Greetings my favorite booknerds and friends! I so enjoyed talking to some of my author friends and sharing with you all their tips and processes for writing, that I just had to share another before I get back to the "regular" business of blogging. Allow me to introduce you to Baj Goodson! Much like Tyffany and Becky, I met Baj through the bookstagram community rather randomly. We just started liking each others posts then responding to each other's stories, then we found out that I lived maybe 2 hours from her in Louisiana before moving back to California... We were so bummed we never got a chance to hang out before I left! Over the past six months or so, Baj and I have gotten pretty close, sharing some of our personal life struggles and dishing on our struggles with coming up with stories. She's such a fabulous motivator and supporter, plus she has the kindest heart. She's seriously one of the sweetest people I've ever met! Who says you can't make real friendships virtually?! Plus, Baj is an incredible writer at the start of what's going to be a long and successful career. I had the honor of reading her debut novella when it first came out, and loved it! Check out my review for her story here, and in the meantime, enjoy the interview! Be sure to go all the way to the end so you can find Baj in all the places!
Baj: You got that right! Crazy ride indeed. But I tell you what, every one of those job experiences led me to another open door, and if it hadn't been for each of those doorways I traveled through, I wouldn't have gotten to a place where I was so miserable in the workforce that I was desperate enough to just GET OUT and take the plunge into writing full-time. It was a huge risk -- when I tell you I had nothing going for me besides a dream and a husband who believed in me, I mean it! But it turned out to be one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made. I always knew I wanted to write books one day, but by the time I graduated from college, I was just trying to find a "real job" with a dependable income so I could pay my bills like a big girl. Yet all the jobs I worked were dead-end, just something to give me that steady paycheck; I wasn't passionate about any of them. They had their fun moments, sure, and I learned a lot of marketable skills that have come in handy later in life (and even in writing realistic characters in realistic job settings), but more than anything, I learned about MYSELF through those jobs. For instance, I determined I don't want to work for anybody else -- I don't care to forever spend my days checking off the goals of other people when it means I have to stand still. I want to further MY goals every day. I even tried multiple times to go into business for myself, but nothing worked out long-term in a way that I could financially support myself. Still, even those failures taught me things that would become vital -- years later, mind you -- in the process of self-publishing and doing all my own marketing. So should I even call those failures? Everything came together in the end, and now, although I may be living a simple life with only 2% fanciness, I am no longer crushed by the stress of my job because I am totally passionate about what I do!
Baj: Ah yes, the WhimsiGals! That's a fun story. Even though we haven't been together long, I love those ladies dearly, and I am so thankful to have them in my life now. I'm convinced it was all divinely orchestrated! We met back in March of 2018, which is when I first became a part of #bookstagram. I was paying a lot of attention to several writing gurus on Instagram who gave out tips on how to be the best writer you can be, especially if you intend to publish. One thing I kept hearing was to "find your writing tribe". No one had come to find me, so I took that to mean I should go out and find my own peeps -- and I couldn't have dreamed up a better crew! Our group is perfectly balanced at 4 people -- Daphne, Rebecca, Adelaide, and myself. I had been interacting a lot with each of these ladies individually for awhile, solely on IG, and had a recurring itch to ask them if they had writing groups already. When I messaged each of them privately with my proposal to form a small group, they were all interested! It was a little risky of me since I didn't know them super well, but they just felt RIGHT. So we gave it a trial run and simply talked, determining if we meshed together. As it turned out, we are made up of similar personalities, so we mesh BEAUTIFULLY while still having enough differences to keep things interesting. We understand each other, we encourage each other, we challenge each other, we're honest with each other, and we bring out the best in each other not only as writers, but as supportive friends. Writing would be a much lonelier endeavor for me without them. For example, we often bounce story ideas off the group, we collaborate, we do writing sprints, we give feedback on one another's work, we celebrate all manner of goals accomplished, we share our fears and victories, and sometimes we just vent. It's great because, although we come from all over the spectrum in terms of writing experience, that's part of what makes us fit together like 4 little puzzle pieces! We really do balance each other out.
