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Surprisingly, I have found the need to create a FAQ section of this website already, and I’m not even completely done with my first edit as I write this (and no one, not even my husband, gets to read the story in full until I’m done with my first edit).  I’ve let it be known in my friends/family/church/anyone-who-will-stand-still-long-enough circles that I’ve been working on this novel, and some of the same questions come up repeatedly, so I’m going to address them here in case others are curious in the future.

What is the name of your book?

The working title for the first one was Question of Spirit, but I think that might wind up being pluralized to Questions of Spirit and used as the name of the grouping of stories (there are several more planned and in the outline stage already) instead.  The first novel started calling itself “The Archer, Unnocked” around the time I finished the 1st draft. We shall see if it keeps that name as it comes to full maturity. That one may or may not be the first one to get published as it’s got others that are in progress catching up on it.

What is the premise of your first book?

The Greek goddess Artemis comes down to modern-day Cleveland and takes over the life of a woman who attempted suicide,. The theme of the story is exploring who we are as individuals separate from the stories our loved ones/important others tell about us – something that was a big part of my own coming of age process. Persephone made several appearances in Archer, then basically insisted that she needs her own novel, so I began researching and writing a full telling of the Persephone myths – how does she get from the abduction and rape victim that we first learn of her as to being the Queen of the Underworld capable of pursuading her husband to allow Orpheus to attempt to rescue Eurydice, much less the reasonably well=adjusted entity that appears in Archer? I am not a sexual assault survivor myself but I have been a Tori Amos fan since the beginning of the school year in 1992 when Little Earthquakes came out, and Tori’s music as well as the stories that sexual assualt survivors I’ve known over the years have shared with me shapes the novel. I also have several other novels in various stages of planning (roughly a dozen), of overlapping worlds, and am spending a considerable amount of energy making sure that the “rules” of the universe my stories take place in are not totally just made up as I go along 😉 Working title of the Persephone novel is Six Seeds. I am also concurrently working on a vampire novel that at least starts during the time of Lorenso the Magnificent in Florence, and that novel has a sister novel set in modern day. Each of those has at least a few thousand words written. Archer’s initial rough draft was just over 80,000 words but it is lengthening a bit (I estimate it’ll be around 125,000 before it sees a professional editor, who will then likely cut it back down to the 80,000-100,000 range),

How long have you been working on these books?

I actually don’t remember when I originally got the idea for Archer, it was sometime before my first child was conceived.  I’m pretty sure it was driving between our home and visiting family in the winter of 2002-2003, but other than that I can’t be more specific. I don’t journal regularly (if you’ve seen the sorry excuse for a blog here that’s probably not a surprise) and wasn’t blogging back then, so I don’t actually have anything more specific written down than that.  I do have video recordings I took of the area much of the book takes place in from when I was about 5 months pregnant with my first, so I know I was pretty deep in the planning by then.  As a mother, I haven’t worked on it consistently that whole time – much of that was world-building.  Up until the summer of 2009, only about 10,000 words of the novel had been written. I gave myself a “due date” for this novelbaby and I finished the first draft exactly on that date, then a few weeks later started working on a Master’s degree and got pregnant again (and THAT baby is no longer my youngest) so I have been a wee bit distracted.

How many words per day do you write?

Depends on how much time my family gives me and where I am in the process. On average, when uninterrupted, I can write about 1200 words in an hour (key word being ‘uninterrupted here, so with little ones that really doesn’t happen much unless I stay up way past midnight).  I was averaging about 3,000-4,000 words per day through much of late June/early July 2009, then a couple unexpected events kept me away from writing for a few days, throwing off my schedule, and I wrote more than 20,000 words of the novel in 48 hours.  I refer to this as hitting “transition” (for those who have experience in childbirth – yes, that’s the reference I intended) before the big push in conversation.  I’d rather not do that again, or at least not anytime soon, as it took a lot of time away from my children but it was necessary for the scenes that were written at that time that I be away from them for the better part of two days (I did at least get to snuggle them and kiss them before bed but they’re used to significantly more mama-time than that).

How many kids do you have anyway?!?

Significantly more than average. So significantly that disclosing number and genders would pretty much give away my real identity, and since the main reason I am using a pen name is to protect their privacy while they are school age or younger, I won’t be saying until the youngest is old enough to give consent to that (and then only if the all consent). Considering that in the immortal words of the Python boys “I’m not [done] yet!” the number is subject to rise anyway.

