Author Interviews

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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Author interview with Yvonne Anderson (revisited)

Back in February 2013, I interviewed author Yvonne Anderson for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...

Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with science-fiction and historical writer Yvonne Anderson. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Yvonne. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
YvonneYvonne: Thank you, Morgen. I appreciate this opportunity to introduce my books to your readers. I live in the US, in rural Ohio. On the edge of the largest Amish community in the world, in fact, though I don’t write bonnet romances (shudder). Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved books and enjoyed writing stories, but I never aspired to be a writer until rather later in life. About the time my four kids were grown or nearly so, it occurred to me that I should write a book. I wasn’t sure where that idea came from at first, but I finally decided it was the Holy Spirit nudging me. That was early in 2002, and I’m still at it.
Morgen: I’m slightly later than you. I started with evening classes in 2005 and yes, most definitely still at it. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Yvonne: When I first picked up this writing gig, I wrote historical fiction. After a few years, I’d learned a lot but was getting nowhere with it, so in a fit of frustration, I swore off fiction altogether. Drowning my sorrows reading nonfiction, I came across a little book called The Gospel in the Stars, written by Joseph Seiss in the 1800 and reprinted in the 1970s. It described the theory that when God created the heavens and the earth, He placed the constellations in the sky to illustrate the gospel message for early man. The theory intrigued me, and I decided to write a tale in which the characters discovered this “story in the stars”. I’d never read much space stuff until that point, but I gave the story an outer-space setting. I think, because I’d been reading so much about stars, it seemed the natural thing to do. To my surprise, this science fiction story provided the most writing fun I’d ever had in my life, so I’ve stuck with it.
Morgen: You have to write what you enjoy. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Yvonne: I’m currently writing a series called Gateway to Gannah, published by a small press (Risen Books) based in Oregon. Though it’s more like a space fantasy than hard sci-fi, it does fit in the general science-fiction family. Book #1 in the series, The Story in the Stars, was my first venture into the genre.
Words coverBook #2, Words in the Wind, released in August 2012. The third book is completed and in the publishing pipeline, and I’m now working on the fourth and last in the series.
A few years back, when I first contemplated publication, I considered writing under a pseudonym because I’m the shy sort and don’t like drawing attention to myself. But then I realized I must stand up and take responsibility for my actions. If I’m not willing to be associated with my writing, I shouldn’t be doing it.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Yvonne: The series is available as eBooks. My publisher took care of that for me and I had no involvement in the process. I prefer reading an old-fashioned print book, but I read books on Kindle too. They’re just so accessible in that format, not to mention affordable, I can’t turn up my nose at the technology despite my enjoyment of the tactile experience of immersing myself in paper and ink.
Morgen: It’s great having the choice. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Yvonne: I love my characters. In Book #1, my pet was Dr. Pik, the male lead, rather than the female protagonist, Dassa. For the entire series, though, I can’t say who’s my favourite all-around.
I don’t have any casting choices in mind, but the question does stir a memory: while a friend and I were discussing what the character Dr. Pik looks like, she directed me to a YouTube video of David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby back in the ’70s. I think it’s taken from an old Christmas TV special. She said David Bowie in the clip looks like how she envisioned the Pik character. I watched the video and gasped. That is, indeed, very much how Pik looks. Make him seven feet tall and give him six fingers on each hand, and it’s quite a good likeness. I had no idea David Bowie had ever met Bing Crosby, let alone sang with him. Not surprised to learn he’s an alien, though.
Morgen: Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Yvonne: Others have likened my writing to that of Madeline L’Engel and also Ursula LeGuin. Since both are authors I admire, I’ll accept the comparison.
Morgen: I would too… if I wrote science-fiction. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Yvonne: Both the titles were my own, and I’m satisfied with them. As for the covers, I was given some choices but could only pick, not the best, but the least objectionable of the options. It’s a source of continual irritation for me, because I believe cover art is supremely important, and neither of my book covers accurately reflects what’s inside.
Titles are important too, of course. Probably equally so. With both title and cover art, you want the first impression to draw a reader in—but not just any reader. You want one who’s in your “target audience” that is, one who’s likely to enjoy what you write. And once you catch someone’s interest, you don’t want her to feel betrayed by what she finds when she reads. It’s a combination of attraction and truth in marketing.
Morgen: The title and cover do have to represent the inside. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Yvonne: I don’t have much trouble with writer’s block. If I get stuck, I’ll move onto something else then come back to what had me stumped. My biggest problem is finding the time to write. That is, time when I’m not plagued by constant interruptions. People who aren’t writers (i.e., my beloved family) just don’t understand the value of unbroken blocks of time.
