Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Most Common Questions I Receive about Writing

A lot of people are curious about writers, though we're not all that fascinating. Really, we're not. Imagine a camera set up in a home office. Now envision a person sitting at a computer typing, thinking, looking stuff up, typing, a trip to the bathroom, more typing, lunch break, more thinking and typing. Not exactly Oscar material. :) But I thought I'd share some of the questions I receive most often, along with my answers.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

A: Everywhere. I know that's a trite answer but it's true. I get ideas from dreams, writing exercises, music, art, nature, watching people and listening to conversations going on around me in public. Yep, that's right, I'm an eavesdropper. You never know what people are going to say in public and sometimes you can get a real gem for a story from overheard conversations. Gotta love people who talk on cell phones in public. I've heard some real doozies. And if I'm in a bad mood, woe to the person who cuts me off in traffic or gets in the express lane with a full cart. He/she might just find a place in one of my books. And it ain't gonna be pretty. :)

Q: Do you still take classes/workshops?

A: Yeah, yep and a big ole YES! Writing is a solitary career and as much as I enjoy being a hermit, I get out once in a while to meet with other writers and challenge myself. There's a great energy that fills a room full of creative people. In fact, several of my books got their seeds from class exercises. And there's nothing like fellow writers to offer support and guidance. Some are going through what I'm going through, others have been there and can offer valuable advice.

Q: Which authors do you enjoy reading?

A: Okay, you asked for it. Kelley Armstrong, Orson Scott Card, David Eddings, S. L. Farrell, Jasper Fforde, Maggie Furey, Neil Gaiman, Mary Gentle, Terry Goodkind, Tara K. Harper, Kim Harrison, Elizabeth Haydon, Robert Jordan, Elizabeth Kerner, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Ursula LeGuin, Morgan Llewellyn, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Edgar Allan Poe, Philip Pullman, Alastair Reynolds, Anne Rice, J. R. R. Tolkein, Robert Charles Wilson, and many others. I also read books on writing, publishing, science, Celtic cultures, American Indian cultures, and ancient civilizations, especially when I'm doing research for a book. I'm a family detective - meaning I do genealogy - so I also read books that pertain to that. My reading list gets longer every year.

Q: Do you write everyday?

A: I try very hard to keep to a regular work schedule. Life and classes can get in the way, of course, but I do keep to a schedule most weekdays. I don't usually write on weekends or holidays, except to jot down notes about a current project. Those days are for my husband and me to play, or for the occasional appearance or speaking engagement. I keep note pads around the house and in my purse and car so I can write down ideas as they come. Otherwise, I'd forget them by the time I planted my butt in my office chair.

Q: Do you keep a private journal?

A: I tried keeping a diary as a kid, since a lot of girls were into that, but I bored myself to death. When I started writing fiction to spice it up, I knew it was time to toss it. I currently have a writing blog and I keep a dream journal. I've kept track of my dreams since the early 1980s. My sleep world is one active place and I get story ideas from dreams.

Q: Were you always a writer or did you have other careers/jobs?

A: Well, I was always writing something, sometimes really bad somethings. But career-wise, I started out in the entertainment industry. I worked in that industry from childhood until about thirty. Which, for a lot of us, meant taking on additional jobs to help pay the bills. Jobs I've had over the years: actress, dancer, stand-in, photo double, theatre and dance director/instructor, Disneyland performer, dance studio assistant, library page, teachers' assistant, pre-school teacher, greeting card merchandiser, artificial flower warehouse arranger (gotta love that one), receptionist, file clerk, retail clerk/cashier, envelope stuffer, pizza delivery driver, and waitress. Whew! I'm tired just typing that!

Q: What do you do about writer's block?

A: Actually, I've never had writer's block and I don't believe in it. I believe I can get hung up on details or have so many ideas I'm not sure where to go next. But if I find myself taking too long with a particular aspect of a project, I simply shift my attention to another writing project for a while, take a walk, work out, or clean house. That always works for me.

Q: Would you read my stuff and give me comments?

A: Well, unfortunately, I have to say no. Writing is a full-time job and I'm darned busy. I suggest looking into your local area for writing workshops and classes. Recreation departments, adult education, colleges, universities and libraries often have many great offerings for writers of all levels. Also, you can find workshops online, especially if you write genre material like I do. Look around - you don't have to spend a lot of money to find a good class.

Q: I have an idea for a book, would you write it for me?

A: See the answer to the previous question. You could also take classes to hone your writing skills or simply hire a ghost writer. There are many in the industry looking for work. Good luck with your endeavors.

Q: I read in your bio that you have Meniere's Disease. What is that?

A: Meniere's an inner ear disorder that causes bouts of vertigo, dizziness, vomiting, tinnitus, balance problems, and gradual hearing loss. Famous people with Meniere's include, astronaut Alan Shepard, actress Kristen Chenoweth, singers Peggy Lee and Ryan Adams, poet/writer Emily Dickinson, and some speculate Vincent VanGogh had it. Some people in the past were misdiagnosed with epilepsy but actually had inner ear problems.

I'm always open to answering questions, so if you have one of your own that isn't listed here, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you asap.

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