So, the Mayan hoopla is over...time to get back to work.
Today I am pleased to feature one of my favorite writers: Chantal Boudreau. She is not only very talented (all the drawing featured here are her work, which you can find more of in her FERVOR series), but extremely modest. So get to know a bit about her, and then check out some of her stuff. You won't be sorry.
You have been at this for a little while now, what are some of the best and worst things about being an author?
The best thing, for me, is having someone actually take the time to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books or stories. There are little things too – like getting a particular scene just right, seeing illustrations other people have done for your work and knowing it’s so much better than anything you could have managed, getting an acceptance letter from a publisher who has rejected you every other time you’ve submitted to them and then there’s just getting to hold something you’ve written in print. The worst things are the hours you end up spending on things other than writing, like editing, promotion and submissions, the frustration of a lack of consistent submission standards, which means having to reformat stories when submitting them more than once, the “expert” advice out there that is completely contradictory, and how slow it is to gain exposure, acceptance and recognition.
What are some of the lessons you have learned as a writer that caught you off guard?
I’ve learned that established authors are just regular, albeit talented, people. That research is an important part of any story, truth of fiction. That success involves hard work but an equal element of good fortune, which means your best chance to get anywhere is to keep at it, until luck happens to run your way along with the hard work.
What can you share about your writing process with new or up and coming writers?
I think the best thing to share with them is that I had to figure out what worked best for me and trying to write the way most others do didn’t work for me. I spent many years struggling with a variety of formats, styles and processes before I came up with my current process, one that I’m comfortable with. Not that it is perfect. There is always room for improvement, even with close to 20 novel manuscripts complete (I have four chapters to go on novel #20). So far I’ve figured out I have a mind that craves structure, so I work best with an outline despite the fact that many peers shun me for it as being too rigid or uncreative. I need to see the big picture, which means I have to know the ending before I start, and work towards it. I’m character-oriented – that’s what I value as a reader, so that’s where my focus has to be as a writer. I had to figure these things out about myself to understand what would work best for me and why. To know what writing process suits you, I would advise an attempt at self-discovery – try different things, experiment.
It is no secret that I think you are the best writer on our shelf. All it will take is the “right” person to discover you and review your work and I think you could be the next Meyers or Rowling. How do you see yourself as a writer, and what do you think it will take to get you over that hump?
I still have far too many doubts to think I’ll ever achieve that kind of success – not that this would ever stop me from trying. I guess I’m still coming to grips with identifying myself as a writer at all. I’m older, I’m the main breadwinner for my family, as an accountant, I’m a mom with a special needs child who demands a lot of attention and I’ve lived my life as a square peg other people have been trying to jam unpleasantly into their round holes. I’ve been writing since I was very young, but didn’t have much luck with it and wasn’t at all prolific. I liked writing but I didn’t consider myself a writer. Then something just seemed to click a few years ago (about three and a half years, actually) and in that time I’ve written 18 novels and more than 50 short stories. All I had to show for the more than three and a half decades before that was one and a half novels (that needed a great deal of editing) and a handful of shorts. Now that I’ve had my work published and I’ve received plenty of encouragement, I’m warming up to the idea, but I probably picked the worst possible time to make my start. The industry is in a massive state of flux, the market is flooded with indie writers, traditional publishing is hesitant to welcome newbies aboard and the publishing scene is all about marketing and promotion, not necessarily the quality of your work but its market appeal. I’m horrible at selling myself. I put in an earnest attempt, but I think unless I get a lucky break it’s going to be a long hard trudge with little in the way of sleep before I can drum up any amount of exposure and recognition.
If you were to up and change genres, what would be your next choice?
That’s tough. I’ve dabbled in several speculative fiction genres, mainly horror, fantasy and dark fantasy, with a little sci-fi in there. I’ve written some erotica, which I think I could do, some romance, which is much more of a stretch for me, and thrillers, which worked out okay. I’m probably most inclined to thrillers after speculative fiction, but it’s not that far of a leap between horror and thriller.
What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?
Oh, I hate getting tangled in the middle of that mess. Everyone has their opinions and they differ to extremes. Here’s where I stand on this. The way I see it, traditional publishing used to offer prestige, not so much now unless you happen to be a bestseller, and they still offer better distribution, but they are obsessed with existing trends and mass market appeal and trying to standardize everything to what they deem “saleable”. It can kill (but not always) what makes a writer’s work really special. What makes it onto the shelves is dependent upon the tastes of a select few. And they treat authors (once again, unless you are a bestseller) with little respect or value (“you are lucky that we are willing to even look at your manuscript...”) With Indies there’s so much chaos and volume. They come across as inconsistent and unstable because, as a group, quality is all across the board. Some Indie books are disastrous and need a total make-over, inside and out. Others look really pretty and have a great blurb, but the editing or plot continuity or character development might be lacking. Then again, you’ll come across some real high-quality gems that should be winning recognition and praise but have been tossed aside by traditional publishing for being too unorthodox or counter-culture. A lot of times, they just get lost in the mix. There should be a happy medium, a “best of both worlds,” but there isn’t.
The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up? Solutions?
