Saturday, April 5, 2008
Interview with Minnette Meador
Today we have with us, author Minnette Meador, whose books include, Starsight, The Centurion and the Queen and, A cup of comfort for single mothers.
Welcome Minnette, its great to have you here. I'm gonna go ahead and jump right in! So, question one ...
C of C -How long have you been writing?
MM- Started 30 years ago, shelved it for twenty to raise a bunch of kids, and restarted seriously two years ago---after those same children called me a chicken and challenged me to literally blow the dust off my writing. I have written freelance news, plays, and short stories throughout the years, but never really submitted anything (except newspaper articles, of course, and amateur productions).
C of C- Are you a plotter or a pantser?
MM- Started out as a pantser, but have been doing more plotting now. It saves time and I write a lot quicker that way. However, those pesky characters often have ideas of their own (they are so adorable) so I hardly ever stick to what I originally outlined. Most of the time they are right…
C of C- How would you describe your voice?
MM- Depends on what I’m writing; fantasy and historical romance is deep (a little more formal), warm and comfortable (or at least that’s what others tell me). My non-fiction and comedy are very light and snappy.
C of C- What is your favorite part of the writing process?
MM- Probably working out the story and dialogue are my favorite parts. I’m a bit of an actress, so I like to “play” out the roles. I pace a lot…I probably need help…
C of C- Where do you find your inspiration?
MM- I get inspiration from a lot of sources, but I think a good book, a great movie, or speculative conversations with friends are the most inspirational.
C of C- How do you come up with your ideas/plots?
MM- Most of my ideas come to me just before sleep or when I’m meditating. I have a couch always near my computer and a pad next to my bed. I’ve missed some great ideas…I think…they seemed great at the time.
C of C- Do you write in short stretches or for long periods of time?
MM- I’m a spurter and a marathoner, depending on how much time I have and what that little troublemaker the Muse decides to do that day. Sometimes she beats me bloody…sometimes she sits on her ass. I never know what she’s going to do. I’ve gotten much better at writing on demand, but it took some time. Now I write whenever I find the time.
C of C- I love that "Spurter" I am definitely a spurter (giggle)
C of C- Do you write in silence or listen to music?
MM- Both. Silence, if I don’t think about music. Sometimes I need movie scores going quietly in the background to spark stuff. I’m a member of Live365 and listen to a lot of different stations, but they have to be musical. Vocals distract me too much (used to be a singer).
C of C- Do you eat or drink while writing?
MM- When I’m writing, I don’t usually eat anything, but I like to drink coffee. Can’t do it past about 2pm anymore ~LOL~
C of C- Do you research your story before you write it, or as you go?
MM- Little bit of both – I do general research and then specific as it comes up in the book. I do a fair amount of research on the historical pieces…I’m a self-proclaimed closet historian, strictly an amateur, but ancient history has always fascinated me. I’m also a closet anthropologist…I love those wacky humans!
C of C- What have you learned through research that you’ll remember for the rest of your life?
MM- There’s probably too much to mention, but the most striking thing I’ve come to realize is how much America is like ancient Rome. The politics, the military, the conquest, how we treated the American Indians, etc. There are so many parallels, it is astounding.
C of C - How do you decorate your writing space?
MM- You don’t want to know…my husband and sons are all artists (my son Derrick did the cover for Starsight and now has done more book covers), so I’ve got a few of their pieces hung close to my desk. Decorating my writing space…what a concept…my idea of fancy decorating is two matching plates and a dozen sprinkled doughnut!
C of C - Wow, your son is a very talented Artist! lol, donuts, eh?? always good for inspiration!
C of C- Are you a neat/organized writer or is your office and/or space a complete mess with sticky notes everywhere?
MM- I’m usually organized, but not these days…I clean when I can’t find my keyboard (it was there last night). No sticky notes…I’m a tablet girl (ah, those yellow 5x8 pads!).
C of C -Does all your writing take place on a computer or do you ever write on pen and paper?
MM- All on the computer…backed up to my laptop, dvds & the internet. Once you lose five days of work, you learn…~tisk, tisk, tisk~ I used to take the bus everywhere and wrote out stuff by hand…now, I have a PDA (love it!).
C of C- Interesting, a PDA I've heard allot of writers are using them. I am so out of the technology loop. (sigh)
C of C- What is your favorite time period? And why?
MM- Ancient time (1000BC-200AD) – I am fascinated by the early civilizations, knowing they had the same brain capacity we have and developed technologies that would be considered advanced even by our standards. There is a definite draw to anything Roman…it is amazing what they accomplished…but I’m also in love with ancient Egypt, Syria, and even Mongolia now (had to do a bunch of research for my new book). It’s a wonderful exercise to imagine what they lived like when we don’t really have any clear ideas, especially about the Celts and other oral-tradition people. Don’t get me started…
C of C- Do you feel a draw to the people and time period you write about?
