I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an opportunity to do an interview with Elizabeth Craig for the Writer’s Knowledge Base newsletter. The issue came out last week, so I thought I’d post the interview here for all you non-suscribers.
If you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend you check out the Writer’s Knowledge Base for a ton of great information to help you achieve your goals. While you’re there, you can also sign up for their newsletter.
You had an October 30th release for your first book, “Harbinger–the Bleeding Worlds.” You’ve got its sequel planned for release this spring, and two other books in the pipeline. How do you balance your time between your day job, family to two boys, and writing? Do you keep the same schedule each day, or is your schedule flexible?
My work schedule consists of two 12hr day shifts, then two 12hr nights and then 4 days off. It makes a consistent writing schedule almost impossible. Most of my writing happens in the late night hours after my family has gone to bed. During my night shifts at work I take time between calls to jot down ideas, plot points, etc. and then do some writing on my breaks. In general I try to squeeze 1-2 hours of actual writing into each day.
Any tips for worldbuilding?
After you have some basic concept of plot, ask, “What kind of world would this happen in?” With the Bleeding Worlds, I started with this vision of a boy plunging his arm into the ether and summoning forth power. So I wondered, is this a fantasy world? Is he a magician? I realised very quickly that this was our world in the modern day. Next, I asked, “Is he the first?” No, that didn’t work with my other ideas. So I asked, “If this had been happening for a long time, how would people with these powers be treated?” This led to the idea that the gods of myth were just super-powered humans. I kept on like this, asking more questions. Every answer expanded the world and its possibilities. Then, I dialed it way back, told a story with a small group of characters, and kept the bigger world stuff for future books. In my experience as a writer and a reader, I think it’s best when worlds are hinted at as opposed to blatantly laid out in every detail. It leaves some of the magic up to the reader. It also means less rules you might one day have to break as the writer 😉
What’s your approach to plotting? How did you work out story arc for the first two books of the Bleeding Worlds series?
I always start with an idea or an image. Harbinger was an image of a boy with energy swirling around his arm. Another series I’m working on, Hidden Empires, started with the idea of a princess trying to bring sunshine back to her kingdom. I take these ideas or images and just ask a lot of questions. Why does the boy have this power? Why can’t the kingdom see the sun anymore? Each answer gets written down. As the number of answers grow, I start to see threads that connect them, or a logical sequence that needs to occur.
From there, I use the writing program Scrivener to lay out a few chapters. Each chapter gets a part of the sequence. Then I start writing. I find as the initial chapters develop, they inform the following chapters. It’s a mix of plotting ahead and flying by the seat of your pants. I try to keep a vague endpoint in my mind, but I let the story tell me how I’m getting there.
In terms of plotting a series, it wasn’t until halfway through Harbinger that the larger story took shape in my mind. It happened in response to a simple question I had about one of the characters. That question was, “Why did he leave home?” The answer led to me using the Norse legend of Ragnorok to help structure the series (for spoilers sake, I won’t tell you how the question led to that).
I also find a lot of series related plotting happens in edits. When Harbinger went through edits, I knew a lot more about book two and the series in general, so I left myself room to grow. I also made sure I hadn’t painted myself into any problematic corners.
You’ve got an interesting and fast-paced job as an emergency dispatcher–how does that inform your fiction…or does it?
Every day my job gives me a “I should put that in a book” moment, but I’ve yet to find stories where they fit. Let’s just say that truth can truly be stranger than fiction.
Where it did help in getting Harbinger written was that it taught me you can’t wait to pursue your dreams. Life is fragile and you never know when it will end. I learned to stop talking about writing, and actually get to it. Because tomorrow, I might not get that chance.
Tips for new writers for finishing a book and staying motivated through the process?
First off, find a community. As an indie author, you are constantly bombarded with the message of being on social media for exposure. But the main reason to use it is to meet outstanding people who help and motivate you. Twitter was a major factor in my finishing this book. On nights where I didn’t feel like writing, there were people who cheered me on, or who were just so inspiring that I had to keep writing to chase after them.
Also, accept that the process is long. While my newer books are taking shape much faster, it’s taken me two-and-a-half years to get Harbinger to the point of publication. The first one can be hard-it’s filled with doubt and fear. But don’t stop. The best writing advice I’ve heard, outside of Stephen King’s “Read a lot,” is from Neil Gaiman. His simple answer on how to write was “finish what you start.” This really resonated with me when I finished Harbinger. When I was writing it, I would be filled with doubt. Could I really write a book? Was I even capable of building a plot intricate enough for that? Now, I don’t have those doubts anymore, because the answer is “Yes, I can.” It’s made my writing since far more enjoyable. So stick with it.
Where can we find you online?
I’m a bit of a social media butterfly, but Twitter is always the place I come back to and where I post most regularly.
Naturally my website is always a good place to go, http://justusrstone.com. It also has links to all my social media accounts.
Where can we find out more about your new book?
You can find out about Harbinger, and all other future Bleeding Worlds releases at the official website http://thebleedingworlds.com/
Another place to check out is the Goodreads page for Harbinger http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15745096-harbinger. You can see what other readers think, and add it to your lists!
Thanks so much to Elizabeth for asking me to participate. I hope to converse with all of you online and I hope you’ll give Harbinger a read.