Where Readers & Writers Connect
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. Before I could read, I think the pleasure was snuggling with my dad while he read to my brother and me as much as the story. Nobody read aloud like my dad did; he made a book come alive.
I was in first grade, maybe second, when I fell in love with reading for myself. I was home from school, sick. After reading all the “easy reader” books we had in the house, I went on a hunt for something new. I picked up a book titled Pierre, The Young Watchmaker by Jean Horton Berg. It looked boring; no pictures at all. But, desperate for something to do, I started reading.
I couldn’t put it down. That’s a cliché, I know, but it was the first time a book had ever transported me out of my sickroom and into a different world. I read and read, all day long, dying to know what was going to happen next. When I came to the end that evening, I cried because I didn’t want it to end. I was hooked on reading ever after.
I read a lot as a kid because I had the time. Then came adulthood, a job, marriage, parenthood, and I seldom had time to read. When I did, it was a rare event, a guilty pleasure, a selfish indulgence. Reading for myself, that is. I had four kids over the space of ten years, and carried on Dad’s tradition of reading aloud. Several, I read to them more than once, first to the older and again to the younger ones. Usually, the older kids listened again, because they were such good books: all the Chronicles of Narnia, the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, to name a few. One of my daughters sucked up anything written by Marguerite Henry, and we also loved anything by Sid Fleishman. But for many years, I seldom read any fiction other than kids’ books.
Now that I’m a writer, instead of thinking of reading as a guilty pleasure, I consider it professional research.
I don’t have a favorite genre. Since I became a sci-fi writer, I thought it would be a good idea to educate myself in the genre, so I’ve been reading more science fiction in recent years than I ever did before. In fact, I never read it much at all before, because I didn’t care for it.
2. When did you decide you wanted to write?
February, 2002. It was a weekday, but I don’t recall the exact date.
3. That’s actually a little more exact than I had in mind. Would you care to elaborate?
Sure. Although I’ve always enjoyed writing, I’d never given thought to actually being a writer. Sure, I used to write stories when I was a kid. In fact, I’d even played around with novel writing, just for the fun of it. But to actually be an author? Seriously? It wasn’t on my wish list.
But there came that fateful morning in 2002 when the two older kids were grown and out the door, the younger two were in high school, and my hours at work had been cut to twelve per week. Moreover, we’d recently bought our first computer. The kids left for school, I was cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, and the thought occurred to me that I had the time, the opportunity, and the equipment; I should write a novel.
Where’d that thought come from? Crazy! I didn’t even know what I’d write about. But I eventually realized it was the Holy Spirit urging me, so I sat down at my shiny new computer and started to write.
The rest is too long to relate, but that was the beginning. I signed my first publishing contract in January of 2011 with Risen Books for my space fantasy series, Gateway to Gannah, nine years after I first embarked on this strange trek.
4. How many books have you written, and how many of them have been published?
I think it was in the early nineties that I took temporary leave of my senses and spent every minute I could spare fondling the keys of a Smith-Corona word processor. I finished two novels at that time, both of which I’ve since fed to the burn barrel. I don’t know the word count because I never bothered trying to figure it out, but they were full-length novels.
Since this affliction became serious in 2002, I’ve written five more. The first two remain unpublished. That was a cause of extreme frustration for me for a time. At one point, I swore off fiction altogether. Wouldn’t even read it. But I fell off the wagon in 2006 and started writing – just for myself, I thought – nobody else would ever read it – a sci-fi story.
That doesn’t sound as weird as it really was. You see, I never cared for sci-fi. So why would I write it? I have no idea. It’s another one of those unexplainable things. But I started writing what was supposed to be a short story and turned out to be a novel, and it just happened to be sci-fi, and it was the most writing fun I’d ever had in my life. Which led me to think that maybe, just maybe, I’d found my niche.
As perhaps I have. After signing for the series last January, Risen Books released the first book, The Story in the Stars, in June of that year and the second, Words in the Wind, August 1, 2012. Book #3, Ransom in the Rock, is finished and in the publishing pipeline, and I’m currently drafting the fourth and final in the series.
5. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Explain your writing process.
I’m a pantser at heart. For every book I’ve completed, I had the ending in mind first. Then I figured out where the story should start and one or two pivotal points that should occur along the way. I also knew my protagonist pretty well before I began. All the pieces fell into place once I got started, and as events unfolded, I was as surprised as the reader. Some days I was eager to start writing because I wanted to know what would happen next.
In the case of my current WIP, I had a beginning in mind and an end, and then my publisher asked for a synopsis. This is the first time I had to plot the whole story before writing it, and it threw me off kilter. For the first half the book, knowing what was going to happen ahead of time took the fun out of the writing process. It was all work, no pleasure. Then I added a couple of unplanned twists, and now I’m happy again. Excited about the direction the book is going. Now the problem is finding the time to devote to it.
6. Do you like the promotional aspect of being a writer? What are your best promotional tools?
Do I like it? Are you kidding? I despise it with a tooth-grinding passion.
As far as “best” promotional tools, I can’t answer that. Book signings aren’t the ticket. I’ve participated in a number of well-visited book fairs with many other authors, and sold a whopping total of four books at all of them combined. I’ve gotten better results from Twitter; my affiliation with Novel Rocket reaches many potential readers; I’ve gotten the word out through blog interviews and guest posts as well. But I haven’t found anything that sells books.
Mostly, I think, it’s just going to take time and persistence to get the word out. I believe my Gannah series is quality fiction; the fact that The Story in the Stars is a finalist for an ACFW Carol Award indicates that I’m not the only one who holds that opinion. For whatever reason, though, people aren’t buying.
But who wants to be an overnight sensation anyway? It would just go to my head.
7. What one piece of advice would you give to a beginning writer?
One piece? That’s tough. I guess I’d have to say never stop. Never cease to be a student. Never stop listening to advice (but don’t always take it). Never stop pursuing excellence. Never think you’ve done all you can. Never throw in the towel. And above all, never say never!
8. Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?
Other than the whole Bible, just one. Athol Dickson is a little-known author, but his books are fabulous, the sort of poetic prose I love reading and aspire to write. I stole a quote from one of his blog posts a couple years back and have it on the bulletin board above my desk where I can be reminded of it from time to time: “Let us search out the finest words deliberately with beauty as our goal, as shepherds once searched through their flock for lambs without a blemish.” Because that’s exactly why I write: as an offering to God. And I want to give Him only the best I have in me.
9. Tell us a little about your latest book.
Words in the Wind is the second in the Gateway to Gannah series. It’s not necessary to read the first book, The Story in the Stars, in order to understand it, but knowing the back story might enhance your enjoyment.
Dassa, the protagonist of Book 1 returns in Book 2. She, her husband, and a group of Earthers are attempting to repopulate Gannah. Returning from visiting an orbiting starship, her landing craft crashes 10,000 kilometers from the settlement, separating her from the others. Severe weather conditions hamper their rescue. While she wanders alone in the wilderness, she learns some uncomfortable things about Gannah, things that shatter some of her long-held beliefs and make her re-evaluate everything she’s ever known. She must learn, and the reader must discover along with her, how to tell what’s true, and how to grab hold of it when the lies are more comforting.
10. How can readers get in touch with you?
I blog three days a week at http://www.YsWords.com. I administer the Launch Pad Contest for Novel Rocket, a writing blog that’s been listed in Writer’s Digest’s “101 Best Websites for Writers” for four years. Readers can follow me on Twitter, and every once in awhile I check in on Facebook, though I haven’t quite figured out what to do with it.
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Formerly a legal secretary, Yvonne works part time as a Virtual Assistant, but spends most of her time on the planet Gannah researching her books. A member of ACFW, The Lost Genre Guild, and International Thriller Writers, she’s also contest administrator for Novel Rocket (www.NovelRocket.com), named four times to Writer’s Digest‘s list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. You’re invited to subscribe to her blog at http://www.YsWords.com, where she shares a few wise words.