by Bruce Blake
Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to mention that the second Icarus Fell novel, All Who Wander Are Lost, is free on Kindle April 17-19. Grab a copy on me and enjoy!
Anyone who regularly reads my posts will know that one of my favourite things about being an indie author is the opportunity to meet, get to know, and help other indie authors in their careers.
Another of the things I love about being a writer (other than writing) happened today when I received an email from a young man named Brandon who was writing a career research paper for his English class. Brandon dreams of being an author and enjoyed my book, Blood of the King, so asked if I would consider doing an interview for him. After I finished blushing, I agreed, and I reprint said interview here with Brandon’s permission in case any of you reading are also young writers with questions.
1. What is the usual author schedule, how many hours do you put into making your books?I am a very habitual writer. For me, mornings are for writing. I typically get started by about 9 am and will write until around 1 pm. My goal is to write between 3000 and 4000 words/day, and I do that 6 days/week. I do my editing in the afternoons/evenings. When I’m keeping to that pace, it takes me 4-5 weeks to write the first draft of a novel, though it is tough schedule to maintain and will often take closer to 6-7 weeks. Editing is another 6-7 weeks, so it is usually 12-14 weeks to write a novel that is ready to publish.
2. Is there any time when you think that you shouldn’t publish a book because it doesn’t meet your standards?There is a time in every novel’s life–during the writing of the first draft, usually–that I wonder if it will ‘meet my standards’ and ‘be publishable’. I think most writers go through this phase of self-doubt with almost every book they write. What I’ve learned is to keep going. The first draft can be a long way from what ends up being published; editing is where a book really comes to life. Only once have I stopped writing something and put it on the back burner, and even then it wasn’t because there was anything wrong with the writing, per se, I just felt I wasn’t up to the task of doing the subject matter justice. One day I will be, then I’ll go back to it.
3. How do you come up with the ideas for your books?I wish I had some great story about some secret method for creating story ideas, but the truth of the matter is that it is something I work at, just like everything else. Most stories start as a very small thought or idea, then I start asking questions and imagining scenarios until it forms into something cohesive. Sometimes it starts as a character, sometimes it’s as simple as a title. Unfortunately, I’ve never had a fully developed story populated with great characters drop in my lap. I dream about it, though…
4. How did you know you wanted to become an author?I’ve always loved writing, right from having to do short stories for English class in grade school, and I always got positive feedback from it. When I got out of school and into the work-a-day world, my passion for writing got left behind. It wasn’t until about eight years ago, when I couldn’t get to sleep because of a story idea floating around in my head, that I realized I wanted to do it again. Since then, I’ve written and published five full novels and eight short stories, I am in the midst of two other novels that will be published this year, and have a list of other projects to get to. Now that I’ve started and really found my passion in life, I will never turn back.
5. Do you think it is better to be an independent author or work for a company?That’s a tough question, because it’s kind of like comparing an apple pie and a strawberry pie. They’re both the same on the outside, but they are very different on the inside. Being an independent author, I naturally think the road I’ve chosen is the best for me, but it is not for everyone. As an independent, self-published author, I am in charge of everything, which can be both good and bad. It means I have complete creative control, but it also means I have complete responsibility. I not only write, but I have to source covers, editors and proofreaders, and I’m responsible for all promo and advertising…all on my dime. Not everyone wants to do all that, or has the time or the money to. While being published with a publisher is far from a sure thing, it does take a lot of that non-writing stuff off an author’s plate.
6. How do you organize your thoughts for your books?I work from a sparse outline. What I mean when I say that is: I always know where I want to go, and I’ll always have some ideas how I want to get there, but I won’t necessarily know what all the scenes will look like along the way. I know some authors who fly completely by the seat of their pants – they just sit down and write – and I have heard of others whose outlines are as long as some novels. For me, I start off with a note book where I’ll jot down ideas and questions I want to answer about the story. When that has started to develop, I map out very basic scenes, then I start writing. My outlines are always living things and subject to change if another idea occurs to me.
7. Do you have other people who will help you write or help you come up with ideas in your books?There is not usually anyone I use when it comes to the initial idea phase, the outlining or the first draft writing. I occasionally ask my wife’s opinion about where I should go with something, but that often is more a case of her being someone I can talk to to hear my ideas out loud more than her contributing to the direction of the story. It’s good to have someone to talk it out with. After the first draft and my own edits are done (I usually write it, then go through it three times before anyone else sees it), it goes off to my editor, then to a couple of proofreaders. At this point, there are rarely any major changes made, usually only spelling and grammar, sentence structure and clarity.
8. Are you ever inspired by real events that happen or people?While no one entire story has been inspired by an actual event or person, there are certainly elements of people I know and things that have happened to me in my books. There is usually also some of me in my main characters. It’s almost impossible not to be influenced by our own world when writing, the trick is to do these things in such a way that people who know you don’t recognize them. As William Thackery said, “the two most engaging powers of a good author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
9. If you could do something else other than be an author would you switch?The short answer? No. The long answer? Definitely not.
10. Did you go to any college and if so what courses did you take at that college?I have not done any post-secondary education to contribute to my writing. I have taken some workshops, both in person and on-line, through Gotham Writer’s Workshop, Writer’s Digest, Donald Maass, and a couple of different writers’ conferences. Places such as on-line critique groups, writers’ forums and Facebook groups have also been helpful.
So there you have it. Anyone else have questions? Leave them in the comments, I’d happy to answer yours, too.
Bruce Blake is the author of the Icarus Fell urban fantasy novels and the Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy trilogy. He has often spent hours interviewing himself, so it was nice to have someone else ask.