Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Interview with author Michele Acker
Today my guest is author Michele Acker who wrote the fantasy novel, BETRAYAL, which I reviewed earlier. Michele has agreed to answer some questions on her writing.
1. Michelle, how long have you been writing, and how did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I've been writing for 11-12 years now. It seems like longer, LOL. I started out writing fan fiction for the show, Xena: Warrior Princess. I saw a particular episode, didn't like the way it ended and wrote a new ending. Then I wrote another fan fiction piece and was hooked. Of course they weren't much good, I didn't know anything about writing at the time, but I enjoyed myself very much. Later, I was reading the Word of Truth series by JV Jones and thought, I can do this, I can write this. And I did. She was my first real inspiration.
2. Are you a part-time or full-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?
I'm a part time writer. I wish I could be full time, but I'm not at that stage in my career yet where I can make enough writing to support myself. That's my goal though, to get to that place. I write during lunch every day at work and I write when I can in the evenings and on the weekends. Whenever I can squeeze in a few minutes.
3. What other types of writing do you do and what do you prefer to write?
I've written non-fiction, which I enjoy—I'm a contributing author to The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, and The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction, both from Dragon Moon Press--but my first love is fiction. I've written both mystery, science fiction, and fantasy, but I always go back to fantasy.
4. Do you belong to any writing groups and what benefits do you see from joining writing groups?
I see a lot of benefits from writing groups. I belonged to RWA for years and had a local chapter that I just loved. However, now that I've moved to Texas, my local chapter is so far away, I don't go as often as I should. Belong to a writing group like RWA, allows me to spend time around other writers, to network and learn writing techniques. I've learned so much in the years I belonged. I also have on online critique group and a group of other writers I try to meet with often.
5. Which comes first for you, the story or your characters?
I think both are equally important, but the idea for a story usually comes to me first, then once I have my idea, the characters start announcing themselves. Sometimes the characters come first. I plan to start working on a new Medieval Fantasy trilogy soon where the whole story was inspired by one character I thought up for a writing exercise.
6. What is your process for world-building?
If I'm writing fantasy, usually I think about the magic first. How does it work, how does magic affect the characters, etc. Then I do tons of reading and other research. For the upcoming Medieval Fantasy, I read a ton of books about life in medieval times. Some of it I try to keep as historically accurate as possible and some I'll twist to fit what I need. That's the nice thing about writing fantasy, you can make stuff up. I also do a lot of reading, and have done a lot of reading, in my chosen genre. I don't use anything from the books of course, but when you read in the genre you want to write in, you get a sense of how people interact with each other, of how magic tends to work, of the types of worlds you could build, etc.
7. What is your process for setting rules of magic for your worlds?
I think about it a lot. Some of it I work out before I start writing and some I work out as I write. The novel I'm currently working on now is a humorous fantasy that was inspired by a website I visited on building magical worlds. The website's author has pages of questions to help you think about how magic works in your world that you might not have thought of before. The questions are by Patricia Wrede, and can be found here on the SFWA website if anyone is interested: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions-magic-and-magicians/
8. Some of your scenes were quite brutal, including rape and torture. As a woman what are your thoughts as you create these types of scenes?
The idea of both of those things, rape and torture, especially torture, scare me to death. So of course I had to explore them in my fiction. I needed to figure out what about them frightened me and create a character would could both feel that fear and overcome it. Someone who wouldn't give up, someone who would become stronger after everything she'd been through.
9. How long does it take you to craft a book from the first idea to the submission stage?
Longer than I'd like, LOL! Betrayal and Sacrifice (which was written originally as one book), took me about 7-8 months to write, but it was my first novel and I didn't know what I was doing at the time. My first published novel, Portal to Murder, took almost 2 years, but I didn't have a deadline and I took my time to get it right. If I had a deadline, I'm sure I could finish a book a year.
10. How did you come to choose Damnation Books as your publisher?
I know the publisher, LOL. But honestly, she's just as hard with me as she is with everyone else who submits to her. She's in my online critique group so she knows my writing style and she asked me to submit something to her. I had this first novel that needed some work, so I sent it to her. She liked what she read and offered me a contract. Then I had to go through a brutal (and very fast) editing process to get the book at the stage where I was satisfied with it.
11. Do you have an agent and do you feel it is necessary to have one?
No, I don't currently have an agent, but it's my eventual goal to have one and to break into the New York publishing market, which I haven't done yet. I don't think you need an agent if all you want to do is e-publish, but if you want to go on to one of the major publishing houses, you definitely need an agent in my opinion. A lot of the big houses won't look at unagented submissions, so the only way you could submit to them without an agent is if you know them already or meet them at conference. And what if you couldn't afford to attend conferences? You'd never be able to submit anything. Having an agent gets you past that. And if you do plan to submit to a publisher who does take unagented submissions, having an agent gets you past the slushpile stage. Editors trust things that come from agents they respect because they know the agents won't represent anything they don't believe in.
12. What is your marketing plan for BETRAYAL and the other books in the series?
Getting reviews like this, doing interviews, word of mouth, posting them on my website, and anything else my publisher and I can come up with.
13. Will you give us a hint as to what readers can expect from the other Blood and Ashes books?
There's only one more book coming out, Sacrifice, which is the culmination of the story. Daryn rescues Sorea with some unexpected help and they set out on their journey to find the weapon to defeat the Sorceress. Along the way they must fight nightmarish monsters and cross invisible bridges while coming to terms with their feelings for each other. They return to rescue the children, but things don't go as planned. Valina works to turn Sorea's niece, Alana, against her and tries to force the girl to do help her work her evil spell, but in the end, Alana sacrifices herself to save everyone she loves.
14. Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
Unfortunately my website is currently down, but it should be back up again soon, www.micheleacker.com. You can find my novel, Portal to Murder, on the Virtual Tales website: http://www.virtualtales.com/Science-Fiction/Portal-to-Murder.html. Betrayal and Sacrifice can be found on the Damnation Books website: http://www.damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615720828. And all my books, both fiction and non-fiction, can be found at Amazon.com.
15. Do you have any tips for new writers of fantasy?
Read, read, read. Do lots of research. And of course read, The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy http://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Words-Complete-Writing-Fantasy/dp/1896944094/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271026644&sr=1-1
Michele, thanks for sharing your thoughts about writing. It's been a pleasure learning more about your and your work.