Interview with me

Posted by Shannon Haddock on April 15, 2014 in Jake's Last Mission, Writing process |

IMG_2934This is the final post in my countdown to the release of Jake’s Last Mission.  I had some sort of brilliant idea, then I forgot it.  Then I had another brilliant idea.

I forgot it too.

Lacking for brilliant ideas, I googled for advice.  I can’t find the sites I found before I made the first countdown post.  Crap.  So I thought it could be fun to pretend I was being interviewed and answer common author interview questions.

Then I read the sorts of things authors are asked in interviews and . . . seriously?  Do readers really care about the author’s writing process?  About where they get their inspiration?  About whether they plan before they write or not?  I mean, I know I care about these things, but I’m an author.  It makes me feel much, much better about my make it up as I go approach to know that Larry Hama does the same thing.  It fascinates me, in a horrified kind of way, to know that some authors approach writing like it’s an actual job, sitting at a desk for eight hours at a time, breaking only for lunch and cigarrettes . . . or exercise, in the case of one.  But I never thought that the average reader cared, for instance, how many hours a day J. K. Rowling writes.  I assumed they were far more interested in things like “Just how many zeroes were in the amount you made from Deathly Hallows again?!”

But, as those seem to be the typical questions authors are asked, I guess I’ll answer them.  I’ll even try not to be too sarcastic.

Quit laughing, everyone who knows me in real life.  I can manage not to be sarcastic.  I think.

So, without further adieu, the questions and my answers:

Where do you get your ideas?

I promised not to be sarcastic, so I’m not going to say something like “From Ideas R Us”.  Instead I’ll tell the truth:  Usually, I have no bloody clue.  Sometimes I get an idea when listening to a particular song or reading something, but usually I just suddenly have something in my head that I must commit to paper before it drives me insane.  Jake’s Last Mission was very much one of those “Must write this down right now!” things

What’s your writing process like?

I wake up every morning at precisely . . . dammit, not being sarcastic is HARD.

I try to write some every day.  I usually succeed in writing about three days a week.  When things are going well, I can write three to five thousand words a day; when they aren’t, I’m happy to get two hundred.  My planner has 1,000 words per day listed in it as my goal for the day though, and someday I’ll have both the discipline and the absence of disasters for long enough at a time to really make that a habit.  I hope.

I try to work on one thing until it’s finished, but sometimes I get thoroughly stuck.  Then I work on something else until I get stuck in it.  With Jake’s Last Mission, I got stuck somewhere on the second page the first or second day I worked on it and stayed stuck for several months.  Then I changed the last sentence and wrote most of the rest of it in a week.

How much do you plan in advance?

I don’t plan the story at all before I start writing, but once it’s gained some momentum, I start making little notes about what will probably happen next and in what order.  I didn’t used to do even this, but I kept forgetting important things and having to go back and try to fit them in, so I started making notes.

I also, generally, have lots of stuff about the setting and characters worked out in advance.  Not in a “have filled out lots of questionairres” sort of way, in a “I have a fairly detailed alternate reality running in my head and can therefore extrapolate all kinds of things” way.

Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life?

Oh, this is an easy one!  No.  More elaborately, probably subconsciously certain people have influenced certain characters — I’m pretty sure Renata has quoted my mother a time or two — but I’ve never consciously based a character on a real person.

Which character is you?

None of them.  Not basing them on real people includes not basing them on myself.  To be honest, Renata looks a bit like me.  We’re both busty, short, and overweight.  And we’re both stubborn to a fault and a wee bit tempermental.  And she did start as a self-insert.  But, she’s a champion swordswoman; genius engineer, inventor, and mechanic; mother of quite a few, and in her fifties, so I’m pretty sure she doesn’t count as a self-insert any more.

What inspires you?

I know I’m supposed to say something like “sunrises” or “the simple joy of life” or some other saccharine bullshit here, but I won’t.  Instead, I’ll be honest:  nothing really inspires me to write.  It’s just something I do.  Story-telling is something I’ve done as long as I can remember.  What inspires me to actually put my ass in a chair and start writing is pretty much egotism, I admit.  I think I’ve made a damned groovy setting with awesome characters and want to share it with people.

Who are your favorite authors?

