Q Just going to ask you some questions to kind of verify and clarify some things that you talked about in your narrative as well as further my understanding. So if we can start out, do you want to tell me what, if I say to you oh you’re a writer, tell me what that is. So what is your definition of a writer.
A I would say that the definition of a writer is someone who composes either short stories or novels. And, also as part of that tries to either publish them in the mass market or in some other way present them to the general public.
Q OK. And in your view, what is quality writing?
A Quality writing?
Q When you talk to some people, they will say, oh that was horrible, that was the worse piece of writing ever, or even I noticed in your own narrative, you talked about how you wrote some really bad young adult writing, so just kind of when you think about that, what does that mean to you?
A So quality writing, I would say is writing that has been edited for both content and grammar, punctuation, that sort of thing and has been vetted by a second person, at least one other person.
Q OK, ummm…Sorry, I’m taking notes as well because it helps me stay on focus. As a writer, what is your process? Like how do you go about creating your work?
A Generally it would start an idea, either from an experience or from a dream or from conversation, just general day-to-day conversation and then from that I decide whether that idea has the potential to be a short story or has the potential to be something longer, like a novel. And then for my first couple of books, I didn’t do any kind of an outline for them, I just kind of started writing based on the idea and kind of let things go organically, but also on my most recent work I’ve done an outline and then started writing chapter by chapter from there. I usually go in order …but that’s just me, a lot of people write things out of order, but I need the continuity, I think.
Q As you are writing, how important are the mechanics of writing to you, so the grammar, the punctuation, and thus… does that get in your way ever, oh I have to stop and make sure that’s really perfect, or can you kind of keep going and take care of that later?
A The first novel I wrote, I didn’t even do paragraphs, I just did like almost stream of consciousness and when we went back and tried to edit that and fix that all up, it was such a horrible nightmare, and that was the recommendation for someone first just starting out writing, just to write, get the words on the page and everything, but it turned out to be such a horrible mess at the end that since then I have really not been able to do that, to just write without editing as I go, and a lot of times I will stop in the middle of things and look something up on the internet to make sure I’m using it correctly, stop and open up the thesaurus and get different words. I know other writers, they’ll put in a little, like in brackets there will be like (witty thing) or (research blah) but I really can’t do that, and I have a writing group where we do writing prompts and they’re timed and a lot of times, people will get like three paragraphs down and I’ll get like one, because I keep having to go back and correct spelling, punctuation, think of a better word.
Q So just kind of segueing off of that, how does that writing group help you?
A That writing group, so this one is very much a social writing group and it’s really helpful to get creativity flowing for me. A lot of the other typical writing groups are critique groups, when you’ll bring a little section of your work and everybody will talk about it and help you with it. And certainly on the side of this writing group, you can get together with someone from the writing group on your own time, but on the writing group time, it is just trying to get the creativity flowing and just get words on the page and kind of remind you of how ideas can flow.
Q So kind of gets you away from the old idea of writing being such a solitary kind of proposition.
A Yes, for sure and it’s been really helpful for me because a lot of ideas have come from it, from the prompts or sometimes if I’m stuck in a part of my story, it’s good for one to get away from keep banging my head against the same problem in my story and just go and do something, some writing that’s completely different. And also it can be good if you try to kind of take a prompt and mold it towards a problem in your story then it can help you work through it. That is definitely one of the points of the group and it’s not a group that I formed or anything, but it’s definitely the leaders desire to make writing a more social process.
Q As you were describing that it came to my mind, do you typically work on, other than the writing prompts which might take your mind off of one task, do you typically focus on one major writing project at a time, or do you have multiple going in your head, on your desktop or such, how does that go for you?
A That’s a good question. Generally I would say it is best for me, this isn’t always the case, but probably the best scenario for me is to have one novel that I’m writing, one novel that I’m editing, and then a couple short stories that I’m working on, either writing or editing.
Q Wow, that’s a lot going at once. Does that help keep you motivated then?
A Yes, because then I don’t really recommend that people work on too much at the same time, but if you get up in the morning, and you think I just can’t write today, well some people would just be like, well I’m going to go do something else and then come back to it, or whatever and that can really stagnate your writing process. So sometimes I’ll get up in the morning and be like, ah, I really don’t feel like I can write today, even though you should really push through that. But if I have something to edit then, I’ll be like, well maybe I can’t really get to the writing right now, but if I start doing some editing, then maybe in the process of editing, something might spur something, a little bit of creativity or spark to go and then do some writing after I’ve done some editing.
