What does writing giveth you and what does writing taketh away?
Writing has given me some of my best friends, some serious truths, and keeps the world in focus. I call it my Writing Goggles. It drives the husband to drink, but I'm constantly looking around when we're out, studying people, eavesdropping, pointing out funny situations. I was recently out in a bar hanging with the bartender and his dad, who owned the bar, and all the people from the little town. I walked out with the whole plot and characters for my next book.
On the other hand, writing is the biggest time suck I know. People say the Internet is, but for me it's the actual writing. I can work for like four hours and get two fucking pages done. Annoying.
What characteristics do you share with your characters and their lives?
As I grow as a writer, my characters are getting uglier and uglier inside. Readers who know me sometimes have trouble justifying my writing with me. The thing I we share is how the expectations their worlds lay on them reflects my world. I tend to identify with my characters more when they're frustrated and stumbling without direction, because that's my life as a parent. My story problems are on some level a metaphor for parenthood.
What was your hardest story to write and why? Give us the rundown.
It always seems to be the one I'm working on right now. THE SILVER SCAR will take me two years or more to complete and has required a lot of research. I also tackled a love story, not my forte! But then SENTINEL, my first book, has taken 6 years. I mean, I just reread it again not long ago and I still tweaked a couple of things and rewrote a whole scene! Not sold yet but I still believe in the book; I'm still sending it out. Short story wise, I think the first story I sold, Prey for Change, was a bitch to get right. It has a lot of irony in it that was tough to get a handle on.
What's the easiest story? What's it about?
For pure writing? Hands down, "To Stop A War." It's about a 16 year old sniper in a futuristic US civil war who decides to stop the war by killing the general of the opposing army. I was on prescription cold medication at the time and the story just poured out of me. I drafted it in one sitting. It's been short-listed at a number of pro venues and gotten honorable mention with Writers of the Future, but it hasn't been picked up. I've been told by editors that the blatant violence and the harsh social statement scares them.
But easiest draft to sale? A couple: my forthcoming novella and "Living on the Blood of Others." Both sold to the first market that read them. There's something to be said for writing FOR a market.
Tell me about your writing community or "tribe."
I have a critique group called The Inklings (after that famous group at Oxford), some of whom share editing duties at Electric Spec. Wonderful writers, all. They pretty well hand me my ass on a bi-weekly basis. I also have a wonderful beta named Stuart Neville. We hit it off on a lot of levels, from friendship to writing. He's scary good.
My circle expands out to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. It's just a great organization, welcoming and encouraging and educational. I serve as their Vice President and general go-to-party-girl. Wider still, I attend other regional conferences and MileHiCon. It's just all so fun. I'm a teacher by training, so giving back to writers is in my nature. God that sounds sycophantic. I guess it's more a pay-it-forward mindset. And my widest circle is on the Internet, where I "know" agents, writers, and readers who claim to be my fans, which freaks me out a lot! Everyone I know is just brilliantly kind. Writers restore my faith in humanity on a daily basis.
What sucks worst about the business of writing?
Um, rejections? The lack of a flush bank account? Actually, I think what sucks worst comes from outside the industry, the idea that every single person on the planet thinks they have a book inside them. That may be, but is it a good book? I feel it somehow degrades their opinion of our profession. Every writer I knows works damned hard, but it's one of the arts. Sigh. Artists rarely get the respect or money they deserve.
What's the scariest thing you ever wrote, maybe something that touched you in places best left untouched?
I'm estranged from my dad and it's a theme that hit me over and over. My next book is going to have a fabulous father/son relationship. That'll probably be the only decent relationship in the whole book. And it'll give me something to take away from the characters.
What have you realized about yourself through writing?
How dual-gendered I am in my approach to life, and how uncomfortable that can make the people around me. Most of my protagonists are male and I think it's a distinct effort to live that side of my personality vicariously through them. Sexism is alive and well in the world, and it pisses me off. Also "shortism", but that's for another day.
What is your career going to look like in five years? Ten?
Books in airports. That's my goal. I want to be famous. There, I said it. Seriously, I want to be a household name. Not likely as a writer, but there you are. Shoot for the stars, baby!
What writers influence you?
Oddly enough, I find more influence in music. U2's latest album has had a profound effect on my current book, as well as All American Reject's latest album and their performance in Denver this summer. The Killers intrigue the hell out of me; I hear something different in their songs every time I listen to them. Billie Jo from Green Day is an incredible storyteller. Sum 41's albums are like odd little short story collections. Every song is a story. I see a lot of live music, so I like to watch performers and see how I can apply that to my self-promotion. Music has promotion down pat; publishing, not so much.
Writers, though: Contributors to Electric Spec. Stuart Neville, who I mentioned. Carol Berg. I'd never emulate her style, but how can anyone keep you hanging on for so many words in a row is beyond me. She's a wonderful lady, too. Charlie Huston--I love everything he writes. His plots are one train wreck after another. Gaiman, of course. I doubt I'd try for the fairy tale, omniscient voice either (never say never) but he strikes a chord. George RR Martin. A short story author named Paulo Bagigalupi. He writes brilliant futuristic SF. We were on a panel together last year at MileHiCon and I was so out of my league. Just a smart, smart man. And I read a lot of online magazines like Thuglit and Fantasy and Reflection's Edge.
What are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about it?
I'm in the final throes of THE SILVER SCAR. It's a futuristic thriller set in Boulder County. When a Witch and a Christian soldier inadvertently set off the Apocalypse, they have to battle an Episcopal Bishop rabid for crusade, slave traders, militant survivalists, eco-terrorists, mind-altering drugs, and, of course, the Four Horsemen. Oh, and it's a gay love story, too.
When this draft is done, I'm going to cleanse the palette with a prequel to "Kenna's Song," which appeared in Big Pulp. It's untitled, but I like the first line. "When I started investigating the murders of vampires in Denver, I never would have guessed that the killer was me."
OKAY GUYS!! NOW YOU ALL PLAY! I wanna know your answers to these questions.