Wednesday Writers Wisdom: Interview with Elizabeth Yon

Did you enjoy last week’s guest post from author Cassidy Frazee? Are you enjoying the series? I’d love to hear your suggestions on how to improve the series, or if you are wanting to guest post or be interviewed, or maybe you wonder if anyone else feels the same way you do, all you have to do is contact me and tell me all about it.

Today, it’s time for another author interview. This week, I have author Elizabeth Yon. I met Elizabeth through my publishing house, Bannerwing Books. I’m excited to have her on the blog today.

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1. How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was about seven years old. I was in third grade, and I wrote a novel. A brief, crayon-illustrated novel called The City Monster. Obviously, it didn’t go anywhere, but I was hooked on writing.

2. What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I began writing seriously as a poet. But, soon I was working on short stories. My work is a combination of magic realism, dark fantasy, reworked fairy tales, and horror. I like the dark side.

3. Why did you choose that particular field or genre?
I think because it gives me free rein to explore disturbing subjects. I like the adrenaline boost of a scary tale, and the thrill of a good twist. But it always seems there is something I’m trying to say. Maybe it’s the same thing, every time, and I don’t quite get it said. Something about my own deep-seated fears; and there is an element of baring scars, as well. Of course, I get a kick out of making readers squirm in the dark, too.

4. What inspires you?
Real stories of real people. Usually just little things, bits of an experience, like the way the hair raised on their arms, or the smell of the room where it happened, the music that played the day things went down. And places inspire me. Qualities of light. Tiny details that seem somehow skewed. I don’t really look for these things. They just sort of pop out at me.

5. Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing, etc. come from?
My grandmother read to me all the time when I was a toddler. I memorized the books and “read” along with her. When I was able to read for myself, there weren’t many books available to me. Every book was precious. As I got older, I gained more access to books and went wild, collecting and reading them. I guess I was what people call a troubled kid. My place in the world was unstable. The worlds those books conjured were real to me, and they provided me a desperately needed escape. I wanted to be able to make that magic happen, to build my own worlds.

6. How do you find or make time to write?
There are always a lot of things clamoring for our time. I had to decide to make writing a priority, and to shift some other things a little further down the list. It was hard at first, but now it seems natural. I don’t have kids, so it’s definitely easier for me than for the moms out there. But, basically, I just decided that writing was important. I decided to treat it like a job; I show up on time and I put in my hours.

7. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
I fly by the seat of my pants when I’m drafting a story. Pure intuition. I’m as surprised as anyone by the way things unfold. Then I wade in with all the tools and start thinking about it in a more logical fashion. I make the clay, then I sculpt. I’ve tried outlining, planning, working out the story arc, and it just kills it for me. I get an inkling of what the story wants to be, and I leap. I let it play fast and loose, take me where it wants with minimal steering. All the refining comes later. It’s different for each writer, and whatever works is the right way, even if it means standing on your head. If I get stuck, I walk away for a bit. I get outside, I move, and the story is churning in the background. When I get back to it, I find it’s decided on a direction.

8. How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
So many twists and turns! I guess I got here the same way I get to the end of a story draft. By the seat of my pants. I never planned much, and just rolled with things. Always, the writing was there, but it was a growth process. I needed the wild variety of experiences I had, the many moves, the many jobs, the spicy melange of people I met, to get to the place of writing I occupy today. And the process is ongoing. I expect it will continue as long as I do.

9. What projects are you working on at the moment?
A second book of short stories, which is nearly completed. And I’ve got a novel in the pipe that has been struggling for form a long time. There are so many stories to be written!

10. What process did you go through to get your work published?
I self published Wilderness: A Collection of Dark Tales. It really didn’t occur to me to go any other way, and it was a good experience. I’d love to be picked up by a publisher, though. The business end of self publishing, the marketing and sales, exhausted me and stopped the writing for an unacceptable amount of time. I’d love to have some support with that end of things.

11. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Well, self-promotion is very hard for me. Of course, I want people to read and enjoy my work. How to make myself known? I struggle with this. All the marketing and promotional advice in the world can’t overcome my reluctance to be a salesperson, or to dance and prance on social media to create a platform. The writing itself, while often difficult, is a natural mode of expression for me. I accept, and even embrace, its challenges. It’s that darn business stuff that hangs me up.

12. What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.
I love losing myself in a story, the same as when I’m reading. Knitting it all together is exhilarating. I really like words, too, and finding the right ones. It’s like a puzzle. I don’t really have a favorite work. There are so many tremendous writers I love. I’m a big fan of short stories, though. Novels are great, don’t get me wrong, but the short story is an incredibly powerful form.

13. What is the biggest thing people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t true?
Maybe that it’s just gratuitous mayhem, or that a story featuring monsters or ghosts can’t have anything important to say. Those things only constitute a vehicle. They entertain, and they provide both the writer and the reader a bit of distance from some topics that can be pretty uncomfortable.

14. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they should?
Perhaps that literary excellence is possible within it, and is often achieved. A dark tale doesn’t have to be a simple fright mechanism. It can have subtle layers of meaning. It can be written in beautiful language. All of this, and just plain fun to read, too.

15. For those interested in exploring the subject/theme of your work, where should they start?
For magic realism, I love Alice Hoffman and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, just to start. And the fabulist Italo Calvino. And the magnificent fairy tales of Angela Carter. And the elegant ghost stories of Edith Wharton, Shirley Jackson, and M.R. James. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and I love the wordsmithing of Dean Koontz. Peter Straub’s book Ghost Story is, in my opinion, a new classic. I loved Jody Shields’s book The Fig Eater. I mean, I loved it! I could go on and on, but this is a nice start.

16. What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?
Well, I sort of whined enough about promotion. I find it detracts from my writing time, while I acknowledge its necessity. I did book signings, locally, for Wilderness. I rather enjoyed those. I set up a website, I have a blog, I have an Amazon author page, and a Facebook page. I’m on LinkedIn and Goodreads.

17. Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?
Question 15 partially answered this. I also adore the work of Donna Tartt. I’ve read all her books, and re-read her first, The Secret History, several times. I love Tanith Lee, Ursula K. LeGuin, Orson Scott Card, Anne Rice, Dan Simmons. I love Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Joseph Conrad, Patricia Highsmith. Too many to make a decent list. I’m always leaving out someone super important! They’ve shown me how to construct a story, how to tighten it while letting it have the space it demands, how to be impeccable in word choice. I don’t always get these lessons right, but the fault is my own. Such great teachers!

18. What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?
I’m told I have a distinctive voice, one that is recognizable. I think this might be true. There is a certain subtlety, a sly twisting of meanings my stories have in common. A kind of sneaky pouncing on the reader, maybe, where the endings tend to be slippery ground.

19. What are you currently reading?
An anthology of American short stories published by Granta and several Shirley Jackson novels. I like to keep several books going at once.

20. What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
Hmm. That’s a big question. It’s easy to say that younger generations haven’t an interest in good writing, that all they care to comprehend are tweets and texts. But, I think there is a core of literature lovers in every generation, and that core has always felt itself to be shrinking and beleaguered. It’s not, really. It’s just not fully aware of all of its constituents. There is an awful lot of conversation going on – about writing, about books, about what constitutes good literature – for reading/writing to be on the decline. There are writers everywhere, and every writer is a reader, too.

I live in rural Bedford County, Pennsylvania with my husband, grandmother, and two cats. I love to garden, hike, and kayak. I belong to a writers’ group called the Saturday Scribes, and I write dark, speculative fiction. I’m the author of Wilderness: A Collection of Dark Tales, available from Amazon as an ebook or paperback. My short story, Love Apples, is included in the collection Echoes in Darkness, from Bannerwing Books. My short story, Queen and Knave, is included in the second edition of Precipice: The Literary Anthology of Write On Edge. Both are available from Amazon. More of my short fiction is available on my blog, The Palace of Night. My website is www.elizabethyon.com.

