Just a few questions about my writing life for this fine Monday morning!
1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why. My favorite is, hands down, Lazy Tequila Afternoons. I feel like I’m kind of cheating with this answer though, because I’ve been working on novels / shorts within this universe for the last twelve years. The majority of the fiction I write exists within this universe. So, while I do feel like it’s cheating, I also know that there’s no other potential contender for this space. As for why? Well, it’s definitely the most well-developed and alive, which is always nice to play in. But I think it’s also the most dynamic of any of the projects I have outside of the LTA universe. Maybe because it’s set in real locations that I’ve spent a fair amount of time in, or maybe just because I have spent so much time working on different pieces of the LTA world? It’s hard to say.
2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females? In the LTA universe? There are well over 100 characters, maybe closer to 200 at the point, I’d have to count. Some are just walk-ons and meaningless, but I have probably at least 50 that hold some sort of significance at some point within the series. In the novel I am working on right now? There’s 4 main characters — only 1 POV character, though. As for male vs. female, I definitely prefer writing from a female POV, but I tend to like my male mains’ personalities better. So, I guess both?
3. How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)? My places are all real and researched, so I don’t come up with the names so much as do the research for them. Character-wise, it’s a little more arbitrary and they kind of just come to me… And often change throughout drafts (for example, Audrey, the FMC from the Sky of… trilogy started as Ashley, changed to Tiffany, and then Amber before finally settling on Audrey. And it is definitely the best fit for her. I don’t usually give my characters names with meanings. At least not in this universe. (Though there are a few that are inside jokes — Nick and Aaron, for example.)
In my elemental mermaid quartet that I’m planning, those names all have meanings and took a lot of time to come up with.
4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters! My first character was a girl named Jamie Anderson and I tried to use her to write a serial / blog-style story before they were even a thing / I knew what I was doing. One day, maybe I’ll get back to that story — it was very much a boy-next-door, cheesy romance and Jamie was a very by the books girl-next-door as well. Tropes all over the place. In some ways, I’m telling her story through Lindsey in Static Lightning Skies, but very, very differently at the same time.
5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them? I can’t officially talk about the youngest here because that would be spoilers for later books. But, outside of those spoilery babies, the first third of Barefoot Blues Nick, Alex, and Kyle are in the 8-10 range. Oldest is Rhys. Always. That’s not technically true because I’m sure parents and such are older than him. But it’s a running gag throughout the series that the characters are always giving Rhys a hard time about being super old (he’s really not that old, but he is a handful of years older than the rest of the “main crew”). And, he is the character that kind of “caps off” the entire series if you were to line all of the books up and read them in chronological order, according to the plot.
Creation-wise? The whole thing started with Nick. He came about in 2007 and Audrey wasn’t far behind, obviously, since her trilogy was the start of this entire saga. Newest in terms of creation is a quirky tour guide named Brandon who I just introduced in Static Lightning Skies this week. He’s a temporary sort of love interest for now. We’ll see where he evolves to be from here.
6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper? Lately, I’ve been doing all of my words before noon because of a crazy challenge I’m hosting for WriYe called Write Like a Pro. I’ve been doing well in a variety of ways — either on my desktop with all of the blinds open so I can watch the sun come up, or by hand in a notebook while sitting out on my balcony in the garden. But, that is dependent on how damp it is outside in the morning and what time my crazy challenge has me up. If I’m up before the sun, I can’t do that because there’s not enough natural light, and there are mosquitoes everywhere, especially if I turn on the artificial light. And if it’s too humid the paper feels all damp and gross feeling, and then I end up sweaty just from existing. Those are the days I write inside on the computer instead. But honestly? I can write just about anywhere.
7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters? Not usually music, no. But I do tend to have a Twitch stream or some YouTube videos playing in the background. If I am writing to music, it honestly just depends on what I feel like listening to for the day. I like to put on a Spotify Daily Mix and just see what they throw at me sometimes, too.
