Chase Night on Writing & Publishing: An Interview

Chase Night on Writing & Publishing: An Interview

What kind of writing do you do and where can people find you?

I write fiction for Young and New Adults (teens and 20-somethings). When I’m feeling pretentious, I describe my current project—a werewolf trilogy set in the backwoods of Arkansas—as Southern Gothic Magical Realism, but when I’m feeling like I want people to actually read it, I call it Rural Fantasy with elements of Paranormal Romance.

My first novel, Chicken, will be published on July 29, 2014 through Asymmetrical Press, and its companion The Natural State will follow in 2015. These two books are closely connected, but they can also stand alone. Chicken is more of a YA novel, while The Natural State is more for the NA crowd. But anyone who wants to understand the as-yet-untitled third book will have to read them both.

I also share personal essays (I call them scrolls) on my blog, Unbridled Existence.  You can also find some of my free short stories there if you nose around.

I’m on Twitter and Tumblr, but my favorite thing right now is Instagram, which is where you can find me modeling my book hats.

When did you first start writing (or when did you first start writing seriously)?

As a kid, I was always writing knock-off stories about books that I loved, like Where the Red Fern Grows and The Black Stallion. I started (but never finished) writing a mostly original fantasy novel as a pre-teen, and my grandmother bought me a subscription to Writer’s Digest.

By the time I was sixteen, I had written a 364-page historical romantic thriller with the help of my thirteen-year-old cousin. It was called Titanic: Fatal Voyage and it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful. My parents made me let a local children’s book author read it. She took it very seriously and gave me real advice on how to make it better, and I don’t think I appreciated it enough back then because I was just horribly embarrassed for an adult to read my descriptions of kissing. But in retrospect, I realize how lucky I was to have someone take me that seriously, and that’s something I’d like to pay forward in the future for teen writers.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

I just want to tell good stories that give my readers what the Internet calls “feels”.

I’m not nearly as interested in critical or commercial success as I am in one day reading fanfiction based on something I wrote. That’s my dream. To me, that’s the highest compliment a writer can get. You write something that someone else loves so much that they just have to write about it too. They have to continue the story, or look at it from a different angle, or imagine what it would have been like if these characters fell in love instead, or maybe take them and introduce them to characters from another fandom. I don’t want my readers to just get lost in my worlds for a few hours. I want them to move in and feel like they belong because that’s what fiction did for me as a kid, and still does for me even now as an adult.

What is your proudest moment as a writer thus far?

Getting over my fear of reading my work out loud. It was something I thought I’d never be able to do, because I’m a very shy person and I hate being in front of people, but my college’s creative writing department hosts a lot of student readings, and over the last two years I’ve learned to just get up there and do it. I’m not the best at it. I sweat every time. My eyes water and it looks like I’m making myself cry. It’s really very awful, but I do it whenever there’s a chance because it also makes me feel kind of high. Not from the attention, but from the sense of personal connection. You get to hear someone laugh at that joke you worked so hard on, or you get to feel people collectively holding their breath when you read something intense… it makes my stories feel more real to me, and I think that helps me turn around and make them more real for my readers.

Describe your writing process. Do you start in a notebook and move it to the computer? Are there particular apps you can’t write without?

No notebooks. It hurts my hand to write more than a few paragraphs, and it hurts my head to try and figure out what those paragraphs even said. As for apps, I find that RainyMood can really help soothe my brain when I can’t settle down and get “into character” so to speak.

I don’t really have a writing process. I don’t write every day, which some people will tell you is The Only Way. Maybe it’s the fastest way to finish something, but finishing isn’t the point, telling the right story is the point, and you don’t always know the whole story when you start. Writing is maybe 20% physically writing, and 80% daydreaming and listening to your characters. If I have a writing process at all, it’s driving around aimlessly, listening to the sort of music my characters would listen to, and waiting for them to tell me what they would do next.  Then I go home and listen to the same music to trigger my memory of the stuff I came up with in the car.

Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t write every day, just that you shouldn’t listen to anyone who says real writers write every day. Some do, some don’t. I’m going to try to write every day on the next novel, but I’m also not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t always happen.

Describe your publishing process. What host and platform (Ghost, Squarespace, WordPress, etc) are you using and why?

I publish extremely sporadically on my blog. I’m aiming to do better this year, but I find it difficult to go back and forth between the fiction and non-fiction parts of my brain.

I use a WordPress blog, and the story behind that is that the guy who designed the original version of UE set it up that way. I have a new theme now, but it’s the same backstage as it’s always been. I’ve dabbled with other platforms, but I always come back to the original.

What are some goals you set when you first started out that you’ve been able to accomplish? How did you go about accomplishing them?

First, I just wanted to be a good writer, and pardon my lack of false humility, but I am a good writer, and how I accomplished that is as complicated an answer as how I survived to be thirty because who I am and how I write are pretty well tied up in each other. But I think if you want to be a good writer, the best place to start is by reading. And don’t start with a list of the high school English classics or some blogger’s list of books you have to read before you die. Read what you like. Books that make you think are important, but as a writer, books that make you feel are even more so. The caveat here is that you need to keep an open mind about what it is you like.

Second, I wanted to be a published writer, and that’s going to happen this summer, and honestly that was a lot of luck. I started blogging about minimalism in 2010, and that’s how I met Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists. I was living in Austin at the time, and when he came down for SXSW in 2011, we met up and had tacos and walked around downtown and talked about our love for fiction. A few months later, he asked me to contribute a short story to his self-published collection, and then in 2012, he asked me if I’d be interested in signing with Asymmetrical, the indie press he started with Ryan Nicodemus and Colin Wright. If I hadn’t accomplished my first goal of being a good writer, that wouldn’t have happened, but after that it was mostly a case of making the right connection.

If you were starting today, what are some things you’d do differently?

Well, something stupid I did when I started blogging was get caught up in the “quit your job, make a fortune online” thing, and so I quit my job and that was a really big mistake. Don’t quit your job unless it is legitimately harming your physical or mental health. I mean, don’t quit until you have something else lined up because when you are unemployed and wondering how to pay your rent and pretending not to hear the collector’s phone calls… it will be a thousand times harder to write than it ever was when you were just tired and cranky from your job.

What is one tip, trick or app you think every writer should know/use?

If you write fiction, make a list of set-ups and pay-offs. This is different from an outline which only covers the story beats. I didn’t do this on Chicken, and most of my revising process has involved paying off the set-ups I forgot about or setting up the pay-offs I forgot to set up. Think of Chekhov’s old advice that if you show a gun in Act I, it better go off in Act 3. You tell a joke in Chapter 2 and you want to ironically echo that joke in Chapter 23? Write it down. Mention a character in Chapter 4 who needs to play a part in Chapter 30? Write it down. You will forget these things, and you will want to hit yourself in the head with the hammer you should have mentioned on page one.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer who hopes to attract a larger readership and earn their first dollar?

Stop hoping for those things.

Write because you want one person to feel something.

If that one person feels something, she’ll tell her two best friends, and if they feel something, they’ll tell their friends, and so on and so on and so on. But if you try to write for all of those people at once, you’ll never get anywhere because it’s impossible to craft something that will make everyone feel something.

Robert Isaac Brown on Writing & Publishing: An Interview

Robert Isaac Brown on Writing & Publishing: An Interview

What kind of writing do you do and where can people find you?

I am currently writing a lot of fiction these days. I also blog at my website, Craft & Thought.

I’m active on Twitter, Instagram, and I recently started practicing poetry in public on my Tumblr.

When did you first start writing (or when did you first start writing seriously)?

