Between the Covers – Final Segment!

We are wrapping up the series of talks between me and author Christopher Starr on how these writers write. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Now – on to the fun stuff!

Terra: How do you handle reviews – the good and the bad?

Christopher: Oh reviews! The joy and bane of every writer’s existence. We write in solitude and then exist for feedback, praying someone loves what we tried to do or an at least appreciate the point we were trying to make. When they do and they grace us with more than a couple stars and give us those nuggets of opinion, it’s fantastic. Until we realize they didn’t like it. And resist the urge to respond.

Like everyone, I just want an honest review on the merits of the story. But it’s always a little more complicated than that; I’m sure you can agree. My subject matter is fodder for plenty of discussion; it’s only a matter of time before I get not-so-savory reviews. I handle negative reviews immaturely—at home. I’ll rant and rave and finger point and curse but I’ll never respond to a review on any medium. I’m pretty adamant about that. If I get a fantastic review from a blogger and we have a relationship, I’ll thank them. If it’s on Amazon or Goodreads, that review, positive or negative, belongs to the consumers. I figure I’m breaking some great author-reader contract by intruding on their playground.

Some reviews I incorporate or might comment more broadly in a blog post, particularly if the point is good. Someone made a comment about why some angels die and why others regenerate. I addressed it in the book I’m working on now. Another person talked about the world I’d created and it spawned one of the most introspective blog posts I’ve written in a while. Reviews have been good for me.

Terra: Reviews were one part of the job I was not prepared for. Of course, I knew I needed them. And of course, I thought I would be receiving nothing but 4 and 5 stars. In my eyes my books are awesome. So when some readers didn’t think my books were so awesome, I was pissed. Some flat out hated my books; and I was shocked. Heartbroken almost. I did the same as you; rant and rave at home. I was all ready to respond to reviewers and maybe explain some things they overlooked in my book. But then I followed the advice of my husband, and I let it go. Eventually, I was able to take some advice from bad reviews, and I believe my writing is better for it.

Christopher: How do you separate yourself from the subject matter you write? You have some pretty tough stuff in your books—did you have to take a shower just to wash it away and be normal? Or was it more clinical for you—just a day at the office? And, once you wrote, how did those closest to you react?

I can tell you I killed a character my wife was very fond of (the character was actually based in part on her). She’s been hot with me for a while, even said I have to add a new strong female lead to fill the gap. I laugh about it now but I cried about it when I did it. I liked her. And that why she had to go.

Terra: Writing is sort of a form of therapy for me. I have all these plots, scenarios, and characters running around in my head – I don’t know how they get there, they have nothing to do with my life, but they would absolutely drive me crazy if I didn’t get a chance to hash everything out on my keyboard.

I do have tough stuff in my books; and friends and family react differently. All are supportive of course, and all have their preferences. My mother-in-law helps me edit – she likes to cross out all the sex scenes. My husband tries to get through my stuff, but fantasy just isn’t his thing. My Catholic grandma calls my books page-turners and when I call her she’s like, “Why are you on the phone? You need to be writing. I have to know what happens next!”

Christopher: My grandmother’s the same way—best advice she ever gave me was “Be good. If you can’t be good, be careful. And if you can’t be careful, name it after me.

So, what’s next for you? New series? Are you staying in the same genre?

Terra: Yep, new series. Mermaids and werewolves! Though I have been experimenting a little with Sci-Fi (short stories and such), so we’ll see where that leads.  How about you?

Christopher: The plan is to finish the Heaven Falls Series before jumping into something else. That’s the plan, mind you. I’m in the middle of the second book right now and it’s going along so swimmingly that I consider a new project daily. Still I’d like to say I finished it and I’d like my readers to have the complete story before I move onto something else. I think I’d be mad if, instead of telling me if Darth Vader was really Luke’s dad, George Lucas did Red Tails.

After Heaven Falls, I have a number of ideas and series that I’m considering. And I’m sure I’ll switch genres—my goal is to be like Ray Bradbury and write some of everything before it’s all over.

Terra: That about wraps it up! Thanks so much for doing this with me, Christopher. It was by far one of the most fun interviews I have done to date. Let’s stay in touch and good luck with everything!

Christopher: This has been remarkably amazing and refreshing to me! Writing is such a solitary endeavor, It’s always good to know you’re not entirely crazy as a writer. That what we do and go through is a bit more commonplace. That helps. In spite of the myriad voices in my head, they all generally arrive at the same sort of consensus. My overall world view doesn’t change. it’s cool to see things from someone else’s point of view. Thanks so much for letting me peek in your head.

 

“Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?”–Thomas Daggett, The Prophecy (1995)

Michael the Warrior.  Lucifer the Fallen.

Gabriel the Watcher.  Raphael the Healer.

For eons, these princes of Heaven have done the Father’s will, His way.  From the war between the angels to the second coming of Christ, the Heaven Falls series is their stories in their words.

From the Beginning.  Until the End.

The Road to Hell: The Book of Lucifer by Christopher Starr

Between the Covers…continued!

This is part 3 of an ongoing dialogue with Christopher Starr and myself. Catch part 1 here, and part 2 on Christopher’s blog here.

 

Christopher: Here’s my other question for you: you’re a mother, a wife, a professional and somewhere in there, a writer. How do you balance all the demands on your time?

