Interview with a school kid: HONEST answers on writing, school, and life
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I got the following email this morning.

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If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to ask a few questions about being an author.

  1. Why did you decide to be an author, instead of something like… A coach?
  2. What made you interested in being an author?
  3. Would you suggest to other people, that they should be an author?
  4. What books should I start reading? (I like fantasy, but I know to read other types too), (also, what are some of your favorite books to read?)
  5. What are some of the (more) important subjects in school, for being an author?

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It was from a school email address, which in general means the kid is doing homework assigned by a teacher, and I have a standing policy on BEING HOMEWORK assigned by a teacher.

However, there was a single word in one question in that little list of five that really got to me. (I’m not going to tell you which one, but you’ll figure it out.)

So I decided to do the interview with the kid—and more, I decided to tell him the truth, which is something I guarantee he hears from adults just about never.

In my experience, adults talking to kids are gawdawful liars now in about the same percentage that they were when I was a kid. Truth from an adult was like the single gasp of fresh air in a room filled with fart.

So here’s what I told him.

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1: Why did you decide to be an author, instead of something like… A coach?

I didn’t decide to be an author. I was going to be a famous artist, or maybe a musician.

Tried both of those, and discovered they made great hobbies, but I hated them as jobs. So I went to nursing school, and worked as an RN, mostly in the emergency room and intensive care units, for ten years.

But four years into my nursing career, when my own children were two and three years old, two children who had been in a horrible accident were brought into the ER where I was a nursing supervisor. I ran the code on one, the ER RN ran the code on the other. In spite of everything we could do, both of them died, and their parents lost both their kids that day.

I realized that they could have been my kids, and realized that I needed a different job—one that kept me where I could be with my children.

I’d always loved to read, and was certain I could write better stories than most I read. So I spent every spare minute of my free time, when my kids were at school or asleep, writing fiction. I was terrible at it in the beginning, and got more than 100 rejections from publishers before I sold anything. But I taught myself, trying new things, figuring out ways to do what I wanted to to better, and most of all, I never quit.

Five years later I sold two poems, and then my first novel. That novel went on to win the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and I went on to sell every single thing I wrote for the next seven years straight—something that almost never happens. I still sell very well.

The year after my first sale, I got a three-book deal from my publisher, and quit nursing to write full-time. I’ve been supporting my family by writing ever since.

2: What made you interested in being an author?

Never having to run a code on someone else’s kid for an hour, begging the kid the whole time to hang on, to live, to just not die so he could go back to his mom and dad.

Knowing I could do it and be good at it.

Loving books.

Needing to be close to my kids.

3: Would you suggest to other people, that they should be an author?

There’s no such thing as “should.” Do not EVER do something because someone else tells you that you SHOULD do it because you’d be good at it, or because you “owe it” to your parents, or to society, or to the world.

The only reason you do something is because you love it, because it matters to you, and because you know that you can do that work well, and that by doing THAT work, you will enjoy your life and make it meaningful to yourself. You don’t owe your parents, your school, society, someone else’s expectations of you, or the world anything.

4: What books should I start reading? (I like fantasy, but I know to read other types too), (also, what are some of your favorite books to read?)

I read everything. In fiction, I read fantasy, science fiction, westerns, horror, suspense, romance, books written for men, books written for women, and everything else I can get my hands on.

In nonfiction, I read predominantly history and science, but I also research anything that interests me, no matter how odd.

5: What are some of the (more) important subjects in school, for being an author?

I learned two things in school that actually applied to my career as a writer.

One was how to think scientifically by using the scientific method:

  • Ask a question
  • Create a hypothesis
  • Predict what will happen
  • Test the hypothesis
  • Evaluate the results

I used this process to teach myself how to write fiction. How to raise kids. How to use a computer. How to create a business on the internet. How to fix problems that came up at all points in my life.

The other thing I learned in school that was actually valuable was that if I wrote one page every day, I would have my notebook filled by its due date, and would not fail my class.

I discovered that’s the way you write books, too. A little bit every day, not everything all at once.

Otherwise, school was just as useless when I was a kid as it is now. It prepares people to work in jobs in an industrial society (which no longer exists in this country) and in “service industries”—in other words, to get a job flipping burgers at McDonald’s or ringing up sales at Wal-Mart.

And college is just an expansion of school—the vast majority of college graduates do WORSE on general knowledge testing than they did as high-school graduates.

If you want to do something cool with your life, you’re going to have to learn to do it on your own time.

You’re going to have to find people who know how to do what you want to do, take courses if they offer them, ask them to take you on as a trainee—whatever you have to do to learn what they know.

And you’re going to have to work HARD. You are going to have to learn how to fail, because we learn new things and create new things by failing until we finally succeed. Until you can fail at something, get back up and try to do it again, only better, you will never accomplish anything.

Furthermore, you are going to have to learn how to persist. I told you about the more than 100 rejection slips I got before I started selling anything. That was more than one-hundred times that I failed—that people told me I was wasting my time, that friends and family said I’d be better off just sticking with the thing that I was already doing.

