A few weeks back my local library was having Kelley Armstrong come in to talk about her new books, do a Q&A session, and sign a lot of books! I took notes (nerd that I am) and have created this six part series in order to share what I learned with you.
After reading a bit from one of her books, KA opened the floor up for questions. She brought “bribes” of books and tote bags to hand out so we would ask questions, but I don’t think she needed to worry because nearly everyone had a question! There were still more to be asked even after all the so-called bribes were handed out…one of which I got!
The first person asked about what sort of education a writer would need. To which KA answered “Nothing”. You should take a course for a job you will enjoy working while you try to get published, and once you’re published she recommends taking classes for fun. KA has a background in psychology, which helps her when writing her characters, but she has also taken marketing, fencing, aikido, bartending (“because you never know when one of your characters will need to know how to mix drinks!”) and plans to take a course on the history of crime.
KA’s advice to writers is to just write. “If you want to write, write. Most of us can find time to write a little every day… two pages, one page. Be constantly writing something, don’t wait until you feel ready to write.” She mentioned a lot of people tell her they want to write a book, but when she questions them about it they are still in the planning stages and had been for a good ten years! That is when she started talking about NaNoWriMo, and how great it is for all writers –both the wannabes and already established.
One person wanted to know if KA writes each book one after the other or has to write some at the same time, and if so how does KA keep her stories straight? She said she was ahead of schedule so she never has to write two different books at once (though no mention of prior), though she will be editing one book while writing another. She is lucky in that she always gets to write her first draft from start to finish without worrying about another book. It would be “hard to get back into the headspace” if she had to alternate or switch from one to another based on when the books are due at the publishers by.
This was followed by an inquiry of what to do when you get writer’s block. KA started with saying she was going to give us Melissa Marr’s answer told a while back. KA thought it was a much better answer and decided that she could use it from then on since Melissa already put it out there.
When Melissa Marr gets writers block she will fill up her bathtub, grab a snorkel, and sink under the water. This causes sensory deprivation –no sight, sound, smell, nothing. You have no choice but to think about your book and can do so without any outside stimuli and distraction. “If anyone tries this, the snorkel is very important!”
KA will never sit down at her desk if she doesn’t have a scene worked out and ready to be written because “a blank screen is intimidating”. She will walk the dog, fold laundry, or if she’s desperate she will even wash dishes by hand. Mindless chores gives KA a feeling of accomplishment while she works out where she wants her story to go or how she wants the story to get from point A to point B but needs to work out how to do that.
The other thing that can cause writer’s block is a lack of confidence, and even KA gets like that sometimes. Like everyone else, after reading a great book, you think you can never write anything like that. But all KA needs to think about is Ernest Hemingway’s quote: The first draft of anything is…crap (KA’s rephrasing because Hemingway did not use “crap”) and she knows she’ll be okay because no one has to see your draft until you’re ready to show it. If you end up cutting a scene because it is not fixable, chalk it up to writing practice and move on, but “you cannot fix a blank page.”
Of course this led to KA being asked who her favourite author’s are, and the main one is Stephen King. She then told an anecdote about how there wasn’t really a YA section at her library when she was growing up, just one little turning case (totally blanking on what it’s called), so KA headed straight for the adult fantasy section.
She was then asked if there were any books she read over and over again, like we all read her books repeatedly. KA said her picks were Watership Down, Pride and Prejudice, and she is now rereading Stephen King’s The Last Stand. “Even though you know what is going to happen you can enjoy the experience again, hang out with the characters again.”