Yesterday I noticed that Emily Russell, Author of Aurian and Jin and The King’s Might, had nominated me to answer some questions. I rarely, if ever, fail to at least shake a stick at a challenge. Sometims I give up when the stick gets too heavy, but this time I made it through. So, here are some exceptionally boring responses to questions that for any more interesting person would have generated some interesting stories or opinions. Good luck, and don’t say I didn’t warn you!
If you had to survive on one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Does stir-fry count? – not that weird saucy stuff you get in pre-packed frozen packages, the stuff that I make with fresh vegetables. I could eat stir-fry every day forever, but that’s a lot of foods together, so maybe I can’t choose that? Alternatively, if it was just one thing only it would be Egg-McMuffins – the real ones, not those fakey ones you don’t get at McD’s. Failing all of that, which is the argument at my house just now (apparently there is a belief that one ‘food’ means one ‘ingredient’, like Peanut Butter.) If that were the case, I’d pick dryfish (dry smoked salmon or whitefish).
What’s more important in a story: character, plot, or voice?
Character. If I hate the characters, I won’t read the book. I didn’t like Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrel because I thought the characters were stuffed shirts. Now, it’s not that the book sucked or anything, but I didn’t like the book. It didn’t help that the plot was sluggish* Plot is important, sure, but I’ll follow a meandering plot if the characters are good. I will bitch about voice, but I’ll never not read a book or story because of voice. I started reading a book and not digging the voice was strange, but I read and liked the book just fine.
* The footnotes were better.
What’s the first book you remember being deeply affected by?
My Side of the Mountian, when I was like 13. I wish I could say why, but I can’t. I think it has to do with the main character escaping into the woods to fend for himself. This really appealed to me. I’m a super independent person, I prefer to do things and solve problems myself. That said, I think the book that had the most influence on my writing was Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not something I actually realized until recently as I’ve really started to think about my own voice.
How important is good grammar in a novel to you?
Don’t care, actually. I’m not a grammar-nazi or anything and I’ve got enough of my own problems with grammar that I’d be an idiot to really pick on someone else for it. That said, if the book stinks, then I’ll notice those problems. I’m much, much, much, more interested in understanding. If I don’t have to re-read it, then I’m not likely to notice.
Would you rather get blackout drunk in front of
Your mother-in-law, or Your boss?
My mother-in-law. This isn’t even a hard question because I’ve done it before. My mother-in-law passed away almost two years ago, but she was a super-cool lady and this sort of irresponsible behavior simply wasn’t commented on, provided it only rarely occurred. My boss on the other hand, well I don’t know her super well yet. She’s sort of all over the map, couldn’t say she’d be cool with something like that.
In honor of the season, tell me one good memory you have about Halloween as a child. (The first year I was diabetic for Halloween, my dad traded me my candy for a guitar. My dad is, obviously, very cool.)
I remember one or two years where it wasn’t cold and snowing. Does that count? I remember one year in particular where it was so warm a friend and I were able to wander around in our neighborhood with our costumes showing. It was awesome. Most normal years, this year included, you don’t even really need to wear a costume, just a mask or a bit of face-paint, because the rest of you is covered with jacket. Halloween tends not to be super memorable here. It’s dark, cold, windy, snowing, and generally horrible here this time of year.
One word or phrase that really annoys you.
That’s tough. I’m annoyed by a lot. I may not be offended by much, but there is a lot of stuff that just gets under my skin. If I had to just pick one thing, say from writing, I’d pick “Show don’t tell” Every time I hear it, I want to go off like a cannon. It’s meaningless advice. The only less helpful phrase is: I didn’t read it. When giving advice, it’s easy to start with that phrase, but before it erupts from your mouth it should be modulated with something like: The action / dialogue here is weak, it reads like a laundry list of actions instead of a story. Try mixing in some dialogue or a little more action, some internal character narration, maybe some feelings. Anyhow, I could go on, but I think I’m done.
Give me five single words that describe your writing style.
“I really have no idea.” I’m still trying to discover what my voice really is, I think it’s hiding in a old box around here somewhere. I recently started writing a book completely different from anything else I’ve tried. If I had to put a Genre label on it, It’d be closest to paranormal romance, but it’s really suppose to be silly to the point of almost ridiculous. Really, I like to think of it as more urban fantasy. This book is coming together quickly. If I’m focused I can hammer out two chapters in a week, it’s an easy write and I like it, not only that, it doesn’t need much in the way of re-writing, at least according to the folks who’ve been helping beta read it for me.
This has forced me to the conclusion that I may not be so good at anything that’s completely serious. When I try to be a little more serious, it doesn’t work so well. I fight with the characters, which really prevents the story from developing in any sort of interesting fashion. I think it has to do with trying to get into the head of a serious character. That’s not me, and I don’t relate well to those sorts of folk, so it’s hard for me to put myself in their shoes and give them good motivation for making it across the board.
What’s the best part of an average day for you?
Probably that few quiet minutes I get in the morning before heading off to work. It’s one of the few times I can write without distraction. Before my workshop was taken over by goose/duck related brooding equipment, I used to love going in there, putting on my ear protection and making stuff. The dulled noise allowed me to be in my own head and the singular focus of making that straight cut without separating my fingers from my hand, prevented all of the noisy random thoughts that so often keep my mind in high gear. There is a zen in there I’ve not been able to recreate with anything else.
If you’re writing, somebody somewhere encouraged you to do it. Who?
My wife. Without question. It’s not so much that she pushed me a long as much as once I started moving, and I mean really moving, she’s been supportive and continues to push me in the right direction. Also, every writer I’ve met or bumped into online over the past year has given me an indirect sort of encouragement that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I find that as a whole group, writers (myself included), have huge egos making us hard to actually talk writing with. My father in law can be like this. His writing and mine couldn’t be more different and he’s not the sort of writer I can talk to about issues with dialogue, editing or plot development. It just doesn’t work that well. Finding ‘my folk’ – that is writers who are realistic and open about their challenges and provide actual advice – has been kinda tough. Thank you twitter/wordpress connected writers for being awesome!
What makes you decide a story is bad?
If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not going to get far – worse than that though, if the stakes are too high, say the end of the universe, more often than not, I will walk away feeling like someone stole my lunch money. It’s one of the reasons I stopped reading the Star Wars extended universe series’. They invented a new species that rolled in and destroyed the republic/empire whatever, they were indestructible and worse than the empire. I got through book one, started into book two, then stopped, never to pick up another Star Wars book again.
There, I did it! Now, back to NaNoWriMo!
Oh, yeah, first though more nominations. Pulling from the random grab bag of various folks, I decided to pick one person, laziness really, I should pick more, but I’m super distracted just now so… If anyone else wants to answer the questions though, go for it!
Nico Smit @ http://fantasticalmuse.com/
Kimberly Crawford @ https://kcrawfordfiction.wordpress.com/
What inspires you?
When did you start writing?
What is your biggest writing challenge?
What are you working on now – why are you excited about it?
How much time do you get to write?
Do you find that blogging about writing or your work helps you?