Welcome to the House of 1000 Books, and today we have a treat for you. We have an interview with Raven Corinn Carluk. She’s a self-described “desert rose that belongs in the heat.”
Welcome, Raven to the House of Books virtual interview room! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions with us. I took a look at your profile, and you have a lot of books. I can only imagine you are a pretty busy lady! It surprised me how many books you had written.
So let’s start, shall we?
Topher Hoffman: I read your biography, so I know the answer to this, but can you tell the readers when did you write your first book? I think they will be surprised!
Raven Corinn Carluk: It surprises even me sometimes, especially as I keep getting older. My first completed novel was written back in my freshman year of high school. That manuscript is long since gone, and it certainly wasn’t up to my current standards, but there’s a part of me that wishes I had it for at least the nostalgia of it.
Recently, though, one of my aunts showed me a picture book I had written and drawn about the bicycle she had bought for me. So, I could argue that my first book was written when I was eight.
TH: What was your favourite childhood book?
RCC: There are two that really come to mind, though I read so much while growing up. Green Eggs and Ham will always be a favorite book, because it’s the first book I remember reading. And it has a great moral that more people should embrace.
The other favorite was The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein. I was seven or eight when I read it, and I just related to the whole family, but especially the main kids. Precocious, too smart for my own good sometimes, and hungry for adventure.
TH: I see that you write romance, science fiction, and fantasy. Has your family read your romance novels, and if they have what do they think of them?
RCC: I’m not sure if any of my extended family has read my books, because I never connected with them as a child, thus didn’t keep in contact when I became an adult. But my very tight-knit family circle has read the romance, and they like it. Even if they sometimes tease me about the steamier bits.
I’ve been told by them that they enjoy the adventure, that it’s not all heaving bosoms and pining for unrequited love, so it’s something a person can get into.
TH: Now, my favourite random question! If you were walking down the road, and you saw a younger you writing, what advice would you give yourself?
RCC: That’s a great random question, but my answer might be considered “cheesing out” by others. My personal philosophy is that I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t lived through my experiences. So I wouldn’t give my younger self advice, because then she wouldn’t become me.
But my advice to any writer is to tell your story. Keep writing. Keep doing. In this day and age of internet access and free information, there is no reason to hide your story just because it isn’t popular, or is too similar to something else, or can’t be defined by a genre. You can publish it yourself, you can get people to read it, and you don’t have to compromise your vision to fit current trends.
TH: You started writing at a young age. Could you tell us how many books have you written and which is your favourite?
RCC: Published, there are five novels, one novella, and two collections of short stories. On my blog there is a serial novel that’s basically a rough draft, and a couple hundred short stories. Three or four short stories published in anthologies not quite a decade ago.
And that’s just what’s currently available to readers.
Currently, Nomycha is my favorite. There’s something about that story of star-crossed lovers, and discovering yourself as a person, and learning to balance good and evil within yourself and your actions, that touches me like nothing else I’ve written. I have other characters that are closer to mine and my husband’s personalities, and I love their tales, but Cyryna and her novel are my babies. I worked the longest on polishing the manuscript, hesitated the most on hitting the submit button, and sometimes worry that it’s not as good as I think it is.
TH: You must have a pretty good idea what it takes to make a good story. What do you think makes a good story?
RCC: It’s easy to say a good story should have relatable or interesting characters, and rising action, and real consequences, and a satisfying conclusion, but those are just parts of the craft. To paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow: That’s what a story needs, not what a story is.
A good story really has that element of je ne sais quoi: you’ll know it’s good when you read it, but you can’t define it in tangible words. It has to do with the passion of the storyteller, with how well they translate their vision to the page. I could read two novels with similar plots, characters, and conclusions, and one will just feel like the better story to me because of that touch of passion.
TH: Do you enjoy what you write, meaning, do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
RCC: I think of myself as a storyteller, and that my duty is to share my vision with people. Sometimes it’s just a variation on a common theme, sometimes it’s about subverting expectations. Sometimes it’s just about embracing the darker side of life. I’d like to think I appeal to what readers didn’t know they wanted to read.
