Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Heather's Song by Andy McKee.
Okay Shannon, okay! You got your way you evil evil thing. I haven't been putting this off (not... really), but I make good on my promises, so now you get to know every dirty little secret about me. Seriously, I don't think an official author interview can get any worse than this. And like I promised, you get to see not one, but TWO pieces of my writing. But I figured I had to put this in here today, because now it will be buried under not one but two tabs, so you'll have an extra hard time finding it again. So no resolutions for me! It's dirty little secret time.
1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
The last thing I wrote? Other than "the last thing I wrote"? I'm kidding. Actually, it is very exciting. I wrote the crucial scene in my head, the "turn" of my story. This is one of the first scenes I saw when I first imagined this story and I have finally connected it up to everything else. It was truly a beautiful moment, one I have been waiting a long time for. This book (and that scene) has been three years in coming. Three years of staying in my head, mulling over and pushing for more attention. It's been in my head so long and now it is finally on paper! Sure it's not over yet (but oh so close). There's a lot of kinks to work out, plot holes to plaster, characters to massacre, but that is all part of the editing fun.
The first thing I wrote that I still have is a collection of poems from elementary school. We were only required to do like ten, but I did a bunch extra because I liked it so much. That was my first hint I wanted to be a writer. I even decorated the cover with baby animals, because what is more adorable than baby animals? I still have them, and no, I'm not showing them to you. Not without a lot of coercion.
2. Write poetry?
Actually... yes. I'm surprised how few have answered this question this way. I am in love with words; how they taste and move on my tongue, the thousand subtleties they can mean. It's extraordinary. I never dabbled in it until much later in life (I wasn't one of those child prodigies, heaven's no), but poetry is something that I love. There is a magic in controlling words like that and it is something I try and emulate in my writing.
3. Angsty poetry?
Goodness no. I don't think I have an angsty bone in my body. I could never do that genre justice.
4. Favorite genre of writing?
Not a genre perhaps, but a story. A story that strikes me to the core and won't leave me in peace. Those are the stories I have to write down. I have dozens in my head, and they all have to stand in line and take a proper turn (see question 1 for a perfect example). But since the vast majority of my reading flirts in YA, I guess you'd classify me as that. I guess I never quite grew up, but I never thought of that as a bad thing.
5. Most annoying character you've ever created?
Oh my goodness this question has been driving me insane. This is one that has stopped me in my tracks for a week. I have literally wracked my brain trying to think of an annoying character I've created. I couldn't think of one. Not one. I suppose that is because I try and make each of my characters complex and with that comes understanding, so once "annoying" characters become real people to me.
However, I do have one character I have that another character found completely and utterly unbearable. I wrote a retelling of Alice in Wonderland once for a present and in this version Alyce stumbles upon a girl whose imagination is completely unbound. You will know her as the Caterpillar. Here is a small excerpt:
"But you still haven't answered my question. Who are you, or... what are you?"
The girl stopped spinning and looked at her.
"I am whatever I want to be."
She said this so matter-of-factly that it could not be contradicted and it seemed to Alyce that it somehow should be that way with her as well. Alyce shook her head. She didn't know what to call her, so she decided to call her by what she had first seen her as.
"Oh don't call me that! It sounds so stuffy," she said.
"I'm sorry," Alyce apologized immediately, "what should I call you?"
"Oh anything," she said, her good humor back, "but just not 'caterpillar.' How about Cat? Or Lar? Or--"
"Pill?" Alyce muttered sardonically.
"Yes, I like that!" she said while Alyce rolled her eyes.
"Thank you..." Pill said, searching for a name, "oh yeah, you don't know who you are. Can I think of a name for you?"
"My name is Alyce, thank you very much," she said. This girl was insane.
"Okay fine, Alyce-thank-you-very-much. Is it alright if I just call you Alyce? The rest is just too long."
Thus enters my most "annoying" character. :)
6. Best plot you've ever created?
I would like to think all of them. They're like different flavors of ice cream. All different, but all completely delectable (if you do not know of my love affair with ice cream, please see my "secret identity revealed! post). Better yet, it is like comparing all of the flavors of ice cream with all the different types you can have these frozen delights: ice cream, smoothies, sundaes, malts, gelatos, frozen yogurt, frozen custard... Yum. So, all of the above.
