Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Friday, April 25

George R.R. Martin On The Art And Craft Of Writing: 9 Tips For Writers

George R.R. Martin On The Art And Craft Of Writing: 9 Tips For Writers

Have you read George R.R. Martin's interview in Rolling Stone magazine? I was amazed and a little shaken by the depth of Martin's innate, intuitive, grasp of storytelling. All the more so because this wasn't an interview conducted with writers in mind. He didn't set out to give writing advice--at least, I don't think he did--but, nevertheless, the advice was there.

Here's what I've taken away from the interview:

1. Ideas are cheap, it's the execution of the ideas that's important.

Martin says:
"Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it's the execution that is all-important. I'm proud of my work, but I don't know if I'd ever claim it's enormously original. You look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own."

2. Prose writers can learn from screenwriters.

One thing I was surprised to discover about George R.R. Martin, though I discovered it some time ago, was that Martin had been a screenwriter. He had, as it turns out, worked on one of my mother's favorite series, one which we watched together: Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990).

When asked whether Martin feels his writing in A Song of Fire and Ice benefited from his time in Hollywood, Martin replies:
"I do. The big secret about writing screenplays and teleplays is that it's much easier than writing a novel or any kind of prose. William Goldman said everything that needed to be said about it in Adventures in the Screen Trade: It's all structure, structure and dialogue. Being there improved my sense of structure and dialogue. I'd spent so many years sitting alone in a room, facing a computer or typewriter before that. It was almost exhilarating to go into an office where there were other people – and to have a cup of coffee, and to talk about stories or developments in writers' meetings."
Martin adds that he got into trouble with the network for wanting to make The Beast a darker than they were comfortable with. Martin says,

"But CBS didn't want blood, or for the beast to kill people. They wanted us to show him picking up someone and throwing them across the room, and then they would get up and run away. Oh, my God, horrible monster! [Laughs] It was ludicrous. The character had to remain likeable."

Which brings us to the third point:

3. Don't worry about your characters being likeable.

Martin excels at writing the kind of characters readers--and viewers--love to hate and he does it by being ruthless; ruthless to the characters and, to a certain extent, to his readers, but we'll get to that later.

4. Massacre your darlings.

Martin says:
"The more I write about a character, the more affection I feel...even for the worst of them. Which doesn't mean I won't kill them. Whoever it was who said "Kill your darlings" was referring to his favorite lines in a story, but it's just as true for characters. The moment the reader begins to believe that a character is protected by the magical cloak of authorial immunity, tension goes out the window. The Red Wedding was tremendously hard to write. I skipped over it until I finished the entirety of A Storm of Swords, then I went back and forced myself to write that chapter. I loved those characters too much. But I knew it had to be done. The TV Red Wedding is even worse than the book, of course, because [GoT creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] turned it up to 11 by bringing in Talisa, pregnant with Robb's child, none of which happened in the book. So we get a pregnant woman stabbed repeatedly in the belly."

5. How George R.R. Martin does worldbuilding: don't build the world first, build it as you write.

Martin says: 
"It all occurs at the same time with me. I don't build the world first, then write in it. I just write the story, and then put it together. Drawing a map took me, I don't know, a half-hour. You fill in a few things, then as you write more it becomes more and more alive."
That's how George R.R. Martin does it. Different strokes and all that. But I find it interesting that--although I'll have ideas about the setting in advance of sitting down and putting pen to paper--the bulk of world development (and character development) gets worked out as I scribble that first zero draft.

Martin had this to say about The Wall:
"The Wall predates anything else. I can trace back the inspiration for that to 1981. I was in England visiting a friend, and as we approached the border of England and Scotland, we stopped to see Hadrian's Wall. I stood up there and I tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman legionary, standing on this wall, looking at these distant hills. It was a very profound feeling. For the Romans at that time, this was the end of civilization; it was the end of the world. We know that there were Scots beyond the hills, but they didn't know that. It could have been any kind of monster. It was the sense of this barrier against dark forces – it planted something in me. But when you write fantasy, everything is bigger and more colorful, so I took the Wall and made it three times as long and 700 feet high, and made it out of ice."

6. Surprise your readers.

Throughout Martin's interview I felt that one of its themes was that the key to good writing--no, to great writing--is surprise. The ability to surprise your reader. In response to the interviewer's mention of Jaime pushing Bran Stark out a window, Martin says:
"I've had a million people tell me that was the moment that hooked them, where they said, "Well, this is just not the same story I read a million times before." Bran is the first viewpoint character. In the back of their heads, people are thinking Bran is the hero of the story. He's young King Arthur. We're going to follow this young boy – and then, boom: You don't expect something like that to happen to him. So that was successful [laughs]."
Later in the interview Martin says:
"I knew right from the beginning that Ned wasn't going to survive. Both as a writer and as a reader I like stories that surprise me. Hitchcock's Psycho has tremendous impact because Janet Leigh is the movie's star: She's stealing, traveling across country – are the cops going to get her? – and all that. The next thing is, she's being knifed in the shower – you're only 40 minutes into the movie. What the hell is happening? The star just died! After that, you really don't know what the hell is going to happen. It's great; I loved that. That's what I was going for with Ned: The protector who was keeping it all together is swept off the board. So that makes it much more suspenseful. Jeopardy is really there."

7. Explore the deep issues.

George R.R. Martin uses his writing as a medium to explore the deeper issues, the deeper questions, of life. Questions such as "Is redemption possible?" Martin says:
"One of the things I wanted to explore with Jaime, and with so many of the characters, is the whole issue of redemption. When can we be redeemed? Is redemption even possible? I don't have an answer. But when do we forgive people? You see it all around in our society, in constant debates. Should we forgive Michael Vick? I have friends who are dog-lovers who will never forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick has served years in prison; he's apologized. Has he apologized sufficiently? Woody Allen: Is Woody Allen someone that we should laud, or someone that we should despise? Or Roman Polanski, Paula Deen. Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you're a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don't know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what's the answer then?"

