Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your writing rituals? How do you prepare your space for these activities?
L.A. Story: The answer to that question has changed over time as I have matured as a writer. At first, it was compulsory. I just HAD to write, but didn’t finish much except poetry. What I really wanted to write was fiction. In order to accomplish what I really wanted to do, I had to learn some discipline. I found listening to music would help focus my mind, but ultimately, I had to learn to just set aside the time and MAKE myself do it. Sort of like a job. That is what it takes. The creativity part is magic, and I know it is hard to turn off and on, but there is also a certain practical aspect that requires a professional approach if you want to be a serious writer and that means consistency. So. . .like the Nike ads used to say, “Just do it.” (Although you can still get started with a ritual and I like music and a time of quiet meditation on the story before I get started. I have to step into that world before I can write.)
TLR: Within what genres do you write? What intrigues you about these?
LAS: I primarily write in the Supernatural-romantic/SciFi/Fantasy genres. Reading these genres growing up – for me – was an escape from the real world where I felt I was less than awesome. I lost myself in those stories where anything was possible and the underdog – the less-than awesome person — could potentially become something extraordinary. The world could be full of wonder and the danger was essentially risk free as I was reading and not actually doing it. As far as the romance genre, I am a romantic sort, so there is usually some element of romance in my work, but not always. Anyway, the love of those worlds. . .it made me want to create my own.
TLR: Do you have a day job? If so, how do you balance your creative and work time?
LAS: Unfortunately, my writing has not earned me enough to be financially independent, so I have a day job. As far as balance, the work time is determined by my employer, but the creative time. . .I have had to learn to set it aside. It means there are things I have wanted to do that I miss out on because of the writing. It’s not just a silly dream. Some of this whole writing thing is because I can’t NOT write. So, I have learned to plan out writing projects and I put myself on a deadline for first draft completion. Usually, evenings and weekends. Sometimes, it means taking my notebook to work with me and writing outlines and scenes during my breaks or on my lunch hour. It all goes back to the discipline part. If I am under pressure, it’s because I didn’t keep up the discipline and am now pressured by a self-imposed deadline. You have to toughen up. Do it, do it, do it.
TLR: What tips do you have for other writers?
LAS: First thing – FINISH something! I have so many people that say they want to be writers, but they never finish anything. I don’t care if it’s a 1,000 word short fiction piece – just FINISH it. That’s the first step. It also gives you confidence to move forward and then finish something else.
After that, determine what you want to write, write it, and research the markets to see where you can sell it.
TLR: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?
LAS: My thoughts on the creative process are that the more practice you get at writing (by FINISHING PROJECTS), the better and faster you get at organizing your thoughts in a specific way. You get more efficient. Now, that sounds unromantic, but. . .that’s the work part.
The creative part. . .well, that takes a certain amount of day-dreaming and letting those ideas come. My short story, “The Migration of Frost,” was very popular and even – VERY briefly – hit the top 100 short scifi reads on Amazon. I created that story because I wanted to submit to an e-magazine, The Martian Wave. I read the submission guidelines and the editor, J Erwine, would only take stories from planets in our solar system. He REALLY wanted the writers to be creative.
So, I got to daydreaming. I remembered what I had learned about the conditions on the various planets and I was especially intrigued with Venus. It was supposedly Earth’s “sister planet,” but evolved differently. The conditions there are about as hostile as it gets – the surface is hot enough to melt lead and not to mention the crushing atmospheric pressure, you have to overcome a lot of horrible conditions just to get to the surface — toxic clouds, high winds, lightning. . .It’s really bad. Anyway, I had to start with the premise of what it would take to survive there and what kind of story could evolve. Oh – the wonderful daydreams that came from that. Finally, the magic happened. My stories – the real, creative part, usually begins with an image that won’t leave. I had this image of a spaceship captain desperately looking for a crew member who had mysteriously disappeared in a place where that was seemingly impossible. It took off from there. That is how it always goes for me. I don’t know where the ideas come from. I like to think it’s a supernatural inspiration – magical. I think I’m a little superstitious, too. I am afraid to examine the inspiration too closely or the magic will leave.
TLR: What about upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?
LAS: I spent years getting published in genre magazines. I was also a reporter and a columnist for several years. These days, I am an indie writer doing what I always wanted to do – writing books. As far as awards, in the past, my work has been voted “reader’s favorite” in online magazines and earned me a spot in several issues of Wondrous Web Words; I was nominated for the James Baker award, and have been nominated twice for the coveted Science Fiction poetry Rhysling award. Locally, in poetry, I have placed in the Crossroads Poetry Project’s annual poetry contest. In non-fiction, I have won awards and honorable mentions in both the Mississippi Press Association and the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.
