I've often wondered if there is anyone out there whose life has actually gone the way he or she thought it would. I think the only thing that really has gone according to plan is that I always intended to be a writer. Yes, I am that, but I never really expected the road to publishing to take some of the turns it has, not that I'm complaining. It really is all about having faith and accepting that just because you can't see the road ahead of you doesn't mean in the end it won't get you where you're going.
In a couple of weeks, I'll celebrate birthday number 45. Yeah, I know that some people worry about others knowing their age. Well, I see it like this: many people haven't lived this long, so I'm really lucky.
So let me summarize see what's happened in my writing life so far. I've finished thirty-five books, seven scripts, and lots of poems, with roughly a third of them having been published in literary magazines across the United States and the United Kingdom. My novels have surpassed 50,000 sales, and I'm still writing. So what does all this mean? It's kind of like having a checklist of places I wanted to visit and marking them off. Have I achieved my goals?
That's a yes, and a no. For one thing, goals always change. They have to. If a person has nothing to strive for, why should they reach for anything? There are always more stories I want to put to paper, more characters I want to meet, more readers I really want to enjoy the journeys of my work. In short, I think it's really not so much about arriving as it is what happens along the way. Besides, as much as I want certain things in my life, truthfully, I could never do half of what I do without all the people readers don't see on the pages of the novels. And besides all the people who help me put the books out there, I am also infinitely grateful for the readers who meet me halfway and welcome my words in. After all, being thankful is a goal, and that one, I definitely plan to keep achieving.
Today, E.R. Arroyo has graciously answered some questions about her first novel, Sovereign, which I have read and loved. You can buy a Kindle
copy here so you,too, can read it and love it. (wink, wink)Take it away, E.R....
Maria, thanks for having me on your blog! My novel, Sovereign
, is available now on ebook and is coming soon to paperback. Sovereign is a YA dystopia set in post-apocalyptic America.
Chemical warfare has obliterated most of the world, including America, and the survivors have turned into feral beasts, save one colony, Antius, the last remnant of civilization. Seventeen-year-old Cori (aka Citizen 1206) only longs for wide open spaces and freedom. But Antius has no use for such things, just mindless drones to serve in a place with walls, fences, and laws. A lot of laws, which Cori constantly breaks. So she’s spent years plotting her escape, which is the only thing that will save her from the colony’s deranged leader, Nathan. She isn’t looking to be a hero, and she certainly isn’t looking to fall in love, but she just might do both. What inspired you to write your first book?
Basically I was reading tons of post-apocalypse and dystopian YA, which I stumbled across because of the previews for The Hunger Games movie. I kind of had a mini-vision play out in my head and I wrote the scene as a short story, and you (Maria) informed me that I should expand it into a novel. So I did. How did you come up with the title?
I wish I could remember, lol. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yeah, if there’s a message here, it’s one of hope. I feel that the thing the main character, Cori, believes in is that humanity and hope are synonymous. You can’t have one without the other. I want my readers to feel that there’s always hope, no matter how bad things get around them. How much of the book is realistic?
A good deal of it is pretty realistic. The science is pretty conceivable, but the important part is the world Cori lives in. In the timeline of the book, the world would have stopped advancing in the next few years (from now) when the apocalypse would’ve happened, then the story is set twenty years after that. So the world is supposed to look a lot like it does now, just a run down, beat-up version. Is any part of the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some of Cori’s traits are based on my own personal quirks, but the events of the book are completely imagined. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part was not writing it, it was rewriting it. And editing it. A LOT of editing. I guess it was kind of tough to make the book unique, considering I’d read a lot of dystopia, it was important to me that not too much of what I’d read (and loved) leaked into it. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It’s not something I can put my finger on and say, “That, that’s what I learned.” But the difference between writing my first book and writing my second, I feel a lot more confident, and I’ve shared some samples with a few people and they can tell a clear improvement. I can’t wait to write my third and fourth and so on and continue to see my own growth. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lawyer because I thought that was the only way to make a lot of money. A lawyer talked me out of it. Said every attorney he knew was miserable. I’m not good at arguing anyway! I am stubborn though. When and why did you begin writing?