 

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Isn’t she fabulous? Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

While you’re here, would you please take a moment to answer this question submitted by AL Mabry for next week’s Wednesday Writers Wisdom?

How do you effectively juggle multiple writing projects?

Thanks for stopping in and don’t forget to use the Contact Me form to submit your suggestions, questions, interview/guest post inquiries. I want to hear from you!

Wednesday Writers Wisdom: Cassidy Frazee

Today, I have Cassidy Frazee visiting the blog. She has been kind enough to put together a post talking about her writing process. I am out of town today, so I turn my blog over to Cassidy willingly. Next week, I have a spectacular interview with the absolutely down to earth Elizabeth Yon.

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Please give a warm welcome to Cassidy Frazee, who blogs at Wide Awake but Dreaming.

Wisdom of Words

When I was asked to do a guest post, I felt honored because it’s been a while since anyone’s asked me to work up something for them.  Then I was asked to off a few bits of wisdom on writing, and . . . huh?  Me giving sage advice?

What comes next, world?  Stock tips?

It’s true, I’ve been writing a while.  I’ve mentioned from time to time that I started writing in high school, then gave it up, then started again in the 1980’s, then gave it up, then again in the 90’s and gave it up . . . and you’re probably noticing a trend here.  It wasn’t until after a online writing class I took in 2010 that I was encouraged to write and keep writing, and I’ve been at it ever since.  (I should note that said encouragement did not come from the instructor, who actually wasn’t aware of the famous “clocks were striking thirteen” opening line from 1984 and didn’t know why I’d use something similar in a flash fiction.)

In the period from 2011 to today—July, 2014—I’ve published three stories:  two through self-publishing and one sold story.  At the moment I have plans to publish more, starting later this year, and by this time next year I hope to put out at least two large works.  I’m in the middle of a huge novel that I’ve been working on almost every day since the end of October 2013, and I don’t expect to finish until early next year.

I do this because it’s my dream to make a living as a published writer.  I also have stories to tell, and I want to share them with others.

What have I learned from spending time writing?

1:  It’s pretty much a second job.

My schedule during the week is like this:  I get up at six AM and blog.  I even do thing on the weekends, though I might not start writing until maybe seven, seven-thirty.  Then I go to work and stay there until four PM.  Then I go home, relax, and usually about seven-thirty, eight PM I start writing.  I usually write until ten-thirty or eleven PM, and then I save off my work to an external drive and go to bed.  Rinse, repeat.

Now you may read that and say, “You only write for three hours?  That’s not a lot of work!”  Let’s then take a look at my Monday of this week, the 21st of July:

Got up and blogged.  Got ready for work.  Went to work for two hours.  Came home and changed.  Drove two hundred miles into New Jersey to see my doctor.  Spent a half hour with her going over a few things and then let her watch me give myself an injection.  Went down the road and got lunch, and, while eating, read my email.  Drove two hundred miles back home, stopped to get dinner.  Ate dinner and wrote five hundred words of a new scene at the restaurant.  Went back home and wrote another two hundred and fifty words for the same scene.  Examined an upcoming scene and decided I could merge it with another, and decided I could move a scene in one chapter to another.  Saved my work and went to bed.

What you don’t see in there is me spending some of that time driving going over scenes for my novel in my head.  You don’t see me going over my story in Scrivener thinking about if a scene is really needed, or—if like I just did in the last chapter—may need to add a scene.  You don’t see me thinking about something that’s going to happen not in the scene I’m in, but the next one, where one of the main characters has something interesting happen to them.

If you’re writing, you’re putting worlds down for the story.  If you’re not writing, you’re always thinking about your story, or another story to come.  You’re working on notes, or building a time line, or developing a character outline.

