Author Interview: Hayley Chow.

Author Interview

Meet Hayley Chow.

Social Media Links:

https://www.instagram.com/hayleyreesechow/

https://hayleyreesechow.com/

The Interview.

Hi Hayley! 

Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hayley Reese Chow has short and flash fiction featured or upcoming in Lite Lit One, The Drabble, Bewildering Stories, Teleport Magazine, and Rogue Blades Entertainment’s omnibus, AS YOU WISH!

Until recently though, she’s mostly done a lot of things that have nothing at all to do with writing. Her hat collection includes mother, wife, engineer, USAF veteran, reservist, four-time All American fencer, 100 mile ultramarathoner, triathlete, world traveler, voracious reader, and super nerd. Hayley currently lives in Florida with two small wild boys, her long-suffering husband, and her miniature ragehound.

But at night, when the house is still, she writes.


I adore your site tagline of “Telling stories fished from the dreamcatcher.” How did you come up with it? Do you have a dreamcatcher?

My writing tends toward the speculative and fantastical, so I really like the idea of dreams being a potential source of inspiration. When I was a young kid, I used to have really horrible nightmares, so my mom got me a beautiful dreamcatcher. I think I was a little afraid of it. For some reason, I’ve always thought they were a bit eerie, like some kind of sandman spider crawled through it while you slept. I became convinced that the dreamcatcher actually made the nightmares worse, so it disappeared back into my mother’s nest of treasures. The nightmares are gone, but I still have extremely vivid dreams (zombies, time-travel, magic… you name it), often in the third-person. They’re not always writing material, but they are always interesting.

Out of your published works, which story gave you the most backlash while going through the process: from writing to revising to final edits?

I think I had the most trouble with my first foray into dark humor in my short story, “Wild Demand.” The plot came to me right away, but I struggled to get the tone right in the first few drafts. Walking the tightrope between amusing and disturbing turned out to be a little tougher than I first imagined. Then, even after it was finished, I wasn’t sure what genre to call it. I usually write fantasy or science-fiction, so trying to classify a “not-quite” contemporary short story was difficult for me. I write for me and think about publishing later, so stuffing the story into a genre box to pitch at someone can be a little awkward sometimes.

What made you decide to go the self-publishing route?

I did give the traditional route my best shot. I queried agents and got a handful of full requests that were inevitably followed by a long wait and then the standard feedback that it was “good but just not quite right for them” or something similar. Then, I got connected with the writing community and realized how many great indie books there are out there. I started investigating self-publishing, got some tips from other indie authors, and decided to go for it. This book has been a work-in-progress for a long time, so it was extraordinarily freeing to have some closure in sight. Now, that I have a handle on the process, I think I will be much quicker to move to self-publishing rather than spend valuable writing time in the query trenches.

As a follow up to the previous question: What would be one thing you’d stress of importance to other writers considering this route too?

Research everything! The amount of resources out there for indie authors is tremendous—from editing, to formatting, to marketing—there are so many options and a lot of steps in the process (so try to plan ahead if you can.) The writing community on Twitter and Instagram can also be a great source for information and encouragement. Through tips from other indie authors, I discovered Amazon KDP and the Reedsy blog, which have both been tremendously helpful. Self-publishing is definitely a journey that takes a lot of time and energy, but a very fulfilling one.

YA vs. Middle Grade: What are some challenges you face when switching between age groups while writing?

At 12-years-old, somewhere in between MG and YA, I fell in love with reading. So, I often feel stuck between the no man’s land of lower YA and upper MG. I think the struggle begins with the decision if the story will be YA or MG. Which, thus far, has depended on whether the journey’s end takes them to independence or brings them back to their family. From there, I really have to work to keep the darkness under control in a middle-grade and maintain a more simplistic sentence structure, since I think my natural voice is a bit more appropriate for YA. Either way, I love getting to know a world with a young main character that still has so much room for growth and change. I’ll never grow up!

How did you go about creating your website – research, asking other writers?

