This week, I introduce a monthly feature: author interviews. Through my cyber-world interchanges, I’ve met many amazing and talented independent authors. I decided you should meet them, too.
Every writer has a slightly different slant on style and process. These interviews are a chance for you to observe a variety of ideas on writing and hopefully take away new ideas on how to improve your own work.
Today, please meet, YA Fantasy writer, Jess E. Owen. Jess lives in her home state of Montana where she’s working on the fourth installment to her Summer King Chronicles series.
"One will rise higher
One will see farther
His wing beats will part the storm.
They will call him the Summer King
And this will be his song."
The Summer King Chronicles
A fantasy tale of destiny, adventure, redemption.
Hi Jess. Let’s start with you telling us a little about who inspires you.
I'm inspired by a mix of YA and regular fantasy authors: Tamora Pierce, Ursula K. LeGuin, Guy Gavriel Kay, J.K. Rowling, Meredith Ann Pierce, Patricia McKillip, Patricia C. Wrede, Jane Yolen. Oh gosh, the list goes on. I recently "discovered" a fellow indie author whose work I love, M.C.A Hogarth. Not only her sci-fi space operas, but her thoughtful and intelligent business comic/blog for creative entrepreneurs.
I've read and re-read the Harry Potter books to try and absorb their readable, addicting quality. I study books on writing by Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury and just about everyone else. I highly recommend other writers read writer biographies.
Fantastic. Let's talk about your writing process. Could you describe it for us?
Writing consistently every day works the best for me, but I don't always succeed. Writing first thing in the morning, with my fresh cup of coffee, before I look at my email or talk to anyone, has always been my most productive process. Sometimes I light incense or a candle, the same scent every day, because they say scent is the most powerful memory trigger. Having that can sometimes boost my motivation and help me get into the Zone. I start with a general idea for a story, build a cast of characters, and try to write a really fast, rough draft to capture everything while it's fresh and fun. Then it all changes of course.
What about other writing routines? Do you listen to music to keep the words flowing?
I make "soundtracks" for each book with music that fits the story, or certain scenes, and play that as I write. I write as early in the morning as I can stand to rise, with coffee, at my desk, until my husband wakes up ;) or until I reach my goal for the morning and decide to do something else productive, like exercise. Usually I end up on Twitter though.
I find it hard not to edit my writing as I go along. How do you manage the lure to fix things as you write?
I try to blast out a first draft as fast as I can to hold on to the initial freshness of an idea. This makes for lengthy revisions later, but it's still my old faithful for getting stuff done. If I stop too much to edit, I take way to long to finish a book. I've tried to go slow and edit but then it takes me forever. I prefer big sweeping edits and revisions once a first draft is done and I can really see the whole picture. I try not to tinker on the sentence level until the final draft even though it's my favorite thing.
As a self-published author, do you use a professional editor?
I do hire a professional editor. My strictly personal opinion is that I don't think people who plan to submit for traditional publication need to hire an editor — they just need beta readers and trustworthy critique partners who can give them constructive feedback. Then revise the best they can, polish, and submit.
Tell us more about your publishing process.
If you're new to writing, keep learning the craft. Please, please, fellow writers, remember that publishing is not a race. You have time to make your writing as strong as you want, to find the right story, before you publish. Song of the Summer King was the first book I published, not the first book I wrote, not even the second, third, or fourth. Each book is better than the last, according to readers and my own evaluation. Value your craft above all things, and the rewards will come.
Great advice, Jess. Any final thoughts?
Be kind to each other. I think it was YA author Elena Johnson who inspired me with a phrase: There is always someone above you and someone below you on the ladder of success. You can always help the person below you, and be happy for the people above you.
Jess, thanks so much for joining us today. Writers and readers, if you’d like to learn more about Jess or buy her books, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.
Stay tuned for more tips from Editor Jane MacKay and future author interviews here.