You may recall that last week, I said I’d be hosting a weekly writer interview on Tuesdays, which I’ve titled (to strike fear into your hearts) the HOT SEAT. I’m sure you’ve all been waiting excitedly ever since this announcement to see who would be the first to burn their buttocks. So, without further ado, I introduce… Aimee Salter!
Aimee is an aspiring author who lives in Oregon, USA, and is represented by a literary agent based in Texas.
So, Aimee, let’s get started. What genre(s) do you write?
Urban Fantasy. My protagonists live in the world we live in, but they and their friends (and enemies) have supernatural abilities or experiences.
Tell us about your most recently completed work …in a limerick!
Young Dani sees dark things that chill her.
Her new friends and their secrets could kill her.
When push comes to shove
Will she choose truth or true-love?
It’s war, and both sides want to use her.
Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
Primarily looking after my four year old son, and forty-four year old husband. I am, of course, an avid reader – which is really the only other thing I do anymore in terms of hobbies. Writing takes up every spare moment… and I love it that way.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
Concept, ending, outline, write. In that order.
The finished product rarely follows the outline exactly – but it does hit the important points. Just sometimes in a different order or context. And outline is important for me because I tend to get writing then just dribble on and on, unless I know what I’m aiming for. With my ending conceptualized and my outline in place, every time I catch myself dragging I can check back in and see where I need to go next.
One thing I do, which many of my writing friends don’t, is refuse to write more than a chapter or two on a book until I know the ending. There’s two reasons for this:
- I hate the idea of writing seventy thousand words and then realizing I’ve hit a dead end.
- Endings usually come to me first. When I have a premise without an ending, I don’t feel inspired.
I’m loathe to tell other writers how to write though because I know what others do wouldn’t work for me. So don’t take this as anything but insight into my process.
Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?
Okay, I could sanitize this, but I won’t. The truth is, I write for God. My stories aren’t ‘Christian’ stories, but my life is so full of Him and He gives me so much, it inspires worlds and characters and themes I want to put on a page. I’m convinced He molded me into the person I am and wired me to be good at this. The rest is just… well, fun.
In terms of other people’s work, the thing I find most inspiring is stories that make me feel. When I watch a movie or read a book that makes me feel a way I’d like to feel in day-to-day life, I find that inspiring. It makes me want to write and try to capture that feeling in my own work.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
Honestly? It’s the people around me who just don’t understand.
I can’t blame them: when I first started writing I had no idea what was involved in trying to do this for a living – or the amount of time it usually takes to become a success (and at this point I define ‘success’ as “someone wants to pay me actual money for a book I wrote”).
A lot of non-writers offer naïve advice that is (usually) unhelpful and sometimes hurtful. I found it discouraging, so I’ve learned to avoid the topic unless I’m talking to other writers or avid readers. There isn’t a lot of point in trying to ‘educate’ the general populace on things like the time involved in crafting narrative structure, or why my agent would ask for revisions almost two years after I started writing the book. They won’t be convinced, and I just walk away frustrated.
And now for the HOT SEAT questions
Ack! Please be gentle!
A well-reputed publisher offers you a major contract but requires you to change something about your plot that completely goes against what you want for the book. What do you do?
I would absolutely change anything that didn’t alter the subtext or themes my book was intended to give.
Wiser, more experienced writers than I have advised caution when it comes to drawing lines in the sand about edits. I like to think I’d look at any suggestions for change and see if I could incorporate them in a way that works for my vision AND the Publisher’s. From what I gather, this industry is a very small town. I wouldn’t like to gain the reputation for being a diva.
That said, it depends on how you define ‘what I want for the book’.
There are some underlying themes in my book(s) that, to me, are the entire point of writing them. If a Publisher asked me to change the actual intention of the story – the subtext of what I want to communicate to teenage readers – I would say no. Then keep trying until I found a Publisher who got my vision.
Don’t get me wrong – I would cry massive, crocodile tears for weeks afterwards. But I wasted several years of my teen and early twenties life trying to justify myself to the world. I learned the hard way that doesn’t work. And it makes me miserable. So no, I wouldn’t change the Big Ticket Themes in my book. Mainly because they usually involve encouraging young people to find what’s right and stick with it no matter what. How could I credibly communicate that if I didn’t stick to my own standards?
What are your secret fears as a writer? How do you stop them from taking over?
My secret fear is that I’m not as realistic about my talent and / or my book’s marketability as I think I am. That maybe I’m fooling myself into thinking my stories are better than they are.
The only way I can see to stop that fear overriding everything else is to keep seeking genuine critique and constructive criticism from people who are more experienced and knowledgeable than myself. A litmus test, if you will.
Last year when my agent sent my book out to editors, the initial response was very good. And the rejections, when they came, were encouraging: My book premise is a winner. I just needed to work on the delivery.
It was actually a bit of a win because it validated my vision. Writing technique or structure I can improve on. The creations themselves? Well…
Whenever I get discouraged, I remember that. But I try not to dwell on the failures or fears. They don’t offer anything positive to the process.
If you could no longer write, would you channel your creativity into a different artform? If so, what? If not, how would you fill that time?
I love this question! I’m a very creative person and can tell you exactly what I would do because I used to do it:
Before I got pregnant with my four year old, I had a modest business selling my (very amateur) paintings to corporate offices and over the internet. If I hadn’t gotten such devastating carpel-tunnel during pregnancy, I might still be doing that – having never returned to my first love of writing.
Thank the Lord I did!
Thanks so much for having me, Cally. This has been fun!
You’re welcome, Aimee! Thanks for taking a seat. I absolutely LOVE that limerick and really look forward to one day reading your book(s).