"Does the Queen of Thorns need redemption? Did the Queen of Thorns kill Hitler, or did she murder a 13-year-old boy [King Joffrey]? Or both? She had good reasons to remove Joffrey. Is it a case where the end justifies the means? I don't know. That's what I want the reader or viewer to wrestle with, and to debate."
Martin also brings up Jaime and his attempts on Bran's life. He reminds us that "Jaime isn't just trying to kill Bran because he's an annoying little kid. Bran has seen something that is basically a death sentence for Jaime, for Cersei, and their children – their three actual children." Martin asks fans of the series whether, if they were in Jaime's position, would they try to kill Bran? The fan will say, "No. Never!" Then Martin will ask, "What if killing Bran would save your family? What if killing him would save your children?" Then, often, people hesitate. The answer doesn't seem as clear.

The point is--my point at least--that these questions don't have an easy answer (if, indeed, they have an answer at all). But they are questions that, when incorporated into a story, make great fiction.

8. Write great characters, not great heroes--there's no such thing.

Martin says: 
"[...] I do think there are things worth fighting for. Men are still capable of great heroism. But I don't necessarily think there are heroes. That's something that's very much in my books: I believe in great characters. We're all capable of doing great things, and of doing bad things. We have the angels and the demons inside of us, and our lives are a succession of choices."

9. Write for yourself rather than others.

Martin mentions that he has gotten a lot of mail, much of it critical, from both readers and viewers concerning The Red Wedding. He seems to understand as well as sympathize with his fans reactions, but is not apologetic. He says:
"One letter I got was from a woman, a waitress. She wrote me: "I work hard all day, I'm divorced, I have a couple of children. My life is very hard, and my one pleasure is I come home and I read fantasy, and I escape to other worlds. Then I read your book, and God, it was fucking horrifying. I don't read for this. This is a nightmare. Why would you do this to me?" That letter actually reached me. I wrote her back and basically said, "I'm sorry; I do understand where you're coming from." Some people do read...I don't like to use the word escape, because escapism has such a pejorative aspect, but it takes you to another world. Maybe it is escape. Reading fiction has helped me through some bad times in my own life. The night my father died, I was in Michigan and I got word from my mother. I couldn't get to a plane until the next day, so I sat around thinking about my father, the good and the bad in our relationship. I remember I opened whatever book I was reading, and for a few hours, I was able to stop thinking about my father's death. It was a relief. [...] I understand where the other people are coming from. There are a lot of books out there. Let everyone find the kind of book that speaks to them, and speaks to what they need emotionally."

A wonderful interview, both informative and strangely moving. Highly recommended. Once again, these quotations were from George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview.

Photo credit: "There is a House in Infrared" by Ian Sane under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, July 2

Stephen King On Storycraft: Don't Force It

Yesterday someone sent me a terrific link to Anthony Mason's interview with Stephen King: Stephen King on storytelling.

It was a wide ranging interview and King is animated and relaxed, there's also a video. Great reading/watching.

Wait Until You've Gotten All The Pieces Together

My favorite part was Stephen King's reply to Anthony Mason about how he knows whether an idea is robust enough for a story. King is talking about his soon-to-be-published novel Doctor Sleep and says:
King: "I'd be driving in my car and I'd think, Well, now Danny Torrance is 23. And then a few years later I think, He's 27, or he's 28. So question was, what exactly is he doing?

"That's the sort of thing where it's, like, half an idea - okay, he's dysfunctional, he's alcoholic, the way that his father was an alcoholic. But it's only half an idea.

"And then I saw this thing ... about a cat in a hospice, and this cat knew when patients were going to die. And the cat would go into their room and jump up on their bed. And that's how the personnel in the hospice knew that that patient was going to be the next one to step out.

"And what really interested me about the story wasn't the cat, per se, but the fact that the patients seemed to welcome his visit. And I thought, Well, he's like an angel of death or an emissary of death, and maybe death isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's only sleep. And I put those two things together and for me it clicked. So I wrote the book."

MASON: "Uh-huh. And so you were just waiting for something to click on it?"

KING: "It has to click. There has to be, like, two or three moving parts to make it go. It can't just be one. So sometimes they all come together, and sometimes you'll get one piece and you have to wait a little while to get the rest. "

MASON: "Do you wait, or do you try to work it?"

KING: "Never try to work it, just wait."

MASON: "Why? 'Cause that forces it?"

KING: "Yeah. It's like if you have a piece of furniture that you want to get into your house. And if it's too big to fit the door straight on, you have your choice: either you can wait until you get somebody to help you and tilt that piece of furniture so that it goes through, or you can just ram it and scrape the sides up. So you don't try to force it. It's a little bit like a batter at the plate; if you try to force base hits, you're going to strike out a lot. So I have a tendency to wait until I get the pieces together."
The entire interview is a must read, and the video adds another dimension to the conversation.

"Mason asked King if writing is a compulsion for the 65-year-old author: "Or do you need to have some story that just gets in your brain you can't get out?"

"It's a compulsion," King replied. "For one thing, when I was younger, my head was like a traffic jam full of ideas, and they were all jostling, and they all wanted to get out. And I wrote a lot more than I write now. I still write every day." (Stephen King and his compulsion to write)
 65 years old and still writing every day. Pretty darn good.

Photo credit: "Stalker" by Laura D'Alessandro under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, April 22

How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel

How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel

I just came across this interview with Hugo and Nebula Award winner, Robert J. Sawyer.

How Robert Sawyer creates his characters

The characters almost always come out of the research I do. For instance, in Frameshift, Pierre Tardivel started out simply as a man at risk for a genetic disorder, but as I learned more about such things, his background, motivations, and thoughts grew more complex and subtle. I really do believe what Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche said: "If you want to get across an idea, wrap it up in a person."

