Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oy, the Questions! (Part 1)

One of the fun things about my job is that I get to talk to all sorts of folks about writing. A recent trip to Kennesaw State University and their Entertainment Marketing Class is a great example. Their professor (Tyra Mitchell) is a dear friend and so I get the chance to putter over and explain why marketing and "brand" are essential for an author.

This time around I pulled up other authors' websites, blogs and Wikipedia entries as a means to see who has it all together and who could stand some work. The authors ranged from the very highest and mightiest (J.K. Rowling -- check out her website -- it rocks) to those far less well known. The students were vocal about their thoughts on website design, which was great.

Professor Mitchell also assigned her class the task of penning questions for me. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to answer the majority of them so we hatched the idea of using this blog as a Q&A session. I'll post questions and answers over the next couple weeks. Feel free to demand follow-up questions or post comments. Blogs should be dynamic.

Question from S. McC. -- How did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

I had no choice. You can blame it on two things -- I'm an only child and the "voices". Being an only child I quickly learned it was prudent to entertain myself rather than bugging my parents who always seemed to have an endless supply of 'make work' jobs for the child (if she was underfoot). So besides reading voraciously, I started concocting stories in my head to keep myself occupied. I could out into my little world and no one would know what I was up to, unless I starting muttering to myself or forgot to take the garbage out.

As to the "voices", fortunately they aren't telling me to conquer England or anything. They're my characters, who will start chatting at me at the most inopportune times. Pushing the cart down the grocery aisle "Hey, did you know that X in this scene is really the bad guy who...." Sitting in a doctor's office "and that the bad guy is the one who killed the nun". It's at this point I go "What nun?" and get all sorts of looks from those around me. I've often thought I should buy a Bluetooth headset (but not put in the battery) just so folks don't think I'm talking to myself most of the time.

Question from A.S -- Have you always leaned towards this style of writing, even as a child?

I've always written mysteries from the beginning. I was never one of those to wrote happy and light stories. I've always been fascinated with the complexities of human nature. I added the paranormal or supernatural element to my writing in about 1998 when I become more aware of that aspect of life. Up until that point, I'd had little to do with anything mystical. Now I see it as one more layer of complexity.

Question from R.T. -- Do the relationships of your characters in your novels parallel your own relationships in your life?

I'd love to say no, but that's wrong. Authors often work out some of their inner issues (demons) through their writing. By putting your characters through emotional (and physical) hell, you not only take them on a journey, but pull yourself along as well. If the character is being a sincere jerk, that attitude comes from somewhere. We're all a mixture of dark and light and that's what makes writing so much fun. But every now and then I'll wince because something gets a bit too close to home.

I'm off to a convention this weekend but will continue posting the Q&A on Monday!



Tyra Mitchell said...

Thanks for making the track to visit my class. The students enjoyed your presentation and learned new stuff (which they'll be tested on this coming Monday).

I can't believe you are answering their questions in your blog. It's incredibly sweet and open of you to do so.

Now, about these voices in your head... :)

Jana Oliver said...

No sweat. It's always fun to lift up the publishing rock and let folks see what's underneath.

Ah, the voices. Can't be helped. They're just there.

C.H. said...

Much thanks for speaking to us, and giving us the Tour de Publishing! I loved what you wrote above about everything being a combination of dark and light. I have read too many books that would have been far more enjoyable had the authors had the same character approach.
Thanks again! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for coming and speaking to our class. Also, another big thanks for taking the time to go through our questions and answering them. What caused the awareness? Also, do your curiousities of that aspect cause you to do anything differently now than you did before?


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Oliver, thanks for taking the time to answer all of our questions. I really enjoyed your presentation and appreciate you coming to speak to our class. I found it interesting how each different author that you went over market themselves.