Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’ve just gotten to see my sixth novel come out, and I have lost count of the short stories that are out there in many forms. It has been exciting, these last few years, becoming a real writer. This spring I was startled to discover I’d been nominated for a Hugo Award, and it made me reflect on my writing career. I started writing over a decade ago, because I have always loved reading and at a point in my life I ran out of reading material, so I began creating my own. I used to believe that my natural writing length was a short story, but Vulcan’s Kittens, my first completed novel, changed my life. I finished it because my daughter challenged me to take a story I’d written for her, and make it into a full novel. The God’s Wolfling is the sequel to that young adult story. The other series I wrote for someone, initially just a scene to make him laugh, and it’s now a full trilogy with spin-off books waiting in the wings. The people I love are very important to my writing and really inspire me to keep going.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest novel is Dragon Noir, the finale to the Pixie for Hire series. Dragon started out as a finish to something I’d started three years earlier, and I was really excited to write it. When I finished it, though, I realized I wasn’t done with this world, and I wound up sketching plots for three more books, but they won’t center around the same characters. Dragon became a book about motherhood, and parenting, but mostly about people who wanted to keep their loved ones safe, even if it meant they were put in danger themselves. It really harks back to the Noir feeling I started the series out with in Pixie Noir, and I loved writing the final battle – I was going to have a riding unicorn and wound up with a rhinoceros for a mount. Just fun to write and my reviewers have loved it.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I write very quickly in bursts. I can and have finished full length novels in about two months. I developed this habit because I’m currently working on a Bachelor’s of Science in Forensics, and I can’t write while taking a heavy class schedule. So I spend a lot of time working on promotion and marketing during the school year, and write like a whirlwind as soon as I’m on a break, pounding out several thousand words a day to get the bulk of the writing done. After I’ve written, and it’s off to editors, I can return my brain to science mode and get back into school. I’m not alone in this, I’ve had many people tell me that creative writing and science or math make lousy partners in the same brain at the same time. And yet I want to write Hard science fiction. That will be a challenge!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I was mentored in my writing by Sarah A Hoyt and Dave Freer. Both of them write cerebral, character-driven science fiction and fantasy, so it’s little surprise that’s where I tend to follow in their footsteps. But growing up I read a lot of mysteries, adored Dorothy Sayers, and read everything on my parent’s bookshelves which meant Louis L’Amours from Dad and Georgette Heyer from Mom. It all goes in and flavors my writing.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a science fiction novel about a boy, his dog, and his ship. It’s not a young adult book, but rather a coming of age and mastering his own destiny. I plan for a little romance, but more pirates, and smuggling, and derring-do because they are fun to write. I’m also planning on writing my first full-length mystery novel this summer, a cozy about a librarian who retired from toxicology… that’s my background in wild plants, edible, medicinal, and poisonous coming to the fore.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I have a daily blog, and that gives me a platform to talk about my books, but honestly I’d rather be a content marketer. I love sites like Awesomegang for a short burst of eyes-on attention for my work, but the blog keeps them coming back because it’s not sell, sell all the time. I talk about everything from writing to cooking to art and beyond. Some days it’s just me rambling, other days I sit down and craft research articles that can help people make reasoned decisions based on science and critical thinking.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Keep writing. The more you write, the better you get. But you have to get feedback on your writing and then, most important, you have to listen to the feedback and incorporate it into your work. I write for the Mad Genius Club as part of a team of authors and publishers – we even have a marketing expert who guests for us – and we give tips and techniques for everything from how to write a great hook (or ending, just as important) to how to select great cover art that suits your book. Seek out writing mentors who will promote your growth, but remember that not all writing groups are healthy places to hang out, and unless more than one person suggests a change, don’t do it. Hard to summarize all this here!
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t give up. You can’t keep improving if you aren’t breathing.
What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading Peter Grant’s latest, Forge a New Blade. I really enjoyed the first in his Laredo series, and this one is even better, really digs into the economics of the tiny government in exile trying to get back their planet when it was taken from them in battle. Space opera is always fun to read.
What’s next for you as a writer?
This year I will see one book come out. My school schedule comes first, and I’m into the last year for my degree, which means more challenging classes every semester. I’m writing two books this summer, but only one will see publication in 2015 as the other is promised elsewhere than Stonycroft Publishing and I don’t know what will happen with it, yet.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
The books that I come back to for comfort reads would be Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor, or Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road. But if I were only allowed a few books on a desert island they would be things like my well-worn copy of my father’s Air Force Survival Manual, Dave Canterbury’s Bushcraft, and a book on the edible plants of the region.