How did it feel when your first book got published?
I didn’t feel any change when publishing the ebook since I publish things online all the time (blogs, short stories, etc.). I was like ‘all right, I did it… now what?’
When I received my paperbacks, though, I was overwhelmed by an assortment of emotions from excitement and pride, to having a mild freak-out over if people were going to read my book… and that people were actually going to be reading my book. The difference was I physically was holding my book, something I created and wouldn’t have been physical if I didn’t create it. Not that I’m not proud of publishing things online, it is just physical space versus virtual space.
What is your motivation for writing more?
Wanting to share this story and the world I created back when I first started writing. It feels good that I’m finally at the point in my life that I feel confident and competent enough to share Prophecy Six and the World of Gaitan with everyone. This series is made up of characters that I’ve grown to love and I want to share them in hopes that there are others out there that will love them too. Now that I’ve opened the door with Child of the Light, I feel like I now have a responsibility to my readers to share more adventures with them.
Writers are permanently depressed; how true is that?
I can see how some people would believe that. There are writers that have written about their depression or have become victims of suicide. Many of the greats we study today were depressed, or suffered from some mental health issues. But, just as there are writers that suffer from permanent depression there are those that have never and will never suffer from a mental health disorder.
To answer your question, I don’t think it is true because it depends on the writer and every writer is different.
Personally, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. The important part was that I recognized the problem and got help. I spoke with people that helped me find ways to cope with my mental health but there are those out there that never seek help or never require the help they need.
Being aware of your mental health and looking for ways of educating yourself or getting help with managing your mental health is important. It saddens me that in a time where we have so much knowledge we have yet to really approach the subjects of mental health.
Sure, there are brief mentions of it when we lose someone famous we admire to suicide. There loss sparks a short discussion but there is so much we as a society need to do to change the way we think about mental health.
Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
No. I will be honest here and say I have terrible grammar. Need and example check out my blog. My writing skills are in the creative variety, where I spend more time trying to get the interactions, environment, personalities, and world I’m writing right that I sometimes forget proper grammar entirely. That’s why I have an editor who makes up for what I’m lacking.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
When it comes to writing about subjects I’m not knowledgeable in I find myself researching more than others I know. I have been known to spend weeks studying a certain subject to make sure it sounds as natural and accurate as possible when I’m writing it. It also helps that I find researching relaxing.
As a writer I think it’s important to know what you’re writing since your readers, in a sense, are relying on you for correct information. So, when it comes to subjects like herbal medicine or natural healing methods – even weaponry and warfare – I’ll spend a good month or so pre-planning and researching to ensure I’m comfortable enough to write.
Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
Define normal. In my opinion no one is really ‘normal’. My normal isn’t your normal. I think writers have a normal life for writers. Some people may think us crazy or introverted or eccentric but that is normal for a writer. We all are a bit different since we all have worlds and characters jumping about our brains. For me, I work and have a partner, we both like doing our own thing and we find ways to spend time together. He’s a cat person and I’m a dog person. I’m creative and he’s logical. To anyone that knows us they would call our life together ‘normal’… but it depends on the person you ask because everyone’s normal is a little different.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I’m a pantsy writer. I write by the seat of my pants. I go into a project having an idea of where I want to end up but how I get there is another question.
Poets and writers in general, have a reputation of committing suicide; in your opinion, why is that the case?
I think poets and writers are empathetic people that are tuned into the world. That could be both a good thing and a bad thing. The good out of being one with the world is that you see the beauty and the potential it holds. You catch the connections between people or the environment and find ways of creating that emotional connection through words. Many writers (Shakespeare, Poe, Wolfe, Bronte) all have a way of putting humanity in their works and painting this world that is so close to our own while still giving us a sense of disconnect. This is a talent some have naturally, while for others – like myself – work at building.
The bad part about being connected to the world is that you see the horrific truths many aren’t aware of. You catch sight of the darkness in people and some writers even confront the darkness within themselves. Everyone has demons that whisper in the back of their minds nasty realizations, but writers tap into those whispers and sometimes don’t have the strength to stop listening. It is at that point that writers can’t see that beauty but instead see the world in a tainted light where only pain and suffering thrive.
I think every writer/person is able to deal with the negatives in different ways. Some are able to find ways back to the rose tinted glasses world that the majority of society lives in, while others aren’t so lucky. It’s those unlucky ones that don’t see hope and don’t have the strength to pull themselves out… who think they’re alone… that add to the reputations that writers/ poets generally commit suicide.
Have any new writers grasped your interest recently?
