I met Lydia Sherrer at an indie author event last fall. Her urban fantasy books for young adults (and grown ups) attracted my attention because of their colorful covers. She created the Love, Lies and Hocus Pocusseries. I have just started reading one of her latest projects, Accidental Witch, which is part of her Dark Roads Trilogy.
Why did you decide to become an author? I hated my job. Seriously. After several years out of college trying to work for other people, I discovered I hated being told what to do, and started looking for ways to work for myself. I tried art for a little while, but I’m not a good enough artist to make it in that arena. I tried multi level marketing for a while, but I can’t be passionate about makeup or kitchen implements. Then I realized that I adored writing, I’d been doing it for years already, so why not start my own publishing business? The rest is history.
Does your professional background help with your writing? My “professional” background at least in terms of my college degree is in language. I studied Chinese and Arabic in college, then decided I didn’t want to work overseas or for the government, or really anyone (I have a problem with bosses), so I came home and started “entreprenuing.” I guess my study of language and culture expanded my horizon, so I can write better about many things, real and imagined. But it is really my natural instincts and talents as a entrepreneur that have best served me when self publishing books.
Tell us about your latest books. My latest big project, an epic fantasy called “When the Gods Laughed” (currently available only in the ebook box set Wrath and Ruin) I wrote because I wanted to get into the epic fantasy scene. Previously I have focused on urban fantasy (I’m a huge Harry Potter fan), but my first love was always Lord of the Rings, and I’ve itched to write a story of truly epic scale. “When the Gods Laughed” ended up being 200,000 words, and that is only the first half. Another inspiration was the story itself, about a very worthless man crippled by self doubt, who is thrown into the “hero” spotlight. I have a friend who suffers from clinical depression and it kills me to see what it does to his mind and all the horrible, untrue things he believes about himself, just because of this sickness in his head. It isn’t his fault, and he is an amazing person. I just wish there was some way I could show him that.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Really, those are the two best pieces of advice I could give anyone, because they are the foundation of EVERYTHING you do as a writer. You can’t write good stories if you don’t read good stories (or read craft books, advice columns, how-to writing blogs, current publishing news, etc), and you can’t publish anything if you haven’t actually written it! For more detailed advice, check out my becoming a writer series on my blog. I also highly recommend checking out Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula podcast (found on iTunes and Youtube) and Joanna Penn’s really useful blog, The Creative Penn. Being a writer isn’t just about writing stories. It is about being a business person and knowing the publishing landscape today, so you can best decide how to manage your novels and rights and how to reach your audience.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read Read Read! Write Write Write! Really, those are the two best pieces of advice I could give anyone, because they are the foundation of EVERYTHING you do as a writer. You can’t write good stories if you don’t read good stories (or read craft books, advice columns, how-to writing blogs, current publishing news, etc), and you can’t publish anything if you haven’t actually written it! For more detailed advice, check out my becoming a writer series on my blog. I also highly recommend checking out Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula podcast (found on iTunes and Youtube) and Joanna Penn’s really useful blog www.thecreativepenn.com. Being a writer isn’t just about writing stories. It is about being a business person and knowing the publishing landscape today, so you can best decide how to manage your novels and rights and how to reach your audience.
What are some upcoming projects you are working on? I am in the final editing phase for my latest story in the Lily Singer Adventures universe, a novella called “Cat Magic” about Sir Kipling, the magical talking cat and the adventures he has while his mistress is away. Here’s a little blurb:
“I am a magical talking cat who has been cursed with human intelligence. Horrible, I know. My human is a normally sensible wizard who has a bad habit of letting curiosity get her into trouble, and invariably I have to save the day.
I swear, she’s almost a better cat than me.
We have adventures. She saves the world. I save her. We all go home happy and I get a nice plate of salmon. Except this time, there is no we. My human has departed for vacation and I am left alone to guard the magical library for which she is responsible. Normally this would not be an issue, but I had a funny feeling in my whiskers this morning, which means adventure is on the horizon. Care to stick around and find out what evil denizen of magic and mayhem I will be thrashing today?”
The story should be coming out sometime in April-ish (being my own publisher, I can set, or not set, my own deadlines. In the meantime, check out this FREE novella that is a prequel to my urban fantasy series full of adventure, magic, snarky humor, and of course a talking cat.
I read other books than the ones listed below, but they were non-fiction or fiction I didn’t want to include as a favorite.
Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror)
A Dragon of a Different Color by Rachel Aaron
This is the fourth installment of Aaron’s Heartstrikers series, the story of which proceeded nicely until this one. The middle of this book is a world-building info dump disguised as dialogue. Still worth it if you’re invested in the series. Lots of great things happen, but I hope the next one moves faster.
We Are Legion by Dennis E. Taylor
I bought this from Audible.com because it’s not available through my local library system. I was pleasantly surprised. Taylor’s protagonist is a snarky nerd who finds himself part of desperate space exploration program. Funny and sarcastic.