This list varies by the day, but the top five today:

a) Robert Heinlein — Yes, I know all the reasons I should hate him.  I don’t care.  I’m not holding he nor any of his characters up as paragons of anything; I just admire the way the man told stories, the way he made me think, the way he made me question everything I took for granted as an immutable “This is right” fact of life.

b) Larry Hama — I’d say about seventy-five percent of what I know about how to write action stories with good characterization I learned from reading GI Joe comics.

c) Laura Ingalls Wilder — Again, I know all the reasons I should shun her.  Again, I don’t care.  Her books are a wonderful recollection of life in the late nineteenth century.  I  fell in love with them at nine and still reread them regularly at almost thirty-four.  That clearly makes them damned good books.

d) Ed Greenwood — Admittedly, as a fiction author he’s got some issues, which he readily admits to.  But he still can tell a very entertaining story, and I love his characters. But his true genius is in his world-building.  One of my goals in life is to have as fully realized a setting as the Forgotten Realms, that has touched as many other people.

e)  Terry Pratchett — If you’ve ever read a Discworld book, you understand.  If you haven’t, get to a bookstore or library and fix this!  They start out mocking fantasy tropes, but as the series progresses they become a delicious blend of social satire and comedic fantasy that words do not do justice to.

What are your favorite books?

Another list that varies by the day, though not as much.  Here are today’s top five:

a)  Imzadi by Peter David — It’s one of the two best love stories I’ve ever read.

b)  Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery — I identified with Anne way too much as a kid.

c)  These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder — The best love story I’ve ever read.  And reread.  And rerereread.

d)  The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien — The first fantasy novel I ever read and still the best.  I like the appendices of Lord of the Rings better than the books.

e)  Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein — I know, okay?!  Please don’t bother with telling me all the reasons it’s horrible, Lazarus is horrible, Heinlein is horrible, etc.  I know.  I also know that most people complaining make basic factual errors about the books that show either a lack of reading comprehension or a faulty memory of how exactly events came about.  I love the book.  It makes me question things.  It makes me think.  It’s also got the best western I’ve ever read as one of the stories in it — the bit with Dora and Lazarus.

What would you do if you weren’t an author?

I don’t understand the question.  If I wasn’t an author . . . these are words that don’t make sense.

What are you currently working on?

No More Lies.  It’s a romance about Jake’s son, Bobby.  Bobby, at the time of the story, was a spy posing as an assassin.  He meets a woman on vacation, falls in love, and then his life gets complicated.

Why do you write?

I think I adequately covered this under the inspiration question.

What are you reading right now?

Enough things that I’d actually have to check goodreads to get a complete list.  The ones I can recall off the top of my head:

a)  Han Solo at Star’s End — I’d be done with this, but I’ve misplaced it with less than forty pages left.  Annoying.

b)  Evermeet:  Island of the Elves by Elaine Cunningham– I’ve been slowly working my way through this for a couple of years.  I don’t know why, but I can’t concentrate on it for long at a time.

c)  Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery — It’s one of my favorite books.  I reread it once every couple of years.

d)  Stormlight by Ed Greenwood — I have a crush on Storm.  That’s really the entirety of why I’m reading this book again, I think.

e)  Blazon — I got it from the free books bin at the used bookstore.  It looked like cheesy space opera which I have a weakness for.  I’m a third of the way through and am considering giving up on it because so far what happens is you get a few chapters from a characters point of view, then they get killed.  This is getting old.

Why do you write space opera?

Because I saw the Star Wars movies way too much as a kid.  That really is the best answer I can give.  Also because westerns would require too much research.  So I stick with space opera where I can use western plots but not have to research things nearly as much.

How do you feel about ebooks?

The way I see it the format of a book is irrelevant usually.  I’ve got books that I dearly love that I have gone to great difficulty to track down in hardback so I’d have a copy that wouldn’t fall apart so quickly.  The ability to have those in electronic format instead is great.  Yes, I know there’s DRM and proprietary formats and all that sort of crap, but that’s still less annoying than having to replace my favorite books every few years because I’ve read them to death.

And it’s much easier to self-publish ebooks and get noticed than print books.

Who designs your covers?

Me!  It’s really not that hard.  I choose an image, I put text on the image, sometimes using a template, sometimes not.  Of course, describing it this way leaves out the hours of agonizing of not being able to find just the right image and the hours of crying because Photoshop has suddenly gone fucking insane.  So maybe a bettter way to put it is:  It shouldn’t really be that hard, but something always goes wrong.

So, there you have an interview with me.  Hopefully I amused or otherwise entertained you enough that you’ll go pre-order Jake’s Last Mission from iBookstore, Kobo, or Smashwords.  Or remember to look for it elsewhere on April 18th!


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