Author Interview with Ashley Elliot

Hello, wordmigos! Today I have the pleasure of sitting down* for an interview with splendid indie author Ashley Elliot from Inklings Press.

*To be fair, it’s quite possible she was standing up when she answered my questions. Or doing one-handed pushups with a baby koala on her back. Let’s not make assumptions.

Ashley and I, along with a handful of other indie authors, are doing a giveaway thingy [insert fancy giveaway clicky thingy here] together, and you still have time to go participate for a shot at one of eight free e-books!

It was good fun to ask Ashley some questions about herself and her writing, and she provided some great answers!

(Note: I’ve included some interviewer interjections purely for the sake of clarity.)

N: So, can you tell me a little bit about your writing style? What genre do you tend to work in?

A: My writing style is very seat-of-the-pants, never really planned (I’ve got general ideas and know how it’ll end, but I let the characters tell me where they want to go), and very sporadic. It’s changed from book to book, as I like for all of my characters to have their own voice, but I’m more dialogue-heavy than anything else. My first novel, Becoming Nikki, is very light and airy, whereas my second, The Art of Letting Go, is a lot heavier (and more depressing; sorry). I write young adult fiction, usually coming-of-age, with lots of lessons cleverly hidden inside the pages.

N: What’s been a favorite experience of yours as an indie-author?

A: Once, I got to go to a local authors’ spotlight at a library with a fellow indie author friend and sold exactly one book. I also love it whenever somebody tells me that something I wrote touched them.

N: If you could go back in time and offer one bit of advice to your younger author self, what would you say?

A: Keep writing. Never stop, no matter what people say. Your writing may suck now, but you’re getting better, and it’ll show… eventually. Oh, and write out what your plans are for that novel because you’re going to get old and forget and it’s going to be very sad.

N: What do you think is the hardest part about being an author, whether self-published or traditional?

A: I’d have to say that the hardest part for me personally is knowing that what I’m writing is actually good. I’ve got a lot of self-confidence outside of writing, but I hate showing people what I’ve written because I never think it’s any good. And that seeps into finding motivation to write, which I think is the second-hardest thing. Sometimes I just don’t want to write, and self-confidence can play a major part in that.

N: Can we get a peek at something you’re working on now? Or is it all FBI levels of confidentiality?

A: Haha*, well, something I’ve been working on that’s definitely more public is a novel called The Art of Letting Go, which is about this girl who loses someone very close to her and has to figure out how to move on.  I’m done writing it, but the revising stage is taking a lot of time and effort that I don’t really have at the moment.  It’s on hold until I finish college, which will hopefully be in March!  (When it’s done, though, I’m going to try and publish it through the traditional route.  Fingers crossed!)  The project hidden under FBI levels of confidentiality is currently in the brainstorming stage, and if I told you anymore besides that, I’d have to kill you**.
*Please note that such slang vocabulary does not reflect the serious, professional nature of the blog or the blog host.
**The interviewer had no desire to be killed, so he didn’t pursue this issue further.
 

N: You’re currently submitting Becoming Nicki as part of our December giveaway. Can you tell us more about that book?

A: Yes, I am! Becoming Nikki is about a girl who has this awful relationship with her brother, and after he loses his memory, she has to figure out whether to let everything stay the same or try to start anew. (Gosh, it’s been forever since I wrote a blurb on that novel. I started writing it when I was fifteen and published it on my twentieth birthday, and I’m turning twenty-two tomorrow*, so it’s been out of my mind for a while. I still love it, though.)
*Here, the interviewer pauses to wish the interviewee a happy birthday and to eat some cake.

N: You have ten seconds to choose your absolute favorite book from your bookshelf. Which one do you grab?

A: I’ve got the Bible app on my phone, so don’t you DARE try to judge me* for not grabbing that! I’d grab The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly.  It’s not very well-known, but I’ve recommended it to all of my friends since I read it for the first time a few years ago.  It’s a retelling of Little Women and it’s about finding your way in the world – and it came to me at a time when I was trying to do just that, so it holds a very special place in my heart.  (And then I’d use the remaining six seconds to grab Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.)
*At this point, the interviewer wiggles his fingers judgmentally.

N: We all know being a writer is tough. Where do you find the most support or encouragement to keep going when things get hard?