Morgen: It is hard for those who don’t write to appreciate why we need to shut ourselves away. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Yvonne: Though I’m mostly a seat-of-the-pantser, I don’t set out wholly blind. I start a story with a beginning and an end in mind as well as one or two significant events that must take place in between. Beyond that, I’m as surprised at the story’s turns as the reader is. Writing from an outline feels like an unnatural act to me.
Morgen: I’ve outlined but found the characters take over so have done less over the years. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Yvonne: I like both first person and third. Which to use depends on the story and what you want to accomplish. They each have their own challenges and they each have distinct benefits. As far as second person POV goes, I love it! A classic example I keep coming back to is Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller. I found the opening chapters so delightful, they had me grinning like an imbicile, though the story fell apart later on. Fun as it is, though, that point of view is a tough sell. If a writer intends to successfully market his work, I think he’s best advised to stick with the first or third person. Calvino got away with it, but he’d already established himself as a respected author.
Morgen: Yay. It’s great meeting another author who enjoys it (and has heard of it!). I have Calvino’s Marcovaldo in my current reading, and am really enjoying it. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Stars coverYvonne: For sale? No. But for personal / informal purposes, I like to shake things up. Writing poetry is a fabulous exercise for any writer, as it forces us to use literary muscles we might not even know we had. I have trouble with short stories because I get too involved; I want to turn everything into a novel. Case in point, The Story in the Stars was supposed to be a short story but it turned into a four-book series. I regularly write short nonfiction in the form of blog posts and short personal Bible commentaries. I’ve never written book-length nonfiction, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Yvonne: Plenty of them! I fed my first two novels, both produced on a typewriter (i.e., leaving no electronic record), to the backyard burn barrel page by page, so they’re gone for good. I still have Novels 3 and 4, with no plans to publish them. I have a two-drawer file cabinet bulging with notebooks I’ve written in daily over the past 18 or 19 years. I guess you’d call them Bible study journals. My kids might inherit those, or maybe I’ll give them to someone else someday, to do with as they will. (Toss them in a recycle bin, probably!) They currently represent the bulk of my writings, and I don’t figure they’ll ever, as you say, see the light of day.
Morgen: I feel it’s such a shame when authors have destroyed earlier pieces because I think everything is salvageable editorially and if not, show the journey they’ve made, but that said there are short stories that I’d never inflict on anyone else. :) Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Yvonne: I doubt there’s ever been a novelist who hasn’t had his share of rejections. But I’m thankful for them. If my earlier work had been published when I thought it should have been, I’d be embarrassed today to see my name on that garbage. We all think we’re gifted authors and feel abused when the literary world doesn’t go gaga over our stuff. But the fact is, submissions are usually rejected for good reason. I try to find out that reason and grow from the experience.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Yvonne: There’s much to be said for having an agent. If you want to be published by one of the big houses, you need one. Period. Only the small presses will take unagented submissions these days. Moreover, your average publishing contract requires a certain level of expertise to properly interpret and negotiate. Without the right knowledge and experience, a writer risks being taken advantage of if he deals with a publisher directly. I’ve heard authors say that even though their agent gets a percentage of their earnings, the deal the agent negotiated for them makes that commission well worthwhile.
Morgen: I’ve heard that too. They do say it’s not what you know but who you know, and they inevitably have the connections an author doesn’t have.
Yvonne: On the other hand, you don’t need an agent to self-publish. If you’re good at promotion and can sell books without the resources of a major house behind you, you can keep more of the proceeds for yourself. I’ve known authors who consider agents the leeches of the publishing industry.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Would I, personally, be better off having an agent? I can’t say. I do know that I haven’t yet met the agent who thinks she’s better off having me for a client.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Yvonne: All of it. Well, I suppose I should say, “Most of it.” My publisher has taken care of putting the books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites, but as far as I know, that’s pretty much the extent of their marketing involvement.
Morgen: It is similar for most publishers; they just don’t have the budget to put behind their authors. Most of what they do is emotional support which is often just as important. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Yvonne: I’m into veggie gardening in a pretty big way, along with cooking, preserving, and eating the good stuff my gardens produce. Pretty much anything involved with food is an interest of mine. Except for cleaning up. But of course that must be done too, just like marketing and promotion are necessary but odious by-products of writing.
Morgen: :) Marketing is usually the answer to ‘What’s your least favourite aspect of writing?’, mainly because it’s so time-consuming. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Yvonne: If I may, I’d like to put in a plug here for www.NovelRocket.com. It’s a writing blog I’m affiliated with. Novel Rocket posts a new writing-related article seven days a week, from author interviews to marketing discussions to articles about the craft of writing. We also conduct an annual contest for unpublished writers called the Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile, which has been gaining in popularity each year since its inception in 2010.