I’ve been writing seriously since my eleventh grade year of high school. A previous blog I used to run caught the eye of a national fashion magazine’s online editor. From then on, I knew pursuing this dream of mine was the right thing to do—to fully immerse myself and see what other possibilities were out there.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

I try to add as much value as I can, whether it’s exploring nonfiction or if it’s bringing joy or evoking certain emotions with fiction. With fiction, it’s much easier; I can invite the reader to explore certain situations and perspectives that may be harder for me to communicate through other mediums.

What is your proudest moment as a writer thus far?

Lake Horatio is my proudest moment as a writer. I’ve never labored over a piece of work like I did with that collection.

Ever since I started this journey, I’ve wanted to write a book. The completion of my very first one has fueled me to keep going. I learned many things about what it takes to produce quality work (from choosing a cover, writing a synopsis, to what goes into formatting and editing). It’s all worth it and I’m ready to get started on the next project.

Describe your writing process. Do you start in a notebook and move it to the computer? Are there particular apps you can’t write without?

I write longhand sometimes. The majority of the Lake Horatio stories were drafted longhand. I find it problematic to write longer work by hand, though.

There are pros and cons to both—longhand and typing on a computer. When I write longhand, I write slower but my thoughts are clearer. With typing, I can crank out many words, but when it’s time to edit, a large amount gets cut.

When it comes to writing books, I prefer when the story comes as I write it. I tried outlining once and the characters felt robotic because they were already programmed way ahead of time. Focusing on plot points ahead of time takes away from the discovery and possibilities of what the story could be.

As for apps, there’s none I need to produce my work. However, I enjoy using iA Writer to jot down story ideas, character names, and story titles (for some strange reason, I like titling things before I even get started with the actual writing).

I recently began using the Squarespace Blog app. I’m able to draft, edit, and publish blog updates right from my phone.

Describe your publishing process. What host and platform (Ghost, Squarespace, WordPress, etc) are you using and why?

I use Squarespace because the features are second to none. Most importantly, it works for me.

What are some goals you set when you first started out that you’ve been able to accomplish? How did you go about accomplishing them?

I don’t have any goals. What I like to do is focus on the habit of writing daily and producing better work for people to enjoy.

What inspired your latest collection of short stories, Lake Horatio? How did you go about writing it and how long did it take you to finish?

Lake Horatio by Robert Isaac BrownAbout two years ago, I wrote what I like to call “safe fiction.” This fiction is written with everyone in mind, and its main purpose is to not step on anyone’s toes. My writing suffered because of it.

I put that method aside and started writing for me. It was a liberating process because I didn’t feel the need to stress over who would like my writing and who wouldn’t.

I like to call Lake Horatio my first real attempt at fiction. All of the stories were liberating to write. Though vague, real life inspired these stories. The world can be a very dark place at times, and it wouldn’t be fair to ignore that side of the spectrum. There are people who battle loneliness daily. There are families who lose loved ones daily. I wanted to explore that territory.

I had been working on these stories in bits and pieces last year. The idea to link all of them together didn’t come until the last few months of that year. All ten felt cohesive. I edited them to take place in a havoc-filled town and that’s about it.

If you were starting today, what are some things you’d do differently?

That’s a difficult one. I’m fairly new to blogging. I used to run a fashion blog in 2010 before I started focusing most of my attention on other kinds of writing. What worked for me then was writing often and being consistent. The work has to be helpful, of course. It has to add value.

With that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. As I immerse myself in this new direction, I’m going to use those same simple principles.

What is one tip, trick or app you think every writer should know/use?

Write every day. You may not show people some of those daily scribbles, but putting in the time and effort to get better will show through whatever it is you decide to present to the world.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer who hopes to attract a larger readership and earn their first dollar?

There’s no substitute out there that’ll do the work for you. Be kind. Provide the best work you can possibly create to the world. Stay consistent. Keep the well of experiences full. That way, you’ll never run out of things to write about.

Shawn Mihalik on Writing & Publishing: An Interview

Shawn Mihalik on Writing & Publishing: An Interview

What kind of writing do you do and where can people find you?