I’ve been asked if I would write something more commercially appealing if it meant my big break, and I had to say no. I’ve never been one to follow trends in my own lifestyle, so couldn’t do that with my writing. Yeah, it would be easy to crank out another dystopian YA novel where the good guys win, or yet another bodice-ripper escapist romance novel, but that’s not me.
TH: Do all your books run along the same storyline or are they all unique standalone novels?
RCC: I mean, if you boil any story far enough down, then everything is similar. I think someone similar said there are only seven basic plots in the world, and I can’t exactly argue against that. It’s just how that plot is dressed up that makes each book different.
So, there is a basic plot of Girl-Meets-Boy and they live Happily Ever After in all my novels, but it’s the adventures they have and tribulations they go through that make each novel stand on their own. All of them are walking to the same place, but they each take slightly different paths to get there.
TH: Are there any books that you started to write, but haven’t finished, if so, how many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
RCC: Unpublished, I have a novel that my husband and I are working on together. Maybe a dozen short stories out for submission. Another dozen short stories in various stages of revision, and a serial novel I’m still working on. There are a few plots for more Keila books running around, and a handful of other ideas that just haven’t solidified into something that could actually become a book.
TH: With writing so many romance novels, can you tell us, what’s the worst thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
RCC: Gaw, this is a hard one. I actually can’t think of one, because I enjoy writing about my men, and I enjoy writing short stories from male points of view. The hardest part would probably be trying to write a stereotypical chauvinist, what the vernacular considers toxic masculinity. I’ve always had good men in my life, and that translates to the men in my story, so I can’t put myself in the headspace to create such a character.
But that goes for women, too. Writing someone stereotypically weak or simpering takes more effort than a woman who will defend herself or put her foot down when necessary.
TH: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
RCC: From plot outline to publishing, it’s a couple years. But that was while I was working full time, and had to do all my editing and rewrites in my spare time. If I can come up with a good novel idea, it might be much easier now that I’m a full-time housewife.
TH: When you start to think up a book, do you make up the plot first or the characters?
RCC: 60% character first, 40% plot. The two are really linked for me, especially since there’s magical elements to my works. So, I play with character ideas and what kind of adventures they would have. What would be the stumbling block to them based on their abilities, and who would make a good partner for them, and what kind of antagonist would they be going up against?
TH: You’ve written in the romance genre and the science fiction & fantasy genre. Do you have a preference?
RCC: Fantasy is almost always my preference over sci-fi, even in my reading tastes, but I enjoy telling love stories. I know romance has a bit of a reputation that it’s about sex, and I’ve put some explicit scenes in All Hallows Blood, but I really like to read about two souls meeting and becoming one. So I will probably always write romance with fantastical elements, because that’s where I’m most comfortable.
TH: Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If so, what are the challenges in producing an audiobook?
RCC: I actually am looking to making some audiobooks. I’m not rolling in cash, so I wasn’t going to hire anyone, but do it myself. So I won’t have any idea what challenges come with working with a narrator, but I can tell you what it’s like narrating my own stuff.
Currently, I am posting videostories on my YouTube channel. Me, reading my old flash stories from my blog, while the words are on screen for anyone who wants to read along. And it is a fun project, because it allows me to exercise so many different facets of my creative nature.
Learning how to speak into a mic is probably the hardest thing for me right now. Learning how to give emphasis without spiking the audio levels, how to pace myself, how to make sure I’m enunciating, how to do slightly different voices. But this is an information age, so I can Google lots of tips, and am learning as I go.
Editing the audio itself has been pretty easy. At least so far. Clearing out my breathing, the occasional clicks, trimming down pauses that went on to long, that all takes less and less time. It was always the easiest part.
Once I feel I’ve really mastered audio production, I’m planning to turn Stories With Bite O,.,O into my first audiobook, then Nomycha.
TH: As I can see, you have a lot of published books. Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
RCC: Until recently, I was having to work full-time to do all the things that kept me fed and housed. After an injury at work, my husband was able to position himself so I could stay home and become a housewife. Which means I am now a full-time writer, so long as I’ve gotten my daily chores finished.