I avoided making a website for a long time, but after I decided to self-publish, I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I asked for tips from other writers on social media, consulted with the almighty google, and checked out other author websites to get a general feel for what I needed. There was a bit of a learning curve, but wordpress has a simplistic visual block editor that’s easy to use once you get the hang of it. I utilize a minimalistic design, but it works well as a place to highlight the links to my published work and some snippets of my writing. Ultimately, it wasn’t as hard as I feared and I’d totally recommend it for anyone looking to augment their online platform. Lessons learned: Everything is learnable, so google everything.

Real life vs. Writing: What is your daily writing routine?

I’m a full-time engineer with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, so I basically get 2 hours to myself after they go to bed. I get a cup of hot honey-water (my cheap, lazy version of tea), settle onto the couch (or sometimes a tiny elmo armchair) and then the night can go one of two ways. If I’m on a drafting binge, I jump straight into the story and knock out a couple thousand words. But if I’m revising, editing, querying, formatting, marketing or working on some other non-writing task, I have to settle for a one word writing prompt on social-media—very short stories on twitter and haikus are my favorites. I wish I had more time to spend writing, but in the end, my family and my day job will always come first. Still, I feel lucky to have a creative outlet I feel so passionately about.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

Well, I am releasing my debut novel on 1 March 2020! *Insert fanfare here* Odriel’s Heirs is a YA Fantasy starring a demon necromancer, a handsome shadow-twister, and a bullied fire-wielder with rage issues. If you want to take a peek, the first chapter is here: https://hayleyreesechow.com/odriels-heirs/ and I’d love to hear what you think.

And as much as I love writing, I actually love reading more. So, if you ever want to connect and talk about anything that has to do with books, please feel free to reach out on Instagram or Twitter @hayleyreesechow.

Be sure to follow Hayley for updates!

Her debut, Odriel’s Heirs, is coming soon!

Author Interview: L.J. MacWhirter

Author Interview

Meet L.J. MacWhirter.

LJ MacWhirter by Kate Gren_5MB.jpg

L.J. MacWhirter was born in London, England, and now lives in the Scottish Borders with her husband and family. Black Snow Falling, her debut novel, launched in 2018 to critical acclaim. When she’s not writing fiction for adults and teens, Liz runs an award-winning copywriting studio which takes her all over the world.

Black Snow Falling by LJ MacWhirter Design by Tim Byrne.jpeg

Black Snow Falling is available to purchase from Amazon. You can follow the author on Twitter @LizMacWhirter, Facebook @LJMacwhirter and her website.

 

The Interview.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

In England, 1592, 15 year-old Ruth is betrayed, and trapped by monstrous sexism. Her devastation splits apart time itself, where she encounters dream thieves coming to steal her hopes and dreams. Black Snow Falling was published last summer to critical acclaim and has been nominated for three book prizes to date, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

 

Who would your book be perfect for?

At its heart, Black Snow Falling has a strong, simple concept yet is a satisfying ‘meaty’ read. It’s perfect for readers who enjoy a fast-moving thriller with an intricate plot. Ruth’s personal crisis becomes enmeshed with greater issues, spreading across dimensions.

 

Did you have a favourite character to write?

It’s hard to pick one out. Ruth was the teenager I wish I’d been – to tell you why would give away spoilers! Jude just broke my heart – you want justice for him, right from the first page. By contrast, Sagazan is the manifestation of my worst fears. Bringing him to life actually freaked me out a couple of times, especially when writing late at night, but in that way he’s a fantastic villain. He reminds me that courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the determination to carry on despite your fear.

 

What inspired you to the write the book?

In 2002 I was volunteering for a charity for young adults who had been referred by parole officers and care workers. It was the end of a weekend adventure in a mountainous glen in Scotland and we were all walking back to the van. A young man was telling me that he really wanted to be a gardener. It really struck me that, despite everything he’d faced, he still had a dream. I found myself wishing that nothing else would happen to him that would snatch this away… and then I had the writer’s ‘what if’. What if our dreams were a physical entity that could be stolen away from us? The heart of the novel came to me in about ten minutes.

 

Can you share with us a photo from 2018 that meant something special to you?

This was my first book event, Feisty Fantasy with Alice Broadway at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It felt such a privilege to share my passion for Black Snow Falling and connect with readers for the first time.