Robert Sawyer's advice for aspiring science fiction authors:

As a business, science fiction is very similar to mystery. Both have healthy short-fiction marketplaces, dominated by Dell Magazines — the same people who publish Ellery Queen's and Hitchcock's also publish the top two science-fiction magazines, Analog and Asimov's. Both genres are series oriented: if you want to develop a character and write book after book about him, her — or it — you can. Both are convention-driven businesses: just as there are lots of mystery conventions, so, too, there are lots of science-fiction conventions. And both are research-driven genres. You can't write a really good mystery without doing lots of research; the same is true of science fiction. My advice for those wanting to break into science fiction is the same advice I'd give for those wanting to break into mystery: start with short fiction, then try to sell a novel. And, just as in mystery, I'd say the greenest pastures are in New York; don't be afraid to tackle the American market, and don't worry about your Canadian content — I've never had the slightest problem selling flagrantly Canadian work in the States.
Read the rest of Robert J. Sawyer's interview here: Fingerprints Interview of Robert Sawyer.

Credits: "From the December 1997 issue of Fingerprints, the newsletter of the Crime Writers of Canada. Interview conducted in November 1997 by Jim McBride."

Other articles you might like:

- Walter Benjamin's Advice To Writers
- 5 Rules For Writing A Murder Mystery: Keeping the Murderer Secret Until The End
- How To See Through Your Character's Eyes

Photo credit: "I am Chicago" by kevin dooley under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, March 8

Stephen King Talks About Doctor Sleep, Winnebagos & A Movie Prequel To The Shining

Stephen King Talks About Doctor Sleep, Winnebagos & A Movie Prequel To The Shining

I just came across this interview of Stephen King on the subject of Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. It's very good. King seems relaxed and happy to chat.

In addition to discussing his upcoming book, Doctor Sleep (due out this September 24th), King discusses the possibility of a movie prequel to The Shining.

King's Goal For Doctor Sleep: To Scare The S-t Out Of You!

At one point the interviewer, Anthony Breznican over at, asks Stephen King how will he know if Doctor Sleep was successful. King replies:
Basically, the idea of the story was to try and scare the s–t out of people. [Laughs.] I said to myself, ‘Let me see if I can go and do that again.’ There’ve been a couple of books that haven’t really been that way. 11/22/63 was a lot of fun to write and a lot of people read it and seemed to like it, but it’s not what you’d call a balls to the wall scary story. The same was true of Under the Dome. I wanted to go back to that real creepy scary stuff. We’ll see if it works. I like the book, or I wouldn’t have ever wanted to publish it.

RVing: "... the perfect way to travel around America and be unobtrusive if you were really some sort of awful creature"

About the villains, The True Knot, "a kind of nomadic group of people who masquerade as Winnebago-riding old timers but feed off people who have psychic energy" King says:
Driving back and forth from Maine to Florida, which I do twice a year, I’m always seeing all these recreational vehicles — the bounders in the Winnebagos. I always think to myself, ‘Who is in those things?’ You pass them a thousand times at rest stops. They’re always the ones wearing the shirts that say ‘God Does Not Deduct From a Lifespan Time Spent Fishing.’ They’re always lined up at the McDonald’s, slowing the whole line down. And I always thought to myself, ‘There’s something really sinister about those people because they’re so unobtrusive, yet so pervasive.’ I just wanted to use that. It would be the perfect way to travel around America and be unobtrusive if you were really some sort of awful creature.
King also reminds readers that Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the book not the movie:
But one of the things – and I’m not sure if this is going to be a problem for readers or not – is that Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the novel. It’s not a sequel to the Kubrick film. At the end of the Kubrick film, the Overlook is still there. It just kind of freezes. But at the end of the book, it burns down.

Will There Be A Movie Prequel To The Shining?

AB: There has recently been talk of a movie prequel to The Shining. It’s based on material cut from your novel, about the early history of the Overlook. Warner Bros, which made Kubrick’s film, has been exploring whether there’s another movie in it. How do you feel about that?

SK: There’s a real question about whether or not they have the rights to ‘Before the Play,’ which was the prologue cut from the book — because the epilogue to the book was called ‘After the Play.’ So they were bookends, and there was really scary stuff in that prologue that wouldn’t make a bad movie. Am I eager to see that happen? No I am not. And there’s some real question about what rights Warner Bros. does still have. The Shining is such an old book now that the copyright comes back to me. Arguably, the film rights lapse — so we’ll see. We’re looking into that. I’m not saying I would put a stop to the project, because I’m sort of a nice guy. When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’ I have a tendency to let people develop things. I’m always curious to see what will happen. But you know what? I would be just as happy if it didn’t happen.

Stephen King World: Disney World Meets Hotel California

Stephen King ends by saying that if there were a Stephen King World akin to Disney World "people would only go on the rides … once."

It's a great interview, I highly recommend it to King fans, and anyone wanting a peek behind the curtain: Stephen King unearths origin of 'The Shining' sequel 'Doctor Sleep' -- EXCLUSIVE.

Other articles you might like:

- Handy Guides To Avoiding Mistakes In Grammar
- Hugo Gernsback And The Future That Might Have Been
- The Writer's Journey: Writer As Hero

Photo credit: Doctor Sleep cover,

Wednesday, November 28

Jim Butcher's Advice For New Writers: Write Every Day

Jim Butcher's Advice For New Writers: Write Every Day

In a recent interview with Sword & Laser, Jim Butcher described his Dresden Files series as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlow".

How perfect is that?!

As my title promises, Jim Butcher also gave great advice to new writers, but I'll save that for the end. Everything needs a hook, right?

