What is your motivation for writing? There are as many reasons to write as there are genres. We may want to persuade, catalog or inform on ‘real’ events or topics but many of us (fiction authors) want to entertain. It is an author’s purpose, to bring to life a concept.
So let’s look at each scenario for motivation:
a) Money – we would all love to be a best seller and have fame and fortune like the ‘big’ names, such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and the like. However, we need to be realistic – firstly can we manage to get a publishing contract with a big publishing house? How many years are you willing to wait for that? If you use the self-publishing route how much of your time (unpaid) can you sacrifice for promotion? Should you give your work away? Is the income enough to live on? Could your writing supplement your lifestyle?
If you determine that the net income (we all need to report it in tax season!) is a nice bonus for a treat here and there, rather than your sole income – it will take the stress out of the equation.
b) Success – once again we should temper our expectations. Global sales are a dream we want to make real but maybe measure our success on more of a local level. Do you have your books in local bookstores, the library, offered at local events? The more you attend and promote within your own locality the more your ‘success’ becomes tangible. Articles in the local newspaper could have people approach or question you in regard to your being an author. Social media allows us to expand our locality, of course, but starting small will give you a firm basis from which to start. Never under estimate the power of word of mouth for promotion.
c) Satisfaction – Although this is third on the list, I feel it is the most important of all, as having your words, ideas and stories readily available for people to read now and for future generations, is the penultimate success. Our narratives will be enjoyed and relayed long after we are gone. It is our legacy.
Obviously, in an ideal world, a mixture of all three of the above would be the perfect scenario.
What is your motivation?
What do you consider the most satisfying part of being a writer/author?
Both my series actually started as stand-alones! Most of my projects begin as single novels and then I realize the story either has much more to be told (in the case of Nel Bently) or it needs a lot more room (Blood of Titans). I love slow-burn, complex stories, both when reading and writing, so I think I naturally gravitate toward characters and tales that won’t let me go easily.
You have two genres – sci-fi and fantasy. re both equally important to you? If so why.
My writing process and the pacing between the two genres vary wildly and I’m usually working on one tale in each genre at any given point. I don’t really have a favourite, though I think writing fantasy might come easier, as that’s where I started professionally writing. Science fiction, for me, is about hope and road-maps to those futures (even if they’re a bit dark too) and I need that to balance out the drama and scope of my fantasy worlds. Writing any genre, though, is about finding the truth of that particular story.
Where do you get your inspiration?
For Nel, a lot of the inspiration understandably comes from my day job as an archaeologist, though Nel started on academic sites and I do contract work. So many of the unique places I end up and the wonderful and bizarre people I meet inspire my settings and characters. I’m also a huge “what if” person and enjoy lots of solitude and instrumental music to rattle around in my mental card catalogue.
How long does it take you to write your first draft of an idea?
Since my process differs from genre to genre, it really depends on the project! With sci-fi it’s about four months and fantasy eight–the first half I spend dawdling and the second racing my deadline and speed writing. When not on deadline, though, I like to languish in my worlds. I’ll spend over a year fiddling with ideas outside of my main project. Once those ideas are promoted I usually have about 20% of what will be the final book (and many, many typos!).
How much plotting do you do for each series?
A huge amount. I tend to be a very organized writer, in part to make order of my disorganized internal world. When I’m doing in depth revisions on a novel, I have the outline of the next book or series overview open and I’ll jot down key things that need to be paid off, or little cameos I want to include. Many main series events or character arcs are laid out by the time I’ve finished the first book in a series, even if I don’t know exactly how we’ll get there yet. That said, I re-outline at the mid point in my drafting and again at the end, so while I have to have it organized, the content itself is subject to change!
Where is your favourite place to write?
While traveling! I enjoy writing on planes and trains and ferries! Movement helps me think, and a lot of my plot knots are worked out on my long commutes to project areas (don’t worry, I use voice-to-text to keep track while driving!) But honestly, nothing really beats my own desk in the early morning. It’s such a sanctuary for me.
If you were one of your characters, which one would you choose and why?
This is tough–mostly because I know what they’ll have to endure! But I think I’d choose to be Firas (Blood of Titans: Restored), the fun-loving bartender from the slums and love interest for the nation’s mercurial, not-quite-human king. I love his bar and sense of community, not to mention his dancing skills are fantastic! I also adore Azimir, but honestly, I’d just like to have him as a best friend. Everyone needs an Azimir in their life.
You are an advocate for disabled and queer representation in your work. May we ask what prefaced that decision?
