Welcome to another Author Babble! This time I am joined by a good friend and author, Andi Van! With a new book, Magic Fell, on its way to readers, Andi been gracious enough to stop by and chat with us in today's blog. You will also be able to read my review of Magic Fell, coming soon...
Let's get to the good stuff, tell us about your book!
Thank you for inviting me to join you, Eliza! I’m thrilled to be here.
Q: What inspired Magic Fell?
ANDI: Funny enough, the setting of this story happened when I was barely in high school. Pre-Internet (but not TOO pre-Internet), when forums involved using modems to dial in. Anyway, there was this service called Prodigy, and the sci-fi/fantasy club I belonged to had their own forums there. One of the subforums was a section for roleplaying in a mages’ guild. I created a character (Trivintaie, who shows up in the prologue of Magic Fell) who eventually ended up being promoted to leader when the guy who was running it left. Years after this all happened (it was probably 2004), I joined in my first NaNoWriMo. And I had no idea what to write, but I wanted to write SOMETHING. I was talking to my granny about it, and she wanted me to write her something with dragons in it. Nice dragons that didn’t eat people. (Granny loved dragons – I was bequeathed her collection of figurines when she passed away.) And I immediately thought back to that old forum, which I’d been nostalgic for, and decided I wanted to use that setting. Except I couldn’t, not really. A lot had changed, and that original guild had been built by other people that I was no longer in contact with. So I had to destroy it before I could bring it back.
Q: What was your favorite part about the process from idea conception to post-release date for?
ANDI: My favorite part is being done. I’m kidding (mostly). Honestly, I think it’s these days right before the actual release that I love so much. I’ve finished the hard parts (the writing and the thirty billion rounds of edits), and now it’s just the promo and the waiting. But the nice part is, none of the reviews are out, so no one’s crushed my heart into dust and let their dog pee on my remains by giving me a 1-star review. ;)
(Disclaimer: Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I’m fully for that. 1-stars
aren’t fun, but they happen to everyone. You think something sucks? Thank you
for your honesty.)
Q: Who is your favorite character from your stories, and why?
ANDI: Again, with the favorite child picking. ;) I honestly don’t know that I have one favorite. Maybe Zach, from SWtU, but that’s kind of weird for me to say, because Zach is basically me. Maybe K’yerin, from Magic Fell, because he’s a sarcastic purple telepathic cat. And I’m kind of in love with the main character of the Christmas story I’m working on. I love all of my character for their own reasons, but I don’t know that I could choose just one.
Your energy and enthusiasm is inspiring! As a fellow author, let's get talk about the more analytical aspects of your writing process.
Q: Why do you write and what got you started?
ANDI: I write because if I didn’t, I think I’d implode. I’ve always written. I don’t remember NOT writing. My mother still has collections of short stories I wrote when I was six. I think my grandmother got me started. We used to exchange poems instead of letters, but even before that, she instilled a love of the fairy tale in me that I’ve never lost. She never lost it either, that magic that comes from the story. I hope I can live my life the same way.
Q: When writing, are you a plotter or pantser?
ANDI: A little from column A, mostly from column B. Overall, I’m a pantser. But I’ll get to a point where I start plotting. I think I was over half-way into Starting With the Unexpected before I wrote out a very basic outline to finish it.
Q: Do you have any quirky writing routines or superstitious habits?
ANDI: Oh my god, yes, and they’re so embarrassing. Which means I’m going to tell you all about them, because they’re funny. When I’m writing at home, I’ll usually have a movie playing in the background. THE SAME MOVIE. EVERY TIME. For the original Magic Fell, it was Grease. It’s been over a decade, and I don’t think I’ve watched it in its entirety since – I was watching it EVER DAY while I was writing. Once I’m done and I submit a story, I get a small jar and fold a small jar’s worth of lucky stars. Which is kind of childish, but I’m okay with that, because I’M kind of childish.
Q: What’s your best advice for other authors be they beginner or master.
ANDI: DON’T READ YOUR REVIEWS ON GOODREADS. Don’t respond to bad reviews in general. Don’t do it. Don’t be another author behaving badly.DO get to know your community – not just the readers, but the other writers. That’s one of your best resources, and a place you can go if you’re at a point where you feel like you just can’t do it any more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone and texted an author friend with how badly I was feeling, only for them to come back with their pompoms out, cheerleading for me, because I’ve done the same thing for them at some point.
Q: Who is your biggest writing inspiration?
ANDI: My grandmother, even now. Also my mother – she doesn’t have the same desire to write like granny did and I do, but she DOES have the desire to read, and she’s a fantastic editor/sounding board/cheerleader/shoulder to cry on/dryer of tears. She was the first person I called when I got acceptance letter for Magic Fell, and she understood why I was sobbing when I told her about it.
You're obviously a storyteller, but what about your bookworm side.
Q: Would you rather: be able to read any book forever and never be allowed to write again or be a prolific author but unable to read other people’s work?
