Wednesday, 2 June 2010

INTERVIEW: Stacia Kane

Author's are renowned for at times being a touch on the mad side, at least compared to the usual worker as they're frantically thought of as scribbling/typing away into the small hours, laughing manically as the lightning crashes around them, screaming "IT'S ALIVE" to all who'd hear them....

That said, it's comes as something refreshing when a newly minted author comes to the fore and helps us mere mortals understand thier route to the publishing world, albeit tongue in cheek at times.

Here Stacia chats to us about human sacrifice, working to deadlines but above all else and how to cope with the witching hour...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Stacia Kane: Hmm. I wouldn't really call it an affliction, no. And I wouldn't say it's something I absolutely have to do. But I will say I feel better when I'm doing it, and I start to get antsy and depressed if I go too long without it. It's funny, actually, because I always sort of sniffed when I heard people say things like "Writers are writers because they have to be" or whatever. But then I realized, not only had I always wanted to be a writer, but would I have started doing it, and kept at it, if it wasn't "meant to be?" You know what I mean? I guess I did have to be, and it did find me, although I ultimately made the choice.

FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

SK: I remember thinking it for the first time when I was little, maybe four or five? When I was about seven I actually wrote a book--handwritten, on spiral paper--and sent it to, I think, HarperCollins. They actually sent me a form rejection, which I thought was just the coolest thing ever (and still think was an awfully sweet thing to do.) Of course, as time went on my ambitions changed; I remember wanting to be a race-car river, a nurse, a teacher, a fashion designer, a mechanic... But the desire to be a writer was always there, still, and when my first child was about a year and a half old I realized that since I was home with her, that was my chance.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

SK: Short stories actually aren't my forte, at all. I can write them, but I'm never really happy with them or confident about them. I don't necessarily agree with that, either. On the one hand, short stories by necessity teach you brevity, economy of words, and how to be concise. On the other, they don't teach you how to plot a novel, and don't necessarily prepare you for one. I can write a rough draft of a short story in a week, but a novel takes a couple of months. I think if I was used to the instant gratification of shorts, the novels would feel a lot harder than they do

That isn't to say shorts aren't wonderful, or that people who enjoy writing them can't write novels or wouldn't be good at it. I don't at all believe that's the case. I'm just talking about me personally.

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

SK: I'd smile charmingly and bat my eyelashes. Maybe point out my lovely and waif-like daughters, who need food and clothing? Ha ha, no, not really. I'm not good at this sort of thing; I'm really uncomfortable pushing my books or myself. But I would tell them that it's a book with some very unusual characters, in what I think is a very unique world, and that it's scary and exciting and different. And I hope that's true; of course I think it is, but I would, wouldn't I?

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

SK: Ghostbusters meets Escape From New York, with punk rock, greasers, black magic, human sacrifice, drugs, and muscle cars.

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

SK: Oh, hmm. Neil Gaiman. Mark Henry. Richard Kadrey. Caitlin Kittredge. Cherie Priest. Richelle Mead. John Meaney.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

SK: Oh, no. Often I have some idea how it will end--I know the heroine will win, or I have an idea where the final confrontation will take place--but I never plan books in advance. It makes them feel "done" to me and I don't get as excited about them.

I don't do character profiles, either. I usually know the main character pretty well, and have some idea of who the secondary characters are, but they all develop further as we go along. Sometimes they surprise me, the way they react to things or the fears or likes and dislikes that pop up. It's fun, getting to know them.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

SK: To relax? I read, I cook, I hang out with my husband, I watch tv, I drive. And recently I've read BONE SONG by John Meaney, THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS by J. Maarten Troost, THE VICTORIAN UNDERWORLD by Donald Thomas, BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest, and WIVES OF THE FISHERMEN by Angela Huth. I tend to read a bit of one book, then pick up another, then back to the first. And I'm reading a ton of nonfiction about the Victorian age because I'm working on a project set during that period.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

SK: Ooh, that's a tough one! I'm pretty open about my guilty pleasures! I sometimes like to eat just popcorn or french fries for dinner. Sometimes at night I'll watch silly reality TV specials. Especially the ones about people who have that gastric bypass surgery. I'm fascinated by those for some reason.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

SK: Nope, no pets, actually. I love animals, but at the moment we don't have any; we've just been moving around too much, and with two young children we thought it was better to wait on pets for a while. Plus I'm allergic to cats and my husband is allergic to dogs. Neither of us are horribly horribly allergic, but it does make finding a pet harder; we have to find one that doesn't bother our allergies too much.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

SK: Oh, they were all so much fun! Honestly, though, I think I'd have to say Bump. He's such a sleazeball, and so manipulative (although he does actually have a little bit of a heart, which we'll discover in later book if the series continues, which I certainly hope it will). I love his horrible tacky house and his crazy clothing and the fact that he says things like "Can't keep my ladies waiting" when he's about to go to bed. It's just total fun to write him; I can be as outrageous as I want.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

SK: Well...Chess and I are actually pretty similar, yeah. Our outlooks on the world are similar; a lot of our feelings are the same. We both struggle with self-destructiveness and self-hatred and depressive issues. So she's really the most personal character I've ever written. I wouldn't say she *is* me, exactly, but we absolutely do have a lot of things in common.

