I get asked to do interviews sometimes, and I usually don’t accept too often, but I found a list of questions in different places and I thought it would be fun to fill out. Something outside of the typical questions I get that are usually all about the books.
I’ve tweaked and added a few question on my own of things I love. Maybe other authors can take the questions and answer, too. 🙂
Or maybe I’m boring. 🙂 Either or.
When did you start writing?
I think when I was 16, I was trying to write poetry for a boy I liked. The boy didn’t stick around but the writing did. I didn’t really think of writing professionally until years later. At some point I leaped into trying to write novels. I wrote a very cruddy rough draft for a book in three weeks, and at the time I was very impressed with myself, and tried to write another very quickly. I still have those manuscripts tucked away to possibly never work on again.
What were you doing before you started working full time as a writer?
I was working from home mostly, although I’ve had a number of really odd jobs. I did some journalism work for a newspaper in a small town. I wrote many, many articles for websites, magazines. If you want to write books, I recommend not getting a job where you write all day. My brain quit after work writing that I rarely ever got around to wanting to write my own fiction pieces.
Do you write every day?
When in book writing mode, I’m usually at the desk writing in the mornings, although my work schedule sometimes shifts on me. Sometimes it is early morning and sometimes I am up late at night writing. I try to write at times I am feeling very alert and ready to write.
If I am on a deadline, I usually will spend 14 hours at a computer. Not good for your health. 🙂
What does your desk look like?
Right now, I’ve got a set up that I call ‘the rig’.
Crazy? Yes. Although often I’m on my laptop on the couch doing work there as well. I like being able to move around the house.
THE NITTY GRITTY
How long did it take you to write your first book?
The very first one took only a couple of weeks to write the first draft, and I wrote the sequel immediately after. They were pretty bad and I started writing other things, occasionally going back to them to perfect them. I’ve never published those.
That’s how you did things when you first started out back then. You wrote something, and while you were proud of it, you were new and knew it would need work. You study books on writing and then one day you find you start getting the hang of it.
Eventually, I got better, but it took a lot of work, a lot of reading up on how to write a story, and later I learned everything I could about the publishing industry. You never really stop learning.
Introductions itself only took four days to write, I was so excited to be writing it. Sometimes it is like that. Sometimes you can write a book in a week because you are fired up and sometimes you need a lot of time. Depends on the writer, how complicated the book is, etc. Starting a book is the easiest, or starting a series. All you have to do is write something interesting.
Where did you get the idea for the basis of your story?
I’m going to stick with The Academy series since that’s the most popular (although Spice God is good, one of my favorites, highly recommended, and yes, that’s my ego talking, and also because I love it.)
The Academy story really stemmed from the characters and a mix of almost true life events. The way the characters are so real to me really does help build up the plot. Sometimes you’ll hear me say “I don’t know what’s happening yet.” This is because I never put the characters in the situation yet, so I don’t know their reaction. They’ve surprised me. When you build strong characters, you end up just following them around in your head and see what they end up doing.
But really, I watched a few reverse harem animes, etc… One day I was hearing someone talk about Japan and how the Japanese will come up with some very wild and wacky animes and stories. He was suggesting that nothing was really too taboo for Japan because the Japanese separated fantasy from reality. It isn’t real. It is just a story or just a cartoon. They treat it as such.
I took this to heart when I considered writing a reverse harem story. I hadn’t seen it before in anything other than erotic fiction. There were plenty of those but I wanted to see what would happen if it were a slow romance. And I happen to love the slow build of Japanese romances, although I avoid the tragic endings.
But what he had said about separating your fantasy and reality gave me the courage to just write it how I wanted. What if I could combine a lot of my favorite types of characters and then see which ones fit together? And then what if they *had* do stick by one girl for whatever reason? Sounds taboo to say “nine guys with one girl romantically” but the challenge was to get people to accept it gradually. This is why I never really announced what was in it. I let people figure it out as they go through the books.
The Academy itself was stemmed from the idea of being the reason they had to stick together. Especially with Ghost Bird, their ages make this a reality as well. Sang’s young and so are the guys, so there are limitations.
Some of the anime that are out about reverse harem, including some I watched when I was tossing the idea around:
Where’d you get the ideas for the characters?
Every character sprung from a mix of all kinds of places. I’ve often said I’ve been a big fan of things like anime and video games. I’ve often said to readers, in some interviews and in social media, my love of things like Ouran High School Host Club, Darker than Black, Girl’s Side, Mystic Messenger, Fullmetal Alchemist, Skyrim, Dragon Age, etc.
Each game or anime will basically take a character arc type, a stereotype about people. For a character, you may start with a real person, and then bend it to a character arc type, add some flavor, and you’ve got someone new, someone lifelike.
For example, I have a friend I refer to all the time for Silas. “Real Silas” and I have been friends for many years. He came to America from Greece when he was about ten. He actually does amazing woodwork and he’s always telling me about how he’d love to one day buy a boat to sail.
You take him, and give him a character arc type, like someone who loves baseball and loves sports and is passionate about it (a common arc type used in Girl’s Side and other games) and maybe give him some quirks from something else (strong, silent type like from Ouran High School), maybe something from someone like Farkas from Skyrim, simply strong, always there, doesn’t need to say a lot, etc.
You just chop all those pieces up, mix them together, bam, you get a Silas Korba, a Greek who moved to the States when he was young, is okay with construction, loves the sea, loves baseball, strong silent type. They’re all pretty much like that: real life mixed with this, that and the other.
How much real life is in the fiction? How much do you take from real life and add it to the books?
Very often. For example, the camping scenes are ones I experienced when I was younger going to girl’s camp every year. The church turned diner was a church on my old street in South Carolina, and I’ve worked in a diner-type restaurant, so I had some background in this. Obviously, Charleston itself is real. Victor’s house is a real location. So many locations are just real life.
There are a lot of characters based on real people (only added to and mixed up with other things, as mentioned). Scenes you’ll see like in the hospital, I grew up going into a lot of hospitals so that is familiar territory for me, the school, the bomb threats, a lot of things. A surprising amount now that I’m thinking of it, but that’s kind of what you do. That and you mix it together with stuff you’ve read and played video games of and TV. I mean, the question essentially boils down to ‘where do you get your ideas’? And the answer is just ‘everywhere’. I think if you ask any author anywhere about this, they’ll say the same thing. Generally stolen from life, the universe, and all the things — just spruced up a bit so it is somewhat believable.
What’s it like to be a full time writer?
It is much busier than I thought it would be like. I think I imagined sitting in a cabin in the middle of the woods, waking up to make breakfast, sit at a computer and write, and then after a good session, you take a walk, play a video game. The dream life. 🙂
The reality is I spend a lot of time managing different aspects of the work. A lot of it is general indie based work, like making covers, marketing, responding to emails. I could spend hours in emails and still not get to anything else.
Basically, it is the freelance-type work I used to do before, only with 200% more to do and less time to do it in. 🙂 This is probably self bias, but it just feels like it. I was someone who always just loved free time over anything else.
Most of what I enjoy about the work is the writing, so a lot of my writing friends will often hear me complaining about the ‘work’ part but I never consider the writing to be work. That’s the fun. I’d rather do that.
Have any more questions for me? The best way to reach me is via email. Some I add to newsletters, so don’t forget to join that, too.