I’ve met a lot of talented people since embarking on this literary adventure, some of which – I’d say – are more talented than I am. Two of these writers are Marian L Thorpe, who published her book Empire’s Daughter around the same time I published Child of the Light. The other is Melanie Noell Bernard who has just recently entered her beta reading phase and I’m so excited to hear how it turns out. Both are amazing women and amazing writers.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
Showing versus Telling. I understand why this is important but when I read something flowery like ‘glistening cotton dances across sapphire blue’ I get lost. I’m the reader that likes to be told ‘clouds dance across the blue sky’ simple and to the point – and there is no mistaking what is written. I’m a teller in my books because the term is storytelling not storyshowing. There are going to be people that disagree with me… but there is a lot about how I approach writing that isn’t like the conventional writer and I’m fine with that.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
No, to be honest I don’t like to read. When I do though, I try not to read while I’m working on a major project unless it is research because I don’t want my writing to be influenced by the books I’m reading. When I’m not writing I find myself reading indie-author works or something by Mitch Albom since I love the way he captures the world.
Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?
When they come my way I try my hardest to reply to any comments I get. I think it’s important to see what people think and where I can improve, since I’m always prepared to become better at my craft. I also like to get to know the people in my community and get to share in their achievements when they have them.
Does a bad review affect your writing?
Of course! There is a moment of bitterness that creeps in, and I think that they obviously didn’t get the meaning of why I wrote my book but then I take a breath and try to empathize. Putting myself in their shoes allows me to see my book from different perspectives and sometimes it allows me to see where it is I need to improve for the future.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be afraid of what you’re writing. There is a reason you wanted to write it and chances are there is someone out there that will want/need whatever it is you’re writing. Share your work with whoever wants to read it. This not only will help you grow but help build the confidence you need to face the world.
Which book inspired you to begin writing?
The Shelter of Stone by Jean M. Auel. I had been obsessively reading her books (Earth Children Series) since the summer before eight and by the middle of the school year I was caught up to her recent release (The Shelter of Stone, 2002). I hated the ending of the book, so I decided I could write something better (because teenage me knew everything) and so started my first unpublished novel that later grew into Child of the Light.
Now, looking back, that was a silly reason to start writing but it gave me the push I needed to discover something I am now really passionate about.
Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?
Between anxiety and a bout of imposter syndrome it was difficult to get through completing the first book. I thought I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to publish and also kept thinking that no one wanted to read my work. Turns out I was wrong. I do have a readership and I’m happy I pushed passed my fear.
Do you read any of your own work?
More than I should admit. Since I’m writing a series I want to make sure each book corresponds with the previous work… so I find myself re-reading my work to make notes of what needs to be covered or hinted at for the next book.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I don’t think I follow the conventional way of writing. I don’t plan too much asides from a soft idea of what I want from my book and where I want to end up. I also have a relaxed approach to fantasy; building the world slowly and not throwing my reader into it right away. I want the focus to be on my characters and the world to feel as natural as possible. There’s also the fact that I do a lot of telling in my stories and use Third Person Multiple POV that keeps the story moving and shows the character’s different motives/ storylines. I’m a hot mess when it comes to writing but that’s what I find makes my style mine.
Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
At the moment I’m finishing up the editing process of the second book in the Prophecy Six Series – Children of Sirphan – and becoming distracted with the drafting of book 3.
Children of Sirphan will be introducing the second member of the Prophecy Six group – the child of water. It will be touching upon themes such are mental health, self-acceptance, and LGBTQ issues. I am unsure what people will think of it but those that are beta reading say they are loving it.
Children of Sirphan will be released December 20th, 2016 on Amazon and Smashwords. Paperback will be at a later date.
Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
My mom. She was the one that instilled the love of writing and always wanted me to find a way to express my creativity. She was always a strong role model for me and aspects of her influenced my main character of the series. There are plenty of female heroines out there but none captured someone that I looked up to… that in my opinion was real, so when I was developing Liora I unknowingly placed my mother’s traits onto that character and she grew from there. So, Liora wouldn’t be the way she is without my mom and therefore there wouldn’t be a Series. That’s why my books are dedicated to her.
When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?
I wanted to become a writer full-time but my parents wanted me to find a more stable profession and that’s why I focused all my efforts into become a teacher. The funny thing is, my writing career has been more stable.
Have you ever marketed your own books yourself?
Yes. Child of the Light I tried marketing on my own but I’ve realized that marketing isn’t my strong suit. I can write creatively. I know my audience and I know I want to engage with a larger crowd but no matter the amount of research I do I still am lost when it comes to how to market my book. That’s why I have turned to you guys to help.
Do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?
Sure, anything that you aren’t familiar with or that conflict with what you believe can be a challenge but that’s the point of being a writer. You learn things that you don’t know and you open yourself up to conflicting ideals to grow. I love talking and learning about things that I may not have thought of or known of that may not follow my set of values but that’s the world. There are 7 billion people on this planet and you may not agree with them all but you shouldn’t shut yourself off from learning what they have to say.