It is certainly something I’ve always wanted. Trying to be creative while working sapped my energy, and was painful. Trying to find time for self-promotion while working led to a nervous breakdown, which caused me to put writing on a hold for five or six years. Telling stories is in my soul, but it takes time and freedom. Both of which I have now.
TH: You said you have been writing since you were five. When did you first consider yourself an author?
RCC: I didn’t actually consider myself an author until I signed a contract for All Hallows Blood. I was no longer just writing, I was published, and I felt I could call myself an author.
TH: Can you please tell us about your most recently released book?
RCC: The synopsis reads: When war breaks out between the two lands, Cyryna must leave her training and contemplation to recover a relic of great power. Her magical skills are immediately put to the test in skirmish after skirmish with the undead hordes of Valham. Her heart is put to the test when she meets a man with silver eyes.
Nomycha has been an on-and-off again project for probably ten years. It was inspired by a dream, and went through at least one complete re-write before it got to this stage. I tried to explore elements of destiny, of balance, of how light and dark hate each other for being different. Cyryna explores what it means to be yourself, to stand up for your beliefs, to embrace your inner strength. Maksim is warrior, protector, and proves that love will conquer all.
Plus there’s adventure, action, monsters, magic, and villains.
TH: What is the significance of the title?
RCC: I’ll let Maksim explain it: “Mychas are spirit hounds. They act as guardians of the mystic plane, guiding magic users. Nomychas are the little hounds that watch over dreamers. I’ve dreamt of you my entire life. You are my nomycha. You are the one who guides me.”
It’s his pet name for her throughout the book. It seemed the most appropriate title, even if it’s a made-up world, because there is so much in the tale regarding dreams and the great hounds.
TH: If your book one day made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it?
RCC: Even though I tend to write my action scenes with a cinematic style, I don’t usually think about who would play my characters in a movie. I don’t even usually have a particular person in mind while I’m writing. But in this book, Orlando Bloom was my inspiration for Maksim’s looks. He’s always my guilty pleasure; I’ve loved him since I first saw him, and always will.
I’m not sure who would be cast, but they’d need to be young and hot.
TH: Where can people buy your books, and what book do you recommend starting with?
RCC: I’m on Amazon http://bit.ly/RavenCorinnCarlukAmazon and Smashwords http://bit.ly/RCCSmashwords I recommend starting with Stories With Bite O,.,O to get a feel for what I like, how I write, and then decide where to go from there.
Or come by my blog for free stories every week. http://bit.ly/Raven-Corinn-Carluk
TH: Finally, is there anything else you want the readers to know?
RCC: Leave reviews about the books you read. It helps the author, especially us indie authors, but you’re really helping your fellow readers. They want to know if their time and money are worth spending on a book, and you could help them make that choice.
RCC: Thanks for having me!
So there have it folks! Raven Corinn Carluk! She’s definately an author to keep an eye out for!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ravencorinncarluk/
Topher Hoffman: Hello and welcome folks to this most exciting interview by the fantastic YA author Caytlyn Brooke!
Recently I posted my book review of her first novel Dark Flowers, and let me tell you, it kept me at the edge of my seat. If you can check out the full review here!
I see that you are the author of two astonishing books. Have read in your profile that you write about the shadier side of fantasy. What inspired you to start writing books in that genre?
Caytlyn Brooke: Thank you! Growing up I was always drawn to the darker aesthetic. Whether it was movies, books, poems, or haunted houses, I wanted it. Fear is a huge motivator and for some reason, people love scaring themselves, it’s like an adrenaline rush. I saw that that fear was underrepresented in YA fiction and wanted to be the one to send the shivers up readers’ spines and make them nervous when they turned off the lights. Fantasy books typically revolve around magic and love, adventure and exploration. I took all of those things and scraped a few layers down. In my writing, I aim to create nightmares. If it scares me or grosses me out, it’s going in the book!
TH: Every author began writing at various stages in their life. When did you start to write?