MM- Absolutely. I get very intimate with my characters; when you live with a couple of people on a daily basis 24/7 you tend to get pretty close to them. I honestly do care about them…even though I always put them through hell…I am so abusive to those poor people…it’s fun to be a goddess ~
C of C - I'll second you there! Being a Goddess is the best! (wink)
C of C- What character did you most enjoy writing?
MM- I think Marius from Centurion & Queen is my favorite. It’s been a blast writing from the man’s POV and he is very much the alpha male…but he is also flawed, like most of us. Even when deeply conflicted, Marius tries to do what is right…even though he doesn’t always succeed.
C of C- What more could you ask for? A sexy man who does whats right!
C of C- Readers are always curious to know about authors lives. What is the worst job (non-writing related) you’ve ever held?
MM- I spent two horror-filled hours working as a phone marketer. Did not even make it to lunch…
C of C- Too funny!
C of C- What is one thing you think your readers would be interested to know about you?
MM- I was a small time professional singer and actress for many years…I have two genius grandchildren, of course. Oh…they are also the most beautiful children in the world ~harrumph, harrumph~
C of C- A writer, a singer, an actress and a doting grandmother! You've got it all Minnette!
C of C - Are you reclusive or do you like being with other writers?
MM- Yes. Ok, I guess I need to explain…I belong to two local writer’s associations and it took me a year to get to a meeting for one and I’ve never been to a meeting for the other (I’m not exactly what you’d call a joiner). However, I talk to hundreds of people on the internet and just love it (and them!). I’ve made so many friends in the last year I can’t always keep up with them all…I wish there were more hours in the day! I have been trying really hard to get out of my cave and actually socialize…since I have six grown kids they have been kind of our social group.
C of C- Seems reclusive is the consensus among the authors I've spoken too, and the writers I know. Hmm, interesting, though there is always the exception.
C of C- Do you find love scenes easy or hard to write?
MM- They are getting easier…I couldn’t stop giggling the first time. Oh, my poor husband…it took forever…
C of C- You are so funny!
C of C- Do you ever act out your scenes? The love scenes?
MM- None of your business…the rest, why yes, yes I do. ~LOL~ I do a lot of pacing and work out dialogue in my head while I walk…I’ve been taking outside walks…you should see the looks I get…~blush~
C of C- I'm blushing!!! (laughing)
C of C- How long do you wait once a story is finished to revise it?
MM- I revise it over and over…and over…and over…and over…until I’m changing things back the way they were. Then I go over it three more times…Do I wait…sometimes…
C of C- Do you ever second guess yourself and your writing?
MM- Like most writers, I have a huge inferiority complex, so I never think it’s good enough. Four novels later…I still feel the same way…~teehee~ I’ve gotten better at letting it go…
C of C -Do you ever stray from your genre? Your comfort zone?
MM- Do it all the time (two epic fantasies, 2 romances, and a feature in an inspirational; how’s that for diversity?)…I’m a devote reader of anything written (toothpaste tubes are my newest craze), so I’m not uncomfortable with any genre…I’m even working on an erotic (don’t tell my kids, though…they would probably have a heart attack. Guess I’ll have to change my pen name…)
C of C- Oh wow, my lips are sealed!! For now!!!
C of C- Is it necessary to have a Critique/Writing partner?
MM- Absolutely…or two…or three…as many as you can duct tape, bribe, or shame into doing it. A good critiquing partner is better than a man…well, almost…
C of C -Do you allow family and friends to read your stories?
MM- Yes…my son is an exceptional editor, though my husband is not. DH “loves” everything I write and sits patiently while I read him each word. He’s great for the ego…just not a very good critiquing partner.
C of C- Awh, atleast he lets you read it to him!
C of C- Is there a subject you would like to write about, but don’t because you believe it isn’t marketable?
MM- The mating habits of marsupial frogs in central Australia? ~LOL~ Just kidding…it’s been done…Not really sure. I’ve got enough book ideas to keep me going for a couple of years…I’m hoping the ideas are marketable…
C of C- Shew, for a minute there I thought you were serious! (wiping sweat from brow)
C of C- Authors make writing look so easy. Is it harder than most people imagine it to be?
MM- I think it gets easier, but you have to write…a lot…a hell of a lot…get everything critiqued, criticized within an inch of its life, and then rewrite it three more times. Then your editor has a crack at it. Easy? No. Like any skill it takes tons of practice. Every time I go through the process I wish I could go back and redo all my books. You learn something new every minute. I shudder every time I read something from “the early days”…
C of C- How long does it take you to finish a story?
