Where Writers And Authors Meet Interviews:
Janet was our Featured Spotlight author last week and visitors were encouraged to ask Janet some of their own questions! Here is a link to that Spotlight! Feel free to ask more questions, and we might just be able to get Janet back for a follow up interview!
Questions 1 – 4 asked by Sophia DeLuna
1. You’re trying to find a mainstream publisher, yes? Have you ever considered self-publishing?
Sophia, at this point I’m looking for a traditional publisher, but self-publishing is definitely becoming a valid option as it becomes more accessible. An indie author needs to sell far fewer books to cover publication costs than a traditional press does. On the other hand, my story in the A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider anthology showed me that I need an editor, and good freelance editors are out of my price range right now.
2. What’s your usual procedure when you start a new story – do an outline or jump right into the story and see where it takes you?
With my first novel-length project, I jumped right in. This story idea wouldn’t go away, and I didn’t want it in my head. I think it was around the chapter 8 mark that I realized I might actually push through and finish it. Before that, I wouldn’t even admit I was writing a novel. The next one had some rough outlining, and between Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method and some great character and plotting tools from Jeff Gerke (his Writers’ Foundation Bundle), I’m becoming more intentional about discovering the story and its inhabitants before writing.
3. Which part of the writing process do you like the most, and which the least?
I love the discovery part, when an aspect of plot or character unfolds in my imagination and I can’t write fast enough to keep up. And I actually like the editing process. My least favourite are the “seat in chair, hands on keyboard” days when it feels like work. For me, that’s a high proportion of the time, but it’s developing discipline and perseverance and it reaches the word count.
4. What’s your favourite tea?
Right now that’s Tetley’s Vanilla Bean Chai. Love it! Second favourite is Read My Lips from DavidsTea.
5. I’m wondering what project or projects are you currently working on? And in that vein, do you usually work on one thing at a time or more than one? (Asked by NJ Lindquist)
I’m not as diverse as you, NJ but I blog three times a week, so there’s ongoing writing for that. For fiction, I’m revising a suspense novel manuscript and exploring ideas for a new science fiction story. I have some planning done for another suspense one, but these three s-f characters on a planet somewhere have been “talking” to me a bit and I’m intrigued.
6. I am interested in knowing what first inspired you to write fiction? Did you enjoy writing stories as a child? Where do you get the inspiration for your characters? (Asked by Ruth Ann Adams)
I did write stories as a child, Ruth Ann, mostly novels that never got past chapter 2. The worst was a Black Stallion rip-off. I stopped writing for a while and came back to it as an adult. So far, my characters have developed out of the plot ideas. I’ve asked “what sort of person would this be?” It’s fun discovering them, and the best part is when they occasionally will surprise me with something I didn’t know about them.
7. What kind of setting do you find most conducive to your writing? What kinds of things side-track you, and how do you get back on task? (Asked by Bobbi Junior)
Bobbi, I’m learning to write non-fiction with other people around, but talking or music with lyrics makes it too hard. For fiction I need to be alone and either quiet or with soft instrumental music playing. If someone comes into the room, even if they don’t speak it pulls me out of the creative zone. If they go away, I can read the last few lines I wrote and usually pick up where I was interrupted. I think the biggest thing that sidetracks me is life in general. Other responsibilities can crowd fiction writing out of my schedule, and when that happens for too long it’s really hard to get going again. I need to put a little time on it nearly every day to keep the momentum up.
8. As a fellow Canadian, I want to see more international settings in Christian fiction. Can you tell us how you think that could happen? (Asked by Christine Lindsay)
Christine, I think it’s starting to happen. Small presses and indie publishing are opening up access to what the big publishers might perceive as smaller niche markets. And the internet has given us a global marketplace. For the longest time, the highest sales in Christian fiction were in the US Bible belt, so naturally the publishers catered to that demographic’s tastes.
Now that science fiction, fantasy and speculative have proven themselves in the smaller houses, the bigger ones are trying to get into the game. If we can see some well-written, contemporary, non-US setting stories getting noticed, the change will come. And the whole small/indie press movement will keep growing.
Personally, I don’t understand the reluctance to have “foreign” settings. As a reader, I like a variety of settings and I like to see other parts of the world. If anything, I’m reluctant to read a novel set in my home town because unless it’s from a local author, there’s probably at least a minor detail that will stand out to me as wrong. Plus, it’s nice to discover through fiction that we share common emotions with people from other cultures and settings.
You were clever to choose historical fiction to explore the culture and heritage of India. Somehow historicals seem “safe”… but even there, it’s usually Britain, isn’t it? Maybe your British characters did the trick.
Questions 9 – 18 asked by Stephen Ward
9. You are writing a story with a nasty character. Is it more fun than writing the hero’s part?
Stephen, my first novel manuscript is about the redemption of a serial killer. Writing his part was not fun, but I think because I have to work so much harder to get into a villain’s head the writing may be stronger and flow easier. Maybe I take my protagonists for granted and don’t dig deep enough. I’d like to try a villain who believes himself/herself to be the hero, and I’d also like to try a hero with a nasty streak. Most of us have a bit of both.