Q How much does your science background play into what you do now as a writer?
A Well, it definitely did on my first series, yes and no. It’s a little bit hard. My first series is veterinarian meets werewolf, paranormal romance, and since I am a veterinarian, obviously that played a part there. And then I also have a degree in forensic science, so I did put a little bit of science in those books, but mostly it was biology stuff because the werewolfism was a virus so that actually wasn’t/isn’t necessarily something that I studied extensively, but I guess my other science background helped me to work through that and helped me to feel confident that I wasn’t too far off base with the science there. And then, but for my other, the other two novels that I’ve written there’s been a tiny bit of science in them, but not a lot, so I don’t know I guess it’s been helpful for me in researching things, but I don’t think I’ve used too much direct science, although forensic science might come into play a little bit more in the book I’m writing right now, which is a more of a thriller, murder mystery type.
Q Those kind of books always interest me very much because, how do you deal with delving into, I mean you’re delving into some kind of dark topics in some respect, so how do manage that because you don’t sound like a dark person, you sound lively, and I looked at your webpage and you look like you’re a happy, go-lucky kind of chick, so, how do you go into that dark zone?
A That’s kind of funny, because I guess I put on a good front then, no I’m just kidding. I do have a darker side for sure, but it is a little bit difficult, particularly for me because whenever I put something, I guess I would say ‘adult’ in one of my books, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, what if my mother-in-law reads this, what if my niece reads this, there’s this nagging about trying not to get things too ‘adult,’ too dark or too mature with some of the stuff, but with this thriller, I’m kind of letting go of that a little bit to just say, to just try and convince myself so that I’m not boxed in in my writing and that I am to be able to go into these deeper topics. But, yeah, I actually, like for forensics and forensic science that’s already a lot of darkness there, obviously. I’ve already been exposed to a lot of that with my education and then I’m a big fan of CSI and things, those are relatively dark. I think on television you get a lot more, well I wouldn’t say a lot more darkness, but…
Q There are a lot of dark things on, yes.
A I feel like almost all the shows are like murder, sex and politics, nowadays, so it’s actually kind of hard to get away from the darkness and write something that’s light that people are going to want to read.
Q Does that drag you down when you’re writing it, do you ever find yourself, not pulled to the dark side, but kind of like, oh man, the tragedy I’m writing, do you get wrapped up into that?
A Yes, it is pretty, it does get to be a little depressing. Actually, I was thinking about making this serial killer a female, and so I watched these documentaries on Eileen, I can’t remember what her last name is, but she is like one of the only female serial killers in America, and she murdered a bunch of men down in Florida and it got me so just like depressed and like, because it’s a super sad, like really weird thing, I won’t go into it too much. But her story is really, like there’s nothing good about it whatsoever, nothing good comes out of that story and even the documentaries that are trying to bring something good out of it, just failed miserably in my opinion. So there was a point, do I really, like this is making me upset, do I really want to keep going along this path and go ahead and write this, and I finally decided that I was going to stick with a male serial killer, because a female serial killer was just so much more visceral and disturbing for whatever reason, that I felt that I just didn’t want to go there.
Q Then you have to go for a walk or a hike out in your beautiful Michigan land. Pep you up a little bit. Kind of delving a little bit back into your history, you said you’re not one who wanted to write when you grew up, but did you feel you had the facility to write when you grew up, did school come pretty easily to you?
A Yeah, but my aptitude, school has been pretty easy, back in high school whatever, but my aptitude is really in science, and I don’t think it was the fault of any of my teachers not encouraging me or anything like that. I just think it was, writing is OK, and if somebody might have said this is good or something, but in science is it always like straight A’s and oh you’re really smart, and it always did seem that science was more of an acceptable vocation than writing. I don’t have a lot of creative type people in my family so there was no one to look up to as an artist or writer or something in the arts, so it was all more doctors and engineers and things, so it was a lot easier for me to follow that path and let the writing go until more recently, very recently.
Q Was there anything that you had to overcome, I guess emotionally is the word I’m looking for because you said, you mention the “acceptable” career, so was there anything that you had to overcome within yourself to say, “Hey, it’s OK, I’m a writer”?
A For sure, it’s actually almost a daily struggle for me because it’s not that anyone isn’t supportive of me and my kind of change of life, but there’s not a lot of understanding, it’s like, oh you wrote a book, that’s fantastic, but they still don’t really get why I stopped being a veterinarian and didn’t continue to pursue a career in forensic science and so, and I do miss science stuff. I do miss doing stuff in a lab and the scientific process a lot of times, so I keep up with it a little bit in journal articles and stuff like that, but yeah, it’s kind of an emotional thing, and I’m hoping that at some point when maybe the writing takes off a little bit more that I may be able to go ahead and go back to getting a Ph.D. in some science field.