I’m not sure why or when exactly, I just remember it started with poetry. I threw a few lines together once and forced my older brother to listen to it. He said it was dark, and he kind of laughed because I was pretty young for the maturity of that poem. That’s the first thing I actually recall writing. Maybe age ten? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first thought I might “have something” when my eighth grade English teacher praised my poetry. I ended up sharing my poetry with two of my classmates who also wrote poetry and songs, and they liked my work, too. I think that was the year I realized I had a way with words. I wrote a lot of poetry that year. I was affirmed by several teachers as well as my college composition professor. Affirmation is so important to me. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was 27, (I’m still 27). I’ve been writing screenplays for years, but this was my first novel. I have greatly enjoyed the transition into prose! How long does it take you to write a book?
Not long! I usually write the first chapter to get a feel for things, then I create a very detailed outline before I continue. Because I know where it’s going, I write it quickly. It’s all the rewriting and editing that takes time. First draft I’d say maybe two months. Where do you get your inspiration or ideas for your books?
For me the stories always start with characters. Every now and then a premise will jump at me. Like my imagination might just wander for a while until something plays out that I think would make a great story. But I often start with a conversation or a relationship dynamic, then I build the characters around it, then come up with a story that feels right for those characters. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read books. Watch movies. A lot of movies. And I like to play music (acoustic guitar, singing, songwriting). Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
The feedback I enjoy most is when people love my characters, especially secondary ones. I’ve had a lot of readers tell me they love Titus, which is hilarious to me because I hadn’t planned for him to even exist. He just kind of showed up one day and turned into an awesome part of the story. Loving my characters is a huge compliment, and I feel like I’ve done my job if my readers connect with them. Especially if I can make readers cry. Sadistic, right? Do you like to create books for adults?
I have not yet written an adult book, but I would like to someday. Right now, I’m wrapped up in YA. I like to read YA so it makes sense I would write to that demographic. I appreciate the passion of young people, so I connect with those kinds of stories. What do you think makes a good story?
As a reader, I enjoy books that draw me in, hold my attention, make me feel something, and give me a satisfying ending. What book are you reading now?
I am reading Our Town
by Thornton Wilder. I’ve read it before, but I’m reading it again as research for a book that’s going to reference the play.
I’m also halfway through Summer Sunsets
by Maria Rachel Hooley. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m very horrible at choosing a favorite anything… but I kind of adore Tahereh Mafi, author of the Shatter Me
series. Her writing is so visceral and unique. It’s the kind of writing that demands to read quickly, in a “can’t put down” kind of way. Plus, she’s hilarious and quirky on Twitter. Do you see writing as a career?
I definitely think it could be, but I view it as something that’s always going to be a huge part of my life regardless of how much it does or does not pay. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m writing a book for NaNoWriMo called A Girl Named Jude
. It’s about a girl with a boy’s name, living in a man’s world, and trying desperately to escape her grief over the death of her big brother. After this book, I’ll be writing the sequel to Sovereign. Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. My advice is to use a detailed outlining system. Know your plot points, know your characters. I use a combination of the Snowflake Method and the plot point method. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading! And if you glean anything from Cori, let it be hope. Erica's links:WebsiteTwitterFacebookPintrest
This is an older blog from my Wordpress site geared toward writers. As someone who wrote twenty-four or twenty-five novels before self-publishing, I figured this post might help others put things into perspective.
I don't think there is a writer who has ever escaped criticism. It's part of the packaged deal that comes with wanting to have people read what you write. Yes, some comments can be downright hurtful and hateful, and writers typically do one of three things after getting a negative review. They stop writing, they freeze up with writer's block until they can get some distance and perspective on the review, or they keep writing.
First of all, quitting shouldn't be an option, not if this is something you want to do. That said, it may take a lot of work to make the dream happen. It doesn't mean it won't happen. It all depends on how hard you are willing to push yourself to get there. The longer I write, the more I realize that a writing career isn't built on talent so much as it is tenacity. We all make mistakes. The trick is to learn from those mistakes. And even when you do learn, you have to remember that you won't make everyone happy. If you look at the authors who have very successful careers, you will find that they didn't please everyone either. The best you can do is write a book that is solid and worthy of praise and then choose to accept that it will not always measure up to other people's standards. Accepting this ahead of time will save you lots of head-banging.