CB: There is no magic age to begin writing, and that’s what I love about it. I started writing in the 3rd grade. I remember our teacher brought in a specialist for a creative writing assignment and gave us a prompt to craft a story around. I loved every second and wrote triple the amount of my classmates on that horrible yellow paper. The specialist read everyone’s piece, but when she got to mine she paused and I remember her saying, “Wow, these descriptions are incredible. You’re going to be a writer one day.” Bam! I never looked back.
TH: Writing takes a lot of time. Does this have any effect on your family?
CB: Writing doesn’t take a lot of time, it takes all of the time! My family is wonderful and very supportive of me! I have two young kids so I only have time to write during nap time and late at night after they go to sleep. So my husband takes the brunt of the sacrifice. It gets hard, especially when I’m on a deadline to finish a book or wrap up my edits because unfortunately all of our time together is put on hold until I am done, but luckily I have taught myself to type really fast, and my husband never runs out of Cops episodes to watch.
TH: Has your family read your stories? If so, have they gave you any feedback? If they did, what was it?
CB: Yes they have! It took a lot for my mom to read, Dark Flowers because she does not do scary, and the sad parts had her in tears, but she made it through! My husband is always the first one to read my books and offers fantastic constructive criticism. My sister, however, is basically who I write for. Out of all the readers in the world, she is the top person I am trying to impress. I greatly value her opinion, and she gives me honest feedback, even if it’s harsh. Just recently I had her read the first draft of my newest book coming out next year, and she told me it was so horrible she didn’t even finish it. So I completely scrapped the first draft and summoned all the forces of darkness to me and wrote a fresh new take on it. This time she agreed it’s much better, thankfully!
TH: I’ve overheard that authors get into the zone when they start to write? Is that true? If so, what does it take for you to get into your writing mood?
CB: Haha, yes! I love that zone! My husband is still working on respecting that zone! It doesn’t take too much for me to start writing. In my head all day long I am constantly thinking of how my characters and the challenges they face so when I finally sit down to write, everything just pours out of me. I do have to have a large cup of tea beside me though, that is a must!
TH: Being an author, you must read a lot. What type of publications do you read?
CB: Oh yes! Reading is how I relax. YA is my favourite genre, and just as I write, I tend to drift toward fantasy and horror when I read. I’m just starting to get into sci-fi now that that genre is expanding to include a million other things other than aliens, those aren’t my favourite. Some of my favourite authors are Cassandra Clare and the Mortal Instrument Series, Laini Taylor and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, and my absolute favourite author I just started reading is Leigh Bardugo and The Grisha Trilogy.
TH: Speaking of reading. I know that I will be writing a review on my blog about your book Dark Flowers. Do you check your comments and reviews?
If so, how do you deal with the negative ones?
CB: I sure do, but only every few months when I think about it. It’s so easy to get hung up on negative reviews, whether they are warranted or not. If someone doesn’t like my book, I’m completely okay with that. Not everyone will love everything I do. They sting for sure because in a perfect world, every reader would think my books are amazing, but that’s not realistic, so I just brush them off.
TH: Can you please describe your new book, so the readers have an understanding of what the story is about?
CB: My newest book is a YA sci-fi/contemporary called, Wired. It is set in 2031 and technology has become the new drug whether people are aware of it or not. Maggie is a brand new book agent. She has her dream job, a steady paycheck, and good friends. The book opens on the launch of the brand new technology, the Vertix H2, which is described as revolutionary and it is. Rather than a phone that can only provide a very static, one-way experience, the Vertix completely submerges you in social media through the use of sophisticated virtual reality apps. At first, Maggie is hesitant, however, just like a drug, the first time she connects, she is hooked. Slowly her world begins to spiral out of control as she chooses to spend more time in the virtual world and thereby neglects her reality. Can she kick the social addiction or will it pull her under forever?
TH: Where did you get the idea for the book?
CB: I wrote it when I was waitressing actually. I grew so tired of dealing with diners’ wild children because they were too absorbed with their phones to notice their child scaling the wooden divider separating the tables. Phone addiction is everywhere, from toddlers to grandparents. Every person has a phone glued to their hand at all times. Moms at the park, dads taking their kids out for ice cream, a woman walking her dog, and a grandparent at their granddaughter’s birthday party. I wanted to write a book to shed some light on this cultural phenomenon because no one is talking about it. No one seems to see just how much they are missing and how dangerous phone addiction has become. So hopefully, Wired will help readers open their eyes and reflect on their own social media usage.
