What do you do when you are not writing?
In the pie chart of a typical day, my biggest non-writing wedge would be probably be cooking. I really enjoy experimenting with recipes and trying out new food ideas. Two recent experiments are an all-tuber mash (to substitute for boring old mashed potatoes) and ginger-beer roast chicken.
Is there anyone who has influenced/encouraged you to write? Who and how/why?
Yes and no. I wrote my first “book” when I was eight and I’ve been writing ever since. None of my book projects except one, in middle school, were prompted by other people. I write to satisfy an inescapable inner need; the drive and passion are purely my own. (Were that not the case I’d never get anything finished.)
But, on the other hand, I have many friends and a few teachers who have offered me considerable advice, support, constructive criticism, who cautioned me that there is no sure & certain path to success in novel writing but also encouraged me to keep at it. They are my first and favorite audience. Without them, I would not be doing what I’m doing and my craft would not have grown as it has.
Can you give a brief synopsis of your journey to publication with your first piece of fiction?
I published Her Unwelcome Inheritance independently, so the process was actually very straightforward. I researched venues, determined who offered the best terms and produced the highest-quality product, paid very, very careful attention to each venue’s formatting guides, and clicked “upload” when all was ready.
I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten the indie publishing process down to a science yet, but at this point I can take a novel from final draft to for-sale ebook and paperback in a matter of about three weeks. (I do outsource my cover art & design.)
Do you have a day job as well?
Not at the moment, but most of my writing career has been part-time, working around other work. I’ve been a gardener, landscape designer, property manager, international real estate trade association manager, small business entrepreneur, and data entry clerk. Doing what you love is not always compatible with paying the bills.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I write what I love. For me, genre isn’t a conscious decision: I try to tell the kind of story I want to read. Fantasy is my first and greatest literary love. As an author I’ll probably come back to it again and again, but in my head I have a lot of stories to tell from other genres.
Where do you get your ideas?
I’m hugely inspired by art – every kind of art. I spend a lot of time on deviantART.com, I belong to my local fine arts museum, I love touring architecturally interesting buildings and neighborhoods, walking through woods and mountains (nature’s canvasses) and I’ve grown up attending ballets (I have two ballerina sisters). Visual art often inspires me to respond with words, which is my own artistic medium.
For some reason I also tend to get a lot of ideas while in church. Most of the time they’re totally unrelated to the sermon, so I guess my mind is wandering but it’s very productive!
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Rarely. Writer’s block typically indicates subconscious stress & distraction, so I can often clear it up by doing a few household chores or taking care of nagging “to-do” list items, then returning to the computer.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I outline rigorously – it lets me work out plot snarls and “dead zones” without having written 30,000 words before I come to them. That way, if the best solution to a story arc problem involves changing the earlier parts of the book, I can do that without feeling the reluctance of having to scrap writing that I’ve put a lot of time into.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I put my first book, Her Unwelcome Inheritance, on Amazon’s KDP Select program (the program that lets Amazon Prime subscribers borrow one book per month and pays authors a small fee whenever their book gets borrowed). It was only a 90-day experiment but turned out to be a big mistake. To find out more about KDP Select and why you shouldn’t use it, read this conversation thread.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Indie book marketing is a huge topic, mainly because there’s no recipe for success. If I ever figure it out I’ll let you know, but in the meantime, I encourage you to follow my blog to read about my ongoing marketing ideas, experiments, research, and ever-evolving approach.
A really high-level summary of successful indie book marketing might be that it’s all about raising the odds of reader discovery. Do that well, and you’ve got a good shot at getting widespread attention. How to do it varies widely based on your book’s target audience.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Even in the weirdest and wildest of speculative fiction, practically everything is based on real-life experience. Some of that experience will be the author’s own, and some will be vicarious experience derived through research and observation and ordinary friendship.
All the imaginative elements in fantasy and sci-fi are trying to get you to notice the everyday world in a new way – like the emerald sunglasses that make Oz’s capital city look green. G.K. Chesterton wrote that fairytales “make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they really run with water.” (Orthodoxy)
How did you come up with the title for your current novel?
The Eighth Square is a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland. In an early chapter Alice meets the Red Queen (not the Queen of Hearts, wrong book!) who explains that Looking-Glass World is laid out like a chess-board. “In the eighth square,” the Queen promises, “we shall be queens together, and then it’s all feasting and fun!”
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Next up is the conclusion of the Fayborn trilogy, A First or Final Mischief. I’ve got a little bit of outlining work left to do, and then the actual writing can begin. I’m hoping to release it sometime in 2014.
