Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.
I love interviewing inspirational and interesting authors. They make my Saturday! In these interviews I get to glean some insight into their writing life and understand what obstacles they encountered whilst writing their books.
BlondeWriteMore readers we are in for such a treat as author and blogger Andew Joyce has agreed to come sit in my red chair! He lives on a boat, has a dog called Danny, has six books under his belt and I have heard he once threw his TV out of the window, before writing his first short story. As you can imagine I am bubbling with excitement about this interview. I do hope he talks about the TV incident and I hope his short story was worth it!
Hey Andrew! Welcome to my blog and red chair. Tell my readers about yourself and the book/books you have written.
I live on a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with my dog, Danny. I write books. And when I’m not writing, I’m working with my editor. And when I’m not working with my editor, I’m marketing my latest book. Then I start the process all over again. I pace myself to one book a year. That way I don’t have to work so hard. Four months for writing, three for editing, and five for marketing (which I detest).
When did you write your first book?
One morning, about six years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. Just for the hell of it, I threw it up on a writing site. A few months later, I was informed that it had been selected for publication in an anthology of the best short stories of 2011. I even got paid for it. That’s when I started writing Yellow Hair.
Oh my goodness Andrew – I am loving this crazy TV chucking stage you went through before writing a short story! In my experience I tend to chuck things after I have written and have gone back to edit.
Wow – your story got selected for publication! I need to go through this crazy stage of yours. I just hope my family are supportive when I lob our TV set out of the window.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
It all started way back in 2011. My first book was a 164,000-word historical novel (Yellow Hair). And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing, and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.
“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!
I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer, banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.
Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914.
The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice. And it won the Editors’ Choice Award for best Western of 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
But not quite.
My agent then wanted me to write a sequel, but I had other plans. I was in the middle of editing down Yellow Hair (that had been rejected by 1,876,324 agents . . . or so it seemed) from 164,000 words to the present 139,000. However, he was insistent about a sequel, so I started to think about it. Now, one thing you have to understand is that I tied up all the loose ends at the end of REDEMPTION, so there was no way that I could write a sequel. And that is when Molly asked me to tell her story. Molly was a minor character that we met briefly in the first chapter of REDEMPTION, and then she is not heard from again.
So I started to think about what ever happened to her. After a bit of time—and 100,000 words—we find out what did happen to Molly. It is an adventure tale where Huck Finn weaves through the periphery of a story driven by a strong female lead. Molly Lee was my second book, which achieved #2 status on Amazon.
Now I was finished with Huck Finn for good. Now I could go back to Yellow Hair and resume the editing process.
But not quite.
It was then that Huck and Molly ganged up on me and demanded that I resolve their lives once and for all. It seems that I had left them hanging—so to speak. Hence, RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure.
Then I went back to editing, Yellow Hair.
I am speechless. Wow – what a literary experience!
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
I encountered no issues while writing my first three published books. My muse was working overtime.
Did you go through any bad writing patches while writing your book – what kept you going?
While writing Yellow Hair, I had to stop to learn the Lakota language. I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language whenever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to accept you. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.
As to what kept me going, I could opt for the funny answer and say “vodka.” Or I could go with a pretentious answer and say, “The thirst for knowledge.” In reality, it was just so much damn fun.
Are you a plotter or do you just write/see what happens?
When I have an idea for a novel, I know the first sentence and the last paragraph (more or less). Then I sit down and start to tell the story. But the finished product is always different from what I set out to write. Sometimes I will take my characters to a place and they will rebel and take off on their own. Then I have no choice but to follow where they lead.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
If I stopped writing, I’d probably buy a TV and watch soap operas all day long. The thought of that alone keeps me at the computer.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I prefer to write in the early morning hours when things are quiet. I usually get up around 2:00 a.m. and go to work. The commute is not long . . . only a few steps to my computer.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
Great answer Andrew! I am loving this interview.
Which is more important, plot or characters and why?
I just tell stories. I don’t think about things like that.
What have been your biggest learning experiences during your writing career?
- There is no escaping the marketing process.
- Unless you have the sales of Stephen King, it’s better to be an Indie than have a big-time agent and a publishing house behind you.
- How many books that I have to compete with on Amazon (8,000,000)!
How do you manage social media as a writer?
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
- Read, read . . . and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life. When one reads stuff like the passage below, one cannot help but become a better writer.
“The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.”—John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat
- Never, ever, ever, ever respond to a negative review!!!
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
My problem, if you can call it a problem, is that I have too many words in my head. Apart from my novels, I have 150 short stories almost ready for publication and another thirty that I’ve started but don’t have the time to finish—at least not at the present time.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
Only as a fleeting thought.
What do you wear to write?
I’m not tellin’.
If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?
Andrew, that has to be one of the most entertaining Author Interviews – thank you!
I am taking several things from this interview:
- I loved how Huck and Molly ganged up on you and demanded you resolve their lives.
- I love how the thought of buying another TV and watching soap operas all day keeps you at your writing desk.
- You are the first writer to be interviewed who chooses to get up at 2am to write. Fab! I am at my best in the small hours too so I might try this…
- Your writing tips are great and that passage is awesome.
Thank you for a fab interview.
If you are an author and fancy sitting in my red chair please leave me a message in the comments box.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79577679@N00/5448848999″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>