Hello again and welcome back!
It's time for our second interview of the day, and I'm excited to have a friend of mine drop in! Trisha is...well, let's just do her bio!
Trisha J. Wooldridge writes stuff that occasionally wins awards—child-friendly ones as T.J. Wooldridge. Find her in the Shirley Jackson Award-winning The Twisted Book of Shadows; some HWA Poetry Showcase volumes; all the NEHW anthologies (that she didn’t edit); and Don’t Turn Out the Lights. Her newest release is Heart, Wings, & Fire, the first book in The Princess and the Dragon fantasy series. She also lovingly tortures consenting authors with her editing talents. Prior word-loving, fandom-friendly employment has included editing the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons: Stormreach; interviewing Goth and Metal bands for various magazines; teaching creepy things to college students and creating a study guide for Frankenstein; getting paid to write researched opinions about food, alcohol, and the business thereof; acquiring middle grade and YA titles for a mid-size press; and coordinating events and PR Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester. Former president of Broad Universe, an organization promoting and supporting women and other underrepresented voices in writing, Trisha now serves on the board for the New England Horror Writers and is an active member of HWA, SCBWI, and SFPA. She spends mystical “free time” with a very patient Husband-of-Awesome; a tiny witch kitty; a rescued bay gelding; and a matronly calico mare. www.anovelfriend.com
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In first grade, we had weekly vocabulary lessons and one of the homework assignments was to make senteces with these nifty new words we were learning! I loved this homework—granted, that contributed to others’ perception of my wierdness and many years of bullying—but learning these words and actually fashioning senteces with them brought me so much joy. And my parents were very supportive of my learning, so they would regularly listen to the sentences I crafted and applaud my efforts. From there, I knew something like this was something I needed to do with my life.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Everywhere. Literally everywhere. Having ADHD is helpful in this area because my mind is always wandering and daydreaming about the why, the what if, thehow and more for anything I come across. Every experience lays seeds. There’s a shrine to the Virgin Mary on the Mass Pike that we learned grants miracles; that’s a story (which I had to go and make into a dark “be careful what you pray for” kind of thing, but hey, that’s me.) I had an ungelded colt rear over my head and that was utterly terrifying, so that, along with many other equine misadventures, got worked into my first middle grade series, The Kelpie. We didn’t have a lot of money while I was growing up, and my love of reading gave my parents a plethora of free entertainment via libraries and cheap gifts via yard sales and used book sales. A lot of what I found or received were myths and legends, a lot of SF, fantasy, and horror, so those were formative books for me and they all gave me ideas. I also was bullied a lot as a child, being neurodiverse with ADHD (which I wasn’t diagnosed with until I was 37), a geeky academic, and the worst of all things fat. Then as an adult I found myself fighting with a lot of medical professionals who didn’t listen to me and compounded my medical issues. I turned all that pain into writing...which is why most of what I write, even for children or in fantasy or SF, skews rather dark.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
*Cue maniacal laughter * Skid-sketch-schedule? What is this schedule thing of which you speak?
I am a mostly-productive procrastinator, so I procrastinate on one project until the due date by doing another project, which means things often get published in batches and people ask me how I do so much—utterly missing the months or years I’ve only had one or two things come out.
However, when it’s crunch time or I have some Immediate Deadlines of Doom... if I am left to my own devices, I forget to sleep until I’m literally falling over, forget to eat until my stomach hurts, and because I do keep a water bottle by my laptop that also functions as a fidget with its bite valve, I run to the bathroom when my bladder threatens explosion. And I don’t leave the house.
When I am in just the right state of anxiety / relaxation and I have my wonderful Husband-of-Awesome (tm) around, I generally aim to sleep between 2AM – 10PM with reasonably spaced small meals and breaks. Usually with a day or two where I go to the barn where I keep my horses and one hour of television with said H-of-A. House chores and errands happen during the times our world dictates as “normal business hours,” and most writing, editing (my own or my paid gigs as a freelance editor) or marketing happens in the evening hours.
And then I throw in 1-2 events, workshops, or conventions in each moth, so there’s that.
* More maniacal laughter * Schedule... ha!
