I am still learning every day a little nuance that is important as an author. How to write, what to write, how to edit, how to publish, how to promote. All linked and interlinked components of becoming a successful writer. So it always exciting for me to get a small win. A little piece of positive feedback, a nudge to write a short story that ends up doing better than I had hoped, or even just a nice email from a reader who enjoyed my work. These are all things that I enjoy. So this year I have been working hard to 'get my write on' and making sure that I have been doing small but noticeable steps in a positive direction every day, week and month. And, I am getting there. Like a slug on a Ferrari, it might take me a while to climb the bonnet, but I am admiring the view as I go. I hope you are too!Let's have a chat with this month's authors and see where they are at.
This month's authors:
E. Elizabeth Watson
E. Elizabeth Watson writes historical romance and lives in West Virginia with her sons, husband, and various pets. With degrees in Archaeology and Anthropology, Elizabeth instead began pursuing a career in fiction writing after earning an Honorable Mention in the 2013 Texas Observer short story completion and making it to the quarter-finals in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Elizabeth is a member of RWA and Maryland Romance Writers. She was kind enough to reply to my questions on how she worked on her craft.
You have written now several romance novels, from a range of eras in time. If you could travel in time, which one would you like to visit most and why?
This is such a hard question for me. I love to study history. I’m an archaeologist by degree and am naturally curious about the human past. I’d like to time-travel to many time periods and places, to see if our understanding based on records is accurate. Many of my books are set in are Medieval. I would definitely like to visit the years 1100 thru 1500 in Britain, though based on our modern understanding of infectious disease control with good hygiene and effective sewage, I don’t know that I’d want to stay visiting very long! But it would be fascinating to examine the architecture, watch how vassal lords, ladies, and serfs went about their lives, take notes on government, and observe how councils were held. Watching the creation of the Magna Carta would be extraordinary! I’d also like to visit Scotland during the 1600s to see castles, that I’ve visited, in their original state, as well as see the older forests that have since been cleared for agriculture. If only I had that time-machine!
In the process of writing, what part do you find hardest to do and why?
Different books present different challenges. I’ve never been a writer who plots out my manuscript, researches it, writes it, puts some editing polish on it, and sends it off. Some books have been merely a premise in my mind, and through the writing, I tease out the nuances. This is how I wrote An Earl for the Archeress. I knew the heroine I wanted to create—a forward-thinking, hardened woman and master archer in a time when women weren’t allowed to hone traditionally male skills, who is also protecting her vulnerable heart. She’s on the run from an abusive father, entering archery tourneys and pocketing the winnings in order to pay her way to safety when she unexpectedly ties in a contest with the hero—Robert, Earl of Huntington. The story flowed to the half-way point when I had to question myself as to how I was going to bring about the ending. It was as I reread the beginning that I finally had an epiphany. I was writing a Robin Hood Story! Other books I’ve written were clear from beginning to end, and the hardest part was making my fingers keep up typing while the story flowed out. The Maiden’s Defender was like this. I had a bullet point and a brief sentence for each chapter, then filled it in. Yet still, other books have required layers of developmental editing in order to shift the pieces of the story into their proper place.
How important is historical accuracy for you?
Historical accuracy is very important to create an authentic story, and yet, I write historical romance, as well as historical fantasy, which allows for artistic liberty and interpretation. Also, historical accuracy is relative to the story an author is crafting. A story centralized upon a major event needs to pay attention to facts surrounding those battles, or political moments, etc., and spend less time on, say, describing what the medieval kitchens looked like (unless the kitchens are also important!). The question I ask myself when writing is, “Does this further my plot or help define my characters?” If the answer is no, it needs to be cut. For example, in my novella Christmas Wore Plaid, the story takes place as the Highland Clearances are almost over, and the hero of the story, a penniless earl, is ailing from the poverty that has afflicted Scotland over decades of eradicating Highland culture and commerce. But the story is more about how he and the heroine overcome his bruised pride to accept that although he cannot provide for her in the way society dictates a man must, that he can still give their love a chance. The minutiae of the Highland Clearances doesn’t matter to the story, so only enough is included to create an authentic setting and believable thoughts and reactions in my characters’ minds.
You have a very thorough marketing plan for your books, including social media, videos, and a beautiful website. How did you learn these skills and what did you wish you had found out sooner?