However, I do have another book coming out in November – a collection of original poems titled Forgetting. You can find out more at my website, www.jackwootton.com.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
A number of characters from the Fayborn “supporting cast” will likely get some further attention, especially in short fiction. Some of them already have: you can read Niata’s Garden (written before I even started outlining Her Unwelcome Inheritance) on my blog right now.
Once the initial Fayborn trilogy is completed, I plan to hop genres over to steampunk. I’ve been mentally slow-brewing an alternative history set in the Australian penal colony that I’m pretty excited about. That’s likely to be my next long-fiction project.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I learned to outline from Ian Caldwell (author of The Rule of Four). I spent what felt like my whole first semester of a one-year novel writing course with him saying “your outline is not ready, revise it and write it again.” At times it was extremely frustrating, but once I realized that I needed to give up my preconceptions about the story I was telling the plot for that particular project got a lot stronger.
The best compliments I get are often on my nonfiction pieces, essays where a particular phrase or paragraph is exactly what one of my readers feels, or has always wanted to say, but didn’t quite have the words. I’m not sure a writer can receive a better compliment than that. In particular, Truth About Beauty and On the Supposed Unsuitability of Fairytales for Children have resonated with readers the most so far.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
THE most important things are: Keep Reading & Keep Writing. Practice makes progress (don’t know about “perfect”, I’m certainly not there yet!), and someone told me years ago that “an author is only as good as the authors he or she reads.” So read good writers and try to figure out what makes their books so good. It’s tricky; the better the author, the better disguised their technique tends to be.
I would suggest reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas – the title is corny but the book is solid, and it will help you pick up on how good writers work their magic.
Also, Orson Scott Card (the guy who wrote Ender’s Game) has a book called How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy which is quite good on how to write exposition (the trickiest part of all fiction writing).
Best of luck, and KEEP WRITING!
J. Aleksandr Wootton is the author of the Fayborn novel series for young adults, and of a poetry collection titled Forgetting, due out November 2013. You can contact him or find out more at his website, www.jackwootton.com.
J. Aleksandr Wootton is the author of the Fayborn novel series and a miscellany of other writings, many of which are available on various sites around the web.
He is also professor of folklore at Lightfoot College. His research focuses mainly on post-war Faerie, and on accounts of meetings between humans and sojourning fay.
He enjoys cooking, gardening, and long conversations accompanied by a well-brewed pint.
Jack’s Website – http://www.jackwootton.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/mr_wootton
Fayborn Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HerUnwelcomeInheritance
ABOUTHE FAYBORN BOOKS
Jason M. Smith (July 30, 2012)
Petra Godfellow is ready – a little nervous, but ready – to grow up and leave home. She doesn’t know the family secret – about the man who loved her mother, who never could accept that it was over between them…
….who’s crazy enough to believe that he’s the king of Faerie.
As Petra begins her first semester at Lightfoot College, she’ll be forced to navigate her own doubts when people she respects reveal their beliefs in the absurd and impossible. She’ll be stalked by the supernatural, asked to bargain with unfriendly powers for the fate of another world.
And it’s not just her future that’s in danger – it’s her mother, her aunt, her best friend – and thousands of refugees from a centuries-old civil war in Faerie who are tired of staying in hiding… (ISBN#9781491291009 Print 9781301949687 eBook, 178pp, $9.99 print list, $3.74 eBook list)
or Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/343707?ref=BWRTours
J Aleksandr Wootton (Sep. 25, 2013)
Dodging unwelcome encounters with the supernatural is making Petra Godfellow’s freshman year very difficult.
Emissaries from the imprisoned Faerie Queen are looking for her. Members of the Green Kingdom Militia watch her everywhere she goes. Worst of all, servants of James Oberon keep trying to kidnap her. All because they believe that Petra is a direct descendant of Robin the Puck, and therefore endowed with special powers that can help them.
Petra is pretty certain she doesn’t have any special powers. She didn’t know anything about Faerie, or the thousands of Fayborn refugees living in hiding here on earth, until this past summer. She’s still not sure she believes any of it; after all, her aunt, her godfather, and her roommate do seem a bit crazy.
Petra’s friends and family have tried hard to keep her safe so that she can have the ‘normal’ college experience she wants, but the Fayborn seeking her help are getting desperate… (ISBN#9781492860945 print 9781301752799 eBook, 153pp, $9.79 print list, $3.48 eBook list)
or Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361263?ref=BWRTours
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