10 September 2008

Interview with Kelley Armstrong

I had the pleasure to interview Kelley Armstrong author of the Women of the Otherworld series, Nadia Stattford series, and The Summoning, book 1 of the Darkest Powers trilogy. If you haven't read her book, I'm sorry. If you have and you don't like them then I would suggest medication for insanity. Anyways....

How did you get the ideas for Women of the Otherworld, Nadia Stattford, and Darkest Powers?

For the Otherworld and Darkest Powers, I've been fascinated by the paranormal since I was a child. By now, I have no idea why I'm so attracted to it--I just know that I am, and that I love writing in this genre. What I often read, though, is crime thrillers. So when I thought of starting a different series, that's the direction I went with the Nadia Stafford one.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

That's like asking me to pick my favourite child! I love them all for different reasons, and maybe some a little more than others, but there's no clear fave. The one I find easiest to write is Elena because I've spent so much time "in her head."

Were any of your characters based on or inspired by someone you know?

Not really. All my characters include traits from people I know, but they each include traits from many people, so none are based on anyone. And I'm sure my friends and family appreciate that! The closest I have a "character inspired by a real person" is Jaime Vegas. Her personality isn't based on anyone in particular, but I got the idea for her character (particularly her career) from reading an article on a TV spiritualist.

How many books are planned for Women of the Otherworld?

I just signed a contract extension to go to #13 (#9 comes out this fall) I'm at the stage of taking it a few books at a time. When I get close to #13, I'll decide whether I'm still having fun, and if not, that would be the end.

I noticed that the preview for Broken at the end of Haunted is different than the first chapter in the book and was wondering what made you change your mind about the sequence of events in Broken?

Typical "early chapter" edits. The first quarter of my books always undergo the most edits, because they start too slowly, as I work my way into the characters. With that one, as with most of them, the publisher need the first chapter months before Haunted even came out...meaning I'd barely begun Broken. When I edited it, I realized that the book started too slowly, so I had to condense the time-lines. Since then I've insisted on not releasing the first chapters until the book is done!

Is the end to Made to be Broken written as a conclusion in case it is the last?

No. I know that might not be wise. I've got so much on the go right now that I'm pretty sure a third book won't follow right away. But I had an arc for the overall storyline that I couldn't wrap up in two books. So the case she's investigating ends, as it did in Exit Strategy, but Nadia's overall story doesn't.

Would you like it if one or all of your book series were going to be made into movies?

It'd be great publicity. I've learned that, whatever my own feelings on movie/TV versions, I can't underestimate the power of that publicity. The more readers a series gets, the more happy publishers are to let it continue, which is very important!

Did you always want to be an author? If not, did anything specific cause your decision?

I've always written, but I didn't expect to ever become a full-time writer, or even write books that were published. In my very non-artsy family, fiction writing was considered a hobby, not something you did for a living. I knew it wasn't a career I could count on, so I just kept at it in my spare time and after a lot of rejection, finally got published.

What helps you get over writer's block?

For me, "writer's block" is one of two things. First, lack of confidence. If I'm feeling discouraged, it's hard to sit and write because I'm second-guessing everything from the plot to my word choices. Second, lack of direction--not knowing what comes next in the story.
Getting published has definitely helped with the first! When my confidence wanes, I can remind myself that there are people waiting to read the next book. A better way for me to fight that, though, is good old determination--taking whatever made my confidence falter and using it to bolster my determination to make the current book as good as it can be.
For the second problem, outlines are a godsend. So long as I have a basic outline, I always know "what happens next," so I never sit down at the computer and draw a blank.

How many times did it take for you get published?

I can't say, really. You'll find with most authors that they did more than one book and sent out many queries. What I can say is that it took about 6 years of intermittently sending stuff out.

Any advice to aspiring authors?

Practice, practice, practice. Sounds simple, but I know too many new writers who have written very little considering how long they've wanted to write. They're busy learning--not wanting to write too much until they know more about the craft. You need to write, and write a lot. Learning is great--taking courses, reading books--but you'll learn more from them if you do it as you go.

Who was your favorite author as a teen and now? Favorite book?

As a teen it was Stephen King. As an adult, I don't have a favourite, just a wide range of authors that I'll grab if I'm browsing the bookstore for something to read. Favourite book? Watership Down.

Other than your amazing books, what are some you'd recommend?

Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs. They also happen to be among the bestselling authors in this genre, but they got there for a reason. They're good.

And my friend Abby had some questions of her own:

Do you make an outline for you books and write them beginning to end or do the ideas just come to you as you go?

I outline. I didn't used to, but once I got on a publication schedule with deadlines, I couldn't just meander through and back up when I went in the wrong direction. I don't do a detailed outline (it's far more detailed for the first part than the rest) and I don't necessarily stick to my outline, but I always have one.

Did you read up on the paranormal for your Women of the Otherworld series?

I didn't need to. I've been fascinated by the paranormal and reading about it since childhood. I still read new sources I find (well, they're actually old sources, but new to me!) I'm always expanding my knowledge of the lore and finding new and interesting angles.

And lastly she wants to know, and I'm sure many others do as well, where can I find a Clay?

The question is: would you really want to? While he certainly has his appealing points, I know that if I had to live with him, he'd drive me nuts...as he often does to Elena. He works better as a fictional guy than a real one, I'm sure!