TLR: What are you working on now?
LAS: Currently, I am working on outlining my next novel – the follow up novel for The Gifted: Adversaries & Healers. Even though The Gifted is part of a trilogy, I am working hard to make sure that each one can stand alone. The one I am about to write (and will work on for NANOWRIMO in the month of November) is Criers: Rise of the Prophets. I hope to have that one published in January 2016. After that, the final book will be Beyond Shammua, and I hope to have it out by Summer 2016.
See what I mean about a self-imposed publication schedule? My next project after that will probably be a four-book fantasy series – Disciples of the Realm. I am really excited about that, too.
TLR: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? Ten?
LAS: In the years to come, I just hope to keep putting my work out there and consistently improving my craft. I have so many cool story ideas. The future is exciting to me now that I feel I have the tools to share those stories.
TLR: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them?
LAS: Current challenges? Money. Hands down. My sales have been pretty decent for an unknown writer – but until the income exceeds what it costs for me to market my books, I cannot afford a good copy editor. My ultimate goal is to get help getting my novels to the quality you would see by a traditional publishing house.
TLR: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?
LAS: Yes, I have been in a writing group. If you can get over your “please don’t criticize my baby” issues when others discuss your work then you will find them extremely helpful. I have noticed that if the members of the group are not part of your target audience, then you also stand a chance of getting feedback that is not so helpful. I would suggest forming a group with writers of similar genres, if you can find one because they better understand the nuances of those genres and will have a better frame of reference to pull from when they discuss your work.
TLR: I’d love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips for other writers.
LAS: You will have to do some marketing – social media, press releases, public appearances – if you want to sell your work. Especially if you are an indie. However, don’t kid yourself; you still need to do this even if you want to do traditional publishing — you want to be attractive to publishers. They will ALWAYS want someone whose work will bring a certain amount of sales.
TLR: Who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?
LAS: Of my own characters, one of my favorites is Granny Rose in my novel The Gifted. She’s a hoot! She’s funny, compassionate, and wise. Another favorite is Trent Rivers from that same novel, but he’s a bad guy – I love to hate him. He’s so unfeeling, but still intriguing. I also like Ketch from my novella, Urbania – he has a deadly patience and has overcome so much to go after the woman he loves.
I have so many that I enjoy; it’s really hard to choose. Ketch came into being because I could clearly see him in my head from the beginning, but characters like Granny Rose just evolved as the story went along.
TLR: Since you’re also a poet, what forms do you love?
LAS: I’m weird. I am poet AND a fiction writer. My favorite poetic form to write is free or blank verse. I just love the way it flows. I am a HUGE fan of Walt Whitman and I think you have to read him without prejudice to see his brilliance – his way of connecting with us now as if he is still here. I guess, in a way, he still is with us in his work. He used free verse. There are MANY poets whose work I love. . .their voices are so clear. Some are clever, some are evocative and some – like Poe – are disturbing.
TLR: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
LAS: Read. Read. Read. Don’t just read the good stuff. . .read some trashy stuff, too. You need perspective and an open mind to be a good writer. Don’t be so in-love with your own voice that you cannot hear anyone else. You will be a better writer for being a good reader.
TLR: Thank you for creating the time within your busy schedule for this interview! Please read L.A.’s bio below and read her books!
L.A. Story is a professional daydreamer and a naturalized Mississippian. She lives in an enchanted forest with her husband, a shaman poet, and several small dogs who believe they are vicious wolves. She lives near her four brilliant children, whom she believes are scary smart with world-domination potential. Among said children, two have managed to produce two grandchildren who are possessed of an equally frightening intellect.
L.A. has been creating stories in her head and attempting to put them on paper since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She has been an award-winning staff writer and columnist for a local newspaper. Her poetry and fiction have also been published in numerous publications. She teaches poetry workshops for the Crossroads Poetry Project and works as editor of a paranormal romance magazine called Trysts of Fate (Alban Lake Publishing). She is currently working on her second full length novel, Criers: Rise of the Prophets, which is to be released in January 2016 (River Oaks Press). Her first novel, The Gifted: Adversaries & Healers was released May, 2015 (River Oaks Press). Please visit her website for more information.