I got this questionnaire from THIS author’s website (S. Jae Jones, author of forthcoming Wintersong), which I sort of happened upon by accident, but enjoyed reading.
This may be a little odd, because I think I’m not quite as far into the whole process as those for whom this questionnaire is intended, but I’ll give it a go!
What do you write?
A lot of random things–fantasy, historical, theology and metaphysics–but the book that got me my agent is fantasy (I think, technically, low fantasy? The sub-sections get confusing, and I have found completely opposing definitions of that term)
How often do you write?
Difficult to answer. I wrote in all sorts of corners of time–when I was in the Marine Corps, even when I was deployed, when I was home for a few months, when I was at University. I wrote the whole story as one book, then did a massive revision to break the (1200 page) MS into three whole books. When I’m revising, every day, but only for 1-3 hours, because that’s how long my kid’s naptime is! I’ve been a little out of the groove since my last revision, and I’m trying to write something new and have been very erratic about that.
Who is your favorite character of your own? Who is your favorite character created by somebody else? Why?
Eeesh. Let’s set main characters aside, because there obviously main because I love them, and I don’t want to explain too much about them just now. After that? I like my quieter characters (James, Mali) and my morally ambiguous ones (Everson). They feel very natural to write, which is odd because I am neither quiet nor morally ambiguous, so you would think I would relate to them less. As for the quiet strength thing, I love admiring qualities that I do not remotely possess.
Written by others? Orual, from Till We Have Faces. For being so flawed and human and exposing my own flaws. Anne of Green Gables for being so romantic and dramatic (my childhood). (Add Ziva David for her linguistic versatility and interest in combat, and those are my “3 fictional characters!”)
If you had the choice of going without writing forever or going without dinner forever, which one would you choose?
Umm…as long as I ate a Linner, or a giant late night snack, without dinner forever, maybe? Or not. I actually feel hungry just thinking about it. I’m hungry all the time. I’m also 8 months pregnant. I have some slightly irrational fears about going hungry, actually, which do not accurately reflect my currently ability to obtain food. I get nervous if I don’t know what I’m doing for the next meal. I like to have that nailed down. I’m just going to defy this question and keep writing and eating dinner, until someone forcibly removes either from me.
Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo?
I think I should, for the discipline of it, but I never have.
What’s your favorite book? Favorite author?
Favorite author is C.S. Lewis, but favorite books by him are many (Till We Have Faces, Abolition of Man, Perelandra, Weight of Glory, The Horse and his Boy). And other than that, The Wall by John Hersey, Mara Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Anne of the Island.
What is your least favorite book? Least favorite author?
Skip. I have a lot of books I don’t like, some I even loathed, but I can’t really pinpoint it. I CAN say that while there are exceptions, I do not gravitate towards 1st-person-present-tense and I do not like stories that don’t stop to think and breathe. Action is great, but I like a more measured, rhythmic narrative.
How long have you been writing?
On the book I’m trying to get published now? There are two timelines for that. I started a completely unrecognizable and completely different story that was the story-germ for it when I was 14. I did not start the actual book as it stands until I was 21. I remember it very distinctly. I was in Iraqi dialect class and was bored because the first week of material was all stuff I already knew, and I took out a notepad and started it. I’m 30 now.
What grades did you get in English class?
A’s, I think.
What does writing mean to you?
I don’t know how to answer that. I like it when I write something that I think is smart and beautiful and–more importantly–meaningful. I like stories. I like processing things on paper–moral quandaries, faith, pain, struggle etc. And I like the idea that something I write might be really meaningful or helpful or poignant to someone else.
What advice would you give to other writers?
I myself don’t have a whole lot to offer in the realm of advice. But I will post a quote that I think about sums it up:
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” -C.S. Lewis
What motivates you to write?
The simple stuff: A story that I want to enjoy in full form. A thought that I want to flesh out on paper. A struggle or quandary for which a story may be the best medium of figuring it out in real life.
Would you let a stranger off the street read your first drafts?
Sure. I’ve never been shy about offering my manuscript out to any friend or acquaintance who will have it.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Why?
Two things. 1. the daydreaming part, where I see it all and it’s perfect in my head and I take notes, and write down little lines as guideposts for writing it that way. 2. The reading back over scenes I love. I just get to enjoy the story.
What is your least favorite part? Why?
Just sitting myself down and making myself do it when I’m not “in the mood” or majorly revising a scene when I don’t even know where to start. It feels like staring at a math equation while you try to figure out which formula applies, though, of course, it’s not even that straightforward.
What do you listen to when you write?
Nothing, really. I only listen to music if someone has the tv on, or some super irritating noise, and then it’s just because it’s the least distracting, not because it’s not distracting. When I do that, I have a playlist that’s got a lot of thematically resonant music: Mashrou’ Leila, Beats Antique, Bustan Abraham, Iron and Wine, HaDag Nachash, Black Keys, and a bunch of others. The Theeb soundtrack is pretty fantastic too.
What is your biggest pet peeve in writing?
Underdeveloped, over-the-top romances. Hazy description, so I can’t picture anything. Bland prose. Chapter-by-chapter “cliffhangers.” Anachronisms, particularly of language use. OH. And 21st century social mores jammed so unrealistically into historical characters.
How would you describe the perfect prose? How would you describe your own prose?
Strong and sensuous, but also subtle and simple, but with a lot of takeaway…so basically, I have no idea how to describe it. Reading Till We Have Faces (yes I keep mentioning, I’m rereading it right now) pretty much hits the mark, though.
Oof. Um. Well, lots of scent and touch and terrain. Sometimes a little reserved. I mean, I usually like it pretty well myself : ) But it takes a lot of honing, and sometimes gets a bit thick when I’m thinking too hard.
How often do you read?
I usually have five or so books going on at once. I usually read something theological (Pascal, Lewis, Chesterton, Tozer, Bonhoeffer, etc.) in the morning. Then I sort of grab-bag read if I’m re-reading something. And lately, I spend a good 45 min to 1 hr reading every evening. Sometimes I’m a little more sporadic, though.