1. How do you come up with the ideas for your stories? In other words, how do the muses work for you?
How does the Muse work? In strange and mysterious ways. *grin* Many of my stories have a fairly long gestation period. Something will catch my attention for one reason or another, and if the seed of that idea continues to resonate for me in some way, I'll keep coming back to it and ponder it, slowly collecting bits and pieces of information. In a way, a story is a living puzzle. Branches get added to the original root, characters begin to take shape, a storyline begins to develop out of the murky wonderings of "what if?" or "what would happen if?" and then, one day, another piece slips into place anchoring the others, and I can see the story I want to tell. There have been a few stories where that whole process has taken place under the surface, and when I write the opening sentence, the story just pours out. When I finish one of those, I sit back and wonder, "Where did that come from?"
2. Do you have a special routine when you're writing, or can you just sit down at a computer and start typing?
It depends on where I am in the story. In the beginning, I spend more time staring at the empty screen than actually typing. :) Much of the time, I listen to music--a few selections from a CD that evokes a mood or helps me visual a scene. Once I have the right opening paragraphs--and it may take several tries to figure out where the story should start--the story is always in the background, so I block out scenes in my head whenever there's a little idle time. Then, during the actual writing time, it's more like recording a play--the set is established, the characters are on their starting marks, and I record the words and emotions, the actions of that scene. The next writing day, I'll reread the previous pages as warmup, filling in details and making alterations so that I'm back in that voice by the time I'm ready to write the next part of the story.
3. Who are your literary influences?
Every story, whether it's in print or on film, has an influence one way or another, but the ones who probably had a significant impact in terms of the kind of stories I like to write were Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, Andre Norton, and Jane Austen.
4. Generally how long does it take you to write an average novel? How many different revisions do you usually go through?
In terms of the calendar, I have a year to write a book. In terms of actual time, I have about eight months, since the other four months are taken up with the production tasks I need to do to publish the book written the previous year. That doesn't include the year, or more, that I spend slowly developing characters, place, and storyline while I'm writing another book. So while the time at the keyboard has become shorter, each book is still a three-year investment of my time and energy. The main difference now from when I started is that now I'm developing one story, writing another, and doing the production tasks for a third all in the same calendar year.
As for revisions, these days a book goes through two drafts before I send it to my editor and agent. Then there's another round of revisions based on my editor's feedback. So each book goes through three drafts before it's ready to begin the production phase.
5. How do you deal with writer's block?
By acknowledging that it's a writing tool. Sometimes I hit that wall because I've just expended a lot of creative energy and need to rest. Sometimes I hit it because I haven't found the real story yet and need more thinking time. Sometimes I'm missing a piece of the story that provides a key to the scenes that follow, and I go away and do mundane things until I know what's missing. So whenever I hit a block, I don't try to pound through it anymore. I retreat and consider everything I know about the story to figure out why I hit that wall. By the time I figure it out, the block isn't there anymore.
6. Out of everything you've written, which would you say is your favorite; which gives you the most satisfaction of a job-well-done?
The short story, "Rapunzel," which appeared in the anthology BLACK SWAN, WHITE RAVEN.
7. Do you have a favorite character that you've created?
Every story has one or more characters that become special to me, but if I have to choose one character, it's Daemon Sadi.
8. What do you think makes a good fantasy author?
The same things that apply to any author: a desire to tell stories and the willingness to work at the craft of writing to constantly improve your skills. Added to those things is an enjoyment of the genre itself.
9. Can you tell us what you're currently working on and when you expect it will be available in bookstores?
Right now I'm working on four new stories about the Blood, which will come out in one book sometime around the end of 2004.
10. Random quote or piece of advice you'd like to share to end this with?
Write for the joy of writing. Study the nuts and bolts of the craft in order to make each story a little better. And then write and write and write.