Jim Butcher & Live Action Role-Play (LARP)

Want to meet Jim Butcher? Grab your cape and blasting-rod--a sentence I thought I'd never write!--and head out to Independence Missouri.
When he's not writing Butcher is an avid Live Action Role-Player, or LARPer, playing under the name of Longshot.

He invites fans in the vicinity of Independence Missouri to come out and kill some theoretical monsters, be beaten into theoretical unconsciousness and even be 'theoretically killed'.

The Idea That Started The Codex Alera Series 

Apparently the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for," applies to bets as well.
In 2004 Butcher was challenged by a member of the Del Ray online writers workship to write a good story based on a lame idea.

Jim took the bet and the challenger gave him the lame idea of a lost Roman legion and Pokemon.

The story Butcher wrote became the first book in the Codex Alera series.
I'd be interested how Jim pitched that series to his editor!

Jim Butcher's Advice For New Writers

You've been more than patient, so without further delay here's Jim Butcher's advice for new writers:

Question: Can you give advice to any new writers in our audience?

Jim Butcher's response:
Write every day.

Even if you only write a little bit, even if you only write a sentence or a word, write. Because, even if you've just written a word, you're one word closer to the end of the book than you were at the beginning of the day, and that's progress.

Writing is about momentum, so get that momentum, set your time aside every day and stay honest.
Awesome advice!

Jim Butcher shares great information in the interview--memories, anecdotes--that I haven't mentioned. The Sword & Laser (episode 16) video is well worth watching.

Thanks to K.B. Burnfield for sending out a link to this interview.

Other articles you might like:

- Making Time To Write
- Simon & Schuster Partners With Author House To Create Archway Publishing
- Editing: Make Sure Your Story's Bones Are Strong

Photo credit: "Super Troopers!" by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, August 28

Ursula K. Le Guin On Academic Criticism & Philip K. Dick

Ursula K. Le Guin On Acedemic Criticism & Philip K. Dick
Ursula K. Le Guin

This is from Ursula K. Le Guin's interview over at Wired.

On Academic Criticism
Wired: There’s been a large amount of academic criticism devoted to your work. Do you ever read any of that, and is there any that you think is particularly noteworthy?

Le Guin: Well, I read some of it. A lot of it’s kind of written for other academics, you know? But there are certain writers, like Brian Attebery or Jim Bittner, who I think really understand my work, and sometimes can explain it to me. “Oh, is that what I was doing? Hmm, never thought of that,” you know.
On Philip K. Dick
Wired: I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick, and when I attended the Clarion writers workshop, Tim Powers and Karen Joy Fowler assigned each of us a book to read that they thought would resonate with us, and the book that they assigned me was The Lathe of Heaven, which they described as an homage to Philip K. Dick, and I’ve always wondered if that’s true?

Le Guin: Oh yeah, definitely. You know, I couldn’t write a Phil Dick book, but I could steal some of his tricks, in a way. Pulling reality out from under the reader all the time, changing reality on them, the way he does. Well, I did it through dreams. Phil would have done it another way. But yeah, homage to Phil Dick is right.

Wired: Did you know him at all?

Le Guin: We talked on the telephone, and we corresponded some, but we never actually met. Except, we must have met in high school, because we were at Berkeley High School at the same time, but nobody I know remembers him. He is the unknown man from my class at Berkeley High.

Wired: Well, that’s sort of funny, because in a lot of his stories — one that comes to mind is Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said — it’s about a guy who suddenly nobody knows who he is anymore. I wonder if that was autobiographical in any way?

Le Guin: Oh, must be. [laughs] I don’t know. I’m rather proud of the fact that I was defending Phil Dick’s work early on, when he was not being paid much attention to and never kept in print. And I kept saying, “This guy is really good. This guy is writing completely original stuff. You know, it isn’t conventional, it isn’t run-of-the-mill. It’s different, but it’s really interesting.” And of course Phil picked up on that, and you always like it when another writer likes your stuff, you want to know that writer, so he may have written me or me him, and we talked some. I got a little bit bossy and told him that the women in his novels were kind of predictable. I didn’t think he’d really pay any attention, but he did. Apparently he really tried to think about the way he’d been handling women in his fiction. That touches me. You know, he didn’t have to pay any mind to anything I said.

Wired: Do you remember what year that was, that people would look for that sort of change in his fiction?

Le Guin: I think the novel where he tried to write women differently was VALIS. So it’s kind of late. We’re getting into the novels after he had that sort of revelation thing he had, and began writing a rather different kind of book.
Read the rest of her interview here: Ursula K. Le Guin: Still Battling the Powers That Be

It astonished me to learn that Ursula K. Le Guin's publishers were putting pressure on her to make her books "more like Harry Potter". Can you imagine! I suspect even J.K. Rowling would be scandalized.

Other articles you might like:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- 10 Tips For Decluttering Your Life and Increasing Creativity
- Jane Friedman: How To Build An Awesome Twitter Bio

Photo credit: Marion Wood Kolisch

Wednesday, August 15

Seth Godin on Creativity, Childhood and Heroes

Seth Godin on creativity, childhood and heros
Seth Godin

I know I just posted an article on Seth Godin and I don't usually do two articles in a row on someone, but his interview over at The Great Discontent was just too good not to mention! Here's a sampling of what Seth had to say:

On Seth's journey to becoming an entrepreneur:
In the years that followed [getting married, moving to New York and starting a company], I just failed and failed and failed and failed. I got 900 rejection letters in the mail from book publishers. I would go window shopping at restaurants and go home and eat macaroni and cheese. It was a very long slog, right on the edge of bankruptcy for almost eight years. I did a whole bunch of books as a book packager; I did almanacs; I did books on personal finance; I did the Professor Barndt’s On-the-Spot Spot and Stain Removal Guide; I did a book which I’m embarrassed about called Email Addresses of the Rich and Famous (laughing).
Creativity and childhood:
I think “creativity” is better described as failing repeatedly until you get something right.
.  .  .  .
In terms of creativity, the really formative thing that happened to me is that I started teaching style canoeing in Canada at a very old co-ed summer camp in a national park , which I still do every year—I’ve been doing it for 42 years. What I discovered is that if you’re in a situation where people don’t have to engage with you—because at this camp they could do anything they wanted—you have to figure out a way to attract them. The number one way I found to attract people was to help them connect with their dreams. And so, when I was 17, I started a cycle of creative ways to put on enough of a show in front of people that they would choose to engage in that to achieve their dreams. I’ve basically been doing the same thing ever since, except that there are no canoes in New York City. 