Have you ever taken any help from other writers?
Of course, all the time. In the indie-writer community it is important to work together to achieve a common goal. When I have information to share I share it, just like the others in the community do. Whatever knowledge, tips, facts – what have you – are out there I want to know about it. Suggestions make my day and can make the difference between developing a good story or a great story.
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Co-authoring works for some people but not for me. I take too much control over a story and want things to go my way. If I was going to co-author with someone I would feel sorry for that person for having to put up with me.
Do you make your own vocabulary words in your book or resort to the existing ones?
In the Prophecy Six Series I’ve come up with my own languages but when I’m writing in the ‘common language’ – basically English – I have been known to replace and create words. My favourite has to be the word tweed. In English tweed a cloth material – in Prophecy Six it is another word for fool or idiot. I also try to avoid using swears since I’m writing YA so I’ve come up with some creative words to replace the common words we use in regular conversation.
Are you satisfied with your success?
At the moment I’m happy with not being known but I would like to one-day visit schools and talk about the importance of writing. It would also be fun to do a book signing or two but I’m not in any rush. Things will happen when and if they happen – and I’m happy enough with believing that.
Is writing book series more challenging?
Nope, not for me. My brain thinks in series… I don’t think I’m capable of writing just one book. At the moment I’m marketing Child of the Light, editing Children of Sirphan, writing book 3, and running through ideas for book 4. When I’m about to go to sleep my brain thinks about ideas for books 5 and 6. Some would say I’m insane but I like keeping busy and a series allows me to do that.
What do you do in your free time?
A lot of things. I maintain my two websites, try and update my blogs, and do some nature photography. I also volunteer for an art gallery in my city and assist writers in my community.
Was it all too easy for you – the writing, the publication, and the sales?
Writing, yes. Publications, sure. Now with technology those two processes have been easier to either outsource or figure out on your own. The sales part though… I’m still trying to figure out but it has been a fun learning experience.
What does the word ‘retirement’ mean to you? Do writers ever retire?
Depends on the writer. If the writer looks at writing as a job they may eventually retire from it. If a writer looks at writing as a passion or hobby they may write until they die. I hope I don’t ever want to retire from writing but a lot can happen in the years to come.
Do writers become narcissists once their book starts to sell?
I don’t know… some may… but I hope I don’t. I am writing for the readers and for my characters not for myself. The reason I write isn’t for the fame or for the money – I write because I love to write and I have a story that I want to share with the world.
How are your relations with your family? Do you like to stay in touch?
My dad and I have become close over the last year since my mother’s passing. As an only child, family was a big part of my life and still is. I may not be in regular communication with them but I do keep in touch when it’s important. I’m there for them when they need me, just as they’re there for me.
Was there a time you were unable to write, At All?
Yes, university killed my creative drive. I went to university to focus my studies on English. I wanted to know everything and anything there was to know about writing… which I think is what ruined my writing. That creative freedom I had before university was bombarded by logic and technique. I questioned my writing and searched it for the hidden, deeper meaning in the words. I drove myself crazy trying to grasp what I used to have and it wasn’t until I forced myself to scrap what I had learnt during those 5 years that I began to write again. Knowing everything there is to know about English is great when it comes to the editing process but it’s death to the creative process.
How critical are you in your evaluation when you are reviewing someone’s work?
Overly critical to the point I can bring people to tears. I’ve been known to tear peoples work to piece, breaking everything down, questioning everything. At the same time those that ask for my help usually know how I am. I’m different when it is a young writer or a new writer. I take my time making suggestions on where they can improve, or what could be made stronger because they are just starting the craft. If it is a published author that wants me to be honest they know I’ll be brutally so.
Doesn’t it bother you that when books are turned into movies, they are often changed to suit the audience needs?
Yes. I don’t get upset when movies shorten a story’s plot or remove certain parts of the book that they deem as filler. I understand why they would do that, they have a certain budget and certain criteria they have to fulfil.
What I’m not happy about regarding changes between books and movies is the need to whitewash characters – especially main characters. In a world that needs stronger role models of colour and a desperate need for diversity in the film industry I just don’t get why they change the characters or get white actors to play those roles. If money is the only reason, along with viewership than their priorities are in the wrong place. Society needs a stronger representation of characters of colour, and have actors of colour portraying them.
Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?
I do that a lot when a piece just doesn’t work well with the rest of the story. I have lost track of how many times I changed the ending in Child of the Light and there are certain pieces in Children of Sirphan where I have rewritten the whole chapter over a dozen times. If something doesn’t work fix it until it fits or try and find another way to make the scene work.
Did you ever have a rough patch in writing, where nothing in the story seemed to fit or make sense?