Baj: I'll be totally transparent here and tell you that I have done minimal community-building on Wattpad. Eeeeep! I find that most of what is popular there isn't my cup of tea, which means that my story, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, won't have most of the elements that has so many readers hooked on the top stories. So I bypass the community altogether (whoops?) and simply use Wattpad as a free platform to give readers that already actively follow my writing some periodic material to enjoy between books. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to air out my YA stories and appeal to a different audience than I intend to with my books (well, if I ever get with the program and do some effective marketing, anyway...).
Baj: Believe it or not, this was one of THE hardest things I had to figure out when marketing and doing the back-end work in uploading my book to be sold. My husband and I must have discussed it a hundred times! Even determining the key words and themes became a hotbed of deliberation and uncertainty! We finally decided the most "safe" genre to put it under was suspense. When people ask me what kind of book it is, that's what I now tell them. Is it the best label? Honestly?? To this day, I am only 75% sure.
Baj: While many characters and stories of mine were first born as dreams (my current WIP concept came to me this way!), that was not the case with WoC. It was an evolution. Rewind a few years to 2016, when there was unprecedented rainfall where I live in Louisiana that resulted in a flood of catastrophic proportions. Many families, including my own, experienced the devastation firsthand. During the aftermath and clean-up efforts, one of the biggest eye-openers for me was a rather unexpected one: the realization of just how much “stuff” we accumulate (meaningless stuff!) that serves little or no purpose besides taking up space. It took over a year to manifest, but the initial concept of Wall of Crosses was born from this revelation. After I quit my job and was determined to become a full-time writer, my first ambition was to write a short story. I wanted to churn it out quickly to begin selling it ASAP, so I brainstormed the skeleton of a plot on the fly. My goals: it would be character driven, thematic, incorporate the experiences I'd had from the flood, have a twist or two, and would challenge me to make something unlike anything I'd written before. Instead of feel-good warm fuzzies and neat bows to tie everything up at the end...it would be the opposite. The prospect of going that direction, once the thought occurred, totally excited me. I longed to write that story — the one that wasn't a cookie cutter imitation of what we’ve seen a million times, but something that broke the mold a little and left an impression on the reader, whether they loved the story or not. Since I am predominately a discovery writer, the tale branched out with slow, unfurling roots, eventually becoming far more deep and convoluted than I’d planned. I spring-boarded off my personal post-flood experiences and those of people close to me, and the plot and characters really began to take shape. I just ran with it until everything came together as the story you see today! There was very little research involved, to be honest...mostly geographical, and a few things about wills and hoarding and arborists and spoiler-y stuff I can't talk about, hehe. Everything else, I just made up to suit my needs, lol! Even the characters were complete fiction -- the only exception was Ruth, who is, ironically, probably the one character people assume is fabricated!
Baj: I chose to be a self-published author after researching every which way to go in publishing, and determined it was the best fit for me. I'd already found out through recent experiences that I didn't want to answer to anybody else when it came to my own aspirations, even if that meant potentially turning my back on fame and fortune. I may not sell as many books or make as much money per unit sold, but I have 100% control over my work, my life, and everything in between, and that's more important to me. It ended up being a good decision for me, as I can be very frugal when it comes to spending, so I managed to fork out less than $1k on publishing my first book. It was a lot of work (with many all-nighters, tears shed, and tight deadlines), but I did almost everything myself, or with the help of my husband. I set my own deadlines, we hired a friend to make the cover, I tweaked it myself for all the variations we needed, I made my own teaser graphics, did 95% of my own marketing, formatted the manuscript, sought out tips from author friends and influencers when I needed ideas about or help navigating certain preparations, consulted beta readers and my writing group for editing and revisions, and established my author platform online well before my publication date. It was HARD, and I made a lot of mistakes (i.e., turns out you HAVE to have the cover and the MS formatted before you can upload your book for pre-ordering). But I've also never experienced a fraction of this kind of fulfillment in any other career path. It may sound cheesy, but I was made for this!