TH: Eliza and Millie are two charming little girls. Are they based on anybody that you know? If not, how did you come up with them?
CB: Thank you! The girls are actually based on my sister and I. Growing up we were obsessed with finding fairies in the woods. We would build little houses out of sticks and moss and leave chocolates for them. I took the idea of innocence and twisted it to the fairies’ advantage. Innocence is now a flaw, the reason why the girls’ are tricked by the shallow beauty. Every little girl wants to find fairies, but not every fairytale ends happily.
TH: When you wrote your first book and knew how much hard work was put into writing, how did you feel about continuing your writing career?
CB: I was actually never intimidated by the amount of work writing took. It’s been my dream to be an author since elementary school, and now that I’ve finally put all my words on paper and my dream is happening, I couldn’t be more excited! I have encountered several drawbacks and challenges, but dreams are never easy. If they were they wouldn’t be dreams, right? Now that I have two published books under my belt everything has started to get much easier which is awesome! Both of my books have won multiple literary awards, and I’ve been invited all over the country for speaking opportunities and book signing events which is really cool! I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!
TH: Is there anything in either one of the two books that are parts of you?
CB: There are a lot of little fun details that relate to either my siblings or me actually. For example, in Wired, Maggie laments about having small boobs the size of recess cups. That definitely stems from my own wish. Also in Wired, when Maggie orders pizza, she explains how much she loves the smell of pizza in a box. That’s a fun nod to my sister who can identify that smell on the busy New York streets! Also, in Dark Flowers, Millie mentions how badly she wants a kitten. That was taken from my own desire as a child. I love cats! In every single book I write a cat is included.
TH: Did it trouble you to write about kids and the experiences that they went through in the book?
CB: Oddly enough, no. The horror never bothers me. Watching it on the other hand, my gracious I couldn’t! The hardest part to write about was Eliza’s back story when she was five. I won’t spoil anything, but that was heartbreaking to write.
TH: Dark Flowers is an excellent name for a book. How did you come up with that?
CB: Thank you! I wanted something obviously dark to convey the horror. I settled on flowers because they represent the fairies. Flowers are flowers, innocent, beautiful, enticing, just like the outward appearance of the fairies and the realm. However, as you begin to scrape away the false outer layer, there is true terror beneath. I also like the idea that flowers don’t last forever. Very soon the beauty crumbles and death claims them. I won’t say any more!
TH: What character in your novel was the most entertaining to write?
CB: I really enjoyed writing Eliza from Dark Flowers. She is strong and sassy, not afraid to stand up for what is right. I wish I had had that confidence when I was thirteen. I also love her persistence and her devotion to Millie. I think that’s rare to find in friendships today.
TH: You now have two books. What is your favourite?
CB: Oh this isn’t a fair question! I love the creepy adventure of Dark Flowers, but I think Wired is such a strong piece and is so relevant to the issue of technology addiction many of us are currently facing. Can I say both for different reasons?
TH: What is next on your plate when it comes to writing?
CB: Next I can’t wait to dive into my YA adventure/fantasy trilogy! The first book is called, Among the Hunted and it’s about Blake, an eighteen-year-old guy trying to find himself in the wake of his dad leaving. What he didn’t plan on was meeting Kaitaini, a beautiful wind nymph on the run from a lustful God, who will stop at nothing to have her. I’m very excited for this trilogy because I’ve been working on it for years and it’s different than my other books. There’s epic battles, magic, and even some racier scenes I haven’t been able to really include in my other books yet. So stay tuned, it’s going to be fun!
Follow Caytlyn Brooke on Twitter to keep up to date with upcoming release dates and writing news! @caytlyn_brooke
Check out her books on Amazon and buy yourself a copy Darkflowers or Wired today!