The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor
I admit I downloaded this for free from Audible.com. It’s an introduction to Taylor’s The Chronicles of St. Mary’s universe, which looks good. Interesting, but didn’t blow me over. I’ll probably give the series a try.
Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I have been wanting to read this for quite a while. Rothfuss unleashes a beautiful writing style with this first book and the story kept me going. The story is complete, but there are some unanswered questions for the rest of this series to address.
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
The protagonist got on my nerves, but I so badly wanted to find out what was going on, I plowed through it. Not on the same level as Willis’s The Doomsday Book, but a fun read.
Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
This series has been a nominee for Goodread’s Best Books two years in a row, and I can see why. The story is told by a group of people involved in a project of finding robotic parts buried around the world and building mechanical giants. Neuvel includes a lot of twists and surprises.
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Looks like a kid’s book, but with all the violence, sex and depressing imagery, it’s definitely for grown-ups. Connolly adds some adult themes to some beloved fairy tale icons and draws up this creepy tale.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
This turned out to be one of my surprise favorites of the year. Patricia and Lawrence keep crossing paths. At the end of the world, they become involved in a war, end up on opposite sides.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Another surprise favorite for this year. Crouch takes the alternate reality trope and raises some interesting questions.
Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
A group of teens in backwater Virginia, get mixed up in dark matters in their search for a lost king.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
This popped up a couple of times as a book I should read, so I did. A woman tries to repair her marriage by magically talking with a younger version of her husband from the early days of their relationship. Didn’t really reveal how using an old landline phone could do that.
A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan
While this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, I’m not sure it is any more thematic than any other similar piece of fiction. I did enjoy the complex characters Egan developed through a series of interrelated short stories.
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
Every page of this novel is insane. It creeped me out, but it was Palahniuk at his most bizarre and entertaining.
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Man stumbles across a lot of drug money. Lots of anti-heroes in this book. Good read and a good movie, too.
Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman
A coming-of-age story about an Italian teen in the seventies who falls for an older guy staying with his parents for the summer.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
What would happen if books were illegal and burned when found? I need to read this one again and soon.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Billy Pilgrim descends into madness, or does he? He tells his tale as an unreliable narrator in this classic.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Sort of in the same category as Dead Poet’s Society.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Finally, after three tries, I got through it. A slow-paced novel isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Hemingway’s case. It built up the tension.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway Upon finishing this book, I have completed the Ernest Hemingway collection.
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
A little depressing, with characters who are depressed. Still glad to add it to my classics repertoire.
Young Adult Fiction
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Lots of controversy about this book and the Netflix series based upon it. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think a girl would really kill herself over the reasons presented in this story. But news events in the last month have changed my mind. It does happen.
by S.E. HintonI decided to re-read this on its fiftieth anniversary. This is the novel that created the whole Young Adult genre–although I doubt Hinton saw herself as the one who would pave the way for all the vampire novels in the Young Adult section. It’s always fun to re-read a book to see how I’ve grown since the last time.
I still consider myself a new writer, but I was first published at twelve years old. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but it was before Ronald Reagan sat in the White House.
Here’s the thing: you’re constantly learning as a writer. You’re learning your craft. You’re learning how to use grammar to make your writing interesting. You’re learning about the publishing industry. Being a writer is an identity constantly in change.
But if I had to pick just five things to tell a new writer, here is what I would list for them:
Read all kinds of books-This advice did not originate with me. Everyone who writes says it. Always be reading. Read various authors. Read all the books of just one author. Read everything you can in the genre for which you want to write. Read in all kinds of genres. Read both fiction and nonfiction. If you are like me, you are busy. I actually have to schedule time to read. But just always be reading something.
Write every day you possibly can-Even if it’s only for a few minutes, write every day. And that can include planning, outlining, researching, editing, proofreading, or journaling. It could be deciding what you wrote yesterday isn’t that great after all and you need to start over. Have the writer’s mindset and realize every experience you have can be used in your writing. Just place your fingers on the keyboard (or grab the pencil) and write.
Try National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)-Every November, thousands of people around the world write fifty thousand words in one month. That’s about 1600 words a day. If it sounds daunting, try it and see what happens. It gave me the confidence to realize, “Hey, I can create a long piece of fiction.” Now, of course, what is written for NaNoWriMo is rough. But I have four rough novels I’m finishing thanks to the contest. That’s more than what I had before I tried it.
Subscribe to writing blogs and websites-Wow, there are so many out there, but here’s a few of my favorites to get you started:
Use software for writers-This is not for everyone, but I would say try the software and return it if not satisfied. First, for outlining and planning, try Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method software. Next, try Scrivener for writing your manuscript. Writers kept saying, “Try Scrivener.” I was like, “Sure, sure.” When I finally got around to using it, I was like, “Holy macaroni! Why didn’t I start using this a long time ago!
To use a cliché, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could say, “Go to YouTube and search for writers with video blogs,” or “A neat idea generator for SF and fantasy writers is Seventh Sanctum.”
I’d like to include more, but one thing I’ve realized is this: I can spend all kinds of time learning Scrivener or reading articles on writing, but the best thing to do to get experience as a writer is to just start writing.