A: Honestly? Pinterest. I don’t have very many writer friends, and Pinterest encouragement is available 24/7. I use it to brainstorm, I use it to encourage me, and I use it to file away all the ideas I get for later, when I’m in a writing slump or just need something quick to write when I need a creative outlet. It’s amazing and I love it dearly.

N: Have you ever had any fun, unusual, or memorable interactions with your readers? Care to share?

A: Not really… although it’s always great whenever somebody reviews my book (period), but especially whenever someone’s like “There’s no way you’re not a professional ice skater!”  I just smile and say, “Nope. I’ve been ice skating a lot, but I suck!” I love being able to allow my characters to do the things I can’t!

N: Random fun question to wrap up: if you could have written any well-known novel out there, which one would you put your name on? (Don’t worry, the real author won’t feel too bad!)

A: The Harry Potter series – or something like it.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to have written something so universally adored by millions of people, connecting them through their mutual love for it?  #goals


Huge thanks to Ashley for taking the time to share her insights into her writing world! It’s been great fun, and be sure to go follow her blog! In the meantime, have a great day!

The Writer’s Life According to The Princess Bride

NaNoWriMo is over! Congratulations if you won (I did!), and congratulations if you did your best but didn’t quite make it, because you still got a lot done. In celebration, let’s take a look at the writer’s life according to everyone’s favorite cult classic, The Princess Bride.

1
When you walk into a bookstore with your family.
2
November 30th at midnight.
3
When the muscle character tries to get a little chatty.
9
When someone hands you a gift card for books.

 

4
When you’re not sure why your book hasn’t earned you six figures yet.
5
When your editor suggests ‘cutting this whole scene.’
6
Sometimes your protagonist gets a little whiney…
7
When you leave for the weekend and won’t be writing.
8
When you see people winning NaNoWriMo and it’s not even the middle of November.

It’s December 1st, so rest up and enjoy the start of the month! I’ll be giving my draft some well-earned space for a few days. Then it’s back to the writing grind. In the meantime, have a great day! (Hey!)

Sunshine Blogger Award Tag – Triple Dosage!

Today I’m participating in the always-fun Sunshine Blogger Award Tag. Unlike last time, however, I’ve been tagged by three people recently, so I decided to do a Q&A blitz of sorts. Big thanks to Benita J. Prins, Katelyn Buxton, and S. M. Metzler for the tags! Go follow their blogs and leave them an offering of chocolate and a caffeinated beverage.

Being tagged by three people, however, means I have not ten, but thirty questions to answer, so let’s get right into this!

From Benita J. Prins…

  1. Who is your favorite actor/actress and why? Will Smith or Liam Neeson.
  2. How many languages do you speak well enough to hold a conversation? English, Spanish, Catalonian…so three. Four, if a very simple conversation about the weather in French counts. 
  3. What is the last book you read that you couldn’t put down? The Miss Peregrine series, by Ransom Riggs. 
  4. What is one genre you would never read? Paranormal. Or pure romance. 
  5. Do you have any unique quirks? Haha…yes.
  6. What’s the best book-to-movie adaptation you’ve ever seen? The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  7. Do you like maps? Yes. Maps are awesome. I was drawing maps before I started writing stories.
  8. How often do you write by hand compared to typing? Not very often, only when I really need to shake things up or concentrate better.
  9. Which author’s books can you never resist picking up? Neil Gaiman.
  10. What is your favorite letter of the alphabet? R, K, A, Y, N, S, in that order.
  11. How much chocolate do you consume on a weekly basis? Not much, if any.

From Katelyn Buxton…

  1. What’s your favorite movie? Oh boy. C.A. Civil War…or The Two Towers…or…
  2. A song that made an impact on you. Mercedes’ Lullaby 
  3. Math or creative writing? Creative writing (how is that even a question?)
  4. Do you have any pets? If so, what are they? If not, what kind of pet would you choose? My family has a Fat Cat and some Fat Fish and a Fat Rabbit.
  5. The last book you read. The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Rothfuss)
  6. What’s your favorite TV show? The Voice.
  7. If you could forget a book and read it over again for the first time, which one would you choose? Why would I want to forget a book?
  8. Do you prefer cold weather or warm weather? Cold. Fall weather is perfection.
  9. What’s your favorite color? Black.
  10. What’s your favorite artist/band? I don’t really have a specific favorite.
  11. What’s your favorite genre in books? Fantasy/adventure.