MM- Depends on the story…Starsight took thirty years, but only because I put it down for so long. The rewrites took about six months. C&Q took me 11 weeks, but then add in editing, rewrites, etc. and it takes it out to about three months…oh, plus the 2 months it took to research it (done partly before I wrote the book and partly during). Breton & General should be a little less since I’ve already done a lot of the research.
C of C- When you write a new story are you apprehensive about allowing others to critique it?
MM- Not anymore. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that the more constructive criticisms you receive, the more viewpoints you gather, the better your writing will become. I had five different men read my romance (none of them related to me)…Talk about a nail biter…I can’t tell you how much their input helped. The one thing you need for this business is a thick skin. I am proud to say I am now a well-adjusted, pay-for-the-privilege writing masochist who loves the pain…beat me, baby, beat me.
C of C- A thick skin is putting it mildly, I don't think the average reader realizes how stressful it can be.
C of C- What is your favorite writing memory?
MM- Working on Starsight for the first time when everything began to click…I worked four days non-stop with about four hours of sleep…the muse was screaming at me and feeding me that creative drug…it was kind of like having sex…only I was having it…(nod to Futurama).
C of C- lol, how cool is that Ah- ha moment??
C of C- Do you have more than one book out now?
MM- I have four novels and one feature in an anthology coming out this year. Starsight, Vol. I (out now), Vol. II (release 11/08), Cup of Comfort for Single Mothers (out now), The Centurion & The Queen (e-book out now – print April 15th), The Breton & The General (sometime later this year)
C of C- Wow Minnette, you're on a roll!! Congratulations!!!
C of C- Has your writing Journey been a smooth or bumpy ride?
MM- It’s been a sporadic ride early on, but now seems to be evening out…thirty years is a long time to wait for a dream.
C of C- What advice would you give to a new aspiring writer? Remember, you asked:
MM- 1. Writing is 10% writing and 90% editing. Edit 'til you can't stand the thing, and then do it three more times. Then have someone else edit it and then go through it three more times after that. You should be there when you start to change words BACK to what they used to be. Here’s a good example; I edited this questionnaire for three hours before I was almost satisfied. You know you’re a writer when... you edit your IMs and text messages...
2. Get yourself a critiquing partner and a set of beta readers (family does nicely, especially if you have older kids...they do owe you; friends and co-worker are always good). LISTEN to what they have to say and be prepared for criticism. That’s what you don’t pay them for. A critiquing partner is absolutely an imperative and there are lots of groups out there that can help you find one...your local or internet Romance Writers of America, writing associations, www.critters.org come readily to mind, but there are many out there. Check in your genre. Or join a writing class in your community...that’s where my fabulous, wonderful, adorable partner came from.
3. Take classes, join associations, join groups, get involved in the writer's community (it's huge) and contribute to it. Harder to do than you think, believe me.
4. Be prepared to spend every waking hour on your dream and even some of your sleeping ones. The muse doesn't rest...at least until you need her, which leads me to...
5. DON'T RELY ON THE MUSE TO HELP YOU. (S)he will always let you down when you need her/him most. Being a successful writer does not take inspiration, it takes dedication. You cannot wait until the art moves you...art is a lazy, drunken sod and it’s up to you to move it along. Hardest thing to do as a writer is to keep going. There are lots of tips on how to break writer’s block out there. The best advice I ever received? Get off your ass and hit those keys (or move that pen, if you’re a purest) - who cares what you write, just write.
6. Be kind, be loving, live well, and treat others well. When you critique someone or even give them an opinion of their work, keep in mind yours is (or will be) in another's hands one day. Creation is a fragile thing and easily destroyed...look at an egg sometime. I know; I shelved writing for twenty years because of a criticism. I regret it to this day.
7. You must develop a thick skin for this business...the whole “slings & arrows” thing. Not everyone is going to like your work....not everyone appreciates the hours that went into its creation...not everyone is kind. A gentle grace is needed to be a writer, I think...swear and punch through walls when you get home, but keep in mind it’s only one person’s opinion. You can choose to agree...or not. Did I mention this profession takes a bit of ego, as well?
8. There is no reward without sacrifice. When you see your name in print, the paperback crushed in your trembling hands, I promise, it will be worth all the pain. All you have to do then is write the next one...
C of C- Wow, Minette great advice! Thanks so much for being with us today!!!! And best of luck in all your future endeavors!
For mor information on Minnette Meador, please go to her website at www.minnettemeador.com