7. Coolest plot twist you've ever created?
Like so many have said before me "If I told you, then I'd have to kill you." And besides, you don't really want to know, do you?
8. How often do you get writer's block?
Never. My "Writer's Block" doesn't come from a lack of ideas, but instead how to execute what I want. A lot of slogging is involved. Think mire with piggies and lots of mud. Not a pretty picture, but a necessary one. And it usually gets hewn down with my MIGHTY SCYTHE OF EDITING. Oh how I love the editing phase. *rubs hands together* Yes, I think a deep maniacal laughter is appropriate here - bwa ha ha ha!
9. Write fan fiction?
Actually... yes. And no. But not in the way you would think of it. I was writing my own stories LONG before touching fanfiction. Believe it or not I sometimes use it as a tool to hone my craft of writing. On occasion (privately) I try to mimic styles or catch the tone or setting of an already brilliantly established piece. Is anyone familiar with the Cirque du Soliel's KA? It is their only piece with a definitive story-line. It was incredible to watch, and so transportive. One time (and still occasionally) to better hone my skills as a writer I tried to write the story of KA in verse, like an epic poem ala The Odyssey. It helped there was no talking whatsoever, and the sheer scope of the story lent itself well to an epic poem format. I credit their work completely for the masterpiece they created and brought to life. I know it is utterly unpublishable, but not all of my writing is for that purpose. It is like practicing the piano. It helps make my own stories sharper, focused, and more fully realized.
Though I do have a piece I wrote for my twin as a birthday present on fanfiction.net. But you would have to be familiar with the anime Naruto before I would even dare think of spilling the beans on that one.
10. Do you type or write by hand?
Ideas go on anything I can get my hands on - napkins, backs of receipts, all over envelopes (my specialty). My writing goes in typed. Though I do want to try typing a first draft on a typewriter one day, for many reasons. Nostalgia, insta-hard copy and typing it into the computer automatically makes it a second draft. It's genius.
11. Do you save everything you write?
My preciouses, my precious! Of course. Like all us split-personalities out there, I have a hard time letting anything I create go. My first novel I wrote (when I was a wee 14-year-old) was on an ancient piece of junk that might once have been called a laptop (this thing had a floppy drive and nothing else, seriously. And it weighed as much as an ocean liner). Anyway, the power cord was lost and the batteries died. I had no way of accessing my once beloved story (it's utter rubbish, trust me. It hit every branch on the cliche tree coming down). That plus we had ditched most of our floppies to the faraway land of Land Fill. But I couldn't get over the fact that I couldn't access my first story. Grief, I tell you people, grief. Then one thing happened, lots of fairy dust and I had a thirty second window to get it off that heap of plastic and silicon. Like a super whizz spy, my mad fingers got a hold of it. And you know what? I still have a copy of that 40-page monstrosity to this day.
12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
I do. Sometimes only fragments, snatches of an idea. Often it is so transformed you wouldn't recognize the original idea it came from, but that's evolution for ya baby. Oftentimes, some characters will stick around. It is fun to watch and see how they change with time and circumstance. So, not often, but sometimes.
13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
Haha, you're too cruel. It's like judging between your kids coloring competitions. Not gonna happen. It's even worse because I love them for different reasons. It's not equatable. Think ice cream. Ice cream is the example for everything.
14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?
That's a toughie, because no one has read everything I've written, but I can certainly say the most popular thing I've ever written is a short story called "Cry of the Immortals." It's about books telling their own story. How do I know it is the most popular? Because it has thousands of downloads. The amazing BJ Harrison of The Classic Tales podcast chose it and turned it into an audio story. It's available to download, for free. Below is the link if you wish to take a listen. He is an amazing reader, almost beyond words. If you aren't subscribed to his free stories, I highly recommend it.
Cry of the Immortals by Heather Zundel
15. Ever written Romance or angsty teen drama?
I have romance in my stories, and there is turmoil. You'll have to decide if that qualifies. Maybe if I wrote a story where an emo teenage chicken falls in love with the road she has to cross...
16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Whatever is real for them. I know, seems like a cop-out, right? It's true though. I strive to make everything real so that you become lost in the world, those characters, everything. So one setting is the desert, another inside Asia, another based on the Scottish highlands. It is all about whatever is real for them.