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Between the ages of 12-14, I wrote the most Mary Sue fanfic “novel” of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fanfic that I was absolutely sure would get picked up by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to be made into the next TMNT movie. It even had musical numbers! Before musical numbers in genre TV were a thing! (This was the 90s, when the movie version of my favorite cartoon had just come out, for reference.) I am 90% sure my mother or I have this utterly brilliant handwritten masterpiece saved somewhere, just waiting to be revisited.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have deep, meaningful conversations with precious half-ton, fuzzy prey animals about why they should let me sit on their backs, not run me over, or actually enjoy a forest hike without stopping for grass every five minutes. Or deep, meaningful conversations (that are more blatantly ignored) with cute little house panthers or other adorably evil and furry beings who find my home an acceptable live-in spa. I also read Tarot, hike with humans, and pretend I know how to garden—actual divination being the activity with, surprisingly, the most dependable outcomes.
What does your family think of your writing?
My mom is not a big fiction reader, but she buys all my books and tells her Avon customers (some of whom are third generation patrons in her 42-year cosmetics career) to do the same. I also have a Husband-of-Awesome who is wonderfully supportive, from making sure I survive deadline chaos to helping me (and my friends!) lug heavy things to, from, and around conferences and conventions.
He’s also one of my most honest beta readers and brags about me to his friends and coworkers. <3
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Oh my Internet bookmarks, books, and photocopied research!
Most surprising things nearly all come with animal genetalia and behavior—and what a great interview topic that ends up being.
Ducks, for example, have some super rapey species, like the Muscovy, with 14-inch penises and labyrinthian vaginas to keep the most aggressive males from fathering babies, while other species, like one of the sea ducks, mates for life and if one dies, the other will live long enough to raise any chicks, and then literally just stop eating so it can die too. Crocodiles have the biological equivalent of spring-loaded penises. And snakes have multiple penises, some with hooks, and female snakes can lay eggs, have live births, or gestate babies within eggs that actually hatch inside of her, and she births out the babies and eggshells.
None of my writing, thus far, is romance or erotica. I just wanted to create some fun metaphors for a Duck Tales-inspired paranormal adventure series and construct a believably anatomical dragon.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Finish your writing. Let people read it and learn how to take critiques and edits. Use those critiques and edits. Read a lot and ask yourself why you love or don’t love what youread. Learn the proper way to submit, and FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY OR UNHOLY, FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! Submit. Repeat through multiple projects.
There’s lots more specifics besides that, but those “simple” things are 90% of the reasons I see writers not get better or sell their work.
And it bears repeating because I go to so many conventions and would be hard pressed to not hear this come up at a convention, yet this is the #1 reason Every. Single. Bleeping. Editor. I. Know. including myself, rejects submissions:
FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES!!!!!!!!!
Just, in general, learn how to follow instructions! And do so!
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
It was always a writer of some sort. Or a career I thought would include lots of writing, like teaching English or (in later incorrectly learned and therefore abandoned) being a lawyer.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I strive to make every vacation a tax write-off for writing purposes. And I have over a decade and a half of filing as A Novel Friend Writing & Editing. We could do an interview or I could teach a course about traveling / pilgrimaging as a writer.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Not following submission guidelines. Not finishing. Terrible scams. Shitty contracts.
And not following submission guidelines... or following directions in general.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do! I write my child-friendly work as T.J. Wooldridge and the stuff adults should probably read before sharing with even precocious children is published under Trisha J. Wooldridge.
I briefly entertained putting my fantasy series out under an initial-based pseudonym because studies and reports show initials or male author names still get more recognition than obviously female author names.
But marketing is hard enough for my own name / brand. The amount of work to support another whole persona? I have learned to have more realistic expectations of myself, thank you very much.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am supremely blessed and fortunate to have a lot of fantastic author friends, of all different levels—best-sellers and grandmasters to new authors. I feel weird name dropping, so follow my various social media and you’ll see who I’m hanging out with, whose posts I comment on, and who comments back to me.
In general, I strongly upport new authors going to conventions and events, joining writing and author communities, and making friends with a variety of authors. We promote each other’s work, we give each other tips based on our experiences, we listen and support when things go bad... or at 2 AM when your charismatic bard seer is trying to take over the manuscript you’re already late turning in and you need a rational person to tell you putting every divination into metered rhyme or song is NOT a good idea.
I do want to emphasize, make these connections with a genuine interest in friendship, though. Because trying to “befriend” someone for thepurpose of getting them to help your career is just slimy and gross. And people see through it and will avoid you. Among my author friends, we tell each other who to avoid and who to not work with, too.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I write multiple things. Some stand on their own; some are supremely interconnected universes. My brain does what it does, and my characters tell me their stories.
