What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?
My goal is very modest – to make enough money on my writing to comfortably leave my day job. What that mostly means is getting to the place where the inflow of money from the writing is steady. For most writers, the inflow is very uneven. We will get large advance checks and then go months and months with nothing. That’s pretty scary for a worrywart like me.
Which writers inspire you?
Maggie Stiefvater and Laini Taylor are two of my contemporaries that inspire me all the time. I think Tami Hoag is stellar. She does great dialogue and characters. I also adore Stephen King, JK Rowling, Douglas Adams, and my all-time favorite—Jennifer Roberson. She’s who inspired me to be a writer in the first place.
Give us an insight into how you create your main characters.
My main characters usually have some aspect to them that is wish fulfillment for me. Be it that they have a magical ability like Dusty in The Nightmare Affair or they get to cruise around space in a spaceship like Jeth in Avalon. This is usually where I start. Making those characters unique, however, is a much longer process. I learn about them through both freewriting and drafting.
How do you pick names for your characters?
I keep lists of names I’ve come across that I like, and I also rely on the Internet quite a bit, sites like babynames.com and also the “Popular Baby Names By Decade” page on the Social Security website. I especially visit this page when I’m working on something set in the modern world. I determine the decade of when my characters were born and then figure out common names. I don’t always use those common names, not for my main characters at least, but I try to keep the feel similar.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m working on a high fantasy that I like to think of Shadow and Bone meets Throne of Glass meet the pony express.
What draws you to writing sci-fi and fantasy books?
My attraction to these stories is fundamental. I’m just hardwired for the fantastical. It’s what hold my interest and gets my imagination sparking.
Are those also your favorite genres to read?
Which actors/actresses would you like to see playing the lead characters from "The Arkwell Academy" series?
For Dusty I would pick Molly Quinn. For Eli I would go with Matt Lanter.
How much research do you do before writing a book?
It varies by book. I don’t do a whole lot, mostly because I’m a learn-as-I-go-writer. This means that a lot of my research takes place while I’m drafting.
Why do you write?
This is like the sci-fi/fantasy question. I’m just hardwired for it. I see the world in stories. I’m interested in the meta-narrative of our lives and trying to bring that feeling to the page.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
When I’m drafting my minimum goal each day is 1,000 words. I usually average closer to 1500. I also have a weekly goal of 10,000 words.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I do not outline or plot. I consider myself a pantser who likes to stop for direction. I have a basic idea of where I’m going when I start the story, but I follow my instincts as I go. However, I don’t just rush pell-mell. I make sure I understand why these events are happening. That understanding is almost always tied to character motivation. As long as I can identify and understand the decisions my characters are making that led to this plot event, then I’m good.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I think the hardest thing is having the faith in yourself to keep going. Writing is very lonely, and there’s no one but yourself pushing you, and often your inner critic is going “This sucks! You’re awful! You’ll never be as good as so and so!” But you’ve got to learn to silence the critic and write your story anyway.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
My last book was The Nightmare Charade, the conclusion of the Arkwell Academy series. The hardest part about it was that I was behind deadline. By a lot. In the end I was writing 5,000 words a day and still went to bed each night feeling like I hadn’t done enough. That was rough. My newest WIP is going soooo much better.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
For me, the easiest is almost always the ending. I love endings. Getting started is so much harder. But endings are all about the payoff from months and months of work.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I would say about 3 months is my average for a first draft. But revising and editing will take additional months.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m currently reading Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.
Tell us about your covers and how they came about.
When you’re traditionally published like I am, covers are completely controlled by the publisher. My editor usually asks me for ideas and some inspirations, but after that I sit back and wait to see what they come up with. I’ve been very fortunate—all my covers have been amazing.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Very important. This is why the publisher controls the cover—it’s a marketing tool. A good cover is the first thing that will attract a reader.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
The best marketing you can do is write a good book, and then next, and the next… Since I’m traditionally published I don’t do a lot of marketing. I maintain an online presence as much I can. I hold giveaways when I can. And I attend book events when I can. That’s about it.
What do you do to get book reviews?
No idea, honestly. The thing about reviews is that there are thousands of readers out there who write them. Just get your book into the hands of readers and the reviews will follow.
What is your favorite quote?
“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” –Joss Whedon
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
You can find me online at www.mindeearnett.com