Baj: The genre I'm best at writing is probably contemporary, but I have spent a lifetime making up creatures and worlds and toying with supernatural and magical concepts, so I can promise you that sort of thing is on the horizon. But I don't think I could ever write a self-help book. Too much responsibility!!!! As much as I love helping people, I wouldn't be able to handle the nasty flipside of that where your advice ruins someone's life.
Baj: Some days I do a better job of it than others, but having less to do with social media has been a big help. I schedule posts as often as I can on my author platform accounts so I can still be present to my followers, but I really try to limit how much I get sucked into the digital realm doing the mindless scrolling thing. I also don't have the TV on unless I'm watching it, I don't have kids, my husband works out of the home, I may qualify as a hermit because I don't leave the house much, and I lead a generally quiet, simple life that would bore some people to tears. It's the perfect environment for someone like me, though, and the silence keeps my mind from being overloaded, so creativity flows fairly easily (most days -- sometimes I'm blocked up like nobody's business! My writing group helps me a lot during those instances!).
Baj: I know it's different for everyone, so I feel like the majority of advice is subjective. But one thing that I think applies to everyone is this: Nothing is free. Whether it be time, effort, or otherwise, everything cost something. Authordom is no exception. If you want it, you have to work for it. But if you stick with it, and you really put the pedal to the metal, I promise that one day you'll have something to show for it -- it's just a matter of time. That determination that drove me to put in the hours toward reaching my goal...that's what got me where I am, and will continue to push me toward my next goal. Well, heh, that and a whooole lotta grace!
Baj: Oh gosh. These are so hard!!! I'm not a cut and dry person when it comes to this stuff!! I'll have to pretend it's life or death, must pick only one...
Cats or dogs: Dogs
Beach or mountains: Beach
Cake or pie: Cake
Plotter or Pantser: Plantser
Favorite food: Tex-Mex
Favorite author: Uhhhh...today it's C.S. Lewis
Favorite City: Home -- Lindale, TX
Follow Baj in all the Places
I want to thank Baj for taking the time to chat with me during her busy schedule. I seriously love this lady, and I hope you all do too after reading her fun interview! She really is a marvelous human, all of which comes through so beautifully in all her words, whether on Instagram or in her books. I'll be getting back to blogging again soon, but this won't be the last author interview you see, never fear!
Greetings, favorite booknerds and friends! I have introduced you to a few of my favorite book bloggers in the past so you could potentially find some amazing books to read. In that vein, I want to introduce you to some amazing authors I've gotten to know and have read (at least some, if not all) of their amazing works. Publishing a book is incredibly hard, and time consuming to do it right, let alone getting it into potential readers hands so sharing their books and introducing you to them is the least I can do, especially for a couple of ladies who are not just great story tellers, but who are incredibly fun and have great insights into writing and publishing. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the authors of "Imber" and "Reactive - Tyffany Hackett and Becky Moynihan!
I "met" Tyffany through bookstagram (that's a bunch of book lovers on Instagram) in a round about way, kind of through a friend of a friend, and then she won a contest... I honestly can't remember, but the point is, from those convoluted beginnings I met this talented writer and amazing photographer of all things bookish (and also a big video game nerd, our love for FemShep and Garrus knows no bounds). From there, I got to know a bit of her writing tribe, enter Becky, who I have only just started to get to know, but, who after interviewing, has risen really high in the rankings of my "awesome people to know" list. I had the honor of interviewing these ladies as they embark on a new adventure of writing a book together. So while I can continue gushing about all the things they have done and accomplished, I'll let them tell you more in their own words. Be sure to read to the end to get even more information on these ladies, as well as all the links to follow them on social media, as well as to buy their books (I have had the pleasure of reading "Imber" already and loved it! You can read the full review here).
Tyffany: That’s true! We had talked on and off a bit before, but Hannah (@pagewitch on Instagram) proposed the idea to set up a writing group for NaNoWriMo, and I just tried to help find people who might be interested. :D
Becky: Mommy duck, do-do-do-do-do-do
Tyffany: Are you calling me a quack? ;)
Becky: Never! At least, you’ve never given me a reason to… yet.
