The Literature Hub
When did you start writing?
I started storytelling during long car rides as a very small child with my dad. My mom says I've declared my ambition to be an author since I was 6 years old.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I'm a plotter/pantser hybrid. I—or, usually, my co-author and I—work out an outline and follow it until it doesn't work anymore, at which point we make a new one based on whatever different angles we've taken.
How many books have you written, and which is your favourite?
I've published 8 novels—with a 9th novel and a non-fiction book on the verge of release—and organized multiple charity anthologies, and I'm going to fall to cliche: my favorite is the one I'm working on at the moment.
Do you have a favourite author?
Mary Shelley and Louis L'Amour, and I'll always have a soft spot for C.S. Lewis as the author of the first novels I read as a child (Sir Reepicheep was my first fandom).
Katherine and I, for many reasons, her rampant favoritism among them, also used the following dedication in Foul is Fair:
Dedicated to the late Sir Terry Pratchett, whose blend of nonsense and indignant good sense resonated both with a teenage girl whose e-mail he answered and with a guy who appreciated a good Blues Brothers joke. He certainly warned us that no one said elves were nice.
Which authors have most influenced your writing, if any?
There's a lot of great authors who have helped to shape me, making me want to walk in their footsteps and leave some of my own in the literary world -- but the person who has shaped my work the most, literally, and more than anyone else, inspires me every day to keep writing is Katherine Perkins. I can't thank her enough for being my editor turned co-author.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read my reviews. Getting feedback, both positive and negative, is helpful. Being an author is often very isolated work, and hearing that people like what you do is one of the rewards (because, most days, the big reward sure isn't the money). Sometimes negative reviews can offer constructive criticism, or places to improve.
Regardless, good or bad, I limit my engagement. When people do blog reviews, I try to tell them thank you for taking the time to read and review.
In terms of negative reviews, sometimes there's something that can be drawn from it. Even when there's not, I've been told repeatedly by authors and readers both that having some three- and four-star reviews (not that those are necessarily negative) can actually be helpful. It makes an author look more authentic, like they're actively seeking honest reviews, not just handing the book to close friends and family.
How do you come up with your characters?
I've had a few different sources of inspiration. Both of my biggest series (Dawn of Steam and the Fair Folk Chronicles) started as dreams. I woke up with ideas for a character or two, and then started building a world and story from there. My delving into Steampunk with my first series came from waking up with two characters at once and having to see how someone out of a Western would live in the same story with a character who was clearly sci-fi.
One of the weirder character origins would be for Mina Cortez. While waiting for a game to start, some friends of mine and I were hanging out and talking. When someone quoted Monty Python, someone else paused, and asked "So what if no one really did expect the Spanish Inquisition, including the Inquisition. How would that work?"
I started world building from there, building the science fiction world where a teenage girl can unexpectedly be drafted as a spy and secret agent.
If your book was made into a TV show or a movie, who would be your dream cast?
I'm generally pretty terrible at these. I rarely think in terms of perfect actors. So why am I answering this question?
Because back when I was first writing the Dawn of Steam trilogy, I had one condition already in mind if it ever went into some kind of visual media. No matter how anyone else was cast, the character of Sam Bowe had to be played by a female who could convincingly cross-dress as an athletic, teenage male. Not typical 'Hollywood' pretty-boy sort of passing, but actually look like someone who could legitimately have gotten along cross-dressing on the American frontier.
In a way, it's the same with a lot of my books. If the Fair Folk Chronicles were made into a movie, I'd want an actual Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander playing Lani Kahale. I'd prefer an athletic Mediterranean woman as Cassia. If Mina Cortez were made into a movie, I'd prefer the actresses actually be Hispanic and Japanese.
As in literature, so in Hollywood. I'd love to see more minority representation in casting, especially for roles where being a specific nationality or having a non-Hollywood look is important to the character.
Tom Hiddleston, however, would be my first option to play Riocard from the Fair Folk Chronicles. So there's a start.
If you were to go to Hogwarts, what house would you be sorted into?
So, there are many opinions on this, from those more qualified than myself. Some say Gryffindor because I can brashly take charge if it's called for. Some point out that I'm nerdy and contemplative enough for Ravenclaw. And then there's the notion of Battlepuffs (“the solid and teamwork-oriented can still kick ass!”), because this theory is fantastic. So in the end, my definitive answer is... definitely not Slytherin.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
My disability provides a pretty easy answer: healing factor. No pain and no cane would be nice.
However, there's a more longstanding one. My childhood fantasy was pretty much all about having a tame riding ticeratops, so the general 'Dinosaur-Riding Barbarian with a giant hammer' powerset would suit me fine. In fact, I know an author working on a story casting me in exactly that role.