Topher Hoffman: Today I would like to introduce to you an author of YA fiction! I am excited to introduce her, and she’s I’m sure she’s excited to share with you her writing world, and her first full-length novel called The Inevitable Fate of E & J! So I say, enough of the small talk, let’s get the ball rolling, and let me present to you this fabulous new author! Welcome, Johanna L. Randle to the House of 1000 books!
Welcome Johanna to the pages of the House of 1000 books blog, your time is very well appreciated and thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!
As I read your profile on Twitter, I realized that you are a number cruncher with a degree in psychology! When did you know that your passion didn’t lie within those fields and that your magical world was waiting to be written?
Johanna L. Randle: Honestly, I’ve always known I wanted to be a published author. I love books so much, and they’ve helped me through my entire life. I’d stay in the classroom on recess and write stories. I have tons of notebooks with stories I wrote as a kid. I wanted to be a part of the world so badly. The world where my words can bring a smile to someone’s face, make them laugh, or especially, help them relate to one of my characters. However, crippling self-doubt was always an issue with me, along with that logical part of my brain telling me I needed a “real” career. Two of the biggest lies I ever told myself.
It’s funny, I went to school originally to become a teacher. My first class was a psychology course, and I fell in love with that field. I knew early on that I didn’t want to be a psychologist but wanted to focus instead on child development. However, in order to make a huge difference in the field, you need a Ph.D., which is just not feasible at this point in my life. Maybe someday.
The number crunching came about in an odd sort of way. You know those personality tests that tell you what career you should be in? (I obviously love those, because well, psychology.) Anyway, everyone I’ve ever taken has told me accounting is one of the best fields for me. I’ve always avoided it because I have a creative mind and accounting sounded, to be honest, utterly boring. I’m lucky enough to be in a company where the leaders understand that I get bored easily (see the previous sentence about the creative mind). Because of this, a position opened up in accounting, and they let me move departments. I ended up really enjoying the work. As far as day jobs go, it’s a great placeholder until when (if) I make it big time as an author.
TH: In your personal belief, what do you think makes a good plot in a story?
JLR: What makes a good plot in a story, to me, is one where you can fall completely into it. Where the world around you disappears, and you are living in the plot the entire time you read. This also requires that the characters involved in the plot are relatable, likable, even if you like to hate them, and entertaining. For me, the best plots have always been character driven. While I admire writers who can create a wonderful atmosphere, and describe something as mundane as a plant in so much detail you can see it, my favorite books to read are ones that the plot has me biting my nails, on the edge of my seat, or anxiously waiting for the next moment I can read more.
TH: Are any of your friend’s authors? If so, what advice did they give you?
JLR: None of my friends are authors, but many of them are readers. They did not really give me writing advice, but more advice to have faith in myself and my ability to write. I even have co-workers who have shown faith in me, and I appreciate it more than they’ll know. My family members were especially encouraging. They are always telling me to go for my dreams and that they love my writing.
There are multiple aspiring writers in my family, however, and I can’t wait for them to release their books. I’d love to get to a point with them where we’re swapping works in progress to give each other developmental edits and plot ideas. (If you’re reading this, I’m talking to you, Jennifer, Jessie and Chris).
TH: Currently, who is your number one fan, how do you know?
JLR: I have two number one fans – my husband and daughter. I know this for a few reasons. One, I don’t yet have many fans as a newly published author. And two, my husband has put up with my rants about plot points, character traits and those moments where I almost deleted my entire manuscript. I’ve actually ripped up handwritten notes before, and my husband tried to tape them back together. He’s encouraged me so much. I’ll never forget when I was at the dentist right after I got my book cover completed, and he randomly started bragging to them about it. That was probably the moment I finally and fully believed he did have faith in me. And my daughter tells everyone her mom is a writer and squealed along with me every time I made progress in my novel.
TH: This is my favourite question to ask everyone. If you had an opportunity to talk to your younger writing self, and you knew that you were going to write a book, what advice would you give yourself? Especially when it came to career choices?
JLR: If I could give advice to my younger writing self, I’d go back to fifth grade, when I wrote more than any other time in my life and would have told ten-year-old Johanna to not stop writing. I wished I’d continued the efforts I put in at that age. I didn’t actually start fully committing to writing a novel until I was in my twenties. I think if I had put more effort in the younger I was, the quicker my publishing goals would have come to fruition.
