I don't have time to read your whole biography. I just want to know some facts so I can write this report for school. Please help me out?
Well, sure, you said please.
Born: 1981, Whangarei, New Zealand
Lived: Whangarei, Otematata, Oamaru, Blenheim and Christchurch in New Zealand, Fuuchuu-shi in Japan, Melbourne in Australia.
Jobs I Have Had: Shop assistant, shelf-filler, tutor, assistant teacher of English in Japan, community newspaper editor and high school English teacher. Currently a full-time writer, part-time substitute teacher.
Hobbies: Reading, baking, video games, table-top role-playing-games, sewing, cocktail concoction, and watching movies about cheerleaders.
Favourite Foods: Apples, chocolate, pretty much anything I can bake.
Favourite Musicians: Aimee Mann, The Beths, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Sheryl Crow and Joan Armatrading.
Favourite Movie: Clueless.
Favourite TV Shows: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Leverage, Parks and Recreation, What We Do In The Shadows, and The Great British Sewing Bee.
Favourite Play: Much Ado About Nothing.
Favourite Musicals: Chess, Hamilton, and Legally Blonde.
Will there be a third book in the When We Wake series? How about a sequel to Guardian of the Dead?
No, and no. Those books were published traditionally, by Little, Brown and Allen and Unwin, and there are no plans for a sequel.
How long does it take to write your books?
So far, it varies. The first draft of Guardian of the Dead took three months. The second-to-eighth drafts added another 15 months onto that. The first and second drafts of The Shattering took about eight months. The first draft of When We Wake took about four months. The first draft of While We Run took ten weeks. Bespoke and Bespelled, which is a 33 000 word novella, took two years, but most of that was over five weeks of cumulative writing retreats. Persephone in Bloom‘s first draft has taken three months.
The Empress of Timbra took ten years and a whole other book we wrote beforehand, but that was a special case!
By this time, I’ve learned to write really clean first drafts, so they don’t need nearly as much redrafting to knock them into shape.
How do you research?
I read a lot of books, and I run around the internet. Blogs and message boards are great for character research, Wikipedia (and its neatly listed sources) are excellent for a fast fact-check, Google Image Search is a splendid way to get a quick reference for a physical description, and so on. Government immigration websites, Project Gutenberg’s collection of Grimm’s Folk Tales, the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, recipe collections online, NASA, medical websites, gardening websites, religious websites, and more. Many more.
I am so grateful for the internet. I understand people wrote books before it existed, but I’m not quite sure how, especially people who didn’t have the time or access necessary to use libraries.
The other thing I am very grateful for is smart people who know things I don’t. I often hit up my friends and say things like, “If I was going to kick someone in the stomach, how would I do that and how would it feel?” or “If I was going to cryonically freeze someone, what kind of damage would that do to them?” and they make me look much cleverer. Of course, all responsibility for the remaining errors is mine.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I would love to be a smartass and say “I order them online”, but that is actually partially true. I get ideas from browsing around the internet, from watching TV, from reading great books and thinking “what if I took that and did this?”, from reading bad books and thinking “what if I IGNORED that and did THIS?”, from reading the newspapers and wondering what would happens if I stuck one of my characters in a particular situation, and from sitting in the bath and thinking about my toes.
(What if I was missing my big toes? What if some sort of calamity had taken place? What if my parents had always been very cagey about this, but it turned out my missing big toes were a symbol that they had, when young and starving, promised their firstborn to the fairies in return for their aid, and that was why we had kept moving all these years and why I had been told to wear this iron ring all my life but I had taken it off in a fit of teenage rage and the fairies had come at last to claim me?)
Ideas are not really a problem for me.
Choosing the good ideas and making sure there’s a whole story to go with them is more challenging. I am a big fan of the “throw it all in and see what happens” school of storytelling. During the first draft if I know something needs to happen in one part and I’m not sure what, I generally write [SOMETHING HAPPENS HERE] and keep going.
At the end of the story, I will run a search for square brackets, and go in to fill those pieces in.
However, often I will work out what the missing piece should be and proceed as if it had happened without going back to fill in that piece right away. This is entertaining for my first readers, who will be reading chapter-by-chapter as I write it, and suddenly discover that someone has acquired a magical item or broken their arm without any explanation of how.
Fortunately, most writing isn’t a performance art. You can always fix it up later.
How did you sell a book/find an agent/get published?
Well, first I wrote a bunch of stories and fanfic. Then I wrote a couple of books that were terrible, then I co-wrote a couple of novels with my BFF. They were not nearly as terrible, and one of them eventually became The Empress of Timbra.
But long before Empress was published, I wrote the book that became Guardian of the Dead. I researched how traditional publishing worked, and then I researched how to get an agent.
During the revision process I took the first three chapters to a workshop at WisCon. Holly Black (who is one of my favourite young adult and middle-grade authors) was running the workshop, and she recommended that I submit to her agent when I’d finished the manuscript. Holly’s agent was at the top of my list! When I sent him a query letter he requested the full manuscript, then offered to represent me.
I revised the manuscript again in accordance with his suggestions, and he sent that out to various publishing houses, some of whom made offers to publish. I ended up by selling North American rights to Little, Brown and Australia/ New Zealand rights to Allen and Unwin, and I stayed with them (and with traditional publishing) for four books in total: Guardian, The Shattering, When We Wake, and While We Run.
How did you get into indie publishing/self-publishing?
The Empress of Timbra was my first indie publication. I did send the manuscript to my agent at the time, but I knew it would be a hard sell.
The problem is that Empress is epic fantasy with protagonists who are a teenager and a child. It’s not easily categorised as either adult or young adult, but my co-writer Robyn and I were sure that there was an audience for it.
So instead, we ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund it, and we were so happy and grateful for the response! We were able to make the book of our dreams.
I’m now launching further into indie publishing with two new series – one series of magical romance novellas set in New Zealand’s film industry, and the other a series of sexy contemporary romances with a mythic twist, both intended primarily for adults. I am learning as much as I can, very quickly, but am definitely not in a stage to give anyone else advice!
I’d like to be a professional writer. Do you have any tips for me?
Sure – with the caveat, once again, that there is no One True Way to write. But these are things from which I think almost all writers can benefit:
1) Read a lot – although probably if you want to be a writer you have already developed a sustained and diverse interest in reading. It’s very difficult to write a book without one. Read heavily in the genre you think you might like to write in, but don’t neglect those outside it.
2) If you don’t already, start making a dedicated time to write. When you start, it doesn’t matter so much what you are writing, as long as you enjoy it most of the time (say, 80 percent) and are actively paying attention to getting better.
3) If you’re a member of the dominant culture where you grew up and now live, see if you can spend some time in a place where you are not, ideally where the main language is not one you grew up speaking. Your horizons will expand immeasurably, as will the attention you pay to communication and nuance.
4) Research the business of writing. If you want to be traditionally published, research submission processes, agent queries, and publishing houses. If you want to go the self-publishing route researching the business is (if possible) even more important, because you’ll be doing a lot of the things that traditional publishers do for their authors!
Will you read my unpublished book and tell me how to make it better?
That depends. Are you a member of my writing group? Are we professionally connected? Is this in the context of a workshop or class? Do I know you? If the answer to these questions is no, then I am sorry, but I will not read your book.
What you need is a writing group! A good writing group is an awesome experience you get to read other people’s work and respond to it (which is an excellent way of learning how to self-critique your own work) and in return they respond to yours. If there isn’t a group you like in your local area, there are a ton online.
Can I write fan fiction using the characters from your works?
Knock yourself out! I think fanfic is awesome. I read a lot of it and write it very occasionally under a pseudonym.