You are working all the time even when you’re not.  And if not, you should be.

2:  If you don’t like to edit, you need to learn.

Editing is your friend.  It really is.  These days I go over a story again and again.  I even do that when I’m building my first draft.  There were times when I used to write three, four, even five thousand words a day.  Today I usually do about a thousand, but it’s a clean thousand, because I edit as I go along.  I can’t leave a misspelled word in place.  If something sounds wrong, I fix it.  If I don’t like the word I used, I find another.  I remember once spending twenty minutes working on a fifty word paragraph because it didn’t feel right.

And when you’re done with the first draft, go back over and do it again.  Maybe again after that.  And maybe once more, because you never know what you might find.  And then make sure you don’t have plot holes big enough to drive a starship through, too, because readers love to find those and remind you how much you messed up.

3:  Don’t let your ego get in your way.

Writers have egos; make no mistake about that.  We build worlds, we create characters from nothing—as I used to say in when I was running a lot of role playing games, “The game is my world, and I’m god.  Don’t mess with me.”

However . . .

On my current novel I had someone read over parts of it, and what they came back at me with was one of the main characters seemed . . . passive.  They seemed like instead of being a main character, they were there to smile and be lead around by the hand.  They didn’t like it one bit.

I saw it differently, however, and, unfortunately, I got pissed and kinda blew off the advice, which resulted in that person getting pissed off and letting me have it.  When it was all over, I was hurt, I was angry, I was sure I was right.

I wasn’t.

When I stepped back and looked at their advice in the cold light of day, they were right and I wasn’t.  I started redoing the character, working up their background and giving them a whole different personality.  And in doing so, I started changing my other characters, because they, too, also seemed wrong.

Are they right now?  I feel they are.  But if I’d let my ego tell me, “Yo, don’t pay any attention to her, you’re the god here, yeah?” I’d end up with weaker characters.

The ego is nice to have, but never let it cripple you.

4:  Own it, right and wrong.

In the same story, the same person found a few things they didn’t care for—namely the fact that I use the metric system throughout the story.  When people talk, they talk metric.  The majority of the students are not from countries that use the Imperial System—of the new students in my current novel, only two people out of thirty-two come from the U.S—so it doesn’t make sense for them to speak in feet, miles, and pounds.

I got called on it, saying it was going to confuse people, that if you had to do calculations in your head then people were going to stop reading.  I say that since only three countries use the Imperial system, and my school is supposed to be run by an organization that is all over the world, it would be ridiculous to have everyone using a measurement system that isn’t used world-wide.  To do everything in Imperial measurements would not only pander to the U.S. readers, but would get me crucified by a lot of other readers who’d think I wasn’t making sense.

In the end I just flat out side I’m doing this my way and it’s not up for discussion.  I owned it.  Right or wrong, it’s mine, and I’m sticking with it.  If I get this published and it burns me with readers, so be it.  If it’s the wrong call, be ready to own up that it was, and move on.

You should also be ready to own your mistakes if you do something that doesn’t make sense plot-wise, or even goes so far as to bust up the internal logic of your story.  As David Gerrold once pointed out, if you set the rules of your universe so no one can use their left hand, and in the last act your hero used their left hand to get out of a jam, you’re so busted.  Be ready to own that, and own it hard.

5:  Don’t be afraid to get uncomfortable.

One novel I wrote two years ago was Couples Dance.  I’ve sent it out to a couple of places, never heard anything back, and will probably self-publish it one day.  It was probably the hardest thing I’d written because it’s what I like to call “erotic horror”, which is to say it’s strange.  It’s also a bit ugly in places, mostly due to the characters not really being all that lovable.  And there are a couple of scenes in the story that just sort of make you go, “Ugh!” and leaving you with the feeling you should just walk away.