 

Terra: And that is the big question, isn’t it? Lots of people want to write a book. A few less eventually start a book. Significantly less finish a book – and very few people keep on writing after their first book. There are lots of excuses to stop writing; discouragement, health issues, work, kids….life. I try to look at it as little pieces at a time. Baby steps. Not to get all self-help on you here, but baby steps really do work. My consistent goal is 1,000 words a day. This comes out to about two pages, depending on how much dialogue there is. It is very manageable. My secret to making sure it gets done is doing it in the morning. I wake up by 5 am, and do it before anything else. Ok, I’m lying. I hit the bathroom and have coffee first. But THEN I do it before anything else.

I won’t even open e-mail, check twitter, or look at news or weather first. I ignore the mess in the kitchen. The dogs have to wait to be let out. I work until the kids wake up (anywhere between 7 and 8). If I hit 1,000 words and can keep going, I do. If I don’t hit 1,000 words I make it a priority to make that mark at another point in the day; even if it isn’t until 11:00 at night. It has turned out to be a good, sustainable habit. Most of the rest of my day is spent at my day job and soccer games or swim lessons for the kids. If I have extra time that is when I’ll do the marketing for my book. But writing always takes priority over marketing, at least until my first series is finished.

Christopher: 5am? Man…I’m having a passionate love affair with my snooze button at 5am. Curiously, given that I’m a night owl and you’re up at the crack of ass in the morning, and that I live in Seattle, I think we’re actually both up writing at the same time. And that, my friend, is synergy!

So for me balance is really about choices. I work at home so my big thing is getting outside at all. When my kids are in school, they get my time from when they come home until they go to bed. My wife does too. So does Game of Thrones. 1000-1500 words a day is pretty good but it’s not always on a book. I’ve learned a lot this year about the value of blogging and maintaining a consistent relationship between my blog stuff and my readers. I’ve been doing a series on villains for the last 6 months and that has really helped me improve readership and make relationships with readers. And provide focus. That gets me writing on a regular basis.

I tend to write in the evenings (well, at night) and am willing to sacrifice being sleepy in the morning for progress at night. But when I’m writing the books, I’m all in. They really do take over and I struggle to turn it off to focus on the rest of my life. This is my long-winded way of saying I have pseudo-balance. The image of balance. I’m still working on the reality.

Terra: That is funny, we probably are up at the same time. I tried writing at night for a month, but I kept falling asleep and my laptop took several falls to the floor. In the interest of saving my stories, I bought an external hard drive for back up, and I started writing in the morning.

I absolutely love Game of Thrones! Haven’t read the series, but can’t wait for Season 3 to come out. I’ve been told the TV series follows the books pretty closely, so I may just have to pick up a book instead of waiting until next spring.

Christopher: I haven’t read the series either but I did buy the first book to see if the fuss was worth it. I’m about halfway through it now. The fuss is worth it: it’s amazing. And the TV series does follow the nooks exceptionally well. Gotta give George RR Martin his credit: homeboy can spin a tale.

 

 

Thanks for hanging with us and check back in with Christopher next week to see the next installment!

Between the Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

One great benefit to being an indie author is other indie authors. In general, the community is very open and friendly. During the Orangeberry Summer Splash Blog Hop, I crossed paths with Christopher Starr, author of ‘Road to Hell‘. He was kind enough to post his review of my book on his blog, then he started asking questions. I answered, then sent a few questions of my own. The exchange went on for more than a month and thus you have ‘Between the Covers’, a candid conversation in how writers write. Below is the first of five posts; be sure to follow Christopher’s blog to catch the next post later this week!

 

Terra: I wrote the first book not exactly planning on turning it into a series. Once it was complete, and especially after that cliffhanger, I kind of had to continue. I also never expected to enjoy writing so much. The first book was a work in progress for 10+ years, and went through many major revisions. The second book took only two months to write. The majority of the third was written in a month (thanks to NaNoWriMo), and I am now writing the fourth and final book of the series. So far, no breaks in between. How about you?

Christopher: It’s funny, our experience is surprisingly similar. It took me over 7 years to write The Road to Hell. And it went through about 4-5 rewrites, a change in main character, a change in POV, about 150 new pages and some pretty merciless cutting. Writing it was more an “I wonder if I can” process than an exercise in series writing. I do have an advantage though: I know which angels are going to live and the Bible gives me some pretty rigid plot points. I’m lucky in that respect.

Terra: Wow – a POV change must have been rough! First novels are always hard. I feel like I wrote a book – and THEN I learned how to write.

Christopher: I know exactly what you mean about writing a novel and then learning to write. The biggest thing is the discipline for me. I like to think that I’m all creative and the inspiration will strike me at some time and I’ll create this magical treatise the world will unite behind.

But that shit doesn’t happen.

So I learned the disciplined portion of it and the value of the rewrite. Get it out. Put words on the page. Advance the story paragraph by excruciating paragraph. Eventually, my right brain takes over and kicks in, finding pieces of the story I didn’t know existed. I’m learning that’s part of the process too.

How do you manage continuity?

Terra: I am laughing out loud right now because I really don’t think there was good continuity. Even after the first and second book were published, I was going back and making changes in order to fit the storyline of the next books. I really like to come full circle, so to speak, in my books, and make sure there are no loose ends. So in writing the fourth and final book (which has been probably the most difficult to write), I am trying to tie everything up. This means revisiting issues that maybe weren’t mentioned since the first book. And you?

Christopher: Continuity is, for me, a bitch. I figure the first book is set in stone—I can’t modify that story at all. What I keep doing is going back to the original, making sure I maintain the events or words. I never wanted to be one of those “spreadsheet authors”—you know the ones who build character sheets and plots through spreadsheets—but I understand the value of it. I guess it beats flipping back into my old book to try and remember what I said or the color of someone’s eyes. I’m currently working on my spreadsheet…

 

 Please post questions of your own!  Christopher and I will both be available to answer them!