I learned, and am still learning, through a lot of trial and error! For me, I have to be hands-on, experiment, see how people react, see what I’m doing well and where I can do better, tweak and adjust. When I first started publishing, it was my agent—who wasn’t yet my agent at the time—who told me I absolutely had to polish up a website and create a social media venue to provide a space for readers and potential editors to get to know me. I will admit I was shy about putting myself out there and loved the idea of anonymity that writing provides. After all, people might love my books. But they also might hate them! It’s a vulnerable position in which to be. But once I embraced self-promotion, I was inspired. Promoting myself, and taking pride in my work became like putting on a different hat. I had to own it, thrust it out into the world, and have confidence that I’d build a readership among people who like my writing style. Gone are the days of tossing a manuscript over the transom in hopes that an editor will read it, and in today’s world, we need to be our own biggest advocate. The internet makes many things possible and has changed how readers and authors interact with each other. But I am still learning. Having joined and become active in a chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America) has been exceedingly beneficial, too, because I’ve forged relationships with authors who are both mentors, as well as supports.
Elizabeth is everywhere on the web! And each place is a little different. So please take a moment and reach out to her, she would love to hear from you. And I wish to extend my thanks again for her engaging here on my blog - thank you!
Doug is the king of a whimsical fantasy and a master game creator. So I dropped him a line to find out what inspired him to do both, and here's what he said:
You have a range of talents across the writing field, what style or genre would be your favorite and why?
Short fiction is my favorite. It's focused and typically requires less world-building. There is more focus on the characters, which have smaller webs of interaction.
Do you find your ability to write stories helps you create and build on ideas for the games you work on?
Simple answer--yes. The more complex answer...I find my varied skillsets often intermingle. An author once told me I can't do both writing and game design. If I understood her correctly, she implied that to be successful, I should focus on one or the other in order to perfect my craft. To me, that's like telling someone they can either have a job or a family, not both. Why can't someone do and be successful at both? It is possible to find a balance. Just because I write fiction at home, doesn't mean I can't apply my creativity at my day-job, or that I can't apply my QA problem-solving skills on one of my stories. Just because you are wearing your writing hat doesn't mean you can't pull a few tricks out of the other hats you wear. We write about what we know, so use it! Multiple people have noted my unique, balanced way of thinking both creatively and analytically. In my projects, I blend seemingly unrelated things in a way that offers a different perspective. The same is true with how I use my talents. Project planning for my day-job in the software industry helps with how I approach outlining a story. Learning and developing gaming strategies can help with character interactions. The years I spent co-writing scripts for children's musicals helps me find voices for my characters.
Developing themes for games is similar to world-building for stories. For my first game, the earlier design felt like a wild goose chase. What better than a snipe hunt theme where people hunt for a fabled bird? From that concept, the setting of the game became wandering through a crazy forest where all sorts of dramatic events could happen, from alien abduction to a roaming werewolf.
When you start the writing process do you envision the story or the characters first?
Most of the time, I envision the story first, or at least the situation. From there, I start outlining and filling in the details. One of the stories I did start with a character is Pickled Bananas in the collection of short fiction of the same name. My wife challenged me to write a story where a teenage girl was the main character. She starts out as teased by other girls in her school, goes on an epic journey to make the ultimate sandwich, and discovers her self-worth through her varied talents and quirks, transforming her into someone much more comfortable in her own skin.
Who or what is the favorite character you have created to date, and why?
Kasper, from Checkered Scissors, is my favorite character. He is a shape-changing character that chooses the most random things to look like. He might look like a rhino in a tutu in one scene, and then transform into a purple giraffe with a fish head. Besides his abstract outward appearance, he is as loveable and as he is socially awkward. He just wants someplace he can feel accepted and appreciated. My other favorite characters to write are the silent ones. It's like writing for Grommit, Ferb, or Silent Bob. Much of my dialog writing experience originates from co-writing scripts for children's theater. Sometimes, writing dialog makes me lazy when it comes to a character's other attributes. When a character does not speak, it forces me to think more about their actions and mannerisms. No dialog forces me to make the silent ones adequately communicate with other characters through body language.
You can reach Doug through his website http://www.checkeredscissors.com/ where he has a range of links to his books and games. I hope you can take a moment to support him by contacting him, and I extend my thanks for being interviewed!
This month's book challenge - To win yourself a $10 Amazon gift card, this month I would like you to send in a review of a book you have read recently that you enjoyed. Each month our winner will have their review published in my next month's blog and get the gift card information emailed to them. So send me your review - any book, any genre, let's see what you love to read! I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and engage with me! Happy reading everyone! VK Tritschler