At the same time I was proud of myself for writing it, because I knew how bad some of the scenes were, I knew how unlovable some of the characters were, I knew it was going to be a story without a happy ending.  And to do all that, I had to make the decision to go there, to get uncomfortable with what I knew how to write, to simply tell the story and not worry if the haters were gonna hate.

It’s not just horror that makes you feel that way.  I have one story that, when I got to the final few pages, I was crying almost non-stop.  Why?  Because in writing what the characters were feeling I pulled upon memories that I didn’t want to relive, feelings I didn’t want to feel.  It was a killer session, and I finished the story—and even now, if I reread that part, I start crying, because I know where their feelings for each other arose.

Sometimes you just gotta go there, you gotta open the vein and let whatever you didn’t think you had inside of you drip out onto the keyboard.  What you produce might be crap—or it might be something great.

You won’t know until you cross that line.

6:  If you wanna be a writer, write every day.  Or at least work at your writing.

Clive Barker once made the comment that writers write, and any writer who isn’t writing, or at least working towards their craft, isn’t a writer.  His analogy was having a person talk about how they’re a boat building and yet never having taken the time to actually build a boat.  No planning, no constructing, no putting in the sweat to make something that floats:  no boat you have, no boat builder you are.

It’s the same with writing.  If you talk about all the great stories you’re going to write, but you’ve yet to write them, or even plan them, or plot them out, or develop a character, or come up with a name for your story’s locations, you’re not a writer.  And please don’t say, “I’m a pantser; I wait for the muse to strike,” because if that’s the case you gotta get that muse out of the bathroom so they can kick you in the butt, because you can only use that “waiting on the muse” line so many times before it sounds like recycled BS.

This was me for a long time.  I talked about writing, but I didn’t.  There were a few things I started and then let them fall by the wayside because I didn’t know where to go.  It took me a long time to actually finish a story, and once I did, I wanted to do another, and another, and another, and . . . you know how this goes.

And that’s an important thing for me:  if you start, don’t stop until you finish your story.  Since 2011, when I finally became serious about writing, of everything I started, there is only one piece I put aside and said, “Nope, not gonna do.”   I was about two thousand words into it when I sat back and said, “This is gonna suck, why waste my time?” and I put it away.

Since then if I decide I’m going to write a story, I think it over carefully and decide if I really want to write it, because it could become a monster, and once I take hold of that monster, I better be ready to grab it by the throat and hold on until it’s finished.  There’s no point in getting in the middle of this and deciding I want to do something else.  And if another idea comes to mind—put it in your Idea File and work on the notes in your spare time.

This is how I do things.  It doesn’t work for everyone, and I’ve had to develop this over the years.  I’m still working on it, more or less, because I’m developing as a writer, which means I’m finding different ways to do things, and that leads to new habits.  And if I seem to spend a month or more plotting out a story—that just means I don’t have to do it later.

That’s when I make the magic; that’s when I write.

Coffee 07052014001Cassidy Frazee is a writer from Indiana currently living in Pennsylvania.  At the moment she’s driving herself nuts with the first draft of a monster novel, and she’s planning on digging into her slush pile and getting stuff out for publication.  She is the author of Her Demonic Majesty and Kuntilanak, written under the name Raymond Frazee.

 

 

Thanks for stopping in! Please use the Contact Me form on the left sidebar if you are interested in sharing your writing process or any part thereof with my readers.

Master Class Session 4: Weekly Challenge

Storch-BadgeIf you are looking for the biweekly and monthly challenges, click here. Don’t forget that the monthly challenge is due by Friday. Voting on the best story will begin on Saturday and the winner will be announced on Monday.  A new monthly prompt will go live August 4.

So, last week, Kir offered the word “coppertone” to challenge you. I’m the only one who responded, continuing the western I started for Studio 30+. You can see how I used coppertone in “Judgment Coming.”

This week I am offering you the word

precondition(s/ed)

for the weekly word challenge.