Feisty Fantasy event Ed Int Book Festival 18.jpg

What has been your proudest bookish moment?

Can I have more than one? Holding the book in my hands for the first time after 12 years from first draft, all the while loving this story but fearing that it would never be published. In the author’s yurt at EIBF, a literary critic told me he loved the book and wished me ‘great success’. A week later, someone suggested that Black Snow Falling should be nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and a couple of months later, it was. It all felt surreal and exciting – it still does!

 

Do you have any questions for your readers?

I’d love to know which part of Black Snow Falling speaks to you the most? You could let me know on my author facebook page or via my website, ljmacwhirter.com

And here’s a question to ask yourself – like Ruth in the story, is anything stopping you from following your own hopes and dreams? Is there one thing you can do this week to help make that happen?

 

What is your favourite read of your whole life and why?

I’ve loved so many books, some reflective non-fiction as well as novels. At the time of writing Black Snow Falling it was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which I re-read four times. It’s set just before the time of my character Jude, but still during the reign of King Henry VIII of England. As a primary-aged child, I often read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. But if I had to choose one, it would be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, not really for the read but for the way Lewis created a beautiful myth that has taken on a life of its own.

 

What are you working on now?

More historical fiction. Set in on wild, windswept Scottish islands, it’s Romeo & Juliet meets Macbeth

 

 

Guest Post: “Beta Reading, Feedback, and Rewrites, OH MY!” by Kaytalin McCarry

Guest Post

Meet Kaytalin McCarry.

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Kaytalin Platt is a southern transplant to the suburbs of Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Mr. Bones. Platt works in design and corporate marketing, with a background in publication design. The Living God is her debut novel, published May 21, 2019 by Inkshares.

Kaytalinplatt.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

The Guest Post.

 

Beta Reading, Feedback, and Rewrites, OH MY!

    Writing a book is often an isolating and personal experience. As authors, we live with our characters for months or years or decades. We patiently and painstakingly craft our work, writing and rewriting until one day it feels finished.

But it isn’t finished, is it? Not really. There are several more stages a book goes through before being counted as “finished”. Before editing, before formatting, someone has to read our work and tell us what they think–point out all the flaws we didn’t notice, all the places that need work.

Queue the existential crisis.

The Beta Reader

Beta readers are a vital part of improving your craft and your project. A developmental/beta reader will give you insight into areas of improvement such as plot holes, pacing, offensiveness or insensitivity, and other issues that you may not have noticed when drafting.

Having a developmental reader isn’t all doom and gloom, though. While they point out problems that may need fixing, they also tell you what’s working! They encourage and uplift and validate your writing by letting you know what they loved.

No two people will interpret a book the same way, though, so I encourage you to find a small group to read your work. This gives you a healthy sample of feedback. Don’t choose readers at random, either. Make sure they enjoy the genre or topic, are honest, and are likely to follow through with reading and answering questions. Don’t be discouraged if the readers you chose disappear off the face of the earth It happens and I’ve experienced it on more than one occasion. Move on and ask someone else to take part.

Questions for Your Beta Reader…

No matter who you choose, know what you want them to look for. Think about your project, your theme, your mission, and determine a set of questions to ask that person once they’ve finished reading your work.

I learned a lot during the publishing process for The Living God. Having better questions for my beta readers would have minimized editing and rewrites. For the sequel, I compiled 25 Questions for Beta Readers to reference once it’s time for beta reading.

Use these questions or research your own. Just remember to go into the developmental reading process prepared; it will make editing so much easier.

Accepting Feedback and Criticism

    Some people take criticism with ease. ‘Like water off a duck’s back,’ my dad would say.

Just as no two individuals interpret a story the same way, no two people handle criticism and feedback the same way. While one author may take feedback as a challenge to conquer, another may spend a few days (or weeks) in a Blackhole of Despair.

I’m a Blackhole of Despair type of person, and it isn’t because I think what I wrote is perfect. I know it isn’t perfect–that it will never be perfect, not really. I get overwhelmed by feedback, by the concept of changing and fixing and fine-tuning what I’ve already spent months or years working on. Sometimes, I can’t see the forest for the trees. How long I spend in my Blackhole of Despair varies from a day to weeks but, so far, I’ve always climbed out. I try to keep working. The path, the fix, the eureka moment comes along eventually.

