E. Kaiser: Thanks so much for answering the call, Mary Ruth! We're so glad to have you here, and we hope to get you back for a reader interview sometime later. Everyone should also be aware that you are currently hosting a give-away over at your blog, the Writer's Lair, for a Flip Dictionary! That sounds like a fun little device! How's it work?
Mary Ruth: You're so welcome, Elizabeth, and thank you so much for this opportunity!
I'm very excited about the Dictionary Day giveaway. I can say without hesitation that the Flip Dictionary is the best monetary investment I've ever made in regards to my writing. It's a lot like a thesaurus, only way cooler. You can use it to find synonyms for words, but you can also use it when you know what you want to say but can't think of the word for it.
E: That happens to me a lot more, lately, then it used to. A terrible feeling! (I always think it means I haven't been reading enough books.)
M.R.: For instance, if you need a word that means 'a fear of tight spaces', but you can't think of it. It's in the Flip Dictionary, in a list of 'Types of Fear'. The lists and categories are amazing too; there's a list of military terms, and list of medical terms, and dozens more. Definitely a great asset for any writer to have on hand!
E: That sounds like a gem. I think I'll have to get myself over there and enter! Hope I win! ;-)
So, let's get started. [Sits up straighter, crosses ankles, folds hand, and puts on politely smiling, coolly interested, interviewer face.]
What's your favorite genre/genres, and what do you think really draws you to that/them the most?
M.R: Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Steampunk are my three favorites, but I think fantasy would be the top of those three. As a Christian, I see everything I write as an 'illustration', if you will, of the God I serve and love, and I think the speculative genres leave a lot more room for building those illustrations creatively. For example, if there is a certain chain of events I want to write in a story, it's much easier to fit them into a fictional world with fictional cultures and fictional history than it is to try and locate a real-world setting that the story idea will fit into.
E: I so agree! I've often found imagination to be a much more forgiving structure than the real world! One of the things I love best about spec-fic of all types. :-)
What's your most favorite writing related advice?
M.R: Currently (it changes all the time) my favorite piece of writing advice comes from 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 &4 - "...I didn't use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God's secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, who was crucified...And my message and preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit."
Don't get me wrong, I don't for one instant believe that my writing is 'divinely inspired' or anything like that. But I do know that God is the one who lets me have the story ideas I have, and who enables me to portray Him through them. God has taught me countless lessons about Himself through the stories He's given me, and I know there are lessons He's waiting to teach other people through them. My job isn't to decide who takes what away from my stories, or to get the lessons across with stellar word craft or an extensive vocabulary. My job is just to tell the story and let God use it however He wants to.
E: That is the first time I have heard that verse used in that light, but I like it! Good answer. It does sort of give a nice reminder even to us lowly and frivolous typists.
What is your favorite type of character to write? Why do you think that especially appeals to you?
M.R: I love characters who are tough and strong and capable on the outside, but conflicted or hurt or scared on the inside. I like working with conflicting desires and priorities, struggles between the character's strength and weakness, and the need for those attributes to eventually come to terms with each other, or to let another character see both sides. I think those characters appeal to me most because it's so easy to identify with them, and doing so offers a lot of opportunities to work with themes and ideas like priorities, honesty, acceptance, desires, etc.
E: Where do you like to get your characters? Do you like to draw off of people you know, other books, or just pull them put of the blue?
M.R: I've come to the realization that fictional people are vastly easier to understand than real people...
E: Ha! :-) So true.
M.R. ... so most of my character inspiration and ideas come from fictional people. I find movie characters especially helpful. I'm a very visually-oriented person, so being able to actually see the clenched fist that reveals how much a character is struggling to control his anger, or the tear-filled eyes that reveal how much he cares, or the moment that reveals how close he is to giving up, is a huge help to me in developing my own characters on paper.
E: Some writers talk about their characters getting out of control and things happening that they didn't intend to happen; have you ever had this happen?
M.R: Ryker Verone, a character from my novel Son of the Shield, is a perfect example of this. Ryker came into being (as Robert, originally) in an early draft because someone had to be the one to say "The patrols have reported nothing, sir." But then he just kept showing up and getting more and more involved in the main plot of the story, and next thing I know he's one of the central characters! It's happened other times too, but that's the one that sticks in my mind most.
E: That's a cute story! I love it when a minor character shows up with such charisma. It does make me wonder though, How do I get that same quality in the main character? :-(
How do you write? Is it 'start with page one, scene one' and go through it in order; or just "whatever scene pops into your head" (and that might mean that you have the entire middle of your book written before you even start on the beginning)?
M.R: I try to start at the beginning and go straight through, but I usually end up with a few hiccups along the way. If a particular scene is giving me too much trouble, I might skip over it and come back later. If I have a really good idea for a scene that's farther along in the story than I've written, I'll make some notes so I don't forget about it, and then I use it as 'bait' to keep myself motivated because I just can't wait to get there and write it in full detail.
E: How do you plan your stories' "bones", or do you?
M.R: I normally have a pretty good handle on the very basics of the plot before I start writing, but I confess I'm not much of a planner. I prefer letting it flesh itself out as I go. When I started writing Son of the Shield, I knew how the story started, and how it ended, but really didn't know much about how I was supposed to get from A to B. I just let the subplots and details unfold as I went along. That method makes for a lot of rewriting and editing, but I don't mind that much.
E: Have you tried any plotting, outlining, methods; and what works best to your way of thinking?
M.R: I've tried a few different methods, but as I mentioned I'm more of a 'go with the flow' writer than a planner. I don't normally know enough detail about a story's plot before I start writing to make an outline; that usually comes in during the editing process, and at that point I just scan through the story and make notes on what happens. Now, if I'm co-authoring something, a plot point outline is extremely helpful during the writing process, but I always have co-authors to help me figure it out (two heads really are better than one) and we've never used a specific method. As far as plot-development methods go, I'm a big believer in giving the story all the time it needs to grow in your mind before starting any part of the writing process. A story slow in coming is better than a half-baked story.
E: What is your worst writing trouble?
M.R: Probably my distractability (if that's even a real word).
E: It's okay to make up words here! Hey, if Shakespeare can do it; we can do it.
M.R.: ... I have a very go-go-go, on-to-the-next-adventure personality, so once a story's newness wears off I tend to want to bounce off to the next exciting idea. And then there's the whole outdoors trying to distract me, and so many books I want to read, and so many sewing projects to work on... it can make it hard to stick with a specific writing project long enough to see it through.
E: I sympathize with that.
What is your worst writing fault? How do you identify and rectify it's effects?
M.R: Well... I'm probably going to have to go with my distractability again. I can sit down knowing I have, say, two hours to write. So I work on story A until I remember that good idea I needed to write down on story B, and while I'm working on that I have this brilliant revelation about a subplot in story C... and two hours later I've written 50 words each on about ten different stories, but made no significant progress on any of them.
So what I usually have to do is just force myself to focus, and not allow myself to even think about any stories other than the one I'm working on. Setting a specific goal, be it a time frame or a work quota, is also helpful, since I love meeting a challenge.
E: Good thoughts. Yes, focus is a tough one.
Hey! It's been great having you here! We've so enjoyed learning more about another writer's mental workings! Thanks for participating.
And I hope everybody will hop on over and try for a chance at that Flip Dictionary you're giving away! :-)
M.R: Thank you so much for having me! This has been so much fun, and you've asked some really great, thought-provoking questions.
I hope to see you all over at the Writer's Lair as well. And good luck in advance to everyone who enters the giveaway!
--- Fade To Black--
So, what'd ya think?
Let me know, in the comments! :-)
Let me know, in the comments! :-)