Saturday, 19 November 2011

Interview with Lara Morgan (Rosie Black Chronicles)

Hey there awesome people! I've been AWOL for ages again, and I am this close to throttling - ahem - filing a complaint to our education system for tearing me away from blogging. But my last exam finishes soon, and I can't wait to be back reviewing and reading. Even the thought of it is brightening the thought of my massive pile of practise exams...

But in the meantime, I have a wonderful interview with the almighty Lara Morgan, the author of the Rosie Black Chronicles, right here at Book Couture, as part of an awesome blog tour. Lara. Morgan. Seriously, Mind. Blown. Alright, let's go...

Hi Lara! Thank you so much for taking the time to appear on my blog. I'm so thrilled to have you heere! The topic I'm really curious about today is writing tips, for all those aspiring writers out there. So first of all, I was wondering, what inspired you to write the Rosie Black Chronicles?

There were two inspirations for Rosie: first was my interest in our planet’s future given the mess of global warming and second my love of space adventure shows and movies like Star Wars and Firefly. I know, it’s a weird mix!  So basically I combined the two, exploring the kind of world both environmentally and socially we might have in the future if all the terrible effects of global warming come to pass and including against that backdrop an adventure story that involved spaceships and futuristic themes with an independent female heroine. I also found great inspiration for Rosie in Buffy. Not so much in the kind of person Rosie is but more in terms of her heroism in the face of sometimes terrible odds.

Hmm, global warming is such a topical issue at the moment, and Rosie Black's world certainly shows the frightening ramifications of inaction. And that is certainly an interesting blend of inspirational material!

Sometimes when I'm writing short stories (or actually, writing anything in general), I'll want to get the tone, the character, the phrasing, etc, right, and so I find myself agonising over every single word. I guess I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Then I find myself losing interest because the whole writing process feels too difficult. How is your own writing process like? And what would you recommmend beginning writers to do?

Ah yes, the agonizing is a very hard hurdle to get over. It’s also one I advise beginning writers to leap over because trying to get everything right before you move on can result in exactly what you’ve described and that is death to any writing. When I start work on a book I firstly do a lot of research into the kind of world I’m creating, so lots of reading (my favourite part!), and I scribble notes down about my characters. I don’t do very detailed sketches of them at that stage but I do think about who they are and where they might fit in the story. Then I get out an artist’s sketch block and start plotting out a story line. I draw a long diagonal line right across the page and at the beginning note down where I think the story might start, the scene and action. Then I make a dot in the middle of the line and note what a major plot point might be for the middle, then make a dot at the end of the line and note how I think the book might end, and I fill in a few points in between those three that might be some major plot points for the story. That’s it really, then I just start writing the first draft. I am one of those writers who work better if I don’t over plot. I need to do a bit of plotting, but while I’m writing the first draft I always revise my plot outline as I go so I tend to end up with several increasingly different versions. I rarely ever change the ending though. I always have a clear idea at the start where I’m heading and when writing a first draft I don’t edit as I go. If I find along the way that a character does something that affects what I’ve already written a chapter or so back I just make a note to myself to change it in the rewrite and keep going. It’s only when I’ve written the first draft all the way through that I really know what the story is. Then in the rewrite I can go back and refine it.

So I think my best advice for new writers is to stop agonizing over getting the perfect scene or sentence the first time and just get to the end. Remember all writing is rewriting. Relax, take a breath and give yourself permission to write badly the first time knowing you will be fixing it up in the rewrite. And never show anyone your first draft because the last thing you need at the beginning is someone’s well meaning advice before you’re even sure how your story goes.

That, is gold for aspiring writers. Reading is my facourite part too! And your visual approach to planning is very innovative and interesting. I've never heard of that technique before, and I think I might try it out someday. Thanks!
What's your personal cure for writer's block?

If I’m having trouble writing it’s usually because my creative brain isn’t quite sure what’s happening in the story next and is fighting with my ‘just-get-on-with-it’ side of the brain. I’ve found the best way for me to get over this is to stop trying to push through it and take a step back. I stop writing and just take a day or so to think about what the problem is. I leave my desk and sit on the couch in a different room with a notebook and just day dream the story a bit, making random notes if something comes to me. It can be very frustrating, but eventually – and often when I’m doing something unrelated like the dishes or sleeping – the solution will come and I can go back to work.