ANDI: That’s…wow. If I had a gun to my head and HAD to choose, I think I’d take reading over writing. Other people’s stories are my escape. My own stories are a different kind of escape, but I can’t just relax and fall into them and shut off my brain like I can with someone else’s writing.
But, you know, eventually I’d implode, so I lose either way.
The beauty of fiction is in the glory of imagination. Worlds are constructed, characters birthed, and sprawling moral tales stretch from star to star. Stories that we grew up loving transform and reveal a depth of wisdom that our adult minds can now comprehend; some even being breathed to life in new ways by fresh minds.
In an age of instantaneous data sharing and a cultural factoidal fetish, it seems strange that imagination is continuing to flourish. I can understand the need for new artistic minds to draw up concepts for new cars, musicians to compose new soundtracks for the movies made by new-age bohemians, and script writers to offer tantalizing dialogue to keep viewers coming back for more.
All of that makes sense to me, and I think it is a wonderful sort of Petri dish that allows many ideas to combine and grow into something beautiful. Like a large scale work of mixed media that stretches over the continents. Truly, when I step back and really think about how art of all forms is valued by the world, it renews my hope that humanity really isn't that far off course.
What I fail to understand though, is the under appreciation of original thought. Or I guess to offer a more explanatory observation, what is the reason that fresh works of creative output are regarded as foolhardy? Why is the world so obsessed with re-imagining the works of classic rock stars and not in cultivating the new ideas that continue to pop up all over the globe?
So if they know that this is the case, then why are they insistent on publishing re-imagined stories about Dracula, Wonderland, and Moby Dick? I think the answer is quite simply, those stories sell. In the end, we know they are all in it for the money (it's not a fact they try to hide either). People are familiar with these stories, and publishing a spin-off or retake of those stories is pretty much guaranteed to produce income, because the market is already there.
But what about the new ideas? Other than maybe playing Devil's advocate and saying that they are oversaturated with ideas, or maybe being hyper critical and saying that the ideas they receive are no-good, I'd like to maybe paint these publishers in the colours of a wizened tutor. A Mr. Miyagi of sorts.
Even if this isn't true, I've found that it creates in me a sense of determination, rather than being bereaved that I've been turned down from yet another publishing house.
What if (and that's a really strong if, I know) the publishing houses are turning you down, simply to see how serious you are about it?
I know it's a ridiculous concept, and it's probably not 100% accurate, but hear me out.
We know that publishers receive hundreds, if not thousands of ideas every month from aspiring authors. And let's go so far as to say that all of the manuscripts they receive are fantastic pieces of work. As a publisher, how would you go about determining which authors to sign on?
The second step is the hardest pill for the houses to swallow, but one that they willing do (because they are benevolent, loving, Japanese karate masters remember?) for our benefit. Keep in mind, all of the manuscripts they receive are gold. But after having removed the “Pulp Phase” authors, the houses then reject the rest.
Wait, reject them? If they are gold, then why not sign them?
In my mind, they don't sign them for the good of the author. The houses see the potential in these pieces. They can see the glimmer of fortunes to be made, but they still reject them, because they want to refine the author.
Listen. They want to refine the author, not the work. The work is really good, but the work is also a self-portrait the author wrote about themselves. Seeing this idea, the publishers can see where you are in your life, in your professional life, and they want to test you. They want to make sure that this work that you handed them wasn't a mistake, that it wasn't a one hit wonder. If they are going to spend time and money on you, they want to make sure you are as serious about carrying the responsibility of being an author as they are.
And so they reject the work, praying fervently that the author resubmits and continues to answer their unspoken challenge. However, most fall away. Most can endure the rejection of a few houses, but then the time comes that the rejection notices are reaching the double digits, then approaching two dozen. Almost all of them will turn away at that point, refusing to believe that their work is valid anymore. After all, if it were any good, the houses would have published it right?
But then there is that one that keeps going. Everyone else has given up. Everyone else put their dream to bed, believing it to be a pleasant phase in their life that just wasn't meant to be. But then there is that one writer – that Rowling – that keeps pushing on, that keeps submitting despite the growing list of 'no thank you's'. And at the end of the stretch, when everyone else has given up, the houses open up their doors, shouting praise that they have made it, and that they withstood the fires of refinement.
Yes, I know this is possibly a ridiculous notion, and maybe not a word of it is true. But I still hold onto this illustration, because it gives me hope. Maybe the scenario is false and the houses don't give a hoot about making me a better person. Maybe they don't care at all. But the lesson of refinement and determination still exists.
Whether or not the story is true, the moral still remains. Keep on writing, keep on querying, keep on getting back up after rejection. Just keep moving forward, and then you'll see your aspirations fulfilled.
I'm not telling this to you as a successful, published author. I'm in the same boat as many of you; querying endless lists of publishing houses and agents, just looking for someone to believe in my story the way I do. I've been at it for a couple of years, but I'm not giving up yet. And if you are serious about becoming an author, then you should keep trudging on too.
Every rejection you receive is telling you that your work is gold, but they are also asking if you want authorship as badly as they do.
Make sure you answer, “Yes.”