Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let There Be Questions (Part 1)

I recently did my spiel at the Entertainment Marketing Class at Kennesaw State University. The students' professor gave them an assignment -- ask this author questions. So here goes:

P. Patel inquires, "What do you enjoy about writing?"

Not everything. Some of it is pure penance. What is fun is the ability to create worlds, populate those worlds with intriguing people and then make their lives a living Hell. I can take my imagination in any direction I choose and I let it have free rein. The "brake" I install is the "don't make this sound like every other story, okay?" I want something new, something unexpected. I like having readers say they didn't see something coming. That's cool. The other thing I enjoy about writing is when its done and I hold the most current book in my hand. It's a feeling that's hard to explain. It's what keeps me putting little letters on the page.

K. Edwards - "Did growing up in Iowa have any affect on your writing style and topics that you write about?"

I'd like to believe my Iowa origins are in my stories, though I'm not particularly sure that I can point to one particular thing to substantiate that claim. Iowans, for the most part, are solid, sensible folks. They do have their moments of insanity (the annual bike ride across Iowa, for example) but they're pretty grounded. I hope my stories show that sense of purpose and their drive to care for family and friends. We're all a product of our experiences, writers even more so.

N. Orr -- "Do you mentor young authors who do not know where to start?"

I try. I'm certainly not at the top of the author food chain, but I have experience and I like to share that. Publishing is a very confusing (sometimes ugly) business and I figure the newbies need all the help they can get. Sure, I'm probably helping someone who might someday far exceed my career, but positive Karma is good. I had folks help me get where I am. It's time to repay the debt.

Also, "Do you wait for an inspiration to hit you to write a book or can you just decide that now is a good time?"

Inspiration is good. Contract deadlines trump that. If in "X" months you have a book due, you get fired up whether the Muse is in town or not. There are days where the story flows like water. Other days it doesn't. You work hard during the former and wince a lot during the latter. In the end, if you put your butt in the chair enough times, a book happens.

E. Witt asks, "In a recent interview, you comment that your characters 'talk' to you. Can you please elaborate?"

Voices. In. My. Head. That's what they are. Luckily they don't rule my life (at least not directly) but they do insist on telling me their stories. A few authors say their characters don't talk to them. Mine do. Regularly. They often feel they own me. For example: Jacynda (my heroine) will wander into my mind and clarify a conversation she had with another character, letting me know what she likes/dislikes about that person, how she felt at the moment and what her intentions are regarding the new information she learned. I hear full dialog which is rather freakin' brilliant. Unfortunately, I can't seem to transcribe those conversations onto the page and so have to construct them bit by bit as I write the story. It's rare a character that doesn't talk to me. It's not a good thing. That means I can't "get inside his/her head" and understand what motivates them. And if I can't learn that, the character is going to be very flat.

Also, "Which (if any) authors have influenced your writing style?"

A lot of them. Probably about everyone I've ever read. However, certain ones stand out. Terry Pratchett's amazing imagination and ability to describe things in unique ways has always fascinated me. I'll "do" description in my books, but no where near as cool as this gent. I did channel Terry when I was recently writing The Word of Zed (a short story) for an anthology. I joke it's like Terry Pratchett on bad drugs.

Thriller authors like Lee Child, Barry Eisler, etc. remind me that one of the key elements to the story is that it moves forward and keeps the reader turning pages. My editor is very good at finding paragraphs/scenes that slow the pace. I either rewrite them or delete them. You want a compelling story or the reader will find other things to do. It's the author's joke to deliver.

I'll be back this weekend (after my conference) with more questions. There's a lot waiting in the queue.


N.orr said...

Thanks Jana for taking the time to answer my questions. I learned a lot from your visit and I wish you much success in the future.

N. Orr

Eric said...

Pretty much here for the same.

Thanks again.

-E. Witt

Nik said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions from class. I really enjoyed your visit and learned a lot of interesting information. Good luck!

punit said...

Thanks Mrs. Oliver for taking the time to respond to my question. I enjoyed for converstion with the class. Good luck with the new novel.