ve pretty much been writing all my life, and making up stories for just as long. My sister and I loved let’s pretend when we were kids, and writing was always my favourite subject in school. When I was in university, I got into fanfic, and also started writing a novel, and I’ve been writing regularly ever since… so, wow, that’s well over a decade now!
Can you tell us (without spoilers) what your story is about in Torqued Tales?
A Stranger Brought is a modern lesbian take on Rumplestiltskin, which I still cannot spell without at least three attempts! It’s about Tia, a young street artist who paints Kelly, and gets a date along with payment. The date goes really well, and Kelly promises to call… But if I tell you more, then there’s nothing for you to read about!
I loved your take on the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. What inspired you to write ‘A Stranger Bought’?
I started off at university training to be a primary school teacher, specialising in English, and as part of this, I bought a lot of children’s books, one of them a really lovely book of fairy tales. When I saw the call for fairy tale related stories, I dug out the book again and looked for one that’s not so well known – like Rumpelstiltskin. I started by taking out the parts of the fairy tale that I don’t like, including the love interest testing the heroine by making her spin straw from gold, and her offering to trade her first born for the trick, then got to thinking about what a modern version of spinning might be… from there, it was a short step to Tia the street artist. Throw in some magic, and there you have it.
Do you have any writing advice for aspiring authors?
Get into a fandom and write fanfic! Sounds like odd advice, but fandom got me writing regularly, taught me how to write within confines like a prompt in an exchange, or the canon of a particular episode. Writing for challenges and exchanges taught me to write to deadlines, and also got me used to sharing my stuff in public. It also helped me build up a community of other writers to be part of, and even got me over my embarrassment about writing sex scenes (true confession: I used to write them while looking away from the screen, and avoided proof-reading them for months).
(Note from Jo: I completely agree with Emily! Fanfic is a great way to hone your writing skills and get used to sharing your work and dealing with critiques of your writing.)
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just submitted a story about a young trans girl coming out in school, and now I’m working on something for an anthology of stories about writers, publishers etc – that one’s a sort of urban fantasy, about a printer who finds a hot, naked print devil in his shop one morning.
Thanks so much for stopping by and telling us about yourself, Emily.
If you would like to read Emily’s Rumpelstiltskin story ‘A Stranger Bought’ you can find it on Torquere Press’s website (you can read a free sample), Amazon and other online bookstores. You can also find ‘A Stranger Bought’, along with my Red Riding Hood story ‘Annabeth and the Wolf’, in the anthology Torqued Tales.
Emily Moreton published her first short story in 2007, for a charity anthology in aid of victims of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, she has published over 30 erotic short stories, mostly m/m and f/f. In 2011, she had a story accepted into the anthology of best speculative lesbian fiction, and in 2013 was part of an anthology nominated in Goodreads’ M/M Romance Members’ Choice Awards.
Emily lives in Bristol, UK, with her cat, where she works as a data analyst, studies towards her PhD, and tries not to sleep through Sunday morning archery class.
In a couple of weeks on my blog I will be interviewing Steve Rossiter (editor of the recently published The Life and Times of Chester Lewis, runs The Australian Literature Review and is an author, too).
I was compiling some questions to ask and thinking to myself, ‘What sort of questions would interest my fellow writers?’ and I figured, ‘Hey, why don’t I just ask them!’
So, if you have any questions relating to writing, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis (and the fanfic competition) or Steve Rossiter, please leave them in the comments below. I will pick a selection to include in my interview with Steve.
Last week I was answering interview questions about my story in the integrated short story collection The Life and Times of Chester Lewis and, since I hadn’t looked at it in quite a while, I gave the story a reread. Like most writers (I would imagine), I couldn’t help but think there were places where I could have written more tightly or hooked the reader in more. As writers I don’t think we ever stop editing our stories in our heads, even after they’ve published. I’m a perfectionist in that way, and I don’t think I can ever feel like my writing is perfect. Good, maybe, but perfect, no.