Heros vs. mentors
I think that heroes are more important than mentors. A hero is somebody who you can emulate; somebody who raises the bar for you. Heroism scales, so one person can be a hero for a lot of people. Mentoring is over-rated in that there’s this myth that they will pick you, cover for you when you make mistakes, encourage you, and be at your side until you become your true, best self. There are very few of those relationships in the world. 

On taking big risks:
When I finally had my book packaging company working after seven or eight years of struggling, I had ten employees and we were finally making a profit. Two-thirds of our revenue came from one company and they were jerks. They were making our lives miserable and what we were becoming was the kind of company that was good at working with difficult clients. I didn’t want to become that kind of company, so I fired our biggest client—the one who accounted for more than half our revenue. I said, “Here. Here’s the project we spent four years building. You can have it. Keep it.” It could have wiped us out, but instead, the group was so energized that they made up all the revenue in the next six months. 

On social responsibility:
I have all the toys and stuff and detritus that I need. Getting more stuff is not what I’m trying to do. I wonder, “Who can I impact today and how can I do it in a way that in four years from now, they’ll be glad I did?”

Seth's one piece of advice: pick yourself
There’s a picture that I just saw online two days ago. Monday I have this seminar I’m running for free for college students and I’m going to show them this picture before we start. It’s a picture of someone graduating from college. You can’t tell, but you can guess that they’re probably $150,000 in debt. Written on the top of their mortarboard with masking tape it says, “Hire me.” The thing about the picture that’s pathetic, beyond the notion that you need to spam the audience at graduation with a note saying you’re looking for a job, is that you went $150,000 in debt and spent four years of your life so someone else could pick you. That’s ridiculous. It really makes me sad to see that. The opportunity of a lifetime is to pick yourself. Quit waiting to get picked; quit waiting for someone to give you permission; quit waiting for someone to say you are officially qualified and pick yourself. It doesn’t mean you have to be an entrepreneur or a freelancer, but it does mean you stand up and say, “I have something to say. I know how to do something. I’m doing it. If you want me to do it with you, raise your hand.”

Seth's typical day:
Ha! There isn’t one. That’s on purpose. If you have a typical day, I think that that’s something you should work on. 

You know, I don’t know how to pick one book. I tend to read mostly non-fiction leavened with trashy fiction and science fiction. Back when Neil Stephenson was good, Snow Crash and The Diamond Age were two of the best books ever. I probably read four or five nonfiction books a week—everything from The Peter Principle, which I started reading 35 years ago when I was just a kid, to books that have shown up lately that make me sit up straight. Kevin Kelly is three for three; his new book, What Technology Wants, is an absolute must-read and will change the way you see the world. 

On the kind of legacy he hopes to leave:
I think the goal I have in my work is not to be remembered, but for the people who use the work I did to be remembered instead.

These are just excerpts, I'd encourage everyone to read Seth Godin's entire interview: Seth Godin. Thanks to for passing on the link.

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Amanda Hocking's Unusual Writing Schedule
- Indie Writers: 10 Things Not To Do
- 10 Tips For Decluttering Your Life and Increasing Creativity

Tuesday, July 24

An interview With Jamie Sedgwick: Tinker's War Coming Sept 15th

Today I'm doing something different. Jamie Sedgwick is one of the first people to leave a comment on this blog and one of my first contacts in the indie community. When I heard he was coming out with a new book I knew I had to have him over for a visit.

1. Hi Jamie, it's wonderful to have you on my blog. I've chatted with you through blog comments so often over the last few years I feel as though I know you. Please tell those who might be meeting you for the first time a bit about yourself and your upcoming book, "Tinker's War.” 
Thanks for having me, Karen. Your blog is such a constant stream of information that I check it every day just to what’s news! You’re doing a great job. 
Tinker’s War is the sequel to my novel The Tinkerer’s Daughter, which is by far my best selling book. One reviewer described it as a: “…fabulous combination of YA, Elves, social issues and steampunk, I know go figure but it worked.” That about sums it up. My Tinkerer series is a fusion of high fantasy and steampunk, but clever readers will also find the influence of Japanese anime. 
I approached this series with the main character -a half-breed elven girl named Breeze- stuck in my head. I’ve always been fascinated by the social and cultural clashes over race, and I think this subject lends itself nicely to fantasy. That doesn’t mean it’s the overwhelming theme of the story, but it’s integral to the main character. Take this character and drop her into a frontier setting (like early 1800’s America), add an industrial revolution and a political coup, and you’ve got The Tinkerer’s Daughter. There’s a whole lot going on.