I’m primarily a fiction writer. I’ve written one novel, a novella, and a book of poetry, all of which can be found at shawnmihalik.com/books.

I also currently help run the independent publishing company that published my books, Asymmetrical Press, and so my work can be found there as well.

I tweet at @shawnmihalik.

When did you first start writing (or when did you first start writing seriously)?

I wrote my first piece of fiction (an embarrassing Star Trek: Voyager fan fic) when I was in seventh grade. I got serious about writing in high school, winning several awards for student journalism. I then majored in journalism at Youngstown State University before deciding that I’d rather focus on fiction.

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

First and foremost, I want to figure myself out. Each new book or piece of writing is an internal journey for me, and it involves learning a lot about myself and how I think and act as a human being. Ultimately, though, I hope that after the process of working that personal stuff out and putting it on the page, sharing the final product—the book—can help readers do the same thing for themselves. I guess I want to figure out how people work, how the world works, and contribute in some small way to making it a better place.

What is your proudest moment as a writer thus far?

Brand-Changing Day by Shawn MihalikMy first novel, Brand-Changing Day, is about corporate chain restaurants. A reader once told me that after reading the novel, he left his job as the manager of a similar restaurant because he saw himself in one of the main characters and didn’t want to turn into the sort of person that character ultimately does. That was a proud moment for me: knowing that my work had inspired at least one person to make a positive change in his life.

I think my second-proudest moment is worth mentioning also: having a short story I wrote get rejected by the New Yorker. I’m proud of the rejection because it means I tried. (I still plan on getting published in the magazine one of these days.)

Describe your writing process. Do you start in a notebook and move it to the computer? Are there particular apps you can’t write without?

I’ve learned that the process is going to be different for each thing I write. I wrote my novella, which is only about a hundred pages long, over the course of four years and in a Word document. I wrote my novel in about a year, writing directly into Scrivener the entire time.

I’m working on something new right now, and while I write the draft itself directly into Scrivener, I’ve also been keeping a Moleskine dedicated specifically to this project, and I tend to sit down and loosely outline scenes and chapters by hand before writing the first draft in Scrivener.

I also carry a small notebook in my back pocket at all times, which I use to jot down anything and everything that pops into my head throughout the day. Most of the ideas I write there never turn into anything, but having something to dump my thoughts into as soon as they arise keeps my mind clear, and thumbing through the notebook later (something that doesn’t quite work with digital notes) often proves inspirational.

Describe your publishing process. What host and platform (Ghost, Squarespace, WordPress, etc) are you using and why?

I run my personal site as a self-hosted WordPress site right now, and the Asymmetrical site is also on WordPress.

I’m also a big fan of Tumblr as a platform for writers and creators—the sense of community and camaraderie it can foster is unparalleled, and that’s an important force behind the work a lot of people do.

What are some goals you set when you first started out that you’ve been able to accomplish? How did you go about accomplishing them?

My biggest goal has always been to have an impact through words, and I think I’ve accomplished that, even if not yet on the scale that I someday hope to. The only way I’ve been able to accomplish that goal, and the only way I’ll be able to continue to achieve it (because it’s not the kind of goal that you can ever fully attain and then stop) is by doing the work, by constantly learning and observing and feeling, and then, of course, writing.

If you were starting today, what are some things you’d do differently?

This is a tough question for me, and I don’t think it’s one I can have an answer to. I’m young, and I’ve been lucky to do the work I’ve done at such a young age. I wouldn’t want to have accelerated the process any further. Maybe I would even try to make more mistakes, slow things down.

What is one tip, trick or app you think every writer should know/use?

Be a writer. This doesn’t mean you have to write every day or use any specific tool or do things in any specific way—what it means is just always remember that you’re a writer, and if you’re a writer, everything you do is part of that.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer who hopes to attract a larger readership and earn their first dollar?

Experiment. Try a lot of things. Fail hard and fail often.