This blog is for all writers, published or not, that want to connect with other writers and who want to improve their craft.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Author Interview with Karen Wyle

1. Why do you write?
From early childhood, I considered myself a writer. I had a poem (not a very good one) published in the local paper when I was in 3rd grade. When I was ten years old, it was my ambition to be the youngest published author ever, and I was somewhat crestfallen to learn that a nine-year-old girl had claimed that honor. For the next ten years, I tried to find the right form for my writing: novels? poetry? short stories? Nothing seemed right, and I gave up for a long time.
When I started having children in my mid-thirties, I also started writing picture book manuscripts. My older daughter is a gifted artist; when she was eight or so, she would do drawings and I would write silly poems to accompany them. Ten years later, she took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) for the first time. Her second year in NaNo, I joined her – and produced the rough draft of my first novel, Twin-Bred.
I love to imagine characters and situations, and to find out from my characters what they will do with the situations. I love the art and craft of working with words. And I am glad to keep faith, finally, with that ten-year-old girl I used to be.

2. How many books have you written?
I’ve published one novel, Twin-Bred. I am editing rough drafts of two others, one (general fiction) tentatively titled Reflections, and a still-unnamed sequel to Twin-Bred. I’ve self-published one science fiction story, “The Baby.” Finally, I have a small pile of picture book manuscripts, four of which an agent is shopping around.

3. What inspired you to write your (latest) book?
I’ll answer about Twin-Bred, as it’s my latest published book and the one whose origin I remember most clearly.
When I decided – at the end of October 2010 -- to take part in NaNoWriMo that November, I needed a story to tell. As I sat down to come up with some book ideas, science fiction kept happening. At about the same time, I read an article about amazing interactions between twins in utero, captured on video. The researchers had found synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either the article or a comment on the article mentioned the traumatic, often devastating, impact on those whose twin -- identical or fraternal -- had died in utero or shortly after birth.
Straining this information through the science fiction filter in my mind, I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin. It would add emotional depth to the story if she were a twin survivor. And for added strangeness and interest, what if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story . . . ?
I have always been fascinated by communication issues and the struggle to understand what is different. I also find myself returning constantly to the themes of family relationships, unintended consequences, and unfinished business. All these threads wove together to form the story of Twin-Bred.

4. What is your favorite genre to read?
It’d be either science fiction or historical fiction. (I am not good at picking a single favorite in any category.)

5. Is your writing style at all influenced by those of your favorite authors?
Probably. I would imagine that my “voice” is the product of many years of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, though I hope not fatally tainted, by my years as an appellate attorney, writing persuasive prose.

6. Which is your favorite book that you’ve written?
Here we go with the “favorite” question again! J . . . . This is hard to answer when two of my three novels are still in the editing stage. I believe that the sequel to Twin-Bred may turn out to be the best crafted of the three.

7. What is your opinion of the art of writing?
I view writing as an art and a craft. The artistic side is more mysterious, taking place at a largely subconscious level. Stephen King’s observation, that an author’s role is akin to that of a paleontologist uncovering a fossil, comes to mind. But a paleontologist has to figure out which bone goes where – and a writer has to arrange the elements of a story. . . .

8. What advice would you give someone who is just beginning their own novel?
• Keep pen and paper, or some other means of taking notes, with you at all times. Don't assume you'll remember your great idea five minutes from now -- write it down immediately! Get or jury-rig a lighted note pad for your bedside table. (A clip-on book light attached to a cheap note pad will work.) If you get ideas in the shower, mutter them over and over to yourself until you reach dry land.

• Become compulsive about multiple backups of your idea notes, works in progress, rough drafts, subsequent drafts, etc. Use "the cloud" (Web-based storage), e.g., Dropbox or Evernote. (I use Dropbox. Once it's running on your computer, it will back up a document stored in your Dropbox folder every time you save. But check periodically to make sure it's still running!) Email attachments to yourself (and then check whether your email host is periodically deleting them). Put files on a separate hard drive and on flash drives.

• This one is YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). That said, I and many other authors find it essential to keep the inner editor gagged and stuffed in a closet when we're working on a rough draft. Don't be afraid to leave blanks or bracketed notes as you go. (My second-to-latest rough draft had one that read "[insert appropriate South American country here].") National Novel Writing Month, in which participants aim to write a novel of at least 50,000 words within the month of November, is a great way to accomplish this. There'll be time enough later for lots and lots of rewriting.

• A related point: find the process that works for you. Some authors outline in detail. Others find too specific an outline stifling, and work from less organized notes of possible scenes, or with no notes at all. Some have a fixed time of day for writing, and allow nothing to disrupt it; others flit back and forth all day between writing and other tasks. Some use computers; some still write longhand, and a few swear by typewriters.

• Think seriously about self-publishing. There's a wealth of info and support out there for indie authors. Conversely, this is a risky time to sign a contract with an agent or publisher. Because of the uncertain and fast-changing conditions in the publishing industry, many agents and publishers are inserting "rights grabs" and other clauses in their contracts that could cripple an author's career. Some of the worst language may be hidden in unexpected places like "warranty" clauses. If you do sign with an agent or publisher, try to find a way to pay a good IP attorney to go through the contract with a microscope. Don't let the allure of "having an agent" or "being published" lead you to grab at an offer of representation or publication without vetting it thoroughly.

9. Do you have any funny and / or interesting stories about how you’ve come up with plots or characters?
See above re where the plot of Twin-Bred came from.
I’ve taken traits from my daughters and given them to characters in Twin-Bred. Mara is an artist and draws cartoons, like my older daughter. Melly has a strong personality from young childhood onward, and is interested in theater – like my younger daughter.

10. Coke or Pepsi?
Rarely either. But I respect Coke’s unique taste and many possible uses (e.g. removing rust).

You can visit Karen's website, like her book on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, find her book on Amazon (for both Kindle and paperback), and find out more on her blog.

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