Friday, July 27, 2012

Author Interview--Tiffany Avery

Hello again, and welcome to another writer interview on Fiction Friday.

This week, I present Tiffany Avery. Like me, she’s in her second semester of Seton Hill’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program. And, as usual, I’ll let the interviewee do the talking.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

My third grade teacher "punished" us one day and told us to finish a story prompt. It helped me get away from her bullying ways.

-What genre(s) do you write? If more than one, what’s your favorite?

I like Fantasy the most, but I always try to make the fantastical elements somewhat logical or science based. I also use a lot of religious elements. In the case of my thesis, it's the Dead Sea Scrolls and a lot of my own experiences with religion.

-What project are you working on now?

I have my thesis, of course. It's called The Prophet's Chosen. I have a former drug addict and criminal trying to become a minister. (I call them Elders.) He finds out that he's the heir to my version of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but he doesn't think he's worthy of them, so he spends most of the novel running away from his fate.

A recent dream spawned a project that refuses to leave me alone. It's about faeries and other fantastical beings.


This is from the thesis novel, The Prophet's Chosen
Eli rolled to a defensive position and looked around. He’d fallen through what he mistook as a bizarre aquarium filled with quicksilver. It still looked that way, only it was a few feet above the floor. Eli hadn’t remembered the drop, but as he watched, the shape his body left when he passed through it filled in and went back to its lazy movement. He felt peace flow into his mind and body while he stood up and looked around some more. The walls were painted the same shade of violet he’d seen in other temples to Naima. The smell of jasmine was the same. Being here felt familiar, like he stood in the sanctuary or chapel, but on a much smaller scale. The room looked to be eight feet in height and width and dim sunlight shone into the room from two narrow windows about the length and width of his forearm. Everything in the room was bizarrely familiar; he realized when he saw the furniture. A wooden writing desk and chair was to his left, so that meant an altar was to his right. He looked to his right for confirmation and got it.
I’ve been here before. How though? Did I come here with Elder Kingston? No. That doesn’t make sense. That temple is 2500 miles away from here. This can’t be the same place. Eli didn’t see anything of interest on the writing desk, so he took a step toward the altar and heard someone singing. It seemed to be coming from the portrait above the altar. The voice was male, tenor, and sang just loud enough for Eli to recognize the hymn. The children's choir sang it sometimes. He caught himself humming along until he really listened to the lyrics. Eli's eyes widened. The singer had changed the words.

She loves my banana.
I love licking her mango
And her fully ripe melons.

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

Write every day. Get a routine. Try your best to stick with it. Start small. One page. 250 words. You'd be surprised at how fast one page a day can add up.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

I like to laugh and I like to think. I've been reading a lot of Steampunk lately, but I'm also reading a space opera, and a fantasy horror.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

I wrote a flash fiction story about a woman who gets her first kiss. It got published in my undergrad's literary magazine.

Want more from Tiffany?

Connect with her on Facebook or check out her Blog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Revising: Keeping Your Inner Editor Happy

“How do I avoid revisions?”

There’s a way?

Yes, write it perfectly the first time.

If you’re anything like me, this never happens. So, we revise.

The next 30 pages of my thesis novel were due yesterday. I spent the better part of the day fixing the original 30 pages of crap I’d written.

At this point, you may be thinking—“Oh, you’re too hard on yourself. It couldn’t have been that bad.”

It was that bad. One of my crit partners—in response to my Facebook status about needing a miracle to finish my submission by midnight—said to just send it and let him and our other crit partner help. I read that and thought “NO! I’d be ashamed to let another human being read this.”

And, that wasn’t even the worst part. No—the worst part was the fact that I’d already written 30 pages and was, for all intents and purposes, writing 30 new pages. The percentage of original content I had upon completion of said pages was low, and I mean low.

Why do I bring this up? I’m so glad you asked. I’m here this week to give some advice about revising. Given the day I had yesterday, it seemed a fitting topic for this week’s Writer’s Wednesday.

Heed the advice of the above “large, friendly letters.” (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” reference ftw!)
No, really. Stay calm. Revisions rank up there with synopsis writing—necessary but not very enjoyable for most people. (Side Note: If synopsis writing is giving you issues, I tackled that one in my post last week.)

-Just write the first time
I have a terrible time with this one. I write something that I think is crap and then my inner editor has nightmares about it. However, I learned something in the last month from working on my thesis and a YA fantasy project—if you don’t keep writing, nothing gets written. Duh, right? But, think about it. If you’re too busy revising, you’re not writing. And, honestly, if you revise now or when all’s said and done, you’re going to spend the same amount of time revising. Get the words on the page. Seeing your word count go up makes the project seem more manageable and promotes a sense of accomplishment.

-Make notes of things to go back and fix
For me, this pertains especially to that ya fantasy I just mentioned. The background is driving me nuts, and it keeps changing. I have a MS Word file of background. I read it, think “that doesn’t work,” and change it. And then, a few days later, I do that again. Oh, and to make this even more fun, every time the background changes, I think of something that I’ve already written that needs to change. So, to save my inner editor some stress, I make notes of what I need to go back over. This has a few benefits. It makes me feel productive, allows me to keep writing without forgetting what I need to still do, and lets me adjust the direction of the story as needed.