8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read? To write, I definitely feel most at home with Contemporary Realistic Fiction (New Adult Women’s Fiction if you want to use the genre labels that make me cringe, but fit what I write best) with a heavy focus on character relationships / romance. To read, either horror or YA. My favorite authors are Stephen King and John Green — both of whom are very strong pillars / exemplars of what genres I enjoy reading.
9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them. Back when I worked in the service industry, I would pull a lot of inspiration for characters based on interactions I had at work — both positive and negative. Now, I can’t say I’ve ever based any of my characters off my students (they aren’t adult enough yet to have a character based on them!), so coming up with characters now is a little harder. Sometimes I base them off of YouTube personalities or combinations of other people I know… But those are all just the basic building blocks for them. All I put in the character sheet for them initially is their name, what novel they appear in / their role, and if I give any physical description initially. From there, I just keep working / writing them until I have a solid feel for their personality. After I’ve finished the first draft and am going through for my first editing pass / read-through, I’ll fill in the character chart at that point, based on what I decided in the writing and make sure everything matches up / fits.
10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts! I used to actively write short vignettes for a community called Runaway Tales and some of the prompts generated there put my characters in very strange, non-canon situations. The weirdest, however? Definitely has to be Zombie Lobsters. And I honestly don’t think I will ever top that for weirdest situation.
11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite? Favorite to write is by far Erika because she’s a little bit reckless and a lot a bit wild and just doesn’t care who’s listening, her opinion will always be heard. And sometimes her opinions are a little… out there. But I love her so much. I like writing from the POV of all my characters, otherwise I wouldn’t be focusing on them, so… I’m going to answer this in terms of who I struggle to write the most? Because that’s as close as it’ll get to disliking. In those terms, it would probably be Jordan. And I think that’s because I just haven’t done enough to flesh out his story / background yet to really have a feel for his voice, so it’s harder to keep it consistent.
12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world building? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share? World building is not my forte, but I think that almost goes without saying? I write realistic fiction, set in real places. I don’t have to create a world because it’s been given to me already. But, I would have to say that the world I am most proud of myself for coming up with on my own is my video game universe for All the King’s Men.
13. What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not? Since I write realistic fiction and don’t want to portray someone incorrectly, I tend to write the cultures I know more than anything. Also, there’s a fine line between having a diverse cast of characters and using diversity as a crutch to sell books. I never want to be someone who has done the second one.
14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us? All the time! Maybe not the fancy ones you’re thinking of, but I draw out neighborhoods and pull city maps / public transportation maps all the time. I also love to draw out house blueprints, which are a kind of map, right?
15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not! This is a relatively new development, but Sarra Cannon. She’s an indie author who’s published 25 books and made an insanely amazing career for herself between writing and offering courses that she is actually qualified to offer / teach. Plus, she runs an incredibly helpful, positive, candid YouTube channel about self-publishing and being an indie author that I absolutely adore.
16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? Well, considering one of my most prominent sub-genres, and sometimes even my main genre is romance, I would say yes, yes I do include those sorts of relationships in my writing. They tend to feature pretty prominently and I do typically go into a fair bit of detail developing the whole thing — including the naughty bits! That being said, there is a difference between a romance novel and an erotica novel. I stand firmly planted on the romance side of things 98% of the time.
17. Favorite protagonist and why! I mean, I’ve already talked about why Erika is my favorite to write; she is also my favorite protagonist. So, I’m going to pick a different one. Other than Erika, my favorite protagonist is probably Kyle. I like him best because he’s just so different than the majority of the cast. He’s from a truly broken home, both before he’s adopted and then his adopted family also isn’t the best, and his personality really reflects that. He’s also one of the few characters I have who isn’t just figuring out the fine details of his life, but still trying to figure out who he is and how he fits into the world and that’s a fun new perspective to explore.