I did concede to myself, however, that I was quite happy with how the main action scene turned out. There are some main points I keep in mind when writing action scenes that I think make a world of difference:
1. Short, sharp sentences pack a punch.
2. But, it is also important to vary sentence length to keep readers engaged, not bored. Short, sharp sentences lose their impact if you don’t vary them with some longer (but not too long) sentences.
3. Get into your character’s head. Think about his or her reactions.
4. Up the stakes. Just when it looks like the character will be triumphant, just when they’ve got the upper hand, turn the tables. Throw the worst case scenario at him or her. Make it seem as though all hope is lost and there is no way out.
If you want to check out my Chester Lewis story and judge my action scene for yourself, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is actually on special offer today for its launch. You can grab a copy of the ebook for $0.99 (it’s normally $3.99). This is an especially good opportunity to pick up a copy and get started on you fanfic story (if you’re entering). Remember, it’s $2000 for the winner of the competition and it’s open worldwide. What a great opportunity!
Do you have any tips for writing action scenes? What really hooks you in when you’re reading them? Do you have any favourite action scenes from books you’ve read?
A couple of weeks ago I interviewed the lovely Fleur McDonald (author of the Australian novels Red Dust and Blue Skies). I am lucky enough to have a short story appearing in the same anthology as Fleur (Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories). Today Fleur has posted an interview with me on her blog where I talk about my writing, balancing writing with motherhood and a little bit on my short story in the anthology.
I’d like to welcome Australian author Fleur McDonald to my blog. Fleur is the author of the novels Red Dust and Blue Skies and is one of the authors featured in the soon-to-be-released anthology Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories.
Can you tell us what inspired you to write the short story ‘Gone’, which will be appearing in the anthology Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories?
I was wanting to branch out a bit from my normal farm/rural type stories, but still with a mystery/crime basis. It took me a little while to come up with the storyline and I was hesitant about my short story writing skills, having not written many before. It took a lot more drafts than what my novels do!
(You have nothing to be hesitant about, I loved reading your story ‘Gone’.)
I’ve lost quite a few family and friends to cancer and I know the difficulties faced by the families and friends of the dying. Trying to imagine my own children in that situation is quite frightening and the whole time I was writing Gone, there was this terrible sinking feeling, sitting in my tummy.
Because of that, it did make difficult to write, but the experiences I’ve already faced, with this type of situation, meant I could make it realistic and in turn that part was easier to write.
In ‘Gone’ you write from Detective Indy Sullivan’s point-of-view. What made you decide to write from Indy’s point-of-view, rather than the parents or even fellow detective, Jack?
I’m not sure. Indy sort of jumped into my mind and stayed there. Writing it from Jack’s point of view would be an interesting experience. Maybe I should try that!
Well, it’s always a juggling act, especially this time of the year, when it hasn’t rained and we’re busy feeding animals every day. I often only write once a week, on my day in town. If I get any more time than that, it’s a bonus.
(I can totally relate! We’re lucky to have had a lot of rain this season on this side of the country, which isn’t always the case. It’s great you can make that time for your writing.)
Your published novels, Red Dust and Blue Skies, are both based on the land in rural Australia. How much are your own experiences living on a farm reflected in your novels?
Well, I guess the most experience I draw on is the setting – living where I do, makes it easy for me. The plots that I put my characters into, thankfully, I’ve never experienced.
As it’s Aussie Author Month this month, can you tell us about some of your favourite Australian Authors and how they’ve influenced/inspired your own writing?
Tamara McKinley, Belinda Alexandra, Rachael Treasure, Monica McInerney and Tony Parsons are just a few that have influenced me. Tamara, Belinda and Monica all write such wonderful sagas and I wanted to be able to do that in a rural setting – that’s where Rachael and Tony come into it – but with a crime influence (most of my crime favourites are American or English).
There’s many more that have inspired me, since I started to write and I’ve met them, either face to face or through the social media. Katherine Howell would now be one of my favourite crime writers.
My third book Purple Roads is due at the publishers in July and I’m nearly finished. I’m heading to Perth this week as my daughter is having a large operation and I’m hoping to finish it while I’m up there.