Tyffany: Keyword there. Yet. ;)
Tyffany: When we originally started talking about doing a collaboration, we didn’t really have any ideas for anything. But Becky proposed Urban Fantasy, since it was a good middle ground between our debut genres. Thankfully we both seem to really enjoy writing Urban Fantasy too. xD
Becky: Yes, we both LOVE fantasy, and Urban Fantasy is so flexible and ridiculously fun. At the time, we wanted to write something silly and almost light-hearted (since both of our other series can be a bit heavy at times). Well, as what often happens, the characters kind of took over and… it’s a dark Urban Fantasy now. Ha! There’s still silly moments though.
Tyffany: Yeah . . . Both our debut’s are Young Adult and we actually ended up crossing into New Adult territory because of some of the mature topics and situations that happen. Oops?
Tyffany: Yeah, we debated first or third person PoV too (which likely would have ended up with us writing more of the characters more regularly) but I’m actually really glad we ended up doing first person. Not only does it give us a chance to let our individual writing voices shine—and gives our characters more distinct personalities—but you also get to see both protagonist’s emotions and perspectives. Which can be really really crucial to understanding some of the situations, and I think creates a really cool dynamic with perceptions. We do have a really cool rule pertaining to our individual protagonist’s though—if we don’t just write them in the other person’s chapters, we have full allowances to edit or make changes to them. (So if I write Becky’s Tarik into one of my chapters and Becky doesn’t like him, say, giggling—she can go in and change it, and there’s no problem.)
Becky: Tarik doesn’t giggle. Ever.
Tyffany: We’ll see about that. >:)
Becky: Next on my to-do list: make Reagan burp.
Tyffany: She ranks her belches 1-10. >:)
Tyffany: Honestly, I’m a big people watcher, and I tend to be pretty observant. I don’t have a character that’s strictly “this person” but I absolutely steal things from the people I know and interact with. As to events, I definitely lean to the “write what you know” rule. I’ve been through some crazy stuff anyway, so it certainly makes for interesting fiction. xD But, especially since the first two series are in first person, it’s easier for me to write the emotions I know.
Becky: They sure are!! But I won’t tell you who ;) Actually, the main character in my dystopian series is ME but a more kick-butt version. The main male character in our Urban Fantasy projects many emotions that I feel but hardly ever show, yet I am in no way like him. Honestly, I don’t know anyone like him, and that is why I am completely obsessed with him. As for events… I may have created my dystopian world based off some of my college experiences. And that’s all I’ll say. :o
Tyffany: Oooo boy. That would definitely be a sight to behold! xD Let’s see . . . I think Nat would love Reagan, and she’d want to know more about her tattoos. She wouldn’t like Tarik’s temper, for sureeee. Cam would like Reagan a lot, but he’d probably be a bit wary of Tarik. (Until he realized they actually have very similar morals, despite having polar opposite temperaments.) Jyn and Tarik would probably butt heads pretty hard but I think they’d end up being good friends. Their morals are very similar and Jyn can’t pretend he doesn’t know what it’s like to have a temper. xD Meryn loves just about everyone, honestly. They would all fiercely hate Mordecai and Alec though! xD
Becky: I think Bren and Cam would be best buds, awww.
Tyffany: Oh, most definitely!!! I think Nat and Lune would get along too. They could form the ultimate girl squad—Lune, Reagan, Natylia, Meryn, and Nevaeh! :D
Becky: Yeah!! Some fierce females right there.
Becky: Usually all it takes for me to “get back in the groove” is to reread the previous chapter I’ve written. I get a feel for the characters again and can push on. Sometimes breaks are necessary though and I’ll bury myself in a good book for a couple days. But truthfully, when I’m passionate about something, I am extremely self-motivated to finish what I started. “Just do it” is my motto!