2. How long have you been a writer? What made you want to be a writer? 
2nd grade. I remember the day. I had an assignment to write a one-page story, and our teacher discussed the fact that some people did this for a career. I already loved to read but it hadn’t clicked yet that someone wrote those books. I started dreaming about being a writer that day and in a way, I still do. The reality of being a writer is that it can be real work, but it’s the best possible kind. 
3. I never know which term to use, independent author or self-published. In any case, are you indie and, if so, could you say a few words about why you made that choice? If you could do things over, would you do anything differently? 
I think those terms are two ways of saying the same thing, but I will admit that the self-published moniker brings a certain amount of baggage with it. I think Indie is a nice way to say self-published, but this term also implies that the author has done a lot of homework in the publishing process, whereas self-published draws up images of vanity publishers and people who will pay any price to see their work in print. I think the term Indie implies a certain degree of professionalism regarding editing, artwork, etc. In my case, it also means that I filed for a business license and started my own publishing company. 
I made this decision out of necessity. Sadly, I couldn’t get published, mostly because I couldn’t get a second glance from any of the literary agents out there. I still have several hundreds of rejections stored on my computer and in paper files; rejections for books that have gone on to sell thousands of copies. I may not be buying a new house and paying cash like some Indie authors out there, but I do feel a certain sense of validation from my experience. I’ve proven to myself that I can make a real business out of this, and my books that didn’t fit “in a competitive marketplace” might actually have some life in them. 
4. I noticed you've given your website,, a makeover. Very nice! Let me ask you, do you think every writer needs a web-presence of some sort, whether that be a website or a blog or simply a webpage with information about their books? 
Thank you! I’ve gone through a love/hate thing with my website over the last few years. I became convinced at one point that blogs would replace websites completely for writers, and I shut mine down. I assumed that readers would want personal contact with writers and nothing else would suffice. I was wrong. 
What I have learned is that the majority of readers do not go to your blog and they only glance at your website. Authors who sell thousand of books rarely have more than a couple hundred followers. Even authors who sell millions never seem to get more than a couple thousand followers. That’s a tiny fraction of their market. In fact, most of those fans seem to be other writers, rather than readers. 
However, readers do expect a website because they consider it a sign of professionalism. Anything less and some people assume you’re an amateur. So the website’s back, but I’ve made sure to keep it very simple and streamlined. Links and info… what more do you need? 
5. One person who has influenced me and my writing is Joss Whedon, Buffy was the first character I remember feeling was a take-no-prisoners kind of person who happened to be a girl. Who are your artistic influences? What authors or cultural figures have inspired you? 
Whedon is a genius, no doubt about it. I’m a huge Firefly fan and I remember seeing Buffy in the theater and kind of staring at it with my jaw hanging open. For me, it was pretty much the first urban fantasy. It was like the next generation of The Lost Boys and I knew then that it was going to be something huge. 
Literarily speaking, J.R.R. Tolkien was my first influence. I started reading fantasy very young and I found The Hobbit at age nine. I devoured it and reread it several times before moving on to LOTR. Of course, I branched out from there and I was probably influenced in some ways by most of the fantasy writers out there. Over time, I did find that movies started influencing my writing almost as much as literature. I love the rhythm of film, and the way the story moves through the acts and keeps our attention with all these little tricks. I keep trying to find a way to integrate some of that energy into my writing. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded, only the readers can make that decision. 
6. The publishing industry has changed radically over the last few years, what advice would you give to a new writer? 
New is a relative term, I suppose. If you’re really, really new, don’t go Indie if you haven’t gotten some feedback on your work. If you’ve cranked out some work and you feel that you’re ready to face public scrutiny for better or worse, (and you have a thick skin) then go for it. Of course, it’s still not a bad idea to submit to agents and publishing houses. Your chances are one in a million, but who knows? You just might be that one. In that aspect, I’d say follow your heart. 
If you do choose Indie, this is my advice as of right now, but bear in mind this business is subject to overnight change: Write short! Some of the most successful writers out there are doing their books as a series of novellas. If you can capture an audience in thirty thousand words, then you can probably write a new book every month or two. Then you can combine those into a novel-length collection and sell that as well. E-book readers don’t seem nearly as concerned with word count anymore, they want regularity. They want a steady stream of new material. 
7. Here's a fun question -- or at least it's supposed to be! Someone asked me this in an interview and it was a lot of fun to think about. If you could live in one of your fictional worlds would you and, if so, which one would it be? 
That is a good question. My answer is Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre, without a doubt. The setting is San Francisco (which is located less than an hour’s drive from where I live now), but there’s a magical undercity in a cavern beneath the streets, and it’s home to all sorts of fantasy and fairy creatures. The series tries to capture the feel of a pulp/noir detective story and bring that into a contemporary urban fantasy. Elven gangs packing sub machine guns, goblins who are pixie-dust drug dealers, and a stony-faced ogre representing the law… seriously, how cool is that? I have a feeling I’ll be writing that series for a while. 
8. When is your new book, Tinker's War, coming out and where can folks buy it? Also, are you going to have print copies available for purchase as well as digital? If you are coming out with a print version would you mind saying a few words about which POD solution you chose and why? 
September 15 is the official release date for Tinker’s War. It should be available in paperback and Kindle at on that date. I’ve pulled my distribution from other vendors in order to partake in Amazon’s Select program. I’ll probably stick with them through this year, and then reevaluate the program’s value. 
All of my full-length novels are available in paperback as well as e-book, and I publish them through Createspace. There are pros and cons to every P.O.D. service out there, but I found Createspace to be very affordable. They also allow me a great deal of control. Technically, it’s possible to upload and publish a paperback for less than $10 if you do it all yourself. They have a nice website that allows a complete overview of the process, so that you have a fairly complete idea of what you’ll get before you ever even order a proof. 
I do have plans to put out some hardcover work in the future, and I’m afraid that as they are now, Createspace will not be able to fulfill that need. But for trade paperbacks they’re hard to beat. 
9. Coming up with questions is hard work! Is there anything you'd like to say before this interview is over? 
You did a fantastic job, these were some great questions. Thanks for having me here! I would also encourage your readers to visit my blog if they like my books, and to follow it. Those who follow the blog and/or sign up for the newsletter get opportunities for special giveaways regularly. I’m currently publishing three to four novels a year, and most of my promotion goes right there. You’ve got nothing to lose, so swing by and sign up! 
Readers can find my entire collection at Amazon right here!