Child of the Light was first written in longhand. I thought I had a clear idea of what I wanted the story to be but once I started typing it, what I had written didn’t make sense. I ended up scrapping the longhand and rewrote the whole first draft because it didn’t fit with how I wanted the world/story to be told.
Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?
When I first started writing I had to be curled up on my bed in complete silence. It was later on when I was in university that I had to learn to write where I could. It took some time for me to grow accustom to noise in my workspace but now I can write anywhere. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a set place I enjoy writing though. Sometimes I find myself writing curled up on the couch with my laptop or sitting with my legs up on a chair at my kitchen table typing away on my desktop we have set up there for the moment.
Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?
No, the majority of my teachers took away my notebooks and told me to focus on academics not daydreams. It was an after-school writing group leader that told me I had talent. He was a teacher in the school but I was never in his class. He was the first person I trusted to read the grandfather version of Child of the Light and it was with his direction that I was able to grow in my writing skills.
Were your parents supportive of your choice of career?
Writing was never thought of as a career to my parents. They wanted to make sure I was going to be able to take care of myself so they nudge me in the direction of other professions like business or teaching. I went into teaching because I saw the potential of sharing my love for writing with a new generation, and I wanted to help students that were like me grow to become skilled writers one day. In a sense I’m doing that through my mentoring but I think a career in teaching creative writing would be fun.
Is today’s generation more aware of the literary art or less?
With access to blogs, forums, comment sections, and self-publishing options I think today’s generation has more chances to test the waters. Back in the day publishing was sending your manuscript to a publishing house and hoping they liked you enough to work with you. Now you write something in a word document, edit it (if you want to), and upload it to a variety of media outlets such as Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. There are more opinions to voice your creations but it is up to those of the generation to take the chance and do it.
I don’t think schools are focusing much on the creative writing aspects as they were when I was growing up. I remember weeks’ worth of short story writing and poetry… but now most schools I find are focusing mostly on technical writing during the ages they should be nurturing these children’s’ creative sparks. I think showing children ways to express themselves creatively would help them find positive ways to express themselves later in life, but this is just my opinion.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
My mom wanted me to be a reader and I think our trips to the local library or reading in the backyard during the summer helped form an interest in literature I wouldn’t have if not for her.
Have you ever written fan-fiction?
Back in a time when anime was a new thing in North America I may have written a few fan-fiction for a show called InuYasha. I know they were not very good and makes for a good laugh whenever I happen across them in the abyss I call my filing system, but they did help me develop dialogue and character skills… so it wasn’t all a mistake.
If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it?
In a heartbeat! I love to teach just as much as I love to write. I think with my experiences I would make a good teacher.
Do you mentor?
When someone needs a little extra help. I don’t have any set students but when a writer asks for help or guidance I’m willing to do what I can to help them out.
How often do you aim to send a specific message through your book and get 100% success?
Nothing is 100%. I try to make my message clear through my themes but not everyone is going to get what I’m trying to say. I understand that and it doesn’t bother me. In the end this helps prompt discussion around my work and the sharing of ideas surrounding what message I’m trying to give by writing what I’ve written.
Which character(s), created by you, do you consider as your masterpiece(s)?
I have three characters that come to mind. The first is Caldor, the old sage from Child of the Light. He wasn’t supposed to be a major character but for some reason he wiggled his way into being the first POV for Child of the Light. I love his matter-a-fact tone and snarky attitude but I also love how being around Liora helps him mellow out and change to be more aware of other people’s emotions. The second would be Liora – the main character of the series. She’s curious and honest. She doesn’t mind being confrontational and isn’t afraid of putting people in their place – even if they are the King. She has a good heart and I only know she is going to grow into a stronger character as her storyline develops. Lastly is a character that hasn’t yet appeared in the series. I plan on him making an appearance in book 4 and he’s going to be much darker than those my readers would have encountered up to that point. I don’t know how he will be received, but I like his diversity as a character.
How long do you take to write a book?
From first draft to last edit, it takes me about six months… give or take. Child of the Light I started July 28th, 2015 and published it December 20th, 2015. Children of Sirphan I started January 5th, 2016 and I’m close to being done the final edit, but plan on publishing December 20th, 2016. My goal is one book a year. Ambitious, but I’ve been able to do it so far.
Do you prefer being intoxicated to write? Or would you rather write sober?
Personally I find writing sober to be intoxicating. I get all excited when I get to write out my ideas but I understand why writers would want to write while drinking. Alcohol shuts off the filter in your brain making it easier to get whatever you have on your mind off of it. That’s why there is a famous Ernest Hemingway quote, “Write drunk; edit sober.”
You don’t need that filter getting in the way of your story but you do need it when you want to make sure everything makes sense. For me, I have taught myself to shut off that filter so I don’t need to be intoxicated to get out what I want to say.