Morgen: Certainly. I went to add the competition to my http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/competitions-calendar page but it’s already there (April to September), although only as a mention so I’ve enhanced the entry and added to January / February / March and ‘ongoing’. I’ve also mentioned it on Twitter (to 2,900+ followers), my main Facebook page (to 1,200+ friends) and novel online writing group’s Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/508696639153189). I hope it helps. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Yvonne: This is a hot topic, oft discussed—but no one can know the answer. I do believe, however, that there has never been a better time to be a writer in the history of the world than that in which we’re now living.
Morgen: Me too. I love it. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Yvonne: My personal site at http://www.YsWords.com. You can also find me on Twitter (@YAnderson101). I have a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/yvonne.anderson.549?ref=tn_tnmn, but I’m seldom there. I’ve never quite figured out what to do with Facebook, so I mostly ignore it.
Morgen: Oh dear. Facebook has its frustrations but I really enjoy it and the groups especially get people talking. Thank you, Yvonne. I’m delighted you could join me today.
I then invited Yvonne to include an extract of her writing and this is from Chapter 2 of Words in the Wind, Book #2 in the Gateway to Gannah series…
A cold hand squeezed her stomach as a tooth-rattling tremor shook the shuttle and sent it into a spin toward the planet. She clenched the arms of her seat. “What’s going on?”
The pilot manipulated levers and worked controls, and his voice in her headphones sounded frantic. “It must be the solar eruptions. Nothing’s working. It’s like the power’s been cut off.”
As if on cue, the lights went out.
The G-force crushed her against her seat and the frantic, spinning fall brought up vomit. They were within the planet’s atmosphere, and flapping flames obscured the view through the windows.
The shuttle lurched as the controls engaged.
Dassa breathed a thank you to her Yasha as the little ship’s spin slowed to a loose corkscrew motion. But flames continued to lick its sides as it spiraled toward the ground like an incendiary drill bit.
“Pull up! Nose up!” Dassa cried, though she knew the pilot couldn’t hear.
Her mind raced. Perhaps she had been ignoring the Yasha. And perhaps ignoring Him was the same as disobedience. And under Gannahan law, disobedience carried severe penalties.
So maybe she deserved to die in this way. But the pilot didn’t. And her children didn’t deserve to lose their mother, nor Pik his wife, nor her people their leader. The New Gannahans weren’t yet on their feet, they didn’t know the planet well enough, couldn’t survive without her guidance …
She remembered how, more than a quarter century ago, her father’s disobedience had brought Old Gannah to near-extinction in one monstrous, catastrophic event. What have I done? she screamed in her meah to whoever would listen. Is there no hope for us?
The shuttle made one last, lazy rotation and straightened out. Was their headlong descent starting to slow? Did they angle less sharply downward? Dassa couldn’t tell what was real and what was mere hope. All she could see was flame, all she could hear was a deafening roar.
And all she could feel was regret.
*
And a synopsis and this is of Words in the Wind (Book #2 in the space fantasy series Gateway to Gannah)…
Dassa's landing craft crashes on the planet Gannah 10,000 kilometers from the settlement just as a blizzard sets in. Injured, she takes refuge from the storm in Ruwach Gorge. In the ancient Gannahan language, ruwach means both “wind” and “spirit,” and Dassa’s not sure which meaning applies. Seeking food and shelter, she seems supernaturally led to an older-than-old stronghold she recognizes from ancient legends—stories she’s been taught were myths. As she explores, she uncovers indisputable evidence that many things she thought she knew are untrue.
At the settlement, her husband, Pik, must not only try to find her, but he also must take charge in her absence. Rebellious settlers and a wayward daughter make it difficult enough. But when the animals threaten to break the ancient treaty and resume the old Wildlife Wars, Pik’s hard-pressed to hold things together. He’s afraid if he ever manages to find Dassa, she’ll have no home to return to.
On the other side of the planet, she fears the same thing as she struggles to separate reality from delusion.
**
Yvonne Anderson lives in rural Ohio with her husband of 37 years and the one most deeply-imbedded of her four grown kids. She also has five grandchildren who live too far away.
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. She is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), the Lost Genre Guild, and International Thriller Writers. Yvonne is a regular contributor to the blogs Speculative Faith and The Borrowed Book, and serves as contest administrator for Novel Rocket, named four times to Writer’s Digest list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. You’re invited to subscribe to her wise words on her personal site at www.YsWords.com.
***
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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