Today's TAG! features the lovely, Terri Bruce. She's full of AWESOME and such a wonderful woman. Terri's first novel, HEREAFTER, will be published on August 1, 2012 from Eternal Press. She's the brain behind the Blog Ring of Power, find their author interviews here. She blogs at her site, Tweets, is on Facebook(Friend)('Like'), and Goodreads.
1. When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was in grade school. We had these competitions where we wrote stories and then turned them into books, completed with covers made of cardboard covered with wallpaper. The best one from the school went to a district competition, the district winner went to regionals, regional winners went to state, etc. The one wrote in fifth grade was the regional winner and from then I had the bug. In high school I wrote serialized novels by the dozens. But I never considered writing as a career, because everyone told me I couldn’t make any money. In college I wrote fan-fiction. Then one night in 2001 I came home from work, sat down at the computer, and started writing what eventually became the novel SAY IT THREE TIMES. I worked on that novel off and on for several years and somewhere in there the desire to “real” writer and to be published took root. I joined a local writing group in 2005 and have been working steadily toward publication ever since then.
2. What made you want to write?
All the usual reasons—the stories in my head were so much more exciting than anything happening in the “real world” and to pacify the voices in my head.
3. When did you decide you wanted to write to be published? (As opposed to writing just to write)
I’ve always wanted to write to be read—the whole point of a story is to be read, to be shared, to be enjoyed by others (otherwise, why go through the work of writing it down? If it was just for myself, I could just keep it in my head). The urge to be a “real” author grew and grew, though, until I joined a writing group in 2005 to find out if I had any talent—friends and family had told me I was a great writer, I had anonymous fans on the internet for my fan-fiction, but did I have what it took to write a novel that would sell? I joined the writing group and found out I had some rough talent, but also had a lot to learn. In 2010 I tried to get SAY IT THREE TIMES published, but quickly found out that it was too different, too strange for the commercial market. I kept writing and then set out to get published in earnest with my second novel, HEREAFTER, which was much more commercial/mainstream.
4. What genre(s) do you write?
Good question, when someone figures that out I will let you know! I’m not a genre writer; my stories tend to be cross-genre/not easily categorized. Mainly I write stories about what makes people tick. I find human beings totally fascinating.
5. Why that(those) genre(s)?
I’ve written adventure, sci-fi/future noir, fantasy, women’s literature, chick lit, youth adult, you name it. And the reason each story was in the genre it was in was because that happened to be the framework that was the best vehicle for the story. I never pick a genre, I just write the story and then someone sticks a label on it afterwards.
6. Do you have any particular ritual when you write? (A specific way things are done during the process)
No, not really. But as I become more experienced, I am getting at better at creating a routine. Weekdays I write story chunks—just whatever scenes are in my head—and on Sundays I integrate the chunks into the manuscript/story and do the smoothing between scenes as well as editing of what I’ve already written.
7. Do you use an outline, or do you just start writing?
Both. When I start a new story I just start writing. Once I get about a third to halfway in, I generally know what the entire story is going to be (which I don’t know when I start) and I usually outline it at that point, right in the body of the manuscript. I sort of create placeholders for the remaining scenes, to be filled in later. It’s the only way I can keep up with the flood of ideas that usually comes at that point.
8. Is there something you MUST have when you're writing? (Aside from the typical writer tools-computer, pen, paper, etc)
I write better without shoes on (barefoot is absolutely best) and I generally listen to music. I need the background noise to occupy the part of my brain that isn’t involved in writing, otherwise it starts day dreaming and pulls the writing brain with it.
9. Do you write out your story on paper and then transfer to a computer, or straight to the computer?
Both. I mostly write at the computer. But I get a lot of ideas in the shower, while driving, right before I fall asleep or just as I’m waking up, so I keep notebooks. I jot down ideas in the notebooks—and this can be a general thematic sentence, just as a note to myself, or it can be pages and pages of a scene—and then I transfer that to the computer next time I’m in front of it.
10. How many books/short stories have you written? (Published or not, even those you wrote and then thought-what the hell?)
I can’t even count! I’ve been writing since I was ten and I’m thirty-eight now and I’m ALWAYS writing. But I’ve kept very little of what I’ve written over the years, which I really regret.