Short answer is, of course, why wouldn’t I? I wanted to write characters, who are like myself–I’m gender queer, pansexual, and disabled. Growing up, especially as a teen, it was really hard to find books with characters, who loved and felt the way I do. Queer representation is something that is necessary for our communities and so much of it is tragic or stereotypes, or written for the straight, cis gaze. I wanted to actually write our stories from within. Then, five years ago I discovered that my “aches and pains” were actually a degenerative autoimmune condition that attacks my connective tissue. My way of navigating the world has changed drastically since then, but nothing sparks the imagination like being limited. I aim to write worlds and characters to show all we can do, rather than fall back on harmful tropes. Fiction, especially SFF, is a perfect medium for exploring how we want our world to look and how to make it more accessible and accepting.
Tell us about your new releases.
My newest release is Blood and Mercy, the final book in Blood of Titans: Restored. It follows two main characters: Rih, a Deaf former soldier plotting rebellion and Keplan a queer, teenaged god. Both face a political marriage and the aftermath of a divine war. He hopes the world ends, she prays it doesn’t.
My next sci-fi release is this October, Covid-willing, and will be the fourth Nel Bently book, Heretics. Nel and her space-girlfriend, Lin, embark on a global mission of connect-the-dots searching for the victims of a deadly radio transmission. Without answers, Nel’s own mother–and the few communities clinging to life–will be next.
How can readers contact you?
You can check out my website, www.vsholmes.com, and grab a free sci-fi or fantasy short to see if you like my work, read my FAQ, and send me an email. Plus, if you become an Explorer you’ll get exclusive updates, free books, and more. Of course, I’m also on various social media.
What social media sites are you on?
I’m most active and candid on Twitter and Instagram @VS_Holmes (if you don’t mind the occasional picture of bugs and bones.) I’m also on Facebook, Bookbub, and Goodreads.
Do you have a message for your readers?
I hope you enjoy reading my worlds and characters as much as I enjoy creating them, and I hope you’ve found someone in my work who speaks to you, or a tiny dream and the strength to hold fast.
V.S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the REFORGED series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold Award in 2020.
When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live in a Tiny House with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and own too many books for such a small abode. As a disabled and queer human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds.
I have submitted five submissions for an anthology to be released in the fall. It is a second volume to be published by The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. This second book is also full of prompts to inspire our creativity. Each prompt has a few responses from other writers to give the reader an idea of the variety of stories and poems that can be inspired by the same picture prompt. It is a great exercise book for writers of any skill level.
I did submit a drawing for the first book (see here) and have created another for the second book. Drawing and painting were my first creative outlet, so to practice again on the odd occasion is enjoyable.
After sending my illustration, I began to think of images, I have commissioned for my children’s and YA books. Each has been tailored made for that particular age group and style, I envisaged for my children’s and YA books. I am lucky to have access for several artists, who use different mediums.
Then I thought, why is it adult novels are so rarely illustrated? I recently interviewed Ann Charles, who has beautiful illustrations for her novels drawn by her brother. I feel they enhance the stories as does Ann.
So what is the main pitfall for including illustrations? You may have guessed it – money! The bottom line is printing drawings involves more ink thus more expense. So are there any illustrated adult novels out there?
I managed to find these links – so the answer is yes.
1. You have submitted one part of a series – your choice is reasonable clear – write the next book in the series. This can depend on when the manuscript has to be finished obviously but readers want the next one pretty quickly.
2. You are committed to writing a story for an anthology. Ensure you make the deadline.
3. A new idea has ‘popped’ into your head – it is always tempting to write the newest and brightest. However, can it wait? Maybe ask is it reflecting a current topic? Would it be best to get it published sooner rather than later?
4. You have several unfinished manuscripts pending. (This is my current quandary.) How do you choose?
The above options do give us guidance but if you are not committed to a deadline then what options are open to you?
a) Write the titles out and pick one out of a hat.
b) Ask your readers on social media to choose by voting.
c) Gauge the current ‘popular’ genre and write accordingly.
I have opted for b) and received a flurry of votes on Facebook and twitter, which was a pleasant surprise indeed.
The choices were – A western romance or a suspense novel. The suspense won! So I will delve into The Giving Thief for this year and into next.
I enjoy the puzzle-like challenge that comes with writing a mystery. My stories are actually more character-driven than plot-driven, though, so as much as I enjoy the challenge of writing a mystery, I also have fun exploring character growth on the page.
Is it a genre you enjoy reading as well?
Actually, I don’t read mysteries as much as I do other genres, such as westerns, supernatural suspense, and romance. That’s probably why my books are actually more mixed genre than straight mysteries. I like to include humor, supernatural elements, romance, suspense, and adventure on the page along with the mystery plot.