17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Hew boy, can we skip to the next question? No? Darn. Um... one editing/submitting, one currently being written (and almost done!), and at least half a dozen pushing to be the next in line. It's a bottleneck and it's not pretty. And we won't even count the fragments wanting to become stories.
18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes and no. It was a scholarship though a significant one to me, and it was for that same short story above you, Cry of the Immortals. See? I told you it was the most popular.
19. What are your five favorite words?
This changes since I am a complete verbivore and lover of words, but some that I find particularly fun at this moment (this changed half a dozen times by the way):
But my all-time favorite word? Lullaby.
(and here is the coolest word website I found just today: Visuwords. You'll get lost in rapture).
20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?
All of them. There are pieces of me in each of them. It helps me to see through their eyes and have that personal connection to them until they break off and become their own person, and then I have a hard time as seeing them as anything else. There are a couple of characters that are not me in any way, but they are much harder to create. A lot of thinking is required to break that barrier to get inside their heads. There is no one character that is "me." They are all their own person, and I love it that way. But I can identify pieces me that are in them and that is incredible too.
21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?
From every place imaginable. It's how I live and I love it. All these pieces form to create characters and worlds, where characters become real. I'm trying to think of some joke to add onto this, but it is such a surreal, intoxicating experience that I can't. Refer to the emo chicken above for all your giggling pleasures.
22: Do you ever write based on your dreams?
No. This is because I don't remember my dreams. I don't know why, but I can go months between recalling dreams. I know I dream, they just tend to elude me. Or they are just plain boring. Like once, I watched myself (from different camera angles mind you) literally walk around a building over and over again, carrying a stack of papers. I kid you not. That was the entire dream, and the camera switches were the most exciting part. While dreaming, I remember being bored. Yep, that's the stuff the Pulitzer is made of, I'll tell you right there. You'd buy a million copies, right?
23. Do you favor happy endings?
As in "happily ever after"? No. Not at all. Someone else in this tag series said "I prefer happy beginnings because there are no endings. An ending is just another beginning." I feel much the same way. The story goes on, even if I leave off at a certain point. I don't believe in "bow-tie" endings where everything is resolved perfectly and everyone is happy. That is not how it is in real life and I want what I write to be as real as anything you know. But I do believe in hopeful endings. I put my characters through hell, and they come out better for it, even if everything is not as they wanted when they first started out.
24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Ha. I wish I was. I really do. My poor critique buddy is subjected to far worse than she deserves. She is patient and amazing. I am learning, I promise!
25. Does music help you write?
Music is my lifeblood. I don't think I could survive without it (do you see my Current Theme Songs up there? Today's I picked out special). This is no different in anything I write. Often music shapes my stories. I listen to songs like crazy before I start writing to capture the emotion and atmosphere of a story before I ever put a word to paper. And then I still listen to music. Sometimes I need utter silence, sometimes I listen to a single song over and over again to keep the mood consistent (usually during an intense scene, either a battle or "revelation" scene). I listen to everything. Often music without words or words I cannot understand (music from other languages is fantastic), music that makes me feel as my characters do, music they might listen to, everything. Music is a conduit, and I try to tap it as much as possible.
However, I will show you one of my absolute favorite songs. It is called "Lullaby" by Assemblage 23 (though no connection to my favorite word).
26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.
Okay. From a short story titled "Sentio" (meaning "Sight" in Latin). A piece I love and very few have seen.
“What kind of book is this?” she asked immediately. Again it sounded like she was speaking right next to me.
“What do you mean?” I asked, settling myself down on the ground next to a vibrant palm.
“Is this a biography?”
I nearly choked trying not to laugh. I leaned forward.
“Tom Sawyer? You’re kidding me. You think Tom Sawyer is biography?”
“What else could it be? But it only covers one summer of his entire life so I couldn’t help but wonder. . .”
“Haven’t you ever read a novel before?”
She leaned forward, her face so close to the glass that she was almost touching it.
“What is a ‘novel?’”
This time I did laugh, long and loud and hard. It felt good and at least she hadn’t told me to can it for laughing at her.
“You know, make believe. Pretend. Stories that aren’t real.”
This seemed to puzzle her greatly because she was silent for a lot longer than I ever expected her to be. She hadn’t left. Her fuzzy form was still at the window but she didn’t move. At last, she titled her head up slightly so she was again looking at me.
“Can I keep it?”
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Heather's Song by Andy McKee.