Today we have a very special guest: recently published author Robin Woods–who happens to be one of my former high school English teachers. What a privilege to learn more about her writing and publishing process, especially for those of us who are aspiring authors. Below, she answers questions I’ve asked regarding her writing history, frustrations and creative process. Check our her recently published book, The Unintended. It’s a great read; I just finished it the other week. Cheers!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself—what’s your background and how did you become a writer?
I have masochistic tendencies and therefore chose English as my major for my undergrad. I liked the thought of endless hours in dusty libraries, carpal tunnel from typing papers, and eyestrain from hunching over too many ancient tomes.
Years later, I decided to return to school to earn a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from San Jose State. Once again I proved that I like a challenge; I found out I was pregnant that same week. But I completed the program without missing a beat—though I did miss out on a tremendous amount of sleep.
Ironically, the reason I started writing after having my son was because of insomnia. I decided to do something productive with my time instead of spending endless hours watching infomercials at 2:00 A.M. I mean, I love the promise of magical elixirs that will help me lose weight, wonder chemicals that will clean my kitchen, and biscuits that will give my dog good breath, just like the next girl, but after weeks of insomnia I had to do something.
2. What is the genre in which you write?
Young adult fiction—specifically fantasy and paranormal.
3. What is the book you recently published? What is it all about?
After breaking up with her boyfriend, seventeen-year old Aleria “Ali” Hayes finally feels liberated. Unfortunately, her ex’s buddies are not making it easy on her. When his friends harass her one night, a mysterious stranger, Bowen, steps in to rescue her. But just as this new relationship seems to be taking off, Ali is attacked by something far worse than spiteful high school boys. When she awakes, her eyes are opened to a world where gods still walk the earth, where vampires and other immortals fight for supremacy—and where fate may be stronger than free will. Now, Ali must decide who she can trust, and whether the world of mortals is worth saving at all.
4. Have you published or written any other works?
I have not published anything else, as of yet. But I have already written books two and three in the series. I am currently working on a prequel-type novella, while I wait for comments from my editors. So, I am essentially working on three projects at once.
5. Name your top three favorite characters you’ve made up and explain why they’re your favorites.
It is actually difficult for me to pick. I love my protagonist, Aleria. She is strong and sassy and in way over her head. I am also completely in love with Joshua. But I would have to say that Gabriel is actually one of my favorites. He represents all things good, but at the same time he is a trained killer. There is something menacing about him, yet you know you’re only seeing a sliver of what he actually is.
In the next two books, two of my favorite characters are Morpheus and Dagan. You see a glimpse of Dagan in the end of The Unintended, but there is much more to him than being the Captain of the Royal Guard. Morpheus is a new character introduced in book two. If you know your mythology, Morpheus is the god of dreams. I picked the name for a reason. He is not exactly on the good side—and therefore quite delightful to bring to life.
6. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Rarely, but it does happen. I usually try not to think about the actual writing for a day or two; instead, I simply live in my character’s world. I run conversations through my head between two characters. Sometimes, I actually pretend to interview them. Luckily I don’t do any of this aloud, otherwise people would know I am crazy.
7. How long did it take to finish your first novel?
The bulk of it was written in only two months. I had written some scenes from the novel in 1996, but didn’t pick it up again until 2009. Of course, I revised everything I had written before, but I had already created the world and five of the main characters in the first go.
8. What were the challenges you faced when getting your first book published?
I decided to independently publish, so the hurdles were different than they would be for a traditional publisher. I did some things correctly: professionally edited, great cover art, etc. I did make a few mistakes like not purchasing my own ISBN. My advice to people is to take your time. It took much longer to edit and put the book together than it did to actually write it. Make sure it is right.
I found some great advice in this article; unfortunately, it was after the fact: http://reviews.cnet.com/self-publishing/
9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for your genre?
Right now, I market mostly through social media and word of mouth. Unfortunately, I don’t have the budget with my teaching salary to explore other avenues at this time.
Luckily, social media is a stellar way to communicate with my target audience. Sites like Facebook and Tumblr are the avenue many high school and college students use to communicate. My students seem to be shocked and amazed I have a Tumblr account—Yes, I am that cool, I say as I arrogantly polish my nails on my shoulder.
10. What does your writing process “look” like?
With each book, the process has been a little different. While writing The Unintended, I carried a journal with me everywhere. I was constantly writing notes and scenes. I would often curl up in bed, donning my headphones, and work through the dialogue in my head. I tend to live through everything in my head. Consequently, I make very embarrassing facial expressions if I am not careful. I would outline a chapter and then type over the outline.
For the second and third books, I wrote a few key scenes and then simply wrote from one end to the other in about ten weeks’ time for each book. I didn’t outline at all. By then, I knew exactly where I was going and how to weave all the threads through the story as I went.
11. What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently editing The Nexus and The Sacrifice while writing a presently untitled novella. It is a prequel set in 1928.
12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Argh. Most of the criticism has been with style preferences. I did have an exceptionally snarky review from a teen reader, but I am fairly unscathed at this point. I know it is coming. Sigh. I’m sure I will develop a thick skin—I have to. Some people equate cruelty and snark with intelligence and feel writing a scathing review makes them cool. Maybe I am naïve, but I feel criticism should be constructive.
I have had several teens who read advanced copies stay up half the night reading—teenagers who had never before read a book from cover to cover. To me, that is the ultimate compliment. I have been deeply honored by what they have said, and I love the fact that some of them are now avid readers.
13. What advice can you give to aspiring authors?
Write every single day. It is that simple.
Writing is like anything else; you have to practice. Some days I struggle through and only birth a paragraph. Other days, I will be prolific and produce twenty pages. Writing a little each day helps me keep my focus and keeps me in the world I created.
14. When can we expect to see another publication of your work?
I am aiming to release The Nexus in late May 2012 and The Sacrifice in late November 2012.
15. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and readers?
I am immensely grateful for all of the support and kind words. I love it when people ask questions and make comments on Tumblr.
16. What’s a cool (or nerdy) fact about you that you’ll share with us?
Ha. I am such a closet nerd, it is not even funny. I have been skydiving, bungee jumping, and parasailing. I’ve also been privileged enough to travel all over Europe and have even been to Africa, but I am just as happy curling up with a good book.
17. Finally, how can we find you? What are your social media sites and where can we purchase your book(s)?
Amazon Profile & Books: http://www.amazon.com/Robin-Woods/e/B009H8V62C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Tumblr BLOG: http://robinwoodsfiction.tumblr.com (Ask me questions here!)