I’ve had a lot of questions from readers since I committed to being a writer, and I haven’t taken the time to answer each and every one of them. Today, I’ll attempt to make some progress toward that goal. For the privacy’s sake, I’ll condense the names of the inquirers to their first initial only—and I’ll remove any part of the question that might indicate an identity, too. Let’s get to it then!
I love the Feasts series, but some of the characters are really despicable! Are they based off any people you know, or know of, in real life? —M
Good question, M. Well, seeing as how we’re all influenced by our environment, I’m sure that at some point, somewhere, I’ve met a ruthless woman—or two—like Gloriatrix, or I’ve seen a man with the striking charisma of the Wolf. However, these characters aren’t based off anyone in particular. The only exception to this would be Alastair, who’s a cross between Cary Elwes’ character from the Princess Bride, Captain Jack Sparrow, and a Shakespearean antihero.
I love the Princess Bride (both book and film) and its influence—romantic, comedic, dramatic—had a tremendous impact on my young imagination. That movie, as well as all the bizarre, aerialist, shrieking anime antics that my friends and I watched in my teens (the secret to why I love action scenes so much!).
Some of the scenes in the book are really beautiful, and some are really horrific. How can you write from one extreme to the other? Don’t you find it hard to write the awful stuff? —K
Part of the writer’s toolkit, is the ability to distance yourself from your surroundings and perceptions, and to, ideally, form something based not solely on your own judgments–rather, something that challenges your beliefs or that is outside your realm of experience. I feel we’re strong enough to discuss and create any material, or face