Friday, January 4, 2008

Questions and Answers from the Mailbag

"Where do you get your ideas?"

It isn't a matter of getting an idea. It's the act of snatching one out of the writhing mess of ideas and pinning it down. Ideas are slippery as snakes and twice as wriggly. Fastening it down in place so you can actually study it is a messy, tricky business. Once it's under control, it may not be a useful idea after all. Sometimes you have to toss it back into the pile like a fish that's too small so it can grow up into something you can use later.

"How many books do you think you'll write?"

Do you know? I'll probably write until I run out of ideas. Until someone asked me this question, it never occurred to me that I would quit writing before I reached that stage where I couldn't type or had dementia or something like that. But I know of authors who just quit writing. My favorite authors in the world, Tom and Sharon Curtis, retired not too long after they won the Rita for their work. I don't know why and of course, it's not really any business of mine except that I really miss their books. But clearly, they weren't giving up because no one liked them. So all things being equal, I'll write until I don't have anything to say.

"How important are reviews?"

Hmmm. Most readers say that reviews don't influence their book purchases. And likely, they don't. I know that I don't even read the reviews unless they're for a friend's book. However reviews are fairly important to the writer, I think. No matter how much we know that they are only one person's opionion, that opionion can still cut. I have had reviews that were clearly written by someone that did not like my book. One review was so off the wall that I considered that the reviewer might have mixed up my book and someone elses. I think it's hard not to be touched on some level by a review, but it has nothing to do with how many books you sell.

"Why do you write series?"

Mostly I write series because that's how the ideas arrive. Very rarely do I have an idea about one couple. Almost all the time the idea is about a group. Maybe it's a family. Maybe it's the inhabitants in a certain place. But for me, if there is any potential of a series, then I set it up as a series to begin with...maps, character sheets, world building. Then the background is set just in case--just in case a bunch of characters come knocking on my door.

"Is there any genre of book you would never write?"

Well, I won't ever say never. I'll say that it's highly unlikely that I'll ever write a horror type book. And probably, I'll never write a historical simply because of the enormous amount of research necessary. I shudder when I think about doing that kind of research. Most likely I won't write a straight romance because I've never found a story that engaged my imagination enough to keep me from being bored. I just know myself well enough to know that I wouldn't finish writing the book. I have a very intriguing contemporary series that I can't seem to get off the ground. I might surprise myself and actually finish the first book.

"When did you decide to be a writer?"

I've always been a writer. If you sit down and write, then you're a writer. Now if you want to know when I decided that I would like someone to pay me to write... then that's a different kettle of fish. In January 2005 I decided to write the story that had been rumbling around in my head for the last twenty years. I finished it in March of that year and it was over 170 thousand words. Over the next year, I "tinkered" with it, never substantially changing it in any way. And I started book two. Book two is over 36K--so far. Then I started looking at submission guidelines and discovered that I needed to considerably downsize my masterpiece.

After some old-fashioned hand wringing and whining, I took chunks of that original book, revised it with a meat cleaver and submitted it to Ellora's Cave in September 2006 as Dancer's Delight. In November I was offered a contract with EC's sister press, Cerridwen Press. Ta-da.
That original 170K book will probably yield the ideas for seven or eight books. And book two has at least three more. Those are all the Mystic Valley books. I guess that means I'm a real writer.

"What is the hardest part of writing?"

I bet you think I'll say something like finding time to write or discipline to sit down at the computer or finding ideas. You would be wrong. The hardest part is all the extraneous stuff. Promotion, website, blog, chat loops, and all those other things that rob you of time to write. Yet without them, you don't have readers and without readers you don't sell books. Yes, I enjoy chatting and I enjoy writing a blog. But I admit that those things take time. And for all the time they take, there is not an immediate result. There's no way to quantify which efforts are the most effective. So as a writer, I just keep plugging away. That's hard.

"What is your favorite part of writing?"

No question there. Reader reactions. When readers finish a book and send me a note telling me how much they enjoyed it that makes my day--maybe even my week. That's the thing that makes it worth it. Yes, it's very nice to get that royalty check. But there won't be a royalty check if my readers are not engaged by my books. So that's the best thing. Reader's letters and comments.


Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's World at and Kelly's travelogue at . Blessings on your day!


  1. I think you summed up writing nicely and people will always ask questions. You did not however add my personal favourite -'when are you going to write a real book?' I love that one.

  2. The answer: I don't make picture books. You'll have to learn to read first, honey.