Q OK, and then you can have multiple options.
A Or a split personality or something…
Q That was the question I was going to ask. Ultimately, what would be the pinnacle for you with your writing career. What do you foresee as, “Yeah, I made it, that was awesome”?
A Oh….a pinnacle, dare I dream? I would say it would be to have like ten published novels with like a couple, they don’t all have to be best sellers, but a couple best sellers in there and producing a couple of books a year, that would be at the pinnacle, two to three books written a year, one or two published a year and come out with a couple of best sellers. That would be a pinnacle, I don’t think I’m ever going to be the type of person who is a James Patterson who has half the books in Barnes and Nobel, but…
Q He’s writing with other people.
A He’s a great collaborator and you’ve got to hand that to him that that gets his name on so many books out there, his name is synonymous with author pretty much.
Q Speaking of that and collaborative writing, you mentioned the writing groups. Would you ever consider a collaboration, or do you to just kind of like creating your books on your own?
A I definitely would never say no, I shouldn’t, well I should never say never. Depending on the person who wanted to do the collaboration, I wouldn’t be opposed to that, but at the same time I feel that there’s inherent problems with that. Like, so if you have two people’s names on the book, who gets first billing and then you know if someone…if it’s not just something you’re doing for fun, and you don’t really care about the recognition of it or you don’t care about the, I don’t know the money, everything with a collaboration gets really complicated. Since I feel like I’m just a starting off writer, if there’s too much complication involved that can do damage to career that’s just starting off that’s not really necessary to have there. So, I would probably stay away from collaborations until I feel more established and things. Although like short stories, or my writing group has talked about doing crossovers between characters and our different short stories and novels and things, I think that would be a really fun thing, but for a whole novel, I just think it gets a little bit sticky and wouldn’t be something I would want to do right now.
Q Do you ever, since you have such a strong science background, do you ever write any non-fiction like published articles or anything like that?
A No, well, I mean, let’s see, yeah/no, I haven’t really, way back in my vet. school, I probably wrote a lot of…and in forensic science we had to write several papers, non-fiction type of papers. Really, I find non-fiction writing super dry.
Q Yes indeed, I would agree with that.
A Not necessarily as fun and interesting as fiction.
Q How do you keep up the motivation for writing something of a novel length? How do you keep that going, how do you not get lost in the depth that’s required?
A The thing that has allowed me to write novels is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, that was the key, because I really truly am the type of person who doesn’t like things to linger. If I can get something done in an afternoon, like that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to start and we’re going to do it and then we’re going to be done with it, and it’s going to be done. It’s really hard for me to do huge long-term projects, because it’s not my personality to just have projects that just go on and on and on. I like finishing things, and ticking things off in my boxes. So that has really, really helped and then other than that, because I have written some novels outside of NaNoWriMo, I guess the best thing is that I go in spurts, a lot of times the recommendation is to be like, you just start writing and then stop writing when you’re done for the day, even if it’s not at the end of the chapter or the middle of the chapter, whatever. But for my personality, I think it’s a lot easier for me to sit down and write a chapter, because then I am finishing a little task in the grand scheme of the book. So breaking it down into smaller, complete tasks that you can do is helpful as well.
Q Do you envision the whole story line prior to writing the novel or does the story line develop as you are writing the novel?
A Both, for my first five novels, they were all organic, like I would have a couple of different scenes in my head that I would eventually want to get to, but pretty much I would sit down and start writing and see where things took me, and like try to get to the couple of things I wanted to get to. Sometimes that didn’t actually happen, but yes, that was definitely what they call ‘pantsing,’ definitely organic to sit down and start writing and without any particular, like you kind of know what the beginning is and you might know the ending, and you might know a couple of things in between. But like I said, in the most recent book, I did write an outline, but had everything, all the scenes from the center of the book to the end of the book and that is what I am working on right now and so that book is a lot more planned and theoretically would be a lot easier to write that way, but that is not what I’m finding, I’m finding that it’s a little more constrained and it’s putting a little more pressure on me to follow the outline, so this project has been a little more difficult to really get going, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on, so it’s hard to judge.
Q Absolutely. Well, I have no other questions, do you have any questions for me before we sign off?
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