In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you right up front that this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday interviewee is one of my favorite people in the world, in addition to being the book “dealer” I go to when I need a hit of awesome. Chandra Rooney is the author of The Tarot Cafe: The Wild Hunt and all sorts of lovely things at her blog Dreaming In Red.
For this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday, I interviewed Beth Wodzinski, who in addition to being a writer in her own right is the editor of speculative-fiction magazine Shimmer.
For this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday, I interviewed speculative-fiction author and screenwriter Nancy M. Griffis.
Today’s interviewee is writer/poet Rachel V. Olivier, whose most recent work, the apocalyptic romance Needs Must When The Devil Drives, is available from Sam’s Dot Publishing.
1. What/who inspired you to become a writer?
When I was a kid I was a big reader of the Little House on the Prairie books as well as the Little Women books. I loved Laura Ingalls and Jo March, the characters. They wanted to be writers. And they were the “face” of the authors of those books as Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. I loved them. They were independent, they made mistakes, they said the wrong things, and sometimes did the wrong things, but they were funny and good and they wrote stories. I was nine years old and that’s when I decided I wanted to be an author when I grew up. After that, it was just figuring out what to write and what “being” a writer meant. I read lots of books, learning about the authors of my favorite books, like L.M. Montgomery, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I also read lots of plays I remember finding in a back corner of the library. I don’t know why, but I was fascinated with plays and wanted to direct them in our backyard – maybe it was the Jo March thing. Anyway, I loved reading how the plays would set up the stage direction and the dialogue and figuring out how you would do that. That was all grade school. And sometimes the dream to become a writer would be shoved to the back while I considered being a nurse/doctor/missionary/architect/violinist – etc., but it always came back.
2. What do you like most about the genre[s] you write in?
I’ve always been a colorful magpie kind of person. I used to want one of those groovy rainbow-on-a-bright-blue-background bedspreads. I love signing my books and things with either silver or gold felt marker pens. I like sparkly crystals. I loved being in China, and going to a Chinatown in San Francisco, or here in Los Angeles, and seeing all the red and gold and black shoved together. I loved that. I love deep blue, turquoise, orange and yellow and green and purple and… I used to paint, though I haven’t in a long time. Not pictures, all the time. Sometimes I just put colors together on a canvas to see what would happen. Sometimes a picture would grow out of that, sometimes it wouldn’t. That’s what writing in the realm of speculative fiction does for me. To me, realist, contemporary literature is like working with charcoal on cream paper, there’s strength in it, but it’s not my strength. It’s interesting and a good mental exercise. I love black and white artistic photos, just as I love some contemporary or regular literature, but it’s not my strength.
And I get really impatient when people try to impose the “discipline” of “literachure” on my fun rainbow colored genre. I hate it when “they” (whoever they may be – sometimes people outside the genre, but many times people inside the genre, which is surprising to me) try to suppress the colors and life and joy in science fiction and fantasy. I feel like they’re trying to get rid of the merry-go-round and swings on the playground and only keep the bars because they’re “good” for you. Or trying to take my five dimensional world and make it flat and two dimensional.
3. What’s the best piece of writing-related advice you’ve received?
Doesn’t matter how much you talk about it, the writing won’t get done until you sit your ass in the chair and actually do the writing, do the work. That’s pretty much paraphrased from something I read on Neil Gaiman’s blog a while ago. I also remember seeing Vicki Petterssen saying something similar on Facebook. And it’s a truth I keep coming back to, I can do all the “pre-writing” in my head that I want, but it doesn’t count unless I actually sit down and put it on a page somewhere. And then, I need to keep at it – write, rewrite and revise until I’m tired of looking at it. Let it sit and revise some more. And then put it out there in the world to see what happens.
4. Is there any type of writing you’d like to try that you haven’t already?
I want to write murder mysteries. I love reading murder mysteries, but I’m weak at that type of plot structure, so I haven’t attempted it, yet. Though I have several outlines in a folder somewhere of ideas I’ve had. And I’d like to do hard science fiction, but those will come later I think.
5. You write poetry, which is a skill I have never learned and greatly envy! What inspires you to write poems, and does your process differ from your prose-writing process?
To me, writing poetry is like making liqueur or essential oils or espresso. It’s a distillation and refining process. There’s a feeling or some ephemeral something that I want to hang onto, to capture for a moment and try to describe and it wants to be it’s own discrete thing. Sometimes it’s a longer bit and sometimes it’s a shorter bit. But it’s usually just this thing, it’s ineffable, I can’t describe it, that I want to capture and describe or explore. It could be how the contrasting colors on a building with a splash of shadows in the autumn morning look or make me feel or think. It could be the turn my brain takes whilst people watching at a bus stop. Or I’m trying to process some experience I am going through or have been through, and trying to explore it. And like any craft distillation process, it takes time. You might jot down a few lines and let them sit for while and brew before you come back to it and work on it later. One poet friend of mine told me once that one of the ancient poets said it takes a decade to write a proper poem. I know that’s not always true, but I do know that for me that’s sometimes true. I have some poems that I worked on for years before I felt they were finished. And I have other poems that were finished much sooner.