-Break the rules
Every so often—again with the ya fantasy—there are things that you just need to fix RIGHT NOW!!!! (I’m fine.) If it's weighing so much on your conscience that you can’t continue the story or if the change will do so much that you end up with a new story, go back and fix it. Just remember to keep writing—keep that word count climbing. But, don’t torture yourself over one or two edits.

This last point, though, also opens a can of worms, which I will leave for discussion because I think the answer is different for everyone. Where do you draw the line between revising and rewriting? For our purposes, I define rewriting as a situation in which the revisions cause the story to become a completely different story—as in you could have two novels the original and the new one. It’s important to know this because…well (and I’ve done this)…it’s no fun having two novels in one. The separation process takes quite a while. Also, if the first half of a novel tells one story and the second half tells another…that could cause problems.


P.S. For any “Hitchhiker” fans—check out my post about the Original Radio Show.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thesis Inspiration Part 2--"Quest for Camelot"

If you attempted to click on a link in any of my previous posts, they did not work. This has been fixed. Blogger and I had a minor dispute over proper html format. I won, and Blogger is now awaiting trial. So, if you go back and click on stuff, it will take you there now. Lol.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program. This Monday is week 2 of thesis inspiration. Last Monday, today, and next Monday are dedicated to the three children’s movies that inspired my thesis novel for Seton Hill—Disney’s “Mulan,” “Quest for Camelot,” and “The Swan Princess.”

So, without further a due—“Quest for Camelot.”
Based in Arthurian Legend, “Quest for Camelot” tells the story of Kayley—daughter of a Knight of the Round Table—and her dream to become a knight. Her world is turned up-side-down with the death of her father at the wicked Sir Ruber’s hand. Ten years later, Kayley’s world is further turned to chaos by the theft of Excalibur—King Arthur’s famed sword—and the arrival of Ruber at her home. Kayley escapes Ruber’s watchful eye and flees to the Forbidden Forest where Excalibur has been lost. There, she meets Garrett—a blind hermit who is as good a fighter as any knight—Devon and Cornwall—two heads of a dragon that refuse to get along—and Aiden—a silver-winged falcon. With the help of her new companions, she finds Excalibur and returns it to Camelot only to be intercepted by Ruber. With Garrett’s help, Kayley defeats Ruber and saves Camelot. She is knighted by King Arthur and finds herself in possession of everything she’s ever wanted—knighthood and Garrett.
That’s a lot. I did say last week that “Quest for Camelot” had the largest impact on my thesis. I wasn’t kidding.

Some similar themes between “Quest for Camelot” and “Mulan” in terms of my thesis. A form of the military figures prominently in both. Jayleen—my protagonist—desires nothing more than to be admitted into the Royal Guard—thirty elite soldiers charged with the protection of the royal family. Like King Arthur’s knights, the members of the guard ride on horseback and are formidable warriors. I can’t say that the idea of the Royal Guard came directly from the knights, but the Round Table certainly had a hand.

Jayleen herself—I originally gave Jayleen auburn hair (similar to Kayley’s). Then, my mentor pointed out that the red-headed heroine was a bit overdone. I privately fumed at this. It wasn’t true. I mean, the red-headed heroines that I can think of are only Kayley, Kahlan (“Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind), Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”), Thumbelina, Merida (“Brave”), Ce’Nedra (“The Belgariad” by David Eddings), and Anastasia (from the 20th Century Fox animated feature). Err, all right—maybe it was overdone. So, I relented and made Jayleen’s hair sable brown. It actually fits her better.

That said, I did base a lot of Jayleen off of Kayley. Jayleen looks up to her father—general of the army and captain of the Royal Guard. Jayleen also finds herself in a situation where she reluctantly, at least initially, has to work with a member of the opposite gender. In her case, though, there are two members of the opposite gender—Crown Prince Kylander and, in different ways, her brother—Julian.

Okay, Jayleen—you’re a spotlight hoarder. Step aside so I can talk about the overall impact of the movie on my thesis. The idea of Camelot—the powerful kingdom—had an impact as well. It’s in no way based on Camelot, other than being a powerful kingdom, but that’s where the idea of Edalya came from.

Most important, at least to me, I will now talk about the romance. Is there any, yes. Do Jayleen and the Prince end up together—not saying. What I will say is that, regardless of whether they do or not, they are given real reasons to grow together. What does this mean? As I say in my post about “Tangled,” the romantic couple is given a chance to get to know one another and fall in love for the right reasons. Kayley and Garrett do this as well. They fight, run, and struggle their way through the Forbidden Forest until Ruber wounds Garrett. In that moment, Kayley and Garrett realize they’re in love. Corny, maybe, but it wasn’t love at first sight, and it wasn’t “I haven’t even really looked at you but let’s get married.” It’s real.

All righty, I think that just about wraps it up. Next week will conclude the Thesis Three (I just made that up, and it’s catchy) sequence with “The Swan Princess.” And, next Friday—could it be? Spoilers?

See you out of the box,

P.S. Check out my duet (thanks to my duet partner) of “Looking Through Your Eyes” from “Quest for Camelot. I’m working at getting “On My Father’s Wings” up as well, but life keeps happening. Stay tuned.