Good Friday to you, readers! On this, the very first Table Talk, I have Christy as my guest. Like the rest of us, she faces the challenges of becoming a published writer, but shows no signs of being deterred in doing what she loves. Read on to meet her as she shares her story with us.
Hi Christy! Thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Kansas City, MO with my husband and three kids, but I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. I’ve never really had a traditional career in any field as I went from college to temp jobs to grad school to raising children. I wrote off and on between babies but didn’t get serious about writing and trying to sell it until about three years ago.
What sorts of things do you write and where are you in the publishing process?
I write historical fantasy and urban/post-apocalyptic fantasy. My current project is an urban/PA tetralogy.
I’m at the frustration level of the publishing process. I’ve received excellent feedback both in person and by email from professionals on my current query and manuscript, but the abundance of urban fantasy in the market hurts my chances. I got a clearer picture of this at a conference when I was told “Nothing is wrong with this at all, but I would stop reading because it’s urban fantasy and I know it’s a hard sell.”
So, I’m investigating self-publishing right now. When I get book 2 into the polishing stages, I want to put book 1 on the market. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t wait more than 3 months to get a new book out when I e-publish.
What inspires the stories you tell?
I have a BA in History but originally majored in Biology. While I’d always enjoyed creative writing, I didn’t see it as a career avenue. As I worked on my Masters, I found myself interested in the people of history and their stories. I started plotting out stories set in my favorite periods, following that old platitude, “write what you know.”
The first novel I finished was intended as a historical set in England a few years after the Norman Conquest (such an underrepresented period in HF!) But as many critique partners noted, fantasy kept creeping into my plot. So, I finally gave in to the call of the genre and finished my first fantasy about a year ago.
I still include a lot of history and science in my contemporary fantasy and some day I might go back to that first book and revise it to suit the fantasy world.
What life experiences have helped you to become a better writer?
To sound old, the longer I live the more I understand people and their motivations. That certainly helps develop good characters. Also, joining a critique group is a good decision. Other writers point out habits and weaknesses that I would never catch on my own.
When you write, how do you plan your schedule? Do you commit to a length of time, word count, or just write as time allows?
I wish I had a schedule. I’m pretty good at creating them but horrible at following them. I use a combo of time allowance and word count goals. It helps to have a goal in sight and I even give myself a gold star on my old-fashioned calendar for every 1000 words.
What is the most challenging thing you’ve come across in pursuing this craft?
I struggle with self-motivation and time management. In fact, I quit a job to devote more time to writing and ended up writing less than I did before. I realized I needed an outside responsibility to force me to schedule time for writing. This is almost the only reason I recently started a part-time job.
Has anything come surprisingly easy for you?
Editing. I LOVE revisions. Weird, I know. I also enjoy helping others revise anything from non-fiction essays to romance novels. It makes me think I missed a calling in copy-editing.
How did you reach the decision to become an author? Was there a defining moment, or was the decision gradual?
Gradual. It started as a hobby but I wanted to share it. When I did, others enjoyed it so I spent more time with it. Eventually I thought, “I should really try to make money with this hobby that consumes my every waking thought.”
If you could sum up a piece of wisdom you’ve gained in your journey to write, what would it be? How would you prepare someone who wanted to start writing? What advice would you give him/her?
Be prepared to wait a long time to receive positive responses. When criticism upsets you, put it aside for a couple of weeks, but don’t delete it or discount it. Usually, you’ll be able to use it once you’re in a more peaceful frame of mind. Thick skin is a benefit, but I don’t have it, so the above advice is definitely a personal lesson. Always thank someone for constructive criticism whether you mean it or not. Constructing believable gratitude is a good writing exercise.
What do you enjoy reading?
I love a good urban fantasy. High fantasy isn’t always a hit with me but there are some I enjoy. I also like historical fiction, mysteries, and some romance.
Do you have a favorite author? Do you have a favorite book?
Elizabeth Peters is my all time favorite author, probably because she was an
Egyptologist turned mystery writer. I would say that Ilona Andrews inspired my flip to urban fantasy but Peters inspired my early writing. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters.
Different people have different ideas of what makes a great story. What’s yours?
Complex characters and witty dialogue When I can see through a character right away or the dialogue doesn’t move things along and keeping me interested, I usually put it down.
What’s your dream writing job?
Writing whatever I want all day while someone else worries about marketing. There’s a reason I favor fantasy.
Do you have any writing resources you swear by?
On Writing by Stephen King. There are also some good blogs put out by agents like Kristin Nelson’s Pub Rants.
Where can people find you/your work?
I haven’t built a website, yet. When I do, the link will be posted on my Twitter which is @ChristinaHerly1. When I publish, the book links will be there, as well.
Christy, thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. It’s been a pleasure!
Thanks for having me!