Author Interview with Claerie Kavanaugh
What is the most difficult part of your writing process? done I think the most difficult part for me is actually the first shift. What most people would probably consider a zero draft is what my outline looks like. They’re often between 10 to 15 pages and they’re super detailed because I am a planner to the core. But at the same time, because I know exactly what needs to happen, it sometimes feels like I’ve already written the story by the time I get to drafting it. My favorite part is actually the editing. It’s not a coincidence that that’s also my day job 🙂 but I enjoy editing my own work because I have something to work with and now it’s my job to make it as engaging for my readers as possible. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? Focus on the story and have fun with it. Don’t worry too much about what you’re going to do with it until you have at least a first draft completed. I definitely made that mistake, not only with my first, but also with the books that I tried to write after I published my first book. In fact, a couple of months ago, I recently went through a period where I didn’t feel like writing at all because the stress of what I was going to do after I wrote the book was really getting to me. Had to alter my mindset and remind myself that above all this is supposed to be something I do for fun. Yes, I hope to make some money off of it one day, but I wouldn’t be doing it at all if I didn’t enjoy it. So have fun and embrace the process. What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why? This is a trim question for me because prior to writing the book that I’m working on now the answer absolutely, definitely would have been the plot comes first and then I pick the characters that are going to work best within that plot. A lot of the time, the characters and the plot come to me simultaneously, especially because I prefer to do retellings or put a spin on something I’m already a little bit familiar with. But with the book that I’m working on now, I knew what I wanted to scene to be and I knew who the main character was and I knew what season I wanted it to take place in, but that was pretty much it. I had to build the plot backwards and that was an entirely new experience for me. It was a fun one, but let’s just say for future books I hope that my muse goes back to giving me the plot before I get characters How many books have you written and which is your favorite? done By the time this may or may not be published the answer will be four, which is kind of crazy. Which book is my favorite? That’s like asking me who is my favorite pet or sibling! Just kidding! I think my favorite book is always going to be the one I’m currently working on because I hope that I grow as a writer with every single book. So far, every project I worked on has taught me something different and this one is no exception. If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it? Providing that the series does as well as I hope it will do, and actually planning many many Sikh world! The whole concept behind the series is that they’re all connected because they all feature the same main character, but they’re completely separate stories. In each book, the main character somehow comes across a mythical creature and it centers around a particular holiday. The main character has to help that mythical creature get back to where they came from and learns a lesson in the process. Usually the lesson has something to do with the holiday, but not always. I don’t want to give away anything specific about the next book because I don’t know when this will be published yet but I will say that if one of your favorite mythical creatures is featured around the holiday, you might very well see them in this series. What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft? Oh my goodness! So, in order to get a little bit more specific for this question I’m going to talk about the first book in the series, which is coming out in September! T minus 6 months and counting at the time of writing this! The craziest thing is the entire idea for this series came from one throw away line in an entirely different book of mine. It was about a ghost that had haunted a ballet school. I know I didn’t do ballet but I was a theater kid for most of my life. In theater, there are plenty of superstitions and ghost stories to keep a creative mind wondering. The thing that changes the most from the first batch to the final draft of that book was honestly the entire relationship between the main character and the ghost. I can’t say anything specific, ‘cause I don’t want spoilers, but it took a lot of rewriting. Fun Questions If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick? done Had to answer this question because it kind of made me laugh. The series that I’m working on right now is actually a spin-off. In a LGBTQ romance book that I wrote in 2017 and published in 2019, one of the characters has a daughter and that’s the character we follow in the current series I’m working on, called Lyssa’s Holiday Hyjinks. Even though they take place in the same world, they’re completely different stories that can be read without ever touching the other if you don’t want to. One is a contemporary romance and the other is a middle grade contemporary fantasy. If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose? Rick Riordan. He’s been a favorite since I was 12 and has become even more so now that I’m diving into writing middle-grade myself. I often go back to the Percy Jackson series when I need something light and fun to read, but that still has depth and heart. I never get tired of his witty humor. I also really love the fact that he started writing these books for his son because he didn’t see enough representation of kids with ADHD and dyslexia in books. That’s the same reason I started writing my middle grade books, not only for kids like me who are LGBTQ, but even for those who just feel like outcasts and are