Writing prose has some of that, but there’s more of a logical process in writing prose, with fiction or nonfiction (unless you’re writing one of those long epic poems that’s going to end up being a story – then it’s about the same). In prose, you might want to describe a certain feeling or process, but writing it out in magical words is just part of the process. If you’re writing a story, then you have a beginning, a middle and an end. You have characters who need to grow from the opening of the story to the end. You need to make sure the plot works and the mechanics of the storyline and action work.
I guess you could say that poetry is like spending time in your kitchen making rosewater or mead or some magical potion. You have ingredients put in just right. You take the time to make it brew. You have the pretty bottles and labels all lined up and ready to be filled. Writing prose, especially fiction, is more like making a holiday family dinner for 10. So, you might spend some time making sure you make things pretty and just right, but mostly you’re just chopping vegetables, checking on meat, doing dishes and wanting to make sure that everything is cooked and makes it to the table at about the same time so everyone can enjoy the meal.
You can read more about Rachel and her works here at Putt Putt Productions.
Welcome to this week’s Woman Writer Wednesday, my new feature where I profile, review or interview women whose words I’d like to bring to your attention. For today’s post, I interviewed romance/humor/space-opera writer Lucy Woodhull, whose Ragnar and Juliet II: Concubine Boogaloo and original recipe Ragnar and Juliet are available for sale at Amazon, AllRomance.com and Liquid Silver Books.
Welcome to a new feature here at ye olde blogge. In the spirit of Throwing Down the Rope, or at least reaching out a hand from the next rope over, I bring you Woman Writer Wednesday, where I profile, review or interview women whose words I’d like to bring to your attention. For today’s post, I interviewed playwright, speculative-fiction author and anthology editor Rachel Lynn Brody.
We writers hear the word “No” a lot. Sure, sometimes it’s dressed up in fancy clothes, like “They decided to go in another direction” or “The position has been filled” or “I’m sorry, we’re all out of Venti cups”… but it’s always there. And, as writers, we’re expected to accept it. But we’re not often expected to say it. In fact, we’re expected to be agreeable almost to a fault. Say yes to everything: Yes to working on spec. Yes to unpaid revisions. Yes to even the most boneheaded of notes (while screaming inside our own heads that the note-giver wouldn’t know a good story if it bit them on the ass). Be “good in a room”. Pitch solutions, not problems. Chin up, try again, pay your dues. And most of the time, that’s all right. Better than all right — it’s necessary. The collaborative spirit, and being easy to work with, is essential for creating art by committee… or at least for not starting a brawl in the room. None of us really wants to have that on our rap sheet (or on the front page of Deadline). Choosing your battles is important. But what happens when you choose the road less travelled?
Note that I’m not advocating a Network– (or Newsroom-) style rant, nor any other bridge-incinerating behavior. What I’m talking about is checking in with yourself and being honest about what you want – what’s best for you as a person and as a professional.
I’ve been a professional script reader ever since I moved to LA, even during the years of Ye Olde Corporate Dayjob. Saying “No” isn’t just a right, it’s a responsibility. But passing on sub-par scripts and saying no to an opportunity are completely different things. We’re all looking for a break, no matter where we are in our careers, and it’s one of the peculiarities of this business that there’s no set path to get to where we’re going. And it’s tempting to say yes to everything in case it’s the one thing that will make the difference. But I believe there’s a place for a well-considered “No”, especially when choosing who to listen to. Consider the source: where is the person offering notes or advice coming from? Are they considering your priorities or their own? How similar are their priorities to yours? Can they speak with authority on whatever the subject at hand happens to be? When we’re just starting out, it’s easy to get bogged down in a thousand different contradictory messages, or to latch onto the first opportunity that comes our way, and it’s worth examining our short-term needs and long-term goals before jumping in with both feet or taking one person’s advice as gospel.
Not having a single clear-cut path to success can be terrifying, but it can also be liberating. We get to make our own way, and after all, aren’t our instincts – or, in terms of writing, our point of view or “voice” – what we hope to be hired for? This isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry, so choose your advisors and your battles wisely, and always remember that while being open and flexible is vital, you are the ultimate authority on your own work and your own career. You always have a choice, and sometimes it’s okay to say no. Like they say about the numerous passes most of us face… every no is just one step closer to yes.