11. Is there, or has there been, anyone in your life (real or online) who thought you being a writer is/was just another hobby? Or that you are/were wasting your time as a writer?
No, just the opposite. Everyone has always told me I should be a writer, though many people discouraged me from focusing on that as a career because they didn’t think I’d make any money at it.
12. Do you do Social Media sites? If so, which ones? If not, why don't you?
I’m on Facebook, Agent Query Connect, and Goodreads. I try to limit my social media—I’m not that interesting and I’m mostly a private person.
13. Any advice for writers that makes you cringe every time you hear it? (I know there is some cringe-worthy advice still worth following, so only advice you don't follow.)
Write what you know. If that was true, there wouldn’t be any fantasy, science fiction, or horror stories! Write what fascinates you, moves you, or entertains you—that’s better advice.
14. I hear that Chick Lit is hard to sell, why do you think that is? Or do you disagree with this view?
I’ve never tried to sell a Chick Lit story, so I don’t have an answer for this (the first novel I tried to get published is sci-fi/future noir and the second one is contemporary fantasy (or possibly fantasy lit)/paranormal.
15. What are your Sci-Fi and Fantasy worlds like? (What makes them those genres, basically)
I tend to write about our world, with a slight twist. My sci-fi novel, SAY IT THREE TIMES, is set just slightly in the future, when we have developed the ability to switch bodies with other people. My fantasy novel, HEREAFTER, is set in the contemporary world and is about the afterlife—life on Earth as a ghost. I’m fascinated by people, in general, and also by themes of magic and wonder in the ordinary world. I love stories like Neverwhere and Harry Potter that are about a whole different or hidden side to the ordinary world, and that’s what I tend to focus on in my stories.
16. Are there any genres that you will not read?
I don’t tend to judge books based on genre, though there are a few genres I do prefer (as a reader) – romance (especially historical romance), Young Adult fantasy, Asian Fiction (which I think is a category I totally made up, but, basically, books like those by Lisa See and Amy Tan), and genre-crossing adult fantasy (like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett). I have a hard time reading mysteries – I’m too impatient and tend to skip to the end. :)
17. What makes/breaks a book for you?
This can vary by genre. In a romance novel I want it to move quickly, I want it light-hearted, I don’t want a lot of moping of self-pity, and I want the obstacles separating the MCs to be believable. In a fantasy story I look for engaging characters and a fun, imaginative world. In serious fiction I look for beautiful prose and captivating reflections of the human condition. If a serious fiction book makes me cry it’s a keeper!
I tend to be a patient reader—meaning I give an author many chances to hook me. When browsing for a book I flip it open to a random page somewhere in the middle and read. If the story hooks me, I buy it. When I start reading, even if the beginning doesn’t capture me, I’ll know that it’s building to something good and I’ll keep going. There are very few books I never finish, but I can tell you that more and more I see poor editing (typos, grammar, poor writing craft) coming out of the traditional publishing houses and it’s very frustrating as a reader; it always throws me out of the story. It’s especially frustrating because it’s an editing problem, not an authorial problem, per se, but the author takes the hit for it.
18. Which way are you planning to go with publishing-the Traditional, Indie, or Self-published route? Why?
I have an offer from a small press/independent publisher. I think small presses offer the best of everything and am THRILLED to be picked up by one—they offer the production support (editing, lay out, cover design), marketing support, and industry knowledge of a traditional publisher and the authorial control/input (to a greater extent than a traditional publisher), better royalty structure, and interest in non-traditional/unique stories of the self-publishing world. To this mix they then add a love and passion and commitment to what they do that leads to high quality and beautiful products and more individualized attention for their authors. I would definitely encourage more writers to consider small presses and more readers to support the work of small presses (shop indie press!).
19. What do you do when you aren't writing?
Work. Lots and lots of work (I’m a grant writer for a non-profit). And general life stuff—I cook, I crochet, I garden, etc.
20. Any words of wisdom for anyone who is thinking of becoming a writer, or just something you think all writers should know?
I couldn’t presume to add to the already great body of advice that is out there. Except maybe “pay attention to the advice that is out there” and the advice people give you. Especially the advice that makes you chafe, because that’s usually the true stuff we don’t want to hear.