Looking back on your writing experience, is there anything you wish you had done differently? And anything you would recommend for beginning writers?

I wish I’d known more about promoting the book and myself at the beginning. When my first book came out I really didn’t know what I should do and I wish now I’d invested some money into going to conventions or getting out there more. It’s not something anyone tells you, so it’s something I tell new writers. You have to take on responsibility for promoting yourself as well. You can’t just rely on the publisher, especially not in today’s market and luckily now with the range of social media we have an outlet that can help with that. So advice? Get online, go to conventions, and if you’re not published yet also enter short story competitions. Winning or placing gives you runs on the board. I won a story competition and it lead to me getting an agent so they really can help, especially if the awards have a national profile. Don’t be scared just enter, it’s worth it.

Valuable advice, once again. It's great that a story competition sparked off your career. It gives me hope that with the right amount of talent, and some luck thrown in too, anything is possible.

Usually when I read a book, I'm only reading it for pleasure, and I tend to read it fast, preferring to allow the storyline to play out in my imagination, rather than analysing every word. In some ways, that contributes to the magic of books for me, because while I might not register every single word, my mind still evokes the overall sense of the book. So what I'm wondering is, what kind of reader are you? And after having written your own books, do you find youself becoming more of a close reader?

 I can still get lost in a story, but what I have found is I probably pick up on errors or lazy writing more quickly than I might have before and I’m probably a tad more critical. It makes me wonder what the editor was thinking/doing to let something slip by, while at the same time I know that mistakes happen when you’re dealing with reading the same thing over and over. I won’t finish a book anymore if it irks me though. Life is too short to keep reading if I’m not enjoying it.

What are some of your favourite literature tropes?

I love a good quest. Yes it’s been done, and done, and done – heck I’ve done it! – but it makes for such a good story, such a great structure to revolve characters around. I also love a good dark lord. What’s not to love? Look at Darth Vader, Sauron, Voldemort and the incarnations of the lord as evil empire are also smashing.

Nice, me too! I like the way that quests can fully immerse the readers into an adventure.What do you think are essential elements to any story? (i.e. what would make or break a book for you?)

Characters have to have shades of grey to them. Heroes can’t be all good and bad guys need to be more than they appear to be. I can’t abide two dimensional characters and will put down a book if not enough effort has gone into creating people I can believe in and care about. I read a book recently which clearly was written more as a treatise for a blockbuster film than a novel. It had bags of action and thrilling turns but I felt no connection with the people in the story at all, the hero could have died at the end and I wouldn’t have cared.  That was really disappointing. 

Great answer! The plot could be masterpiece, but ultimately, we are human beings, and a personl connection developed with the characters is what really brings the book "alive" for me as well.
On my bookshelf, I've got one whole role dedicated to wonderful dystopian novels, and I found it interesting that YA dystopians novels are increasing in popularity now (that's what it seems to me, at least.) What are your thoughts?

Yes definitely dystopian YA is becoming more popular now, but it has been around for a while. I’ve got a book on my shelf written ten years ago that is YA dystopian and dystopia itself has been a solid presence in adult fiction for fifty or more years. Why it’s popularity is growing now in YA is, I think, partly due to the massive success of Suzanne Collins Hunger Games, and maybe as a point of difference to all the paranormal romance which has taken centre stage of late.

Finally, what are some of your favourite books (fiction and non-fiction, YA and adult) and movies? Books/movies you find most inspiring?

Books: Ursula Le Guin’s The Earthsea Quartet, Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, The Lord of the Rings, The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku.

Movies/TV shows: Star Wars (the original three please not those awful new ones!), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The X Files, When Harry Met Sally and my feel good movie when I’m ill is Under the Tuscan Sun because it’s about a writer who buys a house in Tuscany – seriously what’s not to love there?

I've heard amazing things about those, but haven't yet watched/read them yet. Except The Mortal Instruments and Lord of the Rings. That's it. I'm going to spend my holidays trying to hunt down all those books and movies and watch them now. 

And...that's a wrap! Thank you for your wise and illuminating answers, Lara!

My pleasure!

After reading that, don't you just want to go check out a sample of Equinox? Or go and enter my competition for both Rosie Black novels released. It's open to Aussies.
And if you have a facebook, go and visit the rest of the blog tour. Get updates and giveaway links and such.

Hope you all have an awesome day. And keep smiliing. :)

xx Tina