Tyffany: Oooo, I should probably add . . . When I’m having a laggy day, or maybe I don’t want to write so much, or I’m particularly distractible, I just ask myself—How bad do I want it? I can make excuses. I’m the queen of procrastinating, if I don’t care enough. But I want to be an author, I want to make a serious career of this. So, on the sluggish days, it’s that simple. How bad do I want it? And I get up, and I do the work. Even if it’s not as much as I would do on a normal day, even if it’s not perfect, I do something. Because I want nothing more for myself than to be able to tell these stories, and my dreams only work if I do.
Tyffany: Ahh . . . it’s hard to pick the most rewarding part! There’s this incredible feeling when you’re holding a book in your hands and you know it’s your book. You did this, with likely very little help, and it’s your story. Exactly how you want it. To see a long-time dream come to fruition is just . . . there’s not words.
That said, I get weepy every single time I get a random message from someone even just saying a particular line made them laugh, or they like a certain character, or they just like my book in general. One of the hardest parts of writing in general is self-doubt, and every tiny little affirmation from a reader is the absolute best gift and reward. My favorite message to date was from someone who said they cried because they saw themself in Nat’s panic attacks and they couldn’t believe there was a character they could relate to so personally. I cried. xD
The most disappointing part, maybe, would be knowing I won’t make everyone happy. I could try, but my work wouldn’t be as good. Still, the people pleaser in me hates that someone might be disappointed in my story or characters.
Tyffany: I have no immediate intentions of attempting to traditionally publish. I might change my mind in the future, but I did a great deal of research prior to making my decision and honestly, I preferred the control offered by the self-publishing route. When it comes to the important decisions—the cover, the formatting, deadlines, pricing—I have absolute control. I earn higher royalties, and I don’t have to pay back an advance. (just the initial production costs, that I set) Marketing expenses are almost exactly the same whichever route you go. Plus I get to write what I want—traditional publishers are notorious for tweaking books to “market” better, which is possibly why I’ve read so many incredibly unique indie books. It was the absolute right choice for me, personally.
Becky: Ditto! If I get offered a deal from one of the 5 top publishers, I may say yes… but I absolutely LOVE having control, mwahaha. And since I can design my own book covers and have marketing experience, I wanted to give self-publishing a go. It’s not for everyone though, to be honest! By nature, I’m a self-starter and go-getter, same with Tyffany. If you struggle to “finish” projects and make decisions, then having a traditional publisher backing you up might be for you.
Tyffany: Oh, yeah I definitely agree with that. If you aren’t able to self-motivate, or multi-task, self-publishing might not be the right fit for you. No one holds you accountable for not finishing your next book, or meeting your release date. I know that for both of us, writing is such a passion career that we don’t too much struggle with that.
Becky: I only struggle to make my fingers type faster.
Tyffany: I don’t have that problem, but I do struggle to make my brain go faster. :P bahaha (it’s the lack of sleep :P )
Becky: My brain won’t be quiet. That’s why I don’t sleep. Ha!
Tyffany: Oh, yeah, that’s a struggle too . . . Character chatter and brain chatter in general.
Tyffany: I have to agree, social media for sure. My writing is light years better because of our writing group, but also because of the other incredible people who beta’d for me. And co-writing with Becky has definitely taught me a lot about my habits, and what I could do better, and what I do well. And I would have never met her without social media!
As to getting my books out in the wild, I’m fairly sure my sales would have been absolutely nothing without the incredible incredible people on (especially) Bookstagram. The likes, the shares, the comments, the encouragement—I would definitely not be doing what I’m doing right now, almost full time, without the amazing people helping support my book. (Thank you guys <3)
Hindrance wise . . . Reviews! They can absolutely make or break an author and they’re SO hard to get! I know my sales vs reviews percentage and they’re very skewed. If you love an author, please please leave them a review. Like Becky mentioned, algorithms are a pain—Amazon practically buries you til you hit a certain number.
Becky: Amen, girl.
Tyffany: Facebook! I honestly just forget to do it. I don’t keep up with Twitter as well as I should either, but I like to think my hyperactivity on Instagram has to count for something. xD
Becky: All of them? Ha! Once upon a time, all I had was Facebook. Now that I keep track of several on a daily basis, I struggle to juggle. People keep saying I should get a Twitter account but, if I did that, I’d probably never have time to write, hehe.