WHY do you have so many kids? Are you one of those Quiverfull folks or something?

I makes ’em cuz I likes ’em. Simple as that. I love being around children in general and my own are in my top favorite people in the world (along with their dad, my college sweetheart). I, being a huge word nerd, refer to myself as a Panentheist Omnideist spiritually (I study world religions and feel comfortable and comforted in many different places of worship) and my husband claims to be an Atheist. The spark of the 1st novel was from me teasing him “how can you be an Atheist when you’re married to a Goddess?!?”.

What is the “what if” of your speculative fiction?

My stories assume a panentheistic omnidiestic universe (panentheistic: every atom of the universe is a part of God, and God-consciousness encompasses and transcends this. Omnidiestic: every god/dess ever prayed to actually exists or at least did at the time that they were worshiped). So… what if that’s the world we’re living in? How would dieties keep themselves entertained in an increasingly sexular world? How would vampires continue to exist with computers tracking our every purchase to the point that Target’s computers know a girl is pregnant before she tells her family (true story from a few years ago if you missed it, try Googling it then ripple that out to the NSA stuff that’s come out recently)?

Your first novel is set in modern-day America (area around Cleveland, Ohio most specifically).  Will they all be?

No.  The next one I have planned is not really set in a specific time/place, though some of it happens in ancient Greece.  The one after that returns to primarily 20th century Cleveland (and spans many decades, into the 21st century). A few others starting to tickle in my brain and may take place in other parts of the world, but I’m a bit obsessive for accuracy  of details and would need to travel to those places to get to know them well enough to write about them – which would require funding, so I’m focusing on getting these first ones published first to hopefully be able to afford to set some of the other stories elsewhere.

Your first novel focuses on the Greek pantheon.  Will the rest?

No (as of 2014) the rest of this answer is from many years ago and ummm… I’m not sure what I did with the notes I’m talking about so plans have changed!

[Old answer} The first three that I already have outlined (as well as at least two of three accompanying short stories – one diety hasn’t told me who he is yet) all deal with Greek pantheon family members.  I am starting to get a tickle from an Egyptian goddess (the story she’s telling me will require quite a bit of academic study and spans centuries and continents, so I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to write that one, if I can ever accomplish it).  A few Celtic and Norse deities, and maybe some Hindu and Buddhist ones, seem to be waiting in line.  I am non-discriminatory when it comes to the voices in my head.  Jesus and the rest of Christianity’s entities are welcome to the party, they just haven’t started telling me stories yet.

Do you believe the stuff you write?

Depends on what you mean by believe. I’m agnostic about it.  I believe that it’s all possible, but I do not write the literal truth.  As a student of human behaviors (my BA is in psychology and sociology), I do not believe it is possible for human beings to capture the full, literal truth in a form that is possible to share with another – particularly in writing.  Some people throughout history may have been blessed with having the whole truth revealed to them – what the Buddhists would call Enlightenment – but I do not believe it’s possible to capture something so transcendent in a piece of writing – my own or others.  I hope that I’ve captured a petal of that flower and that others might appreciate its beauty.

What inspired your first novel?

Actually, it started as a joke. I was teasing my husband, I asked him how can he be an Atheist when he’s married to a goddess like me.  The story spiraled out from there.  My family of origin has a history of telling stories about one another that they all assume to be the complete truth of who that individual is – our own personal mythologies – and that was starting to chafe me around the same time as I am not (and never really have been) the person those stories describe.  That is what lead me to “pick” (or be picked by) a virgin goddess and the core dilemma of the novel – what happens when an aggressively virginal goddess finds herself taking a romantic interest in an Atheist veterinarian?  It requires a deep evaluation of who you are as an individual when something so outside your perception of yourself falls into your life. I hope I’ve captured that in my novel.

You call yourself a Speculative Fiction Writer instead of Author, is there a reason?

Yes. I distinguish between writing and authoring – I author non-fiction, I write fiction.  The processes involved are drastically different for me.  When I’m writing fiction, it’s more like I’m transcribing what is going on around me (I get very into my headspace and don’t hear what’s going on around me as clearly as what the characters are saying/doing).  Sometimes I don’t even really see the screen I’m typing on (and I type everything – my handwriting is horrible, I can’t read it after a paragraph)  I have been writing fiction and non-fiction since I was about seven years old, and added in poetry around the time I turned twelve (not that I really care to let anyone see what I was writing back then, much less some of the angsty stuff I wrote as a teen!).  My non-fiction writing style is very conversational while also often highly academic (depending on the subject matter, but I do wax academic even on subjects as mundane as diapering choices – I am very much a researcher at the core of my being).