TH: Writing takes a lot of work. From what I’ve gathered online it can either be an especially exhausting, or it energizes you. What does it do for you?
JLR: It does both for me. It energizes me when I’m writing the first draft. When ideas freely pop in my head, and I can’t write them down fast enough. Or when I’m stuck in the plot development and the next scene magically appears in my brain. It energizes me when my characters speak to me, and I can picture them as clearly as real-life people.
The exhausting part comes when I re-read the first draft. When I realize I’ve used the same word 185 times. Or when I catch that I’ve done more telling than showing. And being new to the published author world, it’s been a bit exhausting figuring out how to market my book! And in full disclosure, there are times when I just don’t feel like writing, and I’d rather read. This slows down my progress immensely and then comes in the regret cycle.
TH: I have the greatest respect for authors. It takes a lot of work to write, edit, and compose your book, especially the first one. I would imagine that it has a massive learning curve. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your first novel?
JLR: The most surprising thing I learned when I wrote my first novel is that it’s an actual job. It’s not as simple as, “I have this amazing idea, and my characters are awesome. I’m going to write a book.” I had this delusion that every great book I read was the result of that exact thing, which is part of the reason I was afraid to try myself. I believed my favourite authors were just magic and could pen a book on the first try. But after writing the first, third, fifth draft, I realized that it is a process. Ideas are great, but it takes dedication, blood, sweat, tears, your heart and soul, and your first-born child (kidding).
Every sentence you write requires an immense amount of thinking and re-working. Does this sentence make sense here? Does this contradict an earlier plot point? Have I described something enough, or too much? What is a better word to use here? Etc. Writing can be a hobby, but to get a novel where you want it, it becomes much more than that. But it’s so worth it.
TH: All writers need tools of some type. For you, what was the greatest thing you bought that has benefited you with your writing?
JLR: This is an easy question. The best tools are books. The more I read, the more my writing improves. The more words I devour, the more circulate in my own brain. Even if I read a book that I don’t love all that much, it provides me with courage because I admire every single writer who is brave enough to put their work out into the world. That and notebooks. Lots and lots of notebooks so that I always have a place to jot down notes. (I prefer handwriting notes for my books rather than using a computer).
TH: You have a fascinating finished book. Was this your first attempt at writing a book, and if not, how many unfinished stories do you have. Will you ever go finish them
JLR: This was the first book idea I’d ever had that I wanted to write. I came up with the idea when I was sixteen. However, this was not the first one I actually wrote. I had a young adult dystopian novel written and was actually acquired by a small agency. However, the book wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and I struggled to get it just right. I ended up pulling the book and re-wrote it twice. It sits abandoned in my drafts folder now. I also have seven other unfinished stories that I’ve started. As soon as I get a story idea, I immediately begin writing it now (considering it took me a dozen or so years to finally get this one released, I don’t want that to happen again). Most of them have no more than five chapters written. I plan to go back to every single one and write a full-length novel and release them to the world. Most are young adult, but I have three that are adult novels. I may eventually try to publish my dystopian novel too, but there was so much I went through with that book that I can’t look at it quite yet.
TH: That’s pretty impressive! Can you please tell the people what your novel is about?
JLR: The Inevitable Fate of E & J is about two friends, Elizabeth and Jimmy, who had a falling out in middle school and stopped talking. Until that point, though, they were best friends, practically attached at the hip. Both of them are drawn to the other suddenly around the time Elizabeth turns sixteen. She’s feeling lost in her social circle and with the life she created for herself. And he’s missing what used to be between them. And they both just happen to be experiencing hallucinations, visions, phantom pains and voices. When they discover that they are both experiencing similar ones, they start on a journey to figure out what’s wrong with them. To not give too much away, it’s their past lives coming back to haunt them. They might be soul mates, but that might not be a good thing.
TH: Your book is clearly a romance book, and with all romance books, I bet you really need to make the reader experience strong emotions. Do you think you could be a writer of this type of novel if you didn’t in someway feel emotions strongly?