And from S. M. Metzler…

  1. When did you start blogging? About four years ago (on a different blog).
  2. Name three books that everyone on Earth should read. Fiction books? Not sure. That’s a tough question, and it may not have an answer (gettin’ all philosophical over here). 
  3. Favorite pop music artist and film score composer. Pop music bores me. Koji Kondo. 
  4. Name your three biggest fandoms. MCU, Nintendo (yes), Lord of the Rings.
  5. What is your favorite musical? Pass (sorry…just not that interested in musicals).
  6. Spiderman or Ant-man? Yes, the new Marvel ones. Spiderman all day every day.
  7. What time of day do you write the most? At night, usually, or at least in the evening.
  8. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider? Yes. 
  9. A tagline for the first story you’ve ever written. Boy, that was a long, long time ago.
  10. If your book was going to be made into a movie, is there an actor/actress you’d choose to play your main character? Tom Holland might be a good choice. 
  11. Rey or Princess Leia? Why? Rey, because, uhm, she uses lightsabers and is awesome and has a killer staff-stick thingy. 

Awesome! Now you know 30 things about me you might not have known before. We’re practically best friends. I won’t keep the tag going (sorry!) because anyone I can think if to tag has already been tagged or has tagged me, so I’ll stick to my questions.

The Writer’s Life According to Wallace and Gromit

We’re going way back with this installment. But hey, we’re just crackers about cheese, so it’s all good!

1
When your book gets a bad review.
2
Trying to keep up with NaNoWriMo.
3
What you imagine your first book signing will be like.
4
When the perfect writing weather strikes.
5
Trying to decide what writing beverage to grab.
6
When the words just aren’t happening.
7
When the research starts to get weird.
8
Trying to keep the plot bunnies under control.
9
When you realize nothing good in your story will ever be safe from you.

As usual, none of these gifs belong to me or were created by me. Let’s be real…you know this by now. Have a great day, everyone!

#NaNoWriMo Week 1 – Already Behind Schedule

The first full week of #NaNoWriMo 2016 is drawing to a close. This has been my first experience with NaNoWriMo (referred to hereafter as NaNo because I’m lazy), and I’ve seen a bit of everything.

I’ve seen people faithfully update their word count and stay par. I’ve seen people plow ahead and leave their daily word quota in the dust. I’ve even seen a few cheeky writers claiming to have finished the 50k words already (I mean, I guess it’s possible, but I worry for their health).

And then there’s me. The guy who managed to fall almost 2k words behind schedule in fewer than seven days. Am I super worried? No, because I know I can make up for lost ground in a few days. But it’s been interesting to observe things play out in different ways for different writers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of my first week of NaNo:

The writing

As of this morning (Monday the 7th), I’m sitting at 8705 words, which, as I’ve already stated, is under par. By the end of today, I’ll have crossed the 10k checkpoint, and with a bit of extra work I’ll get back to par at 11,700 words.

Despite being a bit behind, I’m having loads of fun with the story. As many of you know, I’m writing the sequel to Where the Woods Grow Wild, and I’m super excited to get deeper into this project.

The challenges

The challenges I’ve faced during the first week of NaNo have been, primarily, two: finding time to write every day, and finding energy to write every day. There are days when I don’t get home from work until 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., and by that time, I’m pretty worn out. I know everyone’s in the same boat, because life keeps us on our toes, right?

The rewards

I love the NaNo community. You guys on Twitter are fantastic at encouraging and motivating each other, and it’s so awesome to see all these random writers working together towards a common goal. NaNo isn’t a contest. It’s not a race. It’s a collective endeavor, and the writing community truly reflects that. Keep it up!

Reminders and tips (for myself) for week 2

  • Discipline trumps inspiration (duh)
  • Don’t put off writing for the end of the day, if possible
  • Use the NaNo progress chart to stay motivated
  • Don’t worry about other writers’ progress
  • Value the ‘forced’ productivity
  • Drink more coffee

How is NaNoWriMo treating you so far? How much progress have you made? What sort of changes or objectives will you set for week 2? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day.

5 Signs a Character Might Die

Killing off characters is a facet of storytelling that writers look forward to with glee treat carefully. A character death can pack such an emotional punch, and a lot of the time we plan ahead exactly how, when, and where a given character will kick the proverbial bucket. We try our best to keep those character deaths a surprise until the time is right.

There are, however, certain trends I’ve noticed that potentially give away which character will die next. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but next time you see a character exhibit some of these signs…well, don’t get too attached to them, just in case.