That was more than one hundred times over a period of YEARS that I had to tell myself, “This is what I want, and what I want my life to be matters to me.”

I won—and writing is the best job on the planet. At least for me.

I wake up every morning joyful that I get to do this—that I get to go to MY kind of work, sitting alone in front of a computer, telling myself a story that delights me, knowing that not even I know how it ends yet…but I will.

Whatever you end up doing, I hope that it’s something you love. Something you fought for and earned. Something that makes you happy to get out of bed every day to do, because you get to have the fun of working hard at something wonderful that matters to you.

Holly Lisle

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Moon & Sun: I’m now clear to write in my world again!
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I'm Celebrating!

I’m Celebrating!

I didn’t want to say anything about the fact that I was pursuing the removal of the non-compete clause from my contract until I heard one way or the other.

I got the news today. The non-compete clause for my Scholastic contract is dead, and I’m now free to write stories in that world again.

So now the issue becomes looking at my schedule and figuring out how and where I can start opening the world up again.

For a little context on my move to publishing my own work, read I’ve quit Big Publishing to publish myself.

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Questions for the Google+ Chat: What do you want to know about…
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The Google+ Live Chat will start Friday at 12 NOON ET. 

THERE IS NO SOUND on the first 45 or so seconds of this video. Skip past those. I caught the error quickly.

I’m going to answer questions you post here.

This is pretty wide open. Your questions can be professional or personal, and can be related to nonfiction or fiction.

Do you have a writing question I’ve never answered anywhere?  A question about one of my novels? A question about me?

I’m not expecting a lot of questions, but if I get a lot, I know I won’t have time to answer everything in this one chat.

SO…

If there are a lot of questions, I’ll organize the ones I don’t answer into categories, and do a few more live Google+ chats to answer them.

http://youtu.be/7Ar28NioO48

I’ll post the link in this space once I get Google+ set up and know that it’s working. If some of you wouldn’t mind using the link in the top right corner to post it to Twitter once we get going, I’d appreciate it. I’m working with

I’m going to print off the existing questions right after I have everything set up, and I’ll either go down the list, or pick and choose, depending on how many there are.

Is there anything you can’t ask? No.

Is there anything I won’t answer? Probably.

Use your best judgement. :D

 

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Migraines and Vertigo Redux
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I started having headaches about halfway through last week.

On Friday, they turned into migraines and icepick migraines.

On Saturday, the vertigo returned, and the headaches stayed.

I got a few hundred words written on Saturday and again on Sunday on WARPAINT, but did not do anything online.

I’m working on LESSON 23 of the Self-Pub Expansion of HTTS today, and again, am working through migraines and vertigo.

I’ll answer the additional story and writing questions from the party as quickly as I’m able, but it won’t be today.

I apologize for the delay. I had a wonderful time at the party. Thank you again for coming.

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Interview with Stephanie Osborn, author of The Case Of The Displaced Detective (science fiction)
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The Case of the Displaced Detective: Book 1

The Case of the Displaced Detective: Book 1

  1. In a single sentence of thirty words or less, describe your main story, hero, conflict, and why my readers will love your book.

    Physicist Dr. Skye Chadwick discovers an alternate reality wherein Sherlock Holmes is destined to die at Reichenbach and rescues him, but can Holmes thrive – even survive – in our modern world?

  2. What is the core of this story, your passion for writing it, the reason you wrote THIS book and not something else?

    This is a fish-out-of-water story. I wanted to take one of the most brilliant men in literature and place him in a situation where he had only two choices – lose his mind, or man up and adapt.

    Grow.

    Learn.

    I’ve been a “Holmesian” since childhood, so he was the logical choice. And once the “plot-bunny” bit, I couldn’t NOT write it. 215,000 words spilled out of me in two months. Which is why it’s a two-volume: The Arrival, and At Speed. The Arrival is an “origin story,” with foreshadowings of a spy ring after the project that brought Holmes here, and by its end we go full bore into the mystery, which unwinds fully in At Speed.

  3. The Case of the Displaced Detective: Book 2

    The Case of the Displaced Detective: Book 2

  4. Which character do you most love, and why?

    I adore Holmes, always have, always will. He’s so brilliant, and so very human, at the same time. I wish he WAS real.

  5. What was the most difficult part of writing this book, and why?

    Keeping Holmes true to himself as Doyle created him, hands down. Holmes’ character and quirks are fixed. And here I was, putting him in a situation that would stretch his very reason to its limits – imagine being jerked from your own world, leaving everything and everyone you have ever known and loved behind, and transmitted 150 years into the future! And yet I still had to maintain the essential Holmes.

  6. If you were to pick a quote from the book to represent you, your writing, and what readers should expect from you, what would it be?