Some writers freeze when rejection hits. I've had this happen. You can call the aftermath writer's block or self-doubt, or whatever you want. The simple fact of the matter is that you have to work through all the negative to find the positive. It may not be easy, but I don't know of much that is worth a lot that is easy. Besides, you can get criticized for just standing around if you happen to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time. I agree with Mahatma Gandhi when he said "You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result."
Some writers, usually the experienced ones, just keep writing, knowing that both rejection and praise will come. The trick is to keep both of them in perspective. Rejection is one person's opinion. So is praise. Neither of them affect the opinion that should matter--the voice inside that tells you to always be true to the story and always write it the best you can.
When it comes right down to it, there is a choice in how you accept what people say about your craft. No, the choice isn't about whether or not a person can say what he or she wants to about your book. It's not even a matter of if they should say it. The only thing you control about criticism is how you handle it. You can't stop it and you can't rationalize it away. All you can do is accept your role in this is to write and to enjoy that writing. Isn't that the whole purpose?
Writing is hard work sometimes, especially if the author has never written a book before and is in elementary school. So what would possess someone with those obstacles to undertake such a challenge? How about worrying about other people?
Cameron Titus has done just that, and while I could say a whole lot more on the subject, I think it would be better if you heard about his book and his cause from him.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
(Cameron) Well I am in fifth grade now. I play video games. I read a lot; books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, The Lightning Theif, The Hardy Boys, The Grim Doyle Series (a friend of mine wrote that, he's a really great author, one of my favorites), and I read the Goosebumps series, Mark Twain books and all other sorts. I love to draw. I draw by hand and also on the computer. I take after my dad that way; he's an artist (but doesn't really do it anymore). I also love to write and make up stories. I take after my mom, she's an author. I like to discover stuff outside, and pretend I am a CIA guy. I believe in giving back, like when my sister and I found a woman's purse. My mom took us to the police and we brought it there. It made me feel really good knowing that that lady would get her money back. I have a heart condition and have to go to Boston Children's Hospital every other year for a echo and stress test. I like to save money, so I can go to college and have a good life. I would like to be a professional author or a police officer. I really would like to go into the army, but they probably won't accept me because of my heart condition and I'm a wimp. (heheheh) I tried to play football last year, but then I realized it was torture and not fun. I did it for 4 days. I like hip-hop, rap, a little bit of country, and rock music. I am a good singer. My mom always tells me I should be on tv because I make people laugh, and I act really good. She says I am an oscar contender. I think that would be cool if I could be on Nickelodeon. I like Drake and Josh, Spongebob, Jimmy Neutron, Invader Zim, I like to watch Chopped with my mom, Planet Sheen, Fairly Odd Parents, I-Carly, Victorious, and Cake Boss (oh, and a Thousand Ways to Die - my dad likes that show).
2. What inspired you to write the book?
(Cameron) A tornado hit Jolpin, Missouri and Massachusetts and I felt so sad and worried of what was going to happen to those people. So I thought of a few ideas to earn money for a charity that brings in money for people to have homes that have been destroyed. I thought of doing a stand, but I realized I needed a $500 permit from the city and that it wouldn't earn that much money. Then I thought of selling some of my stuff, but I realized it would only be about $300. Then I thought about my mom writing her book and getting money for it. So I figured if I write a book, and since there's a lot of children, I thought some people would buy a children's book.
3. I hear the profits from sales are going to a charity? Who is going to benefit from all your hard work?
(Cameron) Yes, all of my royalties will be going to Habitat for Humanity. They build houses for people who can't afford to have one, and they also help rebuild houses that were destroyed, like in hurricanes and tornadoes.
4. What was the hardest part of creating the book?
(Cameron) The hardest part was the writing. Because I had to think of something really good, something that people would want to see or read.