(I hope all goes well with your daughter’s operation.)
Any words of advice for aspiring authors?
Never ever give up. Just because your MS isn’t wanted one day, doesn’t mean it won’t be wanted the next.
Fleur McDonald grew up among the farming communities of Orroroo in SA and now lives east of Esperance, on 8,000 acres. Here, she cares for a husband, two children and a menagerie of dogs, cattle, sheep and a bit of crop, not to mention tractors and other machinery!
Fleur is the best selling author of Red Dust and Blue Skies, both published by Allen and Unwin. When she has five spare minutes, she is writing her third and forth books, Purple Roads and Silver Gums.
For more information visit www.fleurmcdonald.com or follow her on Twitter @fleurmcdonald or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fleur-McDonald/204949640064?ref=ts
For more information on Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories visit The Australian Literature Review.
My first published story ‘Angel Blood’ is due for release in Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories at the end of this month. In the lead up to its release, I was lucky enough to be interviewed on The Australian Literature Review. In the interview I answer questions about the story ‘Angel Blood’ and my writing in general. You can find the interview here:
In my last blog post when I was talking about preparing for NaNoWriMo I mentioned character bios. This week I’m going to go into character bios in-depth. I find writing outlines or bios for my main characters helps me get a good feel for my character before I start writing and I find I can slip into their voices much easier. These are some of the ways I prepare my characters:
1. Character Biography/Outline Sheet
This is a page (or pages) of information/facts about my character. This is where I take a vague idea in my head and start nutting out the details of who my character is. I’m going to use the character of Harry Potter as an example to show you how I set out my character bio sheet.
Name: Harry James Potter (if my character goes by a nickname I include it here too)
Age: 11 years, born 30th July
Physical features: Dark, messy hair that always sticks up at the back; green eyes; wears cousin’s oversized hand-me-down clothes; wears glasses; skinny and scrawny.
Personality: brave, curious, loyal, kind, quick-tempered, fair-minded
Family: Lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died when he was a baby (killed by dark wizard, but he believes they were killed in car crash). They are a middle class family and live in a three bedroom home. Uncle works for a drilling company. Harry is treated badly by all members of the household and his bedroom is the cupboard under the stairs.
Strengths: humble, kind to others, willing to fight for what’s right
Weaknesses: quick temper, disregard for rules, curiosity that leads him into trouble
Power: Wizard (I include this one for my fantasy novels)
I may add more bits and pieces to this as I write, for example I may come back and include his address 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging. Character sheets are a good way to keep track of details as you write so you don’t end up with character inconsistencies (eg: he has green eyes in chapter one, but blue eyes in chapter twelve).
2. Character Interview
While the character sheet gives a basic overview of the character, and interview goes more in-depth. During the interview have your character answer in their own voice. This is a good way to develop your character’s voice. These are some of the interview questions I use (and I’ll use Harry Potter as an example again).
Describe your family. Parents, siblings, pets, alive, dead…
My mum and dad died when I was a baby, so I live with my mother’s sister, my aunt Petunia, and her husband, my uncle Vernon. I’m basically fungus between their toes. They dote on my cousin Dudley. He’s a spoilt brat and about as wide as two houses. Bullying me is his favourite sport. I don’t have any pets, aunt Petunia thinks animals are too dirty to be allowed.
If your house was on fire and you only had time to grab three things, what would they be?
I don’t really have anything worth grabbing, all my stuff is hand-me-downs from my cousin Dudley and it’s all rubbish.
Are you religious at all, and if so, in what way?
No. Although aunt Petunia makes us all go to church on Sunday at the local Anglican.
What is your race/social status?
I’m caucasian. I suppose you could say we’re middle class, although aunt Petunia likes to think we’re upper class.
If you are at school, do you think you fit in? If not, why? (For an adult character you can exchange school for work)
No I don’t. Dudley always made sure of that. He bullies me daily with his group of thugs. No one dares make friends with me because they’re too scared of Dudley and his gang.