They talk wistfully about home

Ironically, the characters that talk or reminisce the most about the home and family they left behind to go on their quest are the ones who seldom make it back. Here are some key phrases to look out for:

  • “When all this is done, I’ll go home to…”
  • “Right before I set off, my wife told me…”
  • “I long to return home and meet my newborn son…”
  • “I miss […] but I’ll be there again soon.”

They get married

Characters who get married  just before or during the main conflict will probably leave their spouse in a lonely conundrum. Writers are just cruel like that. Happiness is for the single.

They have humble dreams and goals

If a character starts to talk a lot about their dream of owning a farm, or of visiting a certain place, or of witnessing a certain event…yeah, not gonna happen. Their lowly-yet-relatable ambitions make them the perfect candidates for a sacrificial and emotional end.

They dislike the protagonist at first

Ah, this guy/gal. The ally that spends the first two-thirds of the book hating our hero for questionable (if any) reasons, then makes a sudden change right around the start of Act III. You know what’s coming: they take the ultimate redemptive step by sacrificing themselves for the hero or the hero’s cause.

They embrace the concept of death

I mean, it’s kind of fitting, I guess. The character that views death as ‘the start of another journey’ or ‘not the end, just the beginning’ is, in fact, the first to get their ticket punched. Hey, at least they got a head start on that journey, right?


What are some of the clues you’ve noticed that might (or might not) give away which characters have their days numbered? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day!

Diving into NaNoWriMo Preparations!

As many of you have seen on Twitter, I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. In case you don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, a yearly event in which tons of writers try to reach 50k words (usually) in one month. That averages about 1667 words each day for thirty days straight.

Sound crazy? Yeah, I think so too. But hey, it’s a challenge.

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo before, but when I asked about it on Twitter, you guys practically exploded with all kinds of reasons why I should join, so I decided to give it a go!

That was a few days ago, and since then I’ve been getting the hang of the website (www.nanowrimo.org) and planning some preparations for the month of October (since the event doesn’t start until November).

Now, I like to plan everything in advance, even preparations for a plan, so I decided to share what I’ll be doing to get ready for NaNoWriMo 2016. Keep in mind, this is my first year participating. If you’re looking for a Top 10 Strategies To Guarantee NaNoWriMo Success, I’m not the guy to ask. I’m simply sharing some of the fun stuff I (and others) will be doing to be as ready as we can!

1. I’m writing a sequel

Cheating? Maybe. Sort of. I don’t think so. As many of you know, Where the Woods Grow Wild is coming out later this fall, so NaNoWriMo is the perfect chance to knock out a huge chunk of the sequel, Where the Trees Grow Taller (temporary title).

The benefit of a sequel is that all the returning characters are good to go, so I won’t have to spend a lot of time starting character development from scratch. It also means the story world and a plot premise are in place for me as well.

2. Outlines. Outlines everywhere

I love me some outlines! I firmly believe in letting my story grow and change organically, so my finished products rarely look much like my outlines start out as, but I still map everything out before I start writing no matter what project I’m working on.

Nothing against you pantsers out there, but it’s just not for me. Personally, I need to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there before I walk out the door. Besides, I think outlining ahead of time will save me quite a few headaches during NaNoWriMo…right? *nervous gulp*

3. Pinterest boards

I’m a visual person. I understand and work with concepts better if I have a physical reference to look at. In other words, by the end of October, I’ll have a Pinterest board full of character references, location inspirations, random information graphs, etc. I’m keeping this board secret, of course.

4. Spotify playlist

I know this one’s pretty popular, but I’m creating a whole new playlist for my sequel. Where the Woods Grow Wild got its own soundtrack, but I want to start with fresh music for this project. Though, on second thought, I’ll probably have to shell out change for a premium account to dodge those aggravating reggae adds.

5. Assorted notes, charts, etc.

I have a whiteboard in my writing shed and oodles of sticky notes and notebook sheets. I guarantee they will all be full of CSI level tracking boards by the time NaNoWriMo rolls around. Anything that’s not an official outline will join the stack! Again, I like to plan. A lot. And I’m visual. So…yeah, it’s gonna get messy.

6. Coffee

Lots of it.


Are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2016? How are you getting ready for this year? Have you participated in previous years? What was it like for you? Any tips for a first-timer? Talk to me in the comments, friends!

And in the meantime, have a great day.