JLR: There is absolutely no way that I could write romance if I didn’t experience emotions strongly. I’m a lover of what’s commonly referred to as “the feels,” in books, movies or tv shows. This doesn’t necessarily mean only romantic feels. Any strong emotion characters feel, I feel too. I think that’s why I prefer character driven novels. Honestly, my biggest hope for my novel is that readers tell me “you gave me all the feels.” It also helps that I have an incredibly wonderful and romantic husband. The ironic thing is, I love romance, but I am one of the least romantic people in real life!
TH: Now that you have written your first book has your mindset shifted towards how you will write your next book?
JLR: Absolutely!!! I mentioned that I had the idea for this book when I was sixteen. Well, I wrote the first draft in 2014 in a notebook, in my car on my lunch break. It only took me a month to complete the first draft. I didn’t touch it again until a year later. Then another year. And then another two years until I really decided I needed to get this book out into the world. I guess you could say my characters were haunting me as much as they were being haunted. A few days ago, I discovered a document in my archive folder from 2012 where I’d started this novel! It freaked me out. I realized it took me seven years to finally be dedicated enough to get it published. I have vowed to never do that again.
Another shift in my writing is to stop writing so many drafts. I confused myself with them and made a mess of it all. This is probably due in large part to the long breaks in between. Now that this first one is written, I’m dedicated to finishing the series (three books total) and novellas I have planned.
I’ve also learned how to be a better writer since the first draft. I’ve stopped writing like I’m writing an essay for school and started to write in what I hope is an entertaining way.
TH: Like I said before, writing a novel is a long gruelling process, although I bet you it is a fun one. With your job in the way, how many hours of writing do you get in a day?
See prior answers! I clearly do not get a lot of writing done in my day. I do, however, have a lot of notes in my many notebooks. I need to go back to school for my day job, and I’m a bit concerned that will get in the way of my writing, but I am making a pact with myself that I won’t let it.
I’ve never been a goal setter for my writing (which is the opposite of myself at work, I have lots of goals and I always meet them). So, I think from now on, I’ll just have to force myself to set writing goals and hope that the level of motivation I give to my day job translates to my writing. As I mentioned, the logical part of my brain often tells me work is a priority.
TH: In your novel, the main characters use to be best friends, and they had a falling out. They later meet up again and hit it off, shall we say, pretty good. What was the most laborious part of the writing these scenes into your novel, was it their early life, their later life, or something totally different?
JLR: The more difficult scenes for me were the middle of the novel. I loved writing their backstories, and their emotions from when they met up again. I even got butterflies myself on a few of the scenes. And the ending was so much fun to write. But the middle, which is the meat, was a struggle. I found myself wanting to get to the end quickly and had to force myself to add more interactions, more struggles, and more misunderstandings. They wouldn’t magically forgive one another and be in love again, would they?
TH: I bet you think pretty highly of your two main characters. Now, I’m going to put you on the spot! Out of Jimmy and Elizabeth, who do you like best?
JLR: As a female author, I should probably say Elizabeth is my favourite, but I actually favour Jimmy quite a bit more. As I was writing his character, I realized he was actually sort of funny. Something I’m not in real life. (Though my husband will tell you that when I’m mad or frustrated, I’m hilarious, as long as it’s not directed at him). But Jimmy also had a rough life and he’s overcome that in a positive way. And that was really fun to write. I believe the world needs real-life books that reflect real-life struggles, and I’m so grateful for the authors who write those. But I also believe that sometimes, people just want to escape the bad in the world by reading characters who have some positive things to share. That’s what I hope I’ve conveyed in Jimmy. I really do love Elizabeth as well. I can relate to her. She’s placed herself in this cage of a life that she thought she should want because it made others happy. But she’s completely different than that life and she’s just now finally realizing it.
TH: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers?
JLR: Just one thing. Thank you for all of the readers who are giving an unknown, self-published debut author a chance. It means the world to me knowing that others are out there reading something I put so much effort into, simply for the purpose of entertaining them!
Follow Johanna on Social Media! Twitter: @RandleJohanna
Pick up her new book on Amazon! The Inevitable Fate of E & J