Tyffany: You might! ;) Twitter can be a bit of a sinkhole though. xD
Becky: Still weighing the pros and cons… No, I’m just delaying… forever. ;)
Tyffany: I’ve actually been writing since I was really really young, so I’ve dabbled in writing a TON of different genres. I’m pretty flexible, I like the challenge. Epic fantasy definitely isn’t for everyone xD Creating everything from scratch and making it cohesive can be a pain! I have to agree with the contemporary thing though—I read contemporary that I love, but I don’t think I can drop the fantastical elements enough to write one. xD I love my powers and not-quite-humans too much. ;)
Becky: Ditto! Also “Write what you know” and “Write what hurts.” I took those to heart 100%. Doing so is very therapeutic for me, and also makes my characters real and relatable!
Tyffany: ^^^So much that.
Becky: Don’t think you’re done when you write/type “The End.” That’s just the beginning. If that scares you, then good. You’re not alone, ha! Writing a book is about editing and revising and pruning and taking the advice of others when they say something isn’t working. You get tunnel vision while writing your story, so seek outside perspective. This is a MUST. But most importantly, celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Keep it fun. Writing a story and sharing it with the world is a crazy exciting adventure. And an honor.
Tyffany: Hmmm. Completely rewrite your manuscript, at least once. I’m talking, print it out or open another document, and retype every. single. word. I know that sounds totally crazy, but you really will spot a ton of bigger picture problems and repetitions that you didn’t realize were in your manuscript. Be kind to people who give you constructive criticism, ignore people who just want to tear into you. Take all advice with a grain of salt—if something feels wrong to your story, you don’t have to change it. But know the difference—don’t be so stubborn that you miss an actual problem.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help—there is a thriving writing community on Instagram and inside the Bookstagram community and I highly recommend getting involved on there, even if you’re just there for the incredibly beautiful book pics. ;)
And remember to be grateful—to everyone who helps you along your way, to everyone who cheers from the sidelines, to everyone who reads your story. Be kind. Writers need each other, so much. We are not each others competition, we’re all going through the same thing. Don’t tear your fellow authors and writers apart—lift them up, share your knowledge. Only you can tell your story. No one can take that away from you. So why not help someone else tell theirs?
I can't thank these women enough for taking the time to answer my questions. There were so many instances where I was agreeing with the points they were making, and laughing at their banter. They have such strong personalities that really come through in their writing, that's for sure! I hope you enjoyed getting to know these authors, my friends, and be sure to add them to your TBR list ASAP!
Hello favorite booknerds! If you follow me on Instagram, you saw I recently did a road trip through Oregon with the husband. It was technically for his 30th birthday (which was in June) but he’s been really craving some fall foliage so we pushed the trip back. Now, what does that trip have to do with me/this blog/my writing? It actually ties into the question/pressure of writing every day and the importance of recharging through disconnecting. Allow me to explain.
A lot of big name authors as well as “how to” books on writing and publishing will say you have to write every day, or that you really, really should write every day, because you can’t refine a blank page. And that’s true, you can’t edit or make a blank page better, so forcing yourself to write even when you’re fairly positive the content isn’t where you want it to be, at least gets you moving in that direction. Solid advice, right? Well, yes, usually. Waiting to write only when you “feel inspired” is not the best way to go about things in my opinion. Inspiration can be like lightning, sure, but more often that’s used as a feel-good excuse for writers block, which is something I just have to work through by writing (I’ll cover that in another blog post). However, there is SO MUCH MORE that goes into a book than just the physical act of writing, and those things take time and deserve just as much attention as well.
Some days, writing just isn’t possible or feasible, as the story I am thinking up is just this conglomeration of interesting ideas and hooks, but no real plot. So I need those days to research, I need those days to think. It’s hard to impress on people how hard that step can be sometimes, because there’s not much to show for your effort. But creating an entire world with its conflicts and its people is very hard, especially if you don’t want to do a retelling of another story. Some of those days are spent in a library, but not all of them. Sometimes, at least for me, the best way to break through that clutter of trying to figure out where to start, is by disconnecting from my computer, and going somewhere new. That gives my brain new data to incorporate when I start thinking about work again. I get all this new sensory information and meet so many new characters--I mean people, that the act of recharging and NOT writing actually makes the physical act of writing all the better once I get back in front of my computer.
