When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
I knew as a child that I wanted to be either a writer or an artist, or both. Both writing and art were my voice, my way of talking about things I wasn’t allowed to talk about. And both writing and art came easily to me, and felt natural–more natural to me than talking (probably because my abusers frequently threatened to kill me if I talked). But it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I became serious about getting published, and began really studying writing technique, joined a critique group, etc.
2. What did you do with your first book once you finished writing it?
Once I finished writing my first book, I got it critiqued (actually, I often got it critiqued chapter by chapter as I wrote and edited it) in my critique group. I did many revisions, and then I started sending it out to editors and agents. It was a long process–it took me more than ten years to get SCARS published. But during that time I kept editing and rewriting SCARS, and I also wrote drafts of other novels, including HUNTED. I had to put HUNTED through many more revisions before it became published, but it was just released! (Dec 15 in the US from WestSide, and in January in Canada from Fitzhenry & Whiteside.)
There’s a number of things that motivate me to write: I have so much I want and need to say, and so many issues that affected me as a ritual abuse survivor,
that that helps spur me on; It’s really important to me to encourage compassion, healing, and greater awareness about painful issues that aren’t talked about much (and usually that I’ve experienced), and writing is my way to do that; I am happier when I’m writing and editing; I really want to have my
books reach people, and to succeed (which is opposite what my abusers told me I could do); I also need to make a living, and for me, writing feels like the best and most right way for me to do that, and sometimes it feels like the only way. It’s who I am–a writer–but I also still have some effects from the extreme abuse and trauma, and that makes it hard for me to be around people every day 9-5. I enjoy editing for others, and can do that from home, but if I really follow my heart, I want to be writing my novels and doing the necessary work I have to in book promotion to help get my books out there.
4. What tricks have you learned to keep focused on your writing ?
I still need to find more ways! It’s easy to get sucked into the internet, and especially when I have to be on the net to do book promotion. Book promotion is a much bigger job and takes up a lot more time than I realized it would before I was published. I don’t think I’ve found a balance with that yet.
The number one thing that works best for me personally to keep me really focused on my writing, is that when I’m in a book that I have a deadline for or that I really care about and have made a self-imposed deadline, I push myself to work really hard. I work crazy hard and fast for a few weeks or up to about two months, finishing an edit or a draft, and then I have to crash for at least a week and take a break where I don’t write at all. I can’t keep up that hectic pace for too long, and it’s probably not the healthiest way to go about it. But for me, working like that helps keep me writing, and keeps the inner critic and editor at bay while I work. I try to balance my working crazy hard with some kind of escape, like a book or movie, so that I don’t burn out too quickly, but I’m still exhausted afterward. I don’t recommend that way of working. But it’s what works for me for now.
I think if you can write a few pages at a time fast, it can help you ignore your inner critic and editor, and help you write better. Another thing that helps me
is to not see my computer screen as I write. Since I write by hand, that’s easy
to fix–I drape a sweater or shirt over the screen, and it gives me a break from being sucked into the internet (even if I end up cheating, it’s still helped me for a while). But many writers work by writing through a keyboard. For them, there are programs that can turn off the internet for the period you specify; some writers find that helpful.
I used to be a completely or mostly by-the-seat panster writer. I liked to just write and let the words spill out of me, and then revise. I knew it meant I was doing many more revisions than writers who planned, but it felt right for me–the most connected to my creativity. I always knew, though, what the issue was that I’d write about and what I wanted the end to look like.
Lately I’ve been writing with a bit more advance planning, based on John Truby’s The Anatomy of Writing, but still leaving it open to twists and surprises and lots of creativity. I’ve found Truby’s book immensely helpful in edits as well; I think it’s helped me get closer to a publishable manuscript faster.
6. What was the most challenging book you’ve written?
The most challenging book I’ve written so far was probably SCARS–because for many of the years I was writing it, I was still living the pain I was writing about. It was especially hard for me to write happy scenes or breathers for the reader, because I didn’t know that myself for a long time. in some ways it was probably therapeutic to write SCARS; I probably would have been in much worse shape if I hadn’t had that outlet–but at the time it didn’t feel like it. It was painful, and yet important for me to do and something I needed to write and to get out there, to have heard. But because I draw on aspects of my abuse and trauma experience for all the books I write, they all challenge me and can be painful at times. The most rewarding part comes for me once the book is published, and again when the book starts reaching people and I get reader letters.
9. What do you read in your spare time? And why?
I read a lot of YA–realistic YA and fantasy YA. I needed both when I was being abused–realistic to help me feel less alone, fantasy to help me escape and hope–and it’s the genre I love the most. Many YA books feel better written to me, with strong emotion, action, no long boring passages of description. But I also love suspense novels, and I go through periods of reading a lot of them. I prefer suspense without murder, though, since I witnessed murder many times while being abused–and that can be hard to find. I love books that pull me into their world and don’t let go. And I love books with strong girl or women characters.
You can buy SCARS and HUNTED at Amazon, B&N, the Book Depository, and IndieBound, as well as many local bbookstores.
HUNTED at B&N