Let's hear it for Lizabet Edwards, coming to talk about her book THE OBSIDIAN PRINCE!
NIGHTREAVER Book 1: The Obsidian Prince
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The ideas for my books come from so many places, it’s hard to know where to begin! I have drawn inspiration from fairy tales, classic fantasy, role-playing games, art, music, nonfiction history books, movies—even a walk in the woods can inspire story thoughts. I think writer-brains are always pondering and crafting and turning over stories, no matter what else they might be doing. The entire world and every fragment of sensory input is a potential story idea.
I split my research pretty evenly between the Internet and books in hard copy. I’m a fiend for penciling in margin-notes while reading a book for research purposes; I majored in English Literature, so that method of annotated research has been tattooed on my brain. And depending on the subject matter, I will annoy actual people into giving me the information that I need—although I’ve never yet had anyone actually end up annoyed. People love to talk about their passions (this interview being a case in point), and they are usually more than happy to let writers pick through their brains for the answers to interesting questions—particularly if they know they’re getting a shout-out on the acknowledgements page of your book.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I make an effort to write every day, but not because I’m oh-so-disciplined; I think I have an addiction to telling stories and I find myself getting antsy if I go too long without writing. I attempt to stick to roughly the same schedule every day. I hate alarm clocks, so I try to wake up naturally, which is usually around 6 AM (or whenever the sun hits my face if I pulled a late one the evening before). I take regular short breaks throughout the day, but I usually eat breakfast and lunch at my desk. I break for two hours or so around 5 PM so I can eat supper, watch a movie or television show, and catch up with my family. If I haven’t met my quota of pages for the day, I’m usually back at it by 7 PM, and I continue until I’m done or too tired to keep going.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t like sitting down at the computer and writing for long stretches of time. I actually work more slowly if I force myself to sit there until I’m done. I’m much more productive if I set small goals for myself, then get up and take a break doing something else before coming back to it.
It looks something like this: Write a page, eat breakfast, write a page, do some laundry, write a page, water the houseplants, etc. It flies in the face of all productivity advice about picking one task and sticking to it until it’s done, but it’s just the way my brain works. Otherwise I start feeling overwhelmed by the length of the project—or I spend too much time staring off into space instead of writing. Something about those small, clear goals keeps me focused.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read. A lot. I play D&D with a dedicated group of friends and family; I’m a “forever” DM, but I don’t mind, because I love telling stories. I spend a lot of time creating campaign settings and adventures for my group, designing and hand-drawing maps, and I’m learning how to paint my own minis. I play video games, with a preference for world-building and survival-style games; I’m really into Project Zomboid at the moment. I also live in an old, slightly decrepit farmhouse that is in a constant state of renovation, so occasionally I busy myself with that—although I am rapidly getting used to its rural, Addams-Family state of “glorious decay,” and I’ll probably just give up eventually and embrace my status as owner of the neighborhood haunted house.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are so supportive, it blows my mind. My husband works full-time to support us so I can pursue this crazy dream of a writing career. Things are very tight on one income, particularly since indie writers have to foot the bill for practically everything themselves. My husband and other family members (and friends as well) have also helped me raise money through everything from donating and selling an antique coin collection to hosting and organizing a yard sale.
The only family member who regularly reads my writing, however, is my sister. The rest of my family aren’t really readers, and I’ve never forced the issue. It’s enough for me that they’re supportive—and that they always stop what they’re doing and listen to me when I start moaning and flailing over some writing thing that’s giving me trouble. Which happens a lot.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I have two: read everything, and write daily.
Reading a lot is absolutely necessary to learning how to write. Read everything from so-called classic, canon literature to the worst trashy novels you can find. Read lots of genre fiction—and read the recognized masters and biggest influences in your own preferred genre. Try not to DNF if you can possibly help it, because even bad books have something to teach you about the craft (even if it’s nothing more than “don’t do this!”). Ray Bradbury (one of my all-time faves) once said, “You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next,” and it is so true.
As for daily writing, some people suggest daily journaling, and others suggest writing groups, but my personal favorites are fan fiction and forum-based role-playing games. Fan fiction is wonderful because you have a ready-made fan base, so finding someone to read your work and offer feedback isn’t difficult. Forum or play-by-post RPGs are even better (although sadly they’re not as popular as they once were and good ones are more difficult to find). It gives you experience in plumbing the depths of a character’s psyche and motivations, writing dialogue and description, and building story, but in an environment where the writing is fun and not work. It also forces you to write very quickly without thinking about it too much; the point is to advance the story, not perfection—and the quest for the latter tends to give new writers page-fright.
What is the first book that made you cry?
The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Thorin’s death scene. I think I was 8 or 9 years old. I sobbed like a baby and mourned for days. That scene is also the source of my favorite quote: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! It depends on how well the writing is going that day. On a good day, when the words are flowing and everything is coming together just-right, I wrap up at the end of the work day feeling refreshed, energized, and looking forward to the next morning when I can dive back in again. But on a bad day, when finding every word is arduous and frustrating—or when I’m writing a type of scene that’s necessary for the plot but it’s a type of scene I simply hate—I usually end the day feeling like someone ran me over with a truck. But that’s true for any job, I think.
My personal bugaboo is what I call a “Council of Elrond” scene: a scene with a large cast of characters, all coming together to Discuss the Problem and What We Ought to Do About It. Some authors hate writing fight scenes or love scenes or what have you, but nothing exhausts me faster than writing these “council” scenes. They’re often a necessary evil, though, depending on the plot, and I usually end up loving them once I finish the first draft. But writing them? Yuck.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think a big ego hurts writers, especially indie writers. No one likes a conceited jerk, and in a branch of publishing that requires self-marketing and a real, positive relationship with your fans, I think a big ego will end up sinking your career, no matter how talented you are.
That said, some ego is necessary for a writer, particularly an indie writer. There is no agent reassuring you that you’re talented, no publisher giving your book a stamp of approval before sending it out into the world. There is zero real validation outside the fans of your work—and especially when you’re just starting out, those fans may be few and far between. Having a healthy sense of self-esteem and a love for your own stories can make all the difference when you’re navigating those first few books and slowly building a fanbase. Success in indie publishing means playing a long game, and a healthy ego will keep you going.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try not to worry about it, one way or the other. It straitjackets a writer when they worry too much about doing something new, edgy, and different; some of the best stories in the world are retellings of something old (even Shakespeare borrowed liberally from all sorts of sources). And, many readers seek out the familiar when looking for a book. In fact, one of the reasons why I wrote my current novel was because I read three fantasy-romance novels, by different authors, that I absolutely loved for their very particular combination of good writing, pairing, and level of steam—but then I couldn’t find any additional novels that fit the bill. It was a classic case of: “well, if no one else is going to write another one, I guess I’ll have to do it myself!”
On the other hand, I think some writers worry too much about what’s “in,” about catching the latest trend and writing whatever readers are clamoring for at the moment. If you’re in it solely for the popularity, then I guess it’s a viable tactic, but it just sounds exhausting to me. I believe no matter how off-beat, outdated, or just downright weird your story might be, your reader base is out there. Your niche. Your people. If indie fiction has taught me nothing else, it’s that there is room at the table for every kind of story you can think of. Write what makes you happy. J