I recently did a Q&A with Alliteration Ink, the publisher of the Crimson Pact series, Spec the Halls, and Eighth Day Genesis: A Worldbuilding Codex, in which I’ve been published. Here’s the write-up from that virtual round table.
Q ~ How do you cope with writer’s block?
A ~ Staring at my computer rarely cures my moments of writer’s block. I become frustrated or bored, then wander off and do laundry. The best way for me to break through and brainstorm is to go on a hike by myself or to walk my dogs in the neighborhood. I hit on an idea and – by the time I return home – I have a scene practically written. Once I walk in the door, watch out: I’m hell-bent on getting those ideas on paper before they flutter away.
Q ~ Do you have any formal training? Did you ever take courses in writing? Did they help?
A ~Yes, yes, and yes. While you don’t need to study English to be a writer, I went that path. My bachelor’s and master’s degrees strengthened my understanding of the language and grammar, taught me to think analytically and synthesize information, and exposed me to the classics and the works of great writers. Equally important, those programs gave me an opportunity to meet others passionate about the craft, and those interactions strengthened my resolve to pursue writing as a career.
Yet, the best training has been just putting pen to paper over and over again. I’ve been writing since grammar school, tackling poems, short stories, newspaper articles, and then onward to corporate documents to pay the bills. No one needs to have a bachelor’s, let alone a master’s, to be a writer. They only need the drive and the willingness to learn about the craft (including grammar!!).
Q ~ What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
A ~I’ll go with a broad interpretation of this question, and list the most common “demeaning” responses to my being a writer. In fact, on account of these responses, I’m generally reluctant to tell strangers that write for a living because they invariably say/ask:
1) “Written anything I’ve read?” As in, it must not be terribly good or important, if they haven’t. Besides, how would I know what they’ve read? This question also assumes that writers only write fiction. I write for the corporate world, producing technical documents, marketing copy, web content, etc.: writing I’m certain they haven’t read.
2) “Oh, you should write my life story!” or “I have a story you should write.” Then, more often than not, they follow up with said story without preamble. Really? No payment is ever offered. Perhaps they worry I don’t have good enough ideas of my own.
3) “Yeah? I’m going to write a novel too.” I believe we all have stories to tell, and I salute anyone who takes on the task and sees it to completion. But, when I get this response, it seems to be dismissive of the time, effort, and skill involved, like any monkey can do it. In fact, these same folks are generally not interested in discussing what I write. In sum, their response is like saying, “whatever.”
Q ~ Are the names of your characters important? How?
A ~Names are important because of associations. As a reader, I try to understand why a writer chooses a character’s name. What does that name say about the character? Is it appropriate to the time and setting? Is there some underlying etymology that’s important in the story? Is it a word play? But, more often than not, I think the choice should be subtle and not beat the reader over the head.
Q ~ Do you worry about writing “genre” fiction as opposed to “literature”?
A ~No, I don’t worry because each has its benefits and attractions. They also overlap.
Genre fiction (fantasy, horror, crime, etc.) is also known as popular fiction because it has a wider audience. Thus, more publishers are interested in putting out genre fiction. As a writer, I’d be foolish to snub it in lieu of “serious” fiction that isn’t so easily categorized. Besides, genre fiction is a lot of fun to write, and good writing isn’t limited to critically acclaimed literary fiction.