18. Favorite antagonist and why! Rhys. He’s the textbook definition of corporate greed and taking advantage of anyone he has to in order to get ahead. But at the same time, when he decides he cares about someone? He will also fight to the bitter end for them, too. He’s like the distant, blunt father-figure that no one wants, but everyone really needs.
19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why! COLIN! He was supposed to just be a random walk-on to be a coworker for Erika. There was an entire new book introduced to the LTA universe because of him, so… He’s just a charming little dude.
20. What are your favorite character interactions to write? Erika / Colin, Alex / Kyle, Audrey / April, and Tammy / Jimi, if we’re going specific characters interacting. If we’re talking generic types of interactions — anything heated. Either full of innuendo, sarcasm, arguments, or super, super sweet and sappy.
21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them? Sure, because the parents of my mains are still my characters, right? [Read as: mostly you see parents through the eyes of their children, rather than children through the eyes of their parents] However, later in the series, there are books where children are a thing. And the first 1/3 of Barefoot Blues is when Nick, Alex, and Kyle are elementary school aged. I think I write from their perspective pretty well. At least, that’s what anyone who’s read my stuff from their POV has said?
22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not. I won’t say who / how. But there’s a major death that happens. There’s a handful, really, but there’s one that’s on-scene that I’ve never talked to anyone about and is one of the few things I won’t tell people for “spoiler” reasons. Births and deaths.
23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)? This is a loaded question. If I’m able to sit down and just write full time? Planning takes 2-3 days, writing would take about 3 weeks (including my initial read-through to fill in details I missed / left placeholders for and fix any glaring errors). 2(ish) weeks for betas. 1 more week for my edits and then a final read from a friend (+1 week). So, best case scenario with me not having to work? 6 weeks. Realistically with work happening and life? I’d say about 7-9 months.
24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone? I was talking about death a few questions ago, so definitely willing. I don’t really consider any of the ways they die to be “interesting,” though. I suppose that’s the downfall of realistic fiction — there’s no crazy monsters to come do your bidding. I did have a character die from an acromantula in my 3rd Harry Potter fanfic novel, though. I guess that was pretty interesting?
25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them. Nick and Audrey eventually get a dog. Both Tammy and Tiffany have cats. Kyle at one point in his life has 5 dogs — though I’m not sure if that’s actually seen in the novel, since that book hasn’t been written yet.
26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him! I “borrow” photos from around the internet of people who look like my characters and use those in their character profiles, but would never post them because… Well, they’re real people and that’s weird. I can’t draw for anything, though, or else I would draw them. I also sometimes have Sim recreations of them, which more or less works. No one has drawn my characters yet, but I would be stoked if anyone did!
27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters. Simply because of genre expectations, yes. That’s not to say everyone is perfect and flawlessly beautiful by Hollywood’s standards or anything like that, but I definitely focus on it a fair amount throughout the books.
28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones. Mental illness is a commonly reoccurring motif throughout my novels. They’re realistic fiction and I feel like being true to life is important. Things that you’ll see in some shape or form in my novels are anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, and bulimia.
29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters? Basically constantly. I’m always thinking of new ways to explore my universe and the characters within it. Maybe I’ll overhear and interesting conversation and want to adopt that into the books somehow. Or see a person who looks like they’d be interesting, so I make up a story for them in my head… Suddenly, they’re a side character in one of my novels, who eventually spins off into their own novel! When I’m not thinking about plot, characters, or the series itself, I’m thinking of plans and goals and ways to be a better writer in general… So basically, any time I’m awake, I’m thinking about it.
30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his characters! I tag K. A. Wyles! This almost feels like cheating because she’s been my writing Partner in Crime for almost as long as I can remember. The thing I appreciate most about her is her dedication. Even on the days when writing is hard or life gets in the way, she still finds the time to do what she needs to get done. And, a bonus thing I love about her, is the way she always convinces everyone else that they should also be writing. It’s very motivating. ❤