I’ve also started calling myself a pan-genre, pan-media chaos demon for how many very different things I write, so there’s that.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
While I often speak on panels or at workshops about “mistakes I made so you don’t have to,” I also ascribe to the belief that our entire past, good and bad, informs who we are. Given the thought experiment of “if you had a time machine and could change anything, what would it be?” The only thing I’d change would be this one time in Madrid this old woman asked for my help down the Metro escalators, and I only helped her on one, rather than all three down to the train. I wasn’t in a rush; I just wasn’t thinking and rushed off.
But, then again, that guilt has reminded me to take the time to be kind many times since, so perhaps I wouldn’t change it.
Which is to say, I have a lot I can tell younger writers, but I don’t think I’d tell my younger self anything because Past Trish absolutely needed to make all the mistakes she made. And if I told her certain things would get better / pass, either she wouldn’t believe me or wouldn’t be angry or hurt enough to make the changes or do the things she needed to do.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I hired an accountant for taxes who specialized in small business and creative business. Hands down, without question, absolute best money I have ever spent and continue to spend.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
*cue even more maniacal laughter *
Like... besides the TMNT Mary Sue fanfic, there’s like two, maybe three other books I started in high school. About that many during my four years of getting my two bachelor’s degrees—one even counted as my honors thesis and is written in Spanish! Totally based on my favorite D&D character and other published shared-world characters with the serial numbers metaphorically filed off.
There’s the 800-handwritten-page gods-awful utterly inaccurate attempt at a historical epic fantasy trilogy...thing...that I wrote during my 3-year stint attempting an actual office job with an investment company.
And honestly, anywhere between 9-12 more novels or novel outlines since. Some actually in production to be published or on submission. Others notsomuch.
Oh, and at least two dozen mss that are some thing-a-ma-whatsit between short story or novella or short novel. Nearly all of which started as short stories.
And possibly over a hundred poems in progress, to be submitted, or that were clearly practice exercises that may never be submitted. Or finished.
On the other hand, I just taught a workshop in wordiness—
I’ll pause for the maniacal laughter of anyone who knows me and my writing process—
earlier this month, and all these old projects made for excellent exercises and examples for my students!
* cue... you know *
What do you have coming next?
Currently I’m finishing up the books in my new series with New Mythology, part of Chris Kennedy Publishing, The Princess and the Dragon, part of my 27 Kingdoms universe!
The first book, Heart, Wings, and Fire, came out beginning of October, and the second book—going between the titles of Shadow, Ashes, and Prophesy or Hunter, Healer, and Earth—is due out in December! Third book (which will be titled the other of the two mentioned) is slotted for February, and the final book, Faith, Love, and Magic, is scheduled for an April release.
Heart, Wings, & Fire is the first story of Princess Byria, who needs to escape an abusive marriage and palace life, but to do so, she needs to first save a dragon. Without any memories of who she is or what power she may have, how can she do either?
To save herself and the dragon, Byria is pushed to her limits—emotionally, physically, spiritually, and magically—as what ought to happen to any protagonist. But our choices have consequences—and sometimes other people, people we care about suffer for those consequences.
Book Two, which I hadn’t planned on having as its own book, but I have some rather demandypants characters, explores some of those consequences on the small village of fey that helped Byria in Heart, Wings, and Fire—particularly the hunter and healer who adopted her and nursed her back to health.
A hunter, a healer, and their charismatic prophet-bard best friend walk into your fantasy series...
No, it’s not a humorous series, though this novel has more funny banter than HW&F.
Here’s the (tentative) log-line (that I haven’t even shown my editor yet):
Unable to abandon the princess they’d secretly helped raise, a hunter and a healer draw the wrath of a powerful foreign prince upon their village—a village already suffering under a chieftain who’s twisted dragon magic for his own secret purpose. Helped by a singerseer with a direct connection to the gods, can they track down the magic poisoning their people and heal them—before they’re invaded by a princess- and dragonhunting army?
And here's how to find her:
New England Horror Writers Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/118646824819378
Heart, Wings, & Fire PB - https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Wings-Fire-Trisha-Wooldridge/dp/1648555276
Heart, Wings, & Fire ebook - https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Wings-Fire-Kingdoms-Book-ebook/dp/B0BGZ3ST1M