Take your feedback in stages.

Once you receive it, read through it and walk away. Like immediately. Take a break. Drink some tea. Don’t dwell on it, especially if it seems like an ENORMOUS amount of work. Just absorb and move on to another task while your brain mulls it over.

Emotional, visceral reactions may happen. This is your baby. Your creation. You may be a little defensive, a little sensitive, and, dare I say it, maybe a bit petulant. That’s why we walk away and take a breather. Once you do, once you step away and mull and decompress, you notice that, hey, they’re kinda right about most of it. Stressed brains can’t think objectively.

But just because a reader notices a problem, doesn’t mean they know how to fix it. If your beta reader suggests a fix, consider it, but don’t feel obligated to use it. You may discover a better one that blows both your original idea and their idea out of the water. In the words of Neil Gaiman, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Another thing that beta readers sometimes lack is tact. I have a blog post that offers advice to your friends on how they can give feedback without crushing your soul.

Tackling Edits and Rewrites

There will be sections or chapters that need to be removed or rewritten. It happens.

    1. The first stage to editing and rewriting is acceptance. Take a deep breath. There is no escape. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.
    2. Take a break, step back, or work on another project if you need to. You might have to clear your head to tackle the problems in your writing.
    3. Map your scenes. This helps determine what scenes work and what don’t. I’ve always found scene mapping difficult because I’m a pantser, so I map scenes AFTER I write the story (which happens to be double the work, but that’s how my brain functions). If you aren’t a pantser, there are a variety of ways to map your scenes from Post-it notes, to programs like Scrivener or Scene Maps by OneStopForWriters. Whether you pantsed it or planned it, make a list of chapters/scenes and create short summary for each. Ask yourself a series of questions about those scenes. How does the scene progress or add to the story? Does the scene move the story forward? Establish character arcs, causes, effects? Connect to earlier events? It’s a good way to see what is necessary, what should be cut, and what changes you can make to strengthen your story.
    4. Make a plan. Take your feedback and make a list of what needs to change. Determine how to tackle your list and in what order. Order may determine the ease of editing.
    5. Tackle your plan in stages. You may need to take a break between section rewrites to approach problems with a clear head. How do I hande them? First, I tackle the rewrites or additions that will take the most brain power and emotional bandwidth, but I don’t tackle them all at once. I do them individually. Next, I edit and revise the new material, at least two passes. Finally, I do an editing pass over the whole manuscript to ensure the rewrites and additions flow with the rest of the text. For a streamlined process, incorporate #8, #9, and #10 from below into this pass.
    6. Don’t rush it. I know, you want to be over and done. You want to move on to the next project or just get your story out there. Don’t rush it. I wish I had heard this advice. I thought I needed to get done with the edits ASAP, and I wish I would have mulled it over or taken another go after the third round. Take your time; your writing will be better for it.
    7. Don’t force it. You’ve got problems that need fixing. Don’t cram a fix for the sake of moving on to the next one on your list.
    8. Kill your darlings. Kill them with fire. Actually, no. Don’t. Just do what I do and copy and paste them into a separate document where they can live forever in an alternate universe from your book.
    9. Remove filler words.

 

 

 

Other helpful articles on rewriting: The 6 Best Ways to Rewrite Your Book, 6 Rules for Rewriting, How to Edit a Book: Ultimate 21-Part Checklist.

 

Don’t Give Up

Editing and rewriting (especially when you’ve rewritten an entire book three times) will bring forth a lot of emotions. It’s going to feel hard. Impossible. You’re going to question your skills as a writer, your passion, your story. Is it even worth fixing?

Yes. YES! Yes it is.

Don’t give up. You might want to, but don’t. No one can tell your story but you. Finishing a book takes a tremendous amount of work and time and patience. It is all worth it. All the sadness, pain, tiredness, self-doubt, all of those emotions are worth it in the end. Work through your feelings. They are valid. But don’t give up because of them.

I can’t wait to read what you write.