5. What did you like best?
(Cameron) Having a real author help me with the pictures. He listened to me and took my ideas, and put them all into pictures.
6. What do you hope comes out of this experience?
(Cameron) Happiness for the people who will now have a home.
7. What advice can you offer for other people who want to make a difference?
(Cameron) Don't give up. Keep on making a difference even if it's something small like giving your change to a donation box or a homeless person on the street. Don't judge, just do!
Okay, so it was just a character based on Noah. Still. Bummer! Of course I have to admit, I never thought I'd write a zombie-anything, let alone co-write a script about them by the name of Absolution. Yeah, you can puzzle that title out and try to figure out how it ties in.
Speaking of zombies, Erica, my writing partner, suggested I needed to watch some zombie action on the big screen. She mentioned The Walking Dead. I should have taken that suggestion instead of going with my husband's choice of Return of The Living Dead. Sorry, but that's two hours of my life I'll never get back. Of course there were two pretty scary elements in that movie--goth girl and the midget. I'm not even going to mention why goth girl scares me. If you've seen the movie, I'm pretty sure she scares you, too.
I have to admit, ever since I wrote the script Skunks, Trunks, and Pedro, midgets have scared me. It's not the midgets per se, but when I used Google images to try to get a model to use for the midget in Skunks, I saw things I was not meant to see. Never, never, never Google the word midgets or little people and think you will escape unscathed. It won't happen.
Okay, time to set new goals for the coming year. Here's what I've come up with.
1. Write six new novels.
2. Co-write five new screenplays.
3. Finish twenty-five new poems.
4. Publish seven new novels.
5. Market, market, market like crazy.
6. Have more fun this year than last.
1. Elephant Skin
Remember when you a kid and skinned your knee? You the first thing you did was go looking for Mom or Dad to make you feel better. Guess what? There is no one who can make you feel better when it comes to rejection or bad reviews. Your best bet against those is just a solid appreciation for the craft of writing. Just like no one else can make you a writer, no one else can keep you from quitting. It's your choice. Just remember that you're not going to make a difference with your words if nobody reads them.
2. A Rose in December
J.M. Barrie once said, "God gave us our memories so we might have roses in December." That's still one of my favorite quotes. The reason it applies to writing is that if you think that just because you are doing what you love that it's always going to be easy, you are mistaken. Writing is a job, too, and some days it's a really tough one. It helps to remember why you started the madness in the first place and what makes you happy about it.
3. A Talented Techie
Let's face it: nobody is around technology as much as a writer without things going wrong. Your best bet is a spouse to understands computers far better than you do. My husband actually tells me I have the kiss of death for technology. I used to glare at him, but I've begun to think he may be right....
4. Muse Fodder
You expect your muse to give you quality stuff. In response, you might want to stock up on whatever makes him/her happy, be it music or movies. Seriously, whatever inspires you is the only thing that will probably keep you writing. Surround yourself with it in the hopes that one day you will create something that will inspire someone else.
5. A Cat Who Refuses to Grow up
I love to watch kittens play. There is nothing else like that, and it reminds me of all the right reasons that words matter. Take the time to watch things that make you laugh. It will come out in your writing.
6. A Willingness to Both Give and Receive Help
If you think you're going to do the whole indie thing alone, you might, but here's the kicker: it'll take you so much longer, and you won't have anyone to share it with. There are so many online forums out there like kindleboards.com filled with wonderful indie authors who want to help and encourage. There are also many writers who could use your advice and skills just like you could definitely benefit from theirs.
Like the word no? Good. Oh, I thought you said that you did. Well, you might want to start getting used to it at least. You're going to hear it a lot as a writer. The trick is to wait for a yes. It will come. It just doesn't usually happen when you want it to.
8. A Definition for Normal
Now you are smiling. You definitely have one of those. Good. Now get a dartboard and put it up on the target. That's all it's good for. You'll want to know a million times if what's happening in your career is 'normal' or if you're anger is 'normal' over a bad review. You'll want to know if so many things are 'normal,' but really, it doesn't matter. You can't compare your road to anyone else's. Besides, what's so much fun about 'normal' anyway?