Then there are some days where I’ve written a bunch, and now I need to make sure where I’m at in the story still makes sense from where I first started. Some people won’t edit any of their work until they are done writing that first draft, I don’t really work that way. As someone who doesn’t do extensive outlines (they make me bored for the story I want to write, and no one wants that) sometimes I just need to go back and reread things I’ve previously written and massage those sections before being able to move forward. I’m not necessarily writing new words, and I may not have new content to show for my effort, but I am working.
Feeling like you have to physically write new words every day, even if it’s just one sentence, puts a lot of, I find, unnecessary pressure on the author. It discounts all the other steps that go into writing that aren’t exactly writing, but just as vital to the process. I know I struggle with this all the time, I like having new work to show. But If I didn’t take the time to recharge—like driving all through the state of Oregon—or research things like fairy mounds (a real thing I did for TMOS), or even spend weeks editing old content, I’d be doing myself, and you by proxy, a disservice. I’d be essentially going into gun fight with a whiffle-ball bat. So, even if I don’t write every day, every day is still a writing day.
I know I’m not the only author or writer who feels this way, and I know there are plenty who disagree with me, and that’s fine! At the end of the day, this is the process that works for me. If this kind of process suits your creative endeavors as well, then awesome! If it doesn’t, that’s fine! You do what works best for you, but just remember: even baby steps are steps forward, and you are making progress. So tell me, friends, what is your process like? Would you be able to get things done with my method?
Hello, my favorite booknerds! So, one of the questions I’ve gotten that you wanted to see in a blog post was: how I come up with my characters? I interpret this question in a few ways, from how I character build, to why I chose to have my characters look the way they do, as all of that was done intentionally. I try to always create my characters with intention—this is, of course, 100% the case for my main and secondary characters, though I can’t say I always do this for a character who isn’t named and has all of one page in the novel. Still, if you’ve read my last blog post about how I name my characters, you can bet that I love character building just as much (because I do).
Perhaps the easiest thing to explain is why I decided some characters needed to have certain personality traits. Once I figure out what the central story is, and how/where the book needs to end, it becomes a matter of figuring out what kinds of personality types will fit with the goal I have, and also add wonderful obstacles for my main cast, because a story without interpersonal conflict is boring in my opinion. That’s why Lana has such a strong maternal instinct and wants to be a mother, but Jon is more than content having their lives revolve around just the two of them. It makes for a persistent conflict that helps a character get to the place they need to end up by the end of the series—sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers here for some of my new readers, so some of the specific traits will be vague.
The story and the struggle I wanted my characters to undergo dictated that Tallis couldn’t be a born leader and that Donovan had to have an incredible sense of familial loyalty. Whereas, because I wanted to challenge some of the tropes and stereotypes I find annoying, I made Tomas a gentle intellectual rather than a brawny meat-head, and I wanted my character of color to come from an unbelievably stable, supportive, and intact family unit. It’s also why I give Tallis her quirks of avoidance and have her struggle with anxiety, because I want to show that strong can come in a plethora of forms.
As for looks… I created characters that I would like looking at, as vain as it sounds. But hey, if I couldn’t fall for Tomas or Donovan because they looked like trolls, I wouldn’t expect you to, either! But the sad truth is, Tallis looks like the girl I wish I looked like.
I came to the body positive movement late in my life. For most of my formative years, I believed I was hideous; I was too big, disproportionally shaped, my hair too dull, and eyes too plain. I wanted to hide, to be smaller. So, that’s why Tallis looks the way she does. She’s petite the way I had wanted to be all my life. She has the wavy, long, platinum blonde hair I wish I had, and sea green eyes I would kill for—ok, not really. That’s why Tallis looks the way she does and isn’t darker skinned, or have red hair, or what have you.