The more I see the less I want to read about it. You’ll see bickering over simple things like writing style and processes such as pantsing vs plotting, marketing issues, spam, reviews – if and how to respond to them and whether or not it’s okay to buy and sell them, critics, traditional vs indie, complaints about distributors, agents, publishers and paid services like proofreaders or editors, sometimes deserved, sometimes not. You see a lot of nitpicking, insistence that “my way is the right way so you are wrong”, and badmouthing writers who are successful, primarily because they are successful, the result of jealousy, I would guess. I get tired of the arguing and bitching. It would be nice to see writers respecting other people’s differences, recognizing their peers have value even if they don’t agree on everything, and offering each other support where possible. You do see that, but just not enough of it.
The social media is…
A blessing and a curse. I doubt I’d be published or have any support system in place without it. It keeps me well-informed and allows me to connect with people I wouldn’t be likely to otherwise meet. I have a lot of great new friends thanks to social media. On the other hand, it is a total time sink without the level of results one should expect for the amount of time and effort most people put into it. It’s a mixed bag of feedback where you can get well-presented praise or uninspired flattery, constructive criticism or mean-spirited trollish bashing. It also exposes you to a lot of scam artists and people trying to sell you something you don’t really want or need.
Share some information about your work with us: (feel free to be as in depth as you like)
My first (and second) horror submission ever went to May December Publications, but it actually ended up being my second acceptance. In the interim between submission and acceptance, I received an acceptance the same day I submitted for another short story (my first sale.) That was my start. Since then, MDP has accepted almost everything I’ve sent in, with only one exception so far. MDP gave me my first chance at publishing a novel, beginning with my dystopian science fantasy series, Fervor (now with its third release) and my first chance at sharing my standard fantasy work, my Masters & Renegades series (a third book in this one coming soon.) It has been a great experience.
What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
“When am I going to see your books in local bookstores?” The local bookstores typically only offer books from big traditional publishers and local small presses. Since my stories have been in books published by small presses in the US and the UK, they aren’t exactly considered local here in Nova Scotia. I have a couple of recent acceptances by small presses in Canada, scheduled for release in 2013, but they aren’t local to Nova Scotia either. Unless there’s sufficient demand here for my work at the local bookstores, you’re not going to be likely to see my books there.
How do you deal with negative reviews?
I try to avoid reading them unless I’m in the right mood. I find the really negative ones rarely have any constructive criticism to offer. They usually go on about how your style doesn’t match that of their favourite author or some other matter of taste – not something you can put to good use. The mixed reviews, part positive, part negative, are much more likely to offer some useful criticism. I try to take those in and then let the critique sit for a while so I can properly absorb what was said. If a reviewer has been particularly nasty, I’ll try to find a way to vent without naming names or pointing elbows, just to get the frustration out of my system (go ahead and say you don’t like my book, but personal attacks are uncalled for.)
How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
I read, but about a quarter of what I used to, and it’s not just because of the writing. There’s so much more to getting your work out there that sucks away far too much of your spare time. I still make a point to read regularly, my favourite authors and a sampling of things that are new to me, and I do think it’s important for a writer to read. There are always things you can learn from other writer’s writing.
When does self-promotion cross the line and become a nuisance?
I can think of a few ways. If you friend or follow me on some social media site and the only thing I ever hear from you is “buy my book,” that’s too annoying. And people who invite you to an event and then post two dozen promo posts within the first hour so that your e-mail is full of their spam – that really drives me batty. I can guarantee I’ll be declining that event and purging those e-mails the first chance I get. There should be a real effort to connect, a little subtlety, and some give and take. Constant, repetitive and in your face absolutely turns me off.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m finishing up a NaNoWriMo project. I wrote 70,000 words in November, but I still have 3 ½ chapters to go. It’s a fantasy novel, called The Trading of Skin, based on Sami legend (the aboriginals of northern Scandinavia.) I have a couple of books waiting on edits (Providence and Victims of Circumstance), I need to format the second book in my Snowy Barrens Trilogy and I have a Christmas horror short story I actually wrote long-hand (I almost never handwrite anything anymore) that I need to type up. I also have a fan fiction story request from a writer friend that I need to work on. And I’m always in the middle of some form of illustration.
What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally? I’m not really sure. I’m not that outlandish. I have interesting hobbies and an ordinary day-job. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily an open book but I don’t keep zombies in my basement either – despite what some people may have you believe.
Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention? A shout out to some of my fellow MDP writers like DA Chaney, Bennie Newsome and Rebecca Snow (there are many more but if I try to list them all I’ll be here until next March.) My writer friend Ren Garcia who is always supportive (which is fantastic because his work is fabulous,) Robert J Sawyer for the occasional pep talk – for which I’m truly grateful because he’s a very busy (and accomplished) man - and all my talented friends at the Guild of Dreams. It’s very inspiring to be surrounded by so many great writers.
What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
I have a stack of MDP books, I’m in the middle of “The Unwilling Warlord” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, “The Onion Girl” by Charles de Lint and two different horror anthologies, and then I have dozens of freebies I picked up on my Kindle. It’s so hard to decide what to read first..next...well, you get my drift.
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