Your piece should be 320 words or less and contain the word prompt within the body somewhere. The linkup will be live until Monday, July 28 6:00 pm EST.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

The link up is now live! Don’t forget to check out the biweekly and monthly prompts, too!

Ready? Set? Write!

Judgment Coming

The loud squeak of the saloon doors swinging open made everyone turn and look, just as they always did. A small tremble filtered through the bar. The last time a stranger had passed through those doors, the town had lost seven good men. A dozen men in faded brown fedoras, wearing dust covered brown boots who called themselves the Bare – nosed Brass Knuckled Boys had rode in on Pintos and challenged the town’s best sharpshooters to a gun fight.

And there was nothing they could do about it.

A collective sigh worked its way around the room as they realized it was another stranger. Instead of a faded black fedora, however, this one wore a shiny, new coppertone one over the coldest blue steel eyes ever to enter the town. He sauntered smoothly to the bar, avoiding the stools, tipped his hat to the awestruck bartender, and ordered a beer. He leered at the parlor girl, who shrank into the shadow of the player piano that suddenly went silent.

And there was nothing they could do about it.

He swallowed his beer in a single gulp and cast an eye about the bar, not singling out any single individual yet making them all feel as if he was at the same time. A few poker players squirmed under his gaze but no one mustered up the courage to speak. They all busied themselves to avoid looking into those cold steel blue eyes. Fear rippled through them like a cold wind on wet flesh.

“Judgment is coming,” he said, his deep voice reverberating from the walls.

The loud squeak of the saloon doors swinging open made everyone turn and look, just as they always did. A small tremble filtered through the bar. The last time a stranger had passed through those doors, death had followed. Instead of a faded black fedora, however, this one wore a shiny, new coppertone one over the coldest blue steel eyes ever to enter the town.

And there was nothing they could do about it.

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Storch-BadgeThis piece is a continuation of a story started here. It meets the Master Class weekly word prompt “coppertone” selected by Kir last week.

Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment. I welcome and appreciate your feedback!

Thanks for dropping in!

Wednesday Writers Wisdom: The Face of Fear

Last week, we had an incredible interview with author Jessie Bishop Powell. Her debut mystery, Marriage in the Rue Morgue, came out today!!

At the end of her interview, I asked “What’s your worst writing fear?” I ended up going to Facebook and asking there, too.

And the answers are today’s

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The answers varied across the internet:

Stacey of Stacey’s Mothering Moments says: “That I suck. Plain and simple.” (She doesn’t.)

Dominique Goodall describes her worse fear as “losing all my creativity in describing new worlds.”

“My biggest fear is the thought of my characters not coming to life for my readers like they do for me. I hope my writing does them justice.” A.L. Mabry

Carrie of The Muse Unleashed had this to say: “Biggest fear: that I will never finish my damn book!” (I know this fear!)

“Screwing up the plot line in a series and leaving readers going WTF that isn’t what you said two books ago!” Shannon McRoberts of  My Epic Lore.

Renee says: “That everyone else will think my writing is as terrible as I sometimes do.” (It’s not!)

“My greatest fear is readers hating the work. Or worse, being indifferent to it. It’s all for them, you know. If they don’t like it, then … what am I doing?” Elizabeth Yon.

English teacher Eric Moore says: “After polishing something and sending it off, full of pride and confidence, getting it back all slashed up in red ink. That or losing a large body of work to technical error.”

“To look foolish. In anything I do my greatest fear is appearing foolish….which is pretty stupid when you think about it.” Lydia Harris

And finally, from Kimberly Rues, who blogs at Rubber Chicken Madness says her greatest fear in writing is “That I won’t be able to adequately communicate what I’m trying to say.”

I take from this that our greatest fear as a writer really seems to come from within. Self-doubt is a big one.

Now that you’ve seen ours, won’t you share yours?

And next week, we have a guest post from the inspiring Cassidy Frazee. You won’t want to miss that!!

Tell us what you think! Don’t be shy!

And thanks for stopping in!