What is the one thing you care about most in the world?
I don’t really have anything or anyone. I know I should say my aunt Petunia, but I doubt she cares about me. I wish I had a photograph of my parents.
If you had to spend the rest of your life doing one thing only, what would it be?
Living as far away from the Dursleys as possible.
What’s the last thing you’d be caught doing?
What was the best experience of your life, and why?
Probably when my parents were still alive, but I can’t really remember. I have this vague memory of this woman smiling at me, but I don’t know if it’s real or not.
What was the worst day of your life?
The day Dudley and his gang chased me into a stinging nettle bush. Uncle Vernon wouldn’t even let me put cream on the stings because he said it served me right not looking where I was going.
Describe the sort of person you’d want to marry, if you married at all.
Someone kind and who loves me for me.
What do you look for in a friend?
Someone who actually wants to hang around with me and who is a decent person (I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who is mean to others).
If you go to school, what are your favourite and least favourite school subjects, and why? (For an adult character you can change this to work duties)
My favourite subject is sport, mostly because I know I can always outrun Dudley. My least favourite is art, because Dudley and his mates flick paint and bits of dried clay at me when the teacher’s back is turned.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Anywhere that isn’t Little Whinging. I’d like to find out where my parents lived and go there.
Sum yourself up in five words. (You can also ask how they would sum up other main characters in the story)
skinny, orphan, friendless, independent, smart
You might have noticed I answered the questions from the perspective of Harry as he would answer prior to the events of the books. You could also do an interview of how your character would answer during the events of the story, obviously Harry would answer differently once he’d started at Hogwarts, had made some friends and was away from the Dursleys. Here’s an exercise to try: Answer these questions from Harry’s perspective after he starts Hogwarts (or if you haven’t read Harry Potter chose a character from another book).
3. Character Picture.
A character picture helps give you a solid image of what your character looks like. Here are some of the methods I use:
Sketch – I’m not a great artist, but sometimes I like to grab a pencil and sketch out what my character looks like. What would he/she wear? What hair colour/length does he/she have? What colour eyes?
Sims – This is one of my favourite methods, especially with the more recent versions of Sims, because there are a lot of options for creating your character’s physical appearance. You can adjust skin tone, eye colour, hair style, build, clothes style, even nose and mouth shape. You can also choose your character’s personality (and in Sims 3 you can also choose life goals). When I’m done creating my character I print screen and save the picture. If you don’t have Sims, there are various sites around with ‘dolls’ you can design to look like your characters (although the problem with many of these is they don’t often have male dolls).
Character Collage – For this one I grab a stack of old magazines and search for pictures relating to my character. I’ll look for people sporting the same style of clothes or hairstyle or I’ll look for objects relating to my character. For example, when doing a collage for my character Ava I’d look for pictures of people with short red hair or black clothes and pictures of ipods and phones. It’s a good way to show physical appearance and personality.
With only a week to go until NaNoWriMo begins, this week I will be focusing on my characters and getting to know them better. I’d be interested to know what other methods you use when getting to know your characters.
This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed on fellow writer Jess Byam’s blog. I met Jess through Write on Con, she gave me some great (and helpful) critique on one of my picture book stories. She contacted me last week to ask if I would like to be interviewed on her blog. In her interview I got to discuss my work-in-progress, my early writing memories and my favourite books.
I’m hoping to soon start conducting a few interviews of my own with fellow writers in the future. In the meantime if you’d like to see my responses to Jess’s interview you can see them here: Interview on Jest Kept Secret
As a writer, what have you learnt through being an editor and an agent intern that you now apply to your writing?
What is the best piece of advice you have for aspiring authors?
C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at camarshall.com
Be sure to check out the Free Edit Contest on Cassandra’s blog. One lucky person will win a FREE substantial edit for up to 100K words.
Thanks so much for being here, Cassandra!
(P.S. To all those waiting for the results of the Graceful Doe and Peevish Penman’s blogiversary contest, the winners will be announced in the next post. Not long now!)