Thanks for all your kind words Jamie! My cheeks are burning. And thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. I love your blog! You have eclectic interests and an addictive writing style. I'm looking forward to reading Tinker's War. Best of luck with the release, not that you need it!

Related links:
- Jamie's blog:
- Jamie's books:
- Jamie's website:

Tuesday, June 26

Jack Kerouac: FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS

I couldn't resist sharing this quotation from Jack Kerouac with you:
And be sure of this, I spent my entire youth writing slowly with revisions and endless rehashing speculation and deleting and got so I was writing one sentence a day and the sentence had no FEELING. Goddamn it, FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS ....
I thought of Dean Wesley Smith when I read that! If you're curious, here's what Dean has to say about rewriting:

Rewriting, Part One
Rewriting, Part Two

In any case, it's an excellent interview, I'd encourage you to read it: Jack Kerouac, The Art of Fiction No. 41.

Photo credit: The Eye Of Faith

Thursday, June 7

Esquire Interviews Bill Murray

Bill Murray is one of my favorite actors. I watch What About Bob at least once a year. Just thinking about curling up on the couch with a big bowl of sinfully buttered popcorn is enough to put a goofy smile on my face.

Mr. Murray did an interview for Esquire last month, here are my favorite it-could-apply-to-writing bits from it.

Bill Murray on his teacher/mentor Del Close:
He taught people to commit. ... You've gotta go out there and improvise and you've gotta be completely unafraid to die. You've got to be able to take a chance to die. And you have to die lots. You have to die all the time. You're goin' out there with just a whisper of an idea. The fear will make you clench up. That's the fear of dying. When you start and the first few lines don't grab and people are going like, "What's this? I'm not laughing and I'm not interested," then you just put your arms out like this and open way up and that allows your stuff to go out. Otherwise it's just stuck inside you.
 The next time I have writers block I'm going to try that!

On making a movie:
SR: It's amazing what goes into making a movie.

BM: But nobody cares. It's like talking about the difficulties of fame. Nobody gives a shit. No one could care less. But it's an amazing triumph even to make a bad movie. Even a crap film is really an extraordinary achievement. You're taking a two-dimensional object and making it three-dimensional. The number of people. The number of days. The number of cuts.
I think that applies to writing as well. Even if you think, "This is a bad book, this is the worst book ever," while you're writing, you still need to finish the book. And, really, it's probably not as bad as you think, but it's easy to be negative in-the-moment.

If you'd like to read the rest of Bill Murray's interview, click here: Bill Murray: The ESQ+A

Tuesday, September 27

An Interview With Martin Lastrapes, Author of INSIDE THE OUTSIDE

This is my first interview and I am thrilled to be able to introduce Martin Lastrapes to you, author of Inside the Outisde. Before we get into the interview, here is a bit about Martin:
My name is Martin Lastrapes and I’m a novelist. I grew up in the Inland Empire, an eclectic region of Southern California with a rich history that nobody knows about, including most of the people who live there. Despite growing up in the region that birthed the Hell’s Angels, housed the first McDonald’s restaurant and is one of the foremost manufacturers and suppliers of crystal meth, I spent the great majority of my childhood watching professional wrestling and reading comic books, when I wasn’t busy avoiding homework or wondering when I should begin my evolution of becoming Batman.

In 2003 I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing and in 2006 I earned a Master’s Degree in Composition, both from California State University, San Bernardino. While I loved the time I spent as an undergrad, I often reflect on graduate school as three years I will never get back. But, despite the hellish experience of graduate school, I have happily parlayed my academic résumé into a career as an English professor.

My writing has been published in various literary journals and websites, such as The Pacific Review and L.A. Voice. In 2004, I won awards for my short fiction from the Cal Poly Writer’s Conference, as well as the California Writer’s Club. I’m also a professional blogger. But, in the end, where it concerns writing, my primary focus and passion is on being a novelist. My debut novel, Inside the Outside, was published in July of 2011.

Q: After I wrote my book, UNTIL DEATH, I had to formulate what some people call an elevator pitch and describe it in 50 words or less. Give me yours for INSIDE THE OUTSIDE. Also, what is your favorite scene in the book?

Oh, right, the dreaded elevator pitch. Let's see...

Timber Marlow has lived her entire life within a cult of cannibals. After exploring the Outside—mainstream society—Timber sets into motion a series of events that culminate in her discovery of some unsettling truths about the world around her and the integral role she plays in it.

That was actually 46 words, so I suppose I have four to spare.  How about: She kills people, too.

As far as my favorite scene, there are quite a few that I like very much. But, if I had to pick one, it would probably be the first Sustenance Sacrifice in the story. Within the cult, the cannibals generally eat each other after a ritual they call the Sustenance Sacrifice, where one cult member is tied down and his (or her) head is chopped off by the cult leader. I remember finishing that scene and feeling like I'd done something really good, something that readers probably hadn't seen before.  I also remember feeling very uneasy as I imagined the scene and I wondered if I should tone it down.  But, ultimately, I decided that if I could imagine a scene that made me uneasy, then I should definitely keep it in the book.  And, so far, in my conversations with folks who've read the book, it's probably the scene that's gotten the most reactions.

Q: So, what first drew you to writing about cannibalism?

Well, I'm a vegetarian, so this certainly played a role. But I think also I was drawn to the idea of cannibalism from about the age of 6 or 7 after I saw the Wes Craven film The Hills Have Eyes: Part II. My godfather, Willard Pugh, is an actor and was one of the stars in the film. Upon watching it, I think it was my dad or my brother wo explained to me what a cannibal was. Later, when I was in college and studying creative writing, I read a book about farming, which, among other things, described the life of farms animals. I was pretty horrified by most of it. I got to wondering if other people would be equally horrified, but decided that they probably wouldn't be. Then the idea occurred to me of replacing the animals with people and writing a story about it. From that point on (which was about 10 years ago) I became obsessed with the idea of writing novel about cannibals. And the result of that obsession is my debut novel, Inside the Outside.