What tools have you used in your writing?

Aside from my brain, eyes, ears, and hands I am primarily a creature of modern technology. I do not handwrite if I can avoid it (though I have broken down and written by hand with research items – problem is that I have also misplaced at least half of what I’ve written. Luckily I have an excellent memory for anything I’ve written down in any form so I was able to recreate most of it).  Most of my first novel has been written on an HP TouchSmart TX2 laptop that I picked up on clearance shortly after setting my 1st draft due date.  A few sections were written in Google Docs when I was at a different computer.  On the laptop I’ve used yWriter for outlining and drafting, then switched to full word processing software for the first edit after all the scenes were written.  I also wrote more than 1,000 words of Archer on my BlackBerry Flip with Docs2Go, in a pinch when the Muse was highly insistent but I didn’t have any other non-handwriting way of capturing the scenes. Mobile technology has also allowed me to steal writing time during the kids’ naps when they pass out in the car while I’m running errands.  I’m actually pretty quick at typing on a thumb keyboard but NOT on a screen, the first few paragraphs of a short story (Apollo’s version of events) was written on on a day I was out in the woods with some friends.  I very much prefer at least a laptop size keyboard if I can get it, though, and as of 2012 I have been carrying around a 7in Android tablet with a old ThinkOutside folding bluetooth keyboard so that I can have a good keyboard to use when I get unexpected windows of writing time away from my desktop or laptop. I’m an extremely fast touch typist, when I’m in “flow” and straight typing without stopping to think, I type around 100 words per minute (but I do stop frequently to go check information, think about what the characters are doing while they’re talking and how to transcribe that into written words without making it sound like stage directions, etc).

Do you hope to become a full-time writer?

Actually, not really. It might be from the way I was raised (very much working-class, and with chronic health problems) but I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. I’m a researcher at my core and earned an MA in a social science discipline in the middle of all this novel writing stuff (and while making more babies – yes, I have some superpowers) and I enjoy conducting and writing up social sciences research.  I love learning and teaching with equal passion, but I don’t really want to be a professor at this point (it was an ambition at one time, until I realized exactly how much of my life would be eaten up reading student papers). I taught high school briefly (and my husband is a current high school teacher) and really loved it.  I hope that I can do both of my passions – as well as be a great mom to my kids, which is my first priority particularly while they’re very young.  I can’t not be a writer, I can’t not be a researcher, just like I can’t not be a mom – all of these are things that fundamentally shape who I am as a human being and, I believe, color each of the other aspects much more vividly than they would be otherwise.

What’s your advice to other aspiring writers?

Set your project a due date and do your absolute human best to finish it by that date.  It was the only way I got the novel off my “someday” to-do list.  Stop living for “someday” and move the parts of your life most important to you to the now.  Also, fall in love with someone who is very understanding of your passions and supports your pursuit of them wholeheartedly. That helps a lot too. My husband is my hero for taking the kids for such extended periods while I focused on the last push of writing (the novel as well as my thesis – had some really wonderful friends help with the kid care with that, too, as one of my kids was born just before I started doing my thesis work and was under 6 months old when I finished it).  If you’re a parent, especially, having a strong support network of people who love you and your child(ren) to help you with them while you write helps a lot with the guilt of taking time away from the kid(s). I’m also blessed with having my in-laws live with us (if you read the novel, my house is much like Connor’s, my in-laws live in the other half of our house), so my children have more than one adult to turn to for direct attention even when I’m otherwise occupied.  We belong to a fantastic church community that has been supportive of me in this endeavor also and their encouragement has done wonders for this process.  Seek out community, find people to love and care about who will do the same for you in return, and embrace life enough to live your passions – that’s my general life advice, not just for writers I guess.

Can I ask a question that’s not listed here?

Sure! I’m very much an open-book type of person and I’ll likely answer it. Be forewarned, it may take a while as I have quite a lot on my plate with family stuff, more writing, volunteer work in my community and church, and a few other items taking a higher priority over answering questions here in a timely fashion.  My understanding of the technology is that you’ll be able to subscribe to this page (or entire website) if you so chose, and get notified when I update it.