10. Have you ever tried acid?
No, and I have no regrets about that
11. Do you do an initial outline of your story?
Short stories, no. First novel-length manuscript, no. The second one had a bit of outlining and this is a prewriting skill I’d like to develop.
12. Is Canada more fun than the United States?
Depends on your idea of fun I like visiting the States, but I love living in Canada, especially near the ocean.
13. Two endings of your story come to mind. How do you choose which ending will make your story stronger?
I haven’t had this happen yet, probably because I haven’t outlined enough! The ending sort of shapes itself for me as I write. With a couple of endings to choose from, I’d have to think them through in relation to the plot and characters. I’m a big fan of twist endings, the sort you don’t see coming until it hits between the eyes but then it fits perfectly. A happy ending with a believable twist would win.
I’ll bet you’ve faced this decision, though, Stephen. You sure come up with a lot of ideas!
14. One of your characters accidentally kills someone in the story. Do they fry?
Well I hope not, if it’s an accident, but I suppose it would depend on the character and the story. I’d sure do my best to get them out of it!
15. Which is more important with regards to your writing – an inspirational lesson or entertainment?
That depends on what I’m writing. If it’s inspirational non-fiction, then I want to make it an engaging read but it’s about the message. If it’s fiction, I want it to be a good read. Sure, I hope there’ll be something to encourage the reader, but first of all it needs to be fun.
16. It is January 31, 1933. You wake up and find that you are Adolf Hitler. Yesterday you were appointed Chancellor of Germany and today is your first day on the job. What would you do different?
I’d skip the whole genocide and attempted-world-domination thing, for starters. And I’d encourage the Volkswagen manufacturers to include heaters
17. How much emphasis do you put into a cover?
I love the covers of the Hot Apple Cider anthologies. To me, a good cover matters a lot. If a book is displayed face-out, the art has to intrigue a potential reader enough to even read the title, let alone pick it up and browse through. Unless a person is already determined to buy the book, the cover can be a significant part of the decision process.
18. Someone wants to collaborate with you on a story. Would you?
I know there can be benefits, but the story would really have to grab me. Collaborations can bring a bunch of headaches, and I usually have something of my own that I want to work on. Plus, I might be a bit of a control freak
19. Janet, I wonder if you have thought about publishing some of your work on your blog. Maybe a portion a week to get people reading your writing? I know another author who did that and don’t know if it’s effective, but wonder if you’ve thought about it. (Asked by Ann Brent)
I’d like to know if this works for fiction. I’ve seen a few bloggers posting story instalments. Some people advise to never do it for fiction, although I’ve heard success stories of people turning non-fiction blogging into publishing contracts.
Once or twice I’ve posted one of my short stories, but the danger with a novel is that people who get interested part-way through have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve thought of introducing some of my characters through my blog, but if people like them, then the stories aren’t available to read.
Some novelists blog as their characters, and that’s something that could be fun to try. I hadn’t considered that before, so thanks, Ann!
20. All weekend long at Write! Canada, people kept mentioning how it just isn’t the same without you. You were greatly missed? How do you maintain deep friendships with writers and how has this impacted your work? (Asked by Jenny Svetec)
[For those who haven’t heard of it, Write! Canada is the country’s largest conference for writers and editors who are Christian.]
Jenny, I’m glad you asked about friendships, because they’ve made a huge difference. Connecting with other writers who understand the struggles is a big thing, and I don’t know if I’d still be writing without that community. For me it’s mostly online, but I’m glad to have a few face-to-face writing friends too.
The place I’m most active these days is The Word Guild, and I’m enjoying our new Facebook group that lets us put faces to names. I’m sure being part of The Word Guild’s prayer team has helped me get to know some of the members better.
I think we develop a lot of positive acquaintances, and some of those turn into deep friendships. But even at the acquaintance level, we can learn from one another, share information or opportunities, and build one another up. And we can cheer for one another. If we have a positive connection with other writers, we may still be sad when they get published or get an award and we don’t, but it’s different – they’re not “the competition” or “the enemy.” They’re people we know and care about. And a friend’s good news is a lot better than no good news!
Hmm… think I feel a blog post about writing friendships coming on! Thanks for the idea!
21. I was going to ask you about self-publishing, but I see that Sophia beat me to it! I’m interested to know about your experiences with pursuing a traditional publisher. Who have you approached? What has the response been? Also, do you have an agent? (Asked by Kimberley Payne)
Kimberley, for me it’s been a long, tedious process, made worse because I started submitting my first manuscript before it was ready. Now I have an agent, the story’s ready (I think) and the markets are shrinking. My stories are for a Christian audience, more issue-driven than some of the publishers want, and set in Canada while the major Christian publishers are US-based and not fond of international fiction, as Christine pointed out. Lots of hurdles there! One of the things I appreciate most about my agent is his perspective. He’s been in the business long enough to keep me from planning parties if an editor asks to see the full manuscript. He also encourages me to keep writing instead of waiting for what’s already written to sell.
From the Admin: I really enjoyed reading your responses Janet especially the part about how important it is to develop relationships with other writers so they become your friend instead of your competition 😉 I really laughed when you suggested that Hitler should have suggested that Voltswagons should have had heaters ROFL!