Q: In many quarters self-publishing is still viewed as an option of last resort and something that will forever besmirch a writer's name. I agree with Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and many others that this is not the case. That said, many writers of my acquaintance are steadfastly committed to traditional publishing and view with horror, and perhaps even some hostility, the attempts of their fellow writers to become independent authors. I spent some years in university and emerged with a degree in philosophy and psychology and it was my experience that my fellow academics tended to be conservative. Here is my question: why did you decide to self-publish and what has been the response of your colleagues or your writerly friends and acquaintances? 

Like many (if not most) writers, I first tried to get published through the traditional route of getting a literary agent to represent me and have them shop my writing around to editors and publishers. I spent at least a year or so shopping Inside the Outside around to literary agents and small publishing presses and while there was plenty of rejection, I also got the occasional bit of interest that almost always culminated into some version of the following: "This sounds good, but I don't think it's right for me." Because Inside the Outside touches on some controversial issues and presents graphic images, often of a violent or sexual nature, I knew that it might be a tough sell. But I also knew (or, at the very least, was very confident) that I had written a good book.  And, more than that, I knew, given a chance, there was an audience for my book. So the more rejections I collected, the more I realized I had two options: 1) I could keep playing the publishing lottery in the hopes of hitting the jackpot, or 2) I could take my fate into my own hands.  In the end, option #2 was more appealing, so I started Cannibal Press. The best part about being having my own publishing press is knowing that any book I decide to write will definitely get published. That's a very liberating feeling as an author, because it means all I have to worry about is writing the best book possible.  And, really, that's all any writer should have to worry about.

Q: Having self-published, how are you finding the experience and how is the reality of self-publishing different from your expectations?

The experience of self-publishing is extremely gratifying.  I expected it to be a lot of work and I suppose you can say I wasn't disappointed.  The publishing process itself was challenging, but, in the end I enjoyed it.  And even in post-publication, there is still work to be done everyday, primarily in the form of marketing and promoting.  From posting on my website (, Facebook (, and Twitter (@MartinLastrapes), there is always something to do.  And, of course, trying to balance all of that, while also working on my second novel, as well as a screenplay adaptation of Inside the Outside, is pretty tricky at times.  But, even if I were a traditionally published author, I imagine I'd still be working just as hard doing most, if not all, of the same things. 

Q: Writing a novel is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

For me, the most important part of a novel is the story, so I work out the story arc chapter by chapter.  I make sure all the primary characters have their own story arcs and that each of those story arcs coincides with the larger story.  Once all of that is worked out, then it's just a matter of writing the chapters I've outlined.  Of course, I did things a little differently with the novel I'm currently working on.  The only thing I knew when I started was I wanted to write a vampire novel.  I'd actually been itching to write a vampire story of any sort for about seven or eight years, I just didn't have any idea of what it would be about (plus I had my hands full writing Inside the Outside). Instead of waiting for an idea to come to me, I decided to just start writing. I began with the following sentence:

"Adam first sucked Olivia’s blood in the sandbox of Heritage Park, stopping briefly to yank the crucifix from her neck as it seared a red cross on the top of his hand."

From there I just started writing, stream-of-consciousness style. My hope was that I would create some characters and put them in interesting situations and, with any luck, a larger story would present itself. By the time I finished the fourth chapter, I figured out what the story was about.  I spent about a solid week outlining the whole rest of the novel. Of course, the outline isn't set in stone.  If, along the way, one character develops into something different than I imagined, then I simply go with it, while simultaneously making the necessary adjustments to my outline.  In this way, I give myself a structure to work within, without sacrificing any spontaneity or creative freedom.

Q: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

The best advice I ever received is to keep the writing simple.  Just tell the story. You never want to be so fancy or cute with your prose that you make it difficult for the reader to follow along. If you frustrate the reader, then you've defeated the purpose of writing your story at all. The other piece of advice that served me well was this: The only way to know if you're ready to write a novel is you have to write a novel.

Q: What do you most enjoy about writing?

Storytelling.  More than anything, I love trying to tell a good story. This, of course, comes from my love of being told a good story - be it in a book, a film, or simply in conversation.  If readers come to think of me as a storyteller, rather than a writer, I wouldn't complain.

Q: What advice would you give a new writer?

Read. Read, read, read. If you're going to be a writer, you have to read and you have to read a lot. If you want to be a filmmaker, you watch as many movies as you can.  So, if you want to be a writer (novelist or otherwise), you must read as many books as you can.   

Q: What is the most important thing that you have learned through writing? This could be something about the craft of writing, but it could also be something about yourself.

There are any number of things that I've learned from writing, but, in the interest of keeping this answer to a reasonable length, I'd say writing has taught me about the discipline needed to complete large, overwhelming projects.  Nobody writes a novel in one sitting. A novel is written in pieces, large and small, over a period of time.  And if you're not taking the time to produce those pieces, then it very simply won't get done. This is something that not only implies to my writing, but also my life in general.

Q: What was the most difficult challenge you faced when putting your book together?

The most difficult part was writing the second half of the book. The first draft of the book contained a second half that I would just as soon like to forget. Luckily, I got some good constructive feedback from other writers whose opinions I trust. Following that, I decided to blow up the second half of the book (about 40,000 words) and start writing it over again from scratch. This was challenging because I had to re-think the story, the characters, and the overall narrative arc. And, on top of all that, I had to make sure it stayed consistant with the first half of the book.

Martin, thank you for being my first interviewee! Best of luck to you. To read more of Martin's writing, drop by his website and blog at

Edit: I forgot to mention that Martin did an interview with me! You can read it here.