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

SK: My work is my hobby! No, actually, I'd say cooking is really my only hobby. I mean, I have activities I enjoy, but nothing that I'd really call a hobby.

FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

SK: Oh, anywhere and everywhere! Usually it will be just something I see; a particular image, or a line in a news story or TV show or movie that sets off some kind of spark. And then I start really thinking about them, and seeing how much of a story I can really get out of them. I have a lot of ideas written down that I loved but that just didn't have enough depth to really become a novel.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

SK: Um, not really, no. I really can't allow myself to have it; I have to keep pushing through to meet my deadlines and things. I do of course have days or even weeks where every word is a struggle and I'd rather be doing anything in the world, even scrubbing public toilets by hand, rather than writing. But you still keep pushing, and usually within a few days the pressure or whatever it is lifts, and the words start flowing again.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

SK: Haha, I definitely write at uncivilized times. Sometimes I work in the afternoon, and that's usually a fairly productive time for me, but not for long. I get a burst of energy from, say, three to four, but after that it's gone. So most of my work is done at night after everyone goes to bed, and I might be up until three or four in the morning. My girls don't mind, of course, but my husband does wish I'd go to bed at the same time as him sometimes. I usually try to do that at least once a week, unless I have a deadline or just a lot of work piled up.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

SK: The books do have soundtracks, yes; music I listened to in the car while I thought about them, for example, and most of that music is also mentioned in the books. I plan to set up some playlists on iTunes as well, and post them on my website. But when I'm actually working I rarely listen to music. I have the TV on in the background, or silence. When I really get going I don't hear the music anyway, so while it sometimes is fun, I normally just don't bother.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

SK: Oh, the basic newbie ones, really. That getting published would be pretty easy, and that authors make loads and loads of money. Neither of those are true.

FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

SK: Writing is the food of the soul. And the brain, but chiefly the soul, I think. Writing is the ultimate expression of what's inside you; it's the ultimate expression of how you see the world and how you feel about it. And when you're giving something of yourself like that, it takes something out of you but I think it also puts it back.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

SK: Oh, that's a great question! Do you know, nobody else has asked me that? I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say things in Chess's life get a lot more complicated, especially in her personal life. She has two very perplexing mysteries to solve this time, and they lead her into some really dark parts of Downside. We learn more about the Church, more about her past, more about the world, and we learn a big secret Terrible's been keeping. Plus murders, chases, crematoriums, and the usual excitement and ghosts and scary things!

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

SK: The Absolute Write Water Cooler, Twitter, Publishers Marketplace, IMDb, and Cake Wrecks.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

SK: I didn't, no. But I did spend a lot of time reading Miss Snark's blog, and Evil Editor's blog, and on Absolute Write. I learned a lot there about writing clean, about grabbing readers from the first page, and about making sure every detail adds something to the world, the characters, and the story. I also bought Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Brown and Dave King. I think it helped me more than any other book; it's fantastic. I felt my work improve as I read it.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

SK: I just refused to give up. I knew I had something I wanted to express, and I had a goal, and I wanted to reach it. And I think because I started publishing fairly early on, and because I could see my work improving with every book, I was inspired to keep going.

I also learned very early on that rejection isn't personal, and that it doesn't necessarily mean the work isn't good. It just means it isn't right for that particular agent or house. Yes it's disappointing, but you just move on. There's always going to be someone else to query, and failing that there's another book to write, and maybe that one will be the one.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

SK: The best is absolutely that I get paid for doing what I love to do; it's a dream come true. And I love getting emails from readers, or having them talk to me on Twitter or comment on my blog; it's just wonderful, and I'm so grateful for each and every one. That's amazing.

The worst part? The isolation. The days when you're not sure if your work is actually any good. The days right before a book is released (like now), when all you can think about is the release and how you hope the book will be successful, and how much you want readers to love it. You want to make them happy, and entertain them, and give them something special. But deep down you're terrified and convinced it will be a huge enormous bomb and everyone will hate it, and that's an awful feeling.

Plus sometimes my hands and wrists hurt, which isn't good.

Thank you so much for having me, and for these great questions! They were tons of fun to answer!


Angela Addams said...

I soooo get the hand and wrists thing! After a few hours of writing my wrists are killing me!

Very cool interview! I always love to read about new authors and their lives!

Jessica Peter said...

Great interview! I agree with Angela, it's always interesting to see how other authors do their thing. I was most interested in your favourite character/most similar character questions. A lot of authors say they couldn't choose just one!

(And oh Cake Wrecks, I can entirely agree. Except add FailBlog to my list of most-visited sites).