What sparked your first book idea?
I was unhappy with the endings in several books I’d recently read and decided I wanted to try my hand at writing different endings that satisfied me more. This idea grew into me creating the story from start to end, which then blossomed into writing full-length novels. Novels soon changed into long-running series, and now I have five different series I juggle.
Do you prefer writing series or stand-a-lone novels?
I like writing series because I enjoy developing characters. It’s more fulfilling to develop these characters over a long-running series than trying to fit it all into one story. My character arcs span the whole series, allowing them to grow and change with every book.
Does your background and location help you capture a setting for your characters/settings? Or is it just imagination?
I believe my background and the places I’ve lived/visited play a role in capturing a setting, but my imagination takes ideas to the next level. I have a series set here in Arizona where I live (Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series), and I have spent many summers and holidays in the Deadwood, South Dakota area because my mom moved there when I was in seventh grade. While my Dig Site series takes place in the Yucatan (an area of Mexico which I have not visited yet), that series plays on my dream of being an archaeologist, allowing me to explore that field without actually living down there under the trees.
What benefit do you feel comes with the illustrations? Why did you choose that format?
My brother is my illustrator, so I enjoy including his art in my stories. I think illustrations help bring the story to life even more for readers. In addition, these illustrations add to my Ann Charles author brand and help set my stories apart from others. Not many adult fiction novels have illustrations in them these days.
Is Violet “Spooky” Parker based on someone real or a combination of characters?
Violet is a mixture of my imagination and my sense of humor. She isn’t based on anyone I know. Her character became clear to me after some time spent imagining her life and struggles as I worked on the setup for the first Deadwood novel, Nearly Departed in Deadwood.
Did you plan your mystery/ humor/ romance subplot plot lines, or did it evolve as your crafted the stories?
I knew from the start of the Deadwood and Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series that I was going to write mixed genre stories with mystery as the main plot. I’ve always enjoyed funny romance stories and had worked for years on strengthening that part of my storytelling, studying humor and romance in books and practicing my ability to mix them together on the page. My favorite movies are mixed genre with these elements, so it’s not a surprise that these are the stories that come out on the page for me.
Was it a conscious decision to become an author?
Not really. I’ve always enjoyed reading books, but writing was not on my radar until my senior year in high school. Even then, though, I really didn’t plan on becoming an author and spent years in college studying Spanish and daydreaming of other careers. In the end, I took so many English classes in college that I figured I might as well minor in creative writing and see where this urge to tell stories led me.
Do you feel self-publishing has benefited you more than other options?
Self-publishing has allowed me to explore story lines without an outside influence, as in a marketing department that might have forced me to write what was hot in the “market” at the time. Also, I have learned so much about marketing and promotion because I’ve been in charge of building my career. I did not set out to be an entrepreneur, but I enjoy most of the aspects of running my own business and plan to continue on this path for as long as I can.
Which character do you enjoy writing the most & why?
That’s a tough question—I don’t think I have a single favorite. I enjoy switching between my different series and exploring different characters and their adventures. Violet Parker is fun because I get to dabble in the supernatural with her and she makes me laugh often. The Morgan sisters from my Jackrabbit Junction series are a blast and are always getting into mix-ups with the law. They allow me to explore sisterhood and have fun in the Arizona desert. In my Dig Site series, I enjoy playing archaeologist, and in the Deadwood Undertaker series that I write with my husband, Sam Lucky, I get to write westerns, which is something I have wanted to do for years but was apprehensive about all of the research it would take to make sure the historical elements were accurate. In the end, I like switching between each series and exploring life with different characters.
Have any of your manuscripts gone in a vastly different direction to what you thought they would?
I often vary from my original plot line ideas that I come up with before starting. These initial plot lines I put together just let me know that I have a story possibility and give me the confidence to go forth and dive into a story. I’m not very good at detailed planning when it comes to books and tend to give my brain the room to come up with new ideas to explore along the way.
How can readers find you? What social media site links can you share?
Is there anything you would like to share with your readers?
My books are meant to give you a fun escape. I try to teach a little history along the way, but mainly I want to provide fictional places that will make you smile or laugh as well as wince now and then. Also, all but my AC Silly Circus series having crossover characters, which my readers tend to enjoy. It’s always fun to come across a Deadwood series character in my Jackrabbit Junction books, and vice versa. I have a list of my books in series reading order as well as an overall list of all of my books in timeline order on my website (under the Books section) so that you can choose in what order you’d like to read them.
Ann Charles Bio:
USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy mysteries full of comedy, adventure, suspense, romance, and paranormal mayhem. Ann has a B.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Western Writers of America. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.