finding themselves while in middle school. What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? My schedule when I’m writing a book varies from book to book. As I said above, my day job is as an editor and a ghostwriter, so I tend to do most of my own writing either first thing in the morning or last thing at night before I go to bed otherwise I can’t focus. It takes me about two to two and a half months to finish a rough draft if I have a solid outline. If I don’t, it takes much longer. Sometimes it will go faster too, but it really depends on the book. Questions about Writing What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills? Honestly? I’m a huge proponent of people writing fanfiction. I know a lot of authors are against it, but it’s how I got my start and I think it’s super helpful for quite a few reasons. First of all, for me it took a lot of the intimidation out of writing. When I was just starting out I didn’t know how to come up with characters or how to world build or any of that stuff. I had never done it before so it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Fanfiction helped me focus on being able to learn how to write something that was longer than a typical School paper. Because I was writing in someone else’s world and with someone else’s characters, I didn’t have to work in the ground up but I’m still able to explore the different ways to portray characters in a way that they would realistically act. It also gave me a really great sense of community. The thing about fanfiction is that no matter when or where you post it, someone’s going to be around to read it. And a lot of them are going to be really positive about what you put out there. Sure, you’re going to get a few trolls and not every single review that comes back is going to be a five-star. But for me, I found it was an outlet. It helped me learn that I could write without putting the pressure on myself that I had to write something completely original. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both? Definitely both. Like I said in an earlier question, writing the rough draft is the hardest part for me because my outlines are so detailed that it kind of already feels like I wrote the story. But I have tried discovery writing before and that does not work for me at all. I often write myself into a corner and then don’t know how to get out of it. But after I get past the initial hump, it is really energizing. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t do it. What are common traps for new authors? done Don’t focus on Perfection. Don’t even aim for it. There’s no such thing as a perfect book. You’re never going to please everyone and the only person you need to worry about pleasing, especially if you’re new, is yourself. If you’re happy with the book then the odds are someone else will be too. What’s your writing software of choice? Typically I prefer Google Docs because it autosaves without you having to remember to save. Plus it automatically puts everything into one drive and I’ve also gotten really used to dictation. I dictate everything and I can dictate much faster than I can physically type. If I dictate for about 2 minutes straight, I can write about 200 to 250 words. Now I don’t often dictate for 2 minutes straight without stopping completely, but it has really improved my I’ll output time. Do you participate in writing challenges on social media? Do you recommend any? I try to do a writing hashtag every month on Instagram. @bexdrake makes an awesome post at the end of every month with a list of a bunch of different challenges going on the following month. I always check her feed to see what I want to do next and that really helps me not have to stress about content. What books did you grow up reading? I grew up reading the Magic Tree House, Percy Jackson, and one of my absolute favorite series is A Great and Terrible Beauty Trilogy by Libba Bray. Name an underappreciated novel that you love. I feel like nobody talks about A Great and Terrible Beauty Trilogy by Libba Bray anymore and I don’t understand why. I feel like her writing is so immersive and I wish more people knew about it. Lets Get to Know You. Is there a particular genre you would love to write but only under a pseudonym? I’ve always wanted to try writing a mystery book, but I’ve never written one before. I love to read them and the Nancy Drew books were my favorite books as a kid but I would definitely have to start a new pen name for that. What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it? Literary success doesn’t necessarily mean making it onto any big lists or even making a full-time living with my work. It means making enough money off of my writing to take my family on an awesome trip or two a couple times a year and having a community of people that enjoy my work and can’t wait for the next one. Community is more important than money to me especially in this case. If you didn’t write for a living, what would you probably do for work? I don’t actually write for a living! I am an editor and a ghostwriter and I don’t think I could pick any other job. I adore my clients and the sense of accomplishment I get from helping someone else make their publishing dreams a reality. Does a big ego help or hurt writers? I think everyone should have a sense of confidence in themselves, but to me confidence and ego are two very different things. If you’re confident that your work is good, then you won’t be afraid to share it with others. But you have to remain humble enough to always want to learn and improve otherwise you’ll never get any better. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Definitely the money that I sent on my editors and cover designers. Those of you who are self-publishing, please don’t skip these steps. The cover is the number one thing that sells your book and the editing is the thing that is going to make your writing quality shine as bright as humanly possible.
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