    “Everyone please stand behind the yellow line until the doors open. No food, drink, flash photography, or video cameras are permitted. Once aboard the ride, please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times until we come to a full and complete stop. Otherwise, they’re apt to end up in another universe somewhere without ya, and wouldn’t that fry your noggin?”
    —Skye Chadwick, The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival

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Writing grants, both Good and Evil
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Grant Money

Grant Money

When I closed down comments on the slavery post, I got a lot of irate emails from folks who did not read closely, and who were under the impressions that I thought ALL taxes were slavery, that ALL grants were evil, and that anyone who accepted any sort of grant was a slaveholder by degree.  I’ll get back to taxes at a later date, but for now I want to talk about Grants.

What I always hope is that people will read what I wrote, but most people don’t. And they reply to what they think I said, rather than to what I said.  What I said was that government-funded grants were funded by slave labor. I was very specific about that.

I think grants funded wholly by individuals or their businesses who want to help writers and artists are a fine and lovely thing. I even think those folks who fund grants should get a legitimate tax write-off for their grant-funding, since they are in effect paying someone else to work—creating some part of a job—and that ought to count for something. I don’t care what sort of works these folks want to support: If you love something (that isn’t criminal), you have every right to spend your money to make more of what you love available.

At one point I considered—to the point of figuring out which works of mine I would funnel profits from in order to fund it—creating a Romanticist grant, a fund to be given annually to one writer of my choice who was working on a piece of Romantic fiction (Romantic fiction being that which presents the world as it could be and should be, and that stresses individual achievement, heroism, and villainy: in other words, the sort of fiction that does not EVER receive grants from anyone else).

I value Romanticist fiction.  It’s what I write, it meets my strict criteria for fiction that is worth my time, and the good stuff is damn hard to find. It would be worth funding.

Then I realized that in order to create this grant, I would have to read a whole lot of applications, and that I did not have the time to do so. And I further realized there was no one else to whom I would be willing to hand over responsibility for choosing grant recipients. I knew what I wanted to reward, and knew at some point I would be unhappy with a work chosen by anyone else.  So the grant idea died.

But my point here is that grants given voluntarily by people who value what they are funding are a wonderful and magnificent thing. They are Good, big G, on the scale of Good and Evil.

Grants funded by me (or you) with money taken at gunpoint by the government are Evil, big E. The government gives my money to agencies run by individuals who fund works I do not value (fiction from the school of Realism, deconstructionist crap, and other work I consider an utter waste of my time and money), which I would not voluntarily pay for. I don’t object to those works being created. I object to them being created out of MY effort, which has all been funded by ME.

And speaking now specifically to the folks who so kindly told me if I objected to having my rights voted out from under me and I didn’t like having my money forcibly extracted from me for uses I do not approve of, I could always leave…

Yes. I can. Taking a couple of jobs other than my own with me—jobs I have created and that I pay out of my own pocket because I am someone who knows how to create jobs. I’m sure the folks I pay will thank you for telling me to go away.  If I do, you need to realize that I’ll be late to the party.

You folks have been inviting folks like me to leave—folks who do not wish to have our rights voted out from under us—for about half a century now. Amazingly, you do not realize how many have already done so, taking with them the jobs you bitch about not having, and putting those jobs in India, China, the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan, and anywhere else in the world where folks who create jobs are appreciated rather than punished. (For now, anyway.)

If you insist on punishing the people who make your lives and your work possible, and if you do not actually know how to create jobs yourself, or are not willing to expend the effort, risk, money, and frequent failure that someone who creates jobs incurs, you might want to rethink this strategy of yours. Voting away the rights of the people who create jobs doesn’t seem to be working out too well for you.

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Needed: One TALYSMANA traitor—talent, sense of humor, and backstabbing dagger required
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Wanted for Hire: One Evil Traitor, sense of humor and own dagger a must.

Wanted for Hire: One Evil Traitor, sense of humor and own dagger a must.

The revision of TALYSMANA is, has been, and will continue to be a bitch on wheels.

The problem I ran into 95% of the way through the first draft was the realization that my ending could not happen with the existing beginning. Like several other novels I’ve written, I stopped writing when I figured that out, so the first draft had no ending.

I left out something critical, only I couldn’t figure out what.

I was hoping it was something simple to fix, like a plot point.

It was, in fact, a whole entire character. This I discovered via a spiffy nightmare that tipped me in the direction of “This is what your story needs.”

Which means I’m going to have to create another character from the very start of the book (or perhaps turn one of the existing characters into the traitor).

I also realized (same spiffy nightmare) that I got half of my villain wrong. The part set in TalysMana is good. The part set in the What Is, however, is utterly wrong. Police would have been on him in three seconds. So that, too, is going to take heavy rewriting.

And oh, hell, not via nightmare but though the real-life pain of reading the manuscript, I’ve discovered the Kettan I’ve read through so far is whiny and weak, and both missed the opportunities in her past, and failed to utilize her present. There are sections where she’s okay, but overall, I loathe her.  The revised Ketten will be someone I can stand to be in the same room with.

Will Grey is good, though. I like him. Emerald is good. And Fred is awesome…but he’s based on my daughter’s basset hound, who is also awesome. Fred will come through this revision unscathed.

This is not going to be any quick, easy revision, though. This is going to be a Book Is Wrecked revision. My notebook is filling up already.

 

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