That being said, it’s also why Rosslyn looks the way she does. In an effort to embrace my own shape, I made Rosslyn this crazy confident, enviously curvy woman. She loves her freckles as much as she loves her body’s size—and others find her irresistibly attractive as well! For both her physical looks, and her confidence. Rosslyn is where I aspire to be in terms of accepting and loving myself, and Tallis is a throwback to the way I prayed I had looked for decades.
There’s a phrase, a lauded piece of advice often given to authors, to “write what you know”. I may not deal with feral elves on a daily basis, but I did know what it felt like to be dissatisfied with something I couldn’t change, and I knew that was unfair to myself. So creating characters that allow me to work through those things is, in my own way, writing what I know.
So there you have it, my friends! This is how and why I create my characters and a bit of the process behind bringing them to life. Hopefully this makes them feel even more realistic and grounded despite their fantasy setting, and, hopefully, it inspires both hope and acceptance should that be something you need. I’ll be answering more of your questions in later blog posts, but, as always, if there is another topic you’d like me to cover, shoot me a message! And let me know what you think of my process in the comments.
Hello my favorite booknerds and lovers of my stories! So, if you subscribe to my newsletter you saw the open call for blog post topics, and you guys did not disappoint! I have a whole list of things you want to know that I’ll be tackling. If you don’t subscribe to the newsletter, or missed the email, don’t worry: you can suggest more topics via the comments or feel free to message me the things you’d be interested in me discussing. So, without further ado, the first of your blog post suggestions answered: How do I come up with the names for all my characters and places?
This sounds like a simple topic to start with, but honestly, I love this question. I love coming up with names for things. Too often fantasy writers feel they have to have unpronounceable names in order to make their book feel like a true fantasy. I personally hate that.
If I stumble over a name, if I can’t figure out how you’re supposed to pronounce it, I am immediately disconnected from the story. My flow in the plot disrupted as I pause to try and puzzle it out. Not that I find those books bad and therefore don’t want to finish, but I do find it annoying. Tell me friends: am I alone in this? But it was/is that annoyance that I take with me when I begin world and character building prior to writing the first paragraph of any of my books.
First, I figure out what place my fantasy worlds are based on, if any at all. For Selkirk, it has a very distinct Scotland/European feel to it, so all the names needed to fit that. As for places like Theda, it has a Sicilian/Italian feel. So, the names of the people and locations needed to feel authentic to such regions.
Once I have the geography figured out, I go on to sites like Behind the Name and filter out names based on region and how “old” something needs to feel. Selkirk, compared to Theda, is pretty far behind in terms of advancement, so the names needed to have an old-timey feel to them as well. From there I go through those lists and make notes of all the male and female names I like and, at first glance, can figure out how they are said—hence names like Raghnall, Baird, Ailbeart, and Lana. They look right when put on the page; they fit the vibe I want in being uncommon, being authentic to the region, and something that won’t trip people up—hopefully.
The process is rather similar when it comes to naming the rivers, forests, cities and towns in my books as well. If you haven’t noticed, I LOVE naming those regions. I even have maps drawn out where I label and name all the rivers and mountains that, one day, I’ll have re-made professionally, I promise. The only difference is I have to make sure these names don’t sound like they could belong to a person in order to avoid confusion. That’s how I settled on names like Kincardine, the Brethil Forest, and even Selkirk itself.
Fun fact: Selkirk is the name of a real town in Scotland! So you, my dear friends, can actually go and visit Selkirk if you so choose. Please let me know if you encounter any feral elves along the way!
The only time I don’t follow this pattern is for my contemporary fictions. As they are modern and set in today’s setting, having a name like Tallis would stand out, in a bad way. So I stick with names I like such as Rebecca, or use the names of family and friends, like Megan. Call it cheating if you want, but I like to think of it as creative problem solving.
So there you have it! That is my process for coming up with names. What do you think? Hopefully this clears that process up, but if not let me know, or if you’d like more details about a certain name in particular let me know that, too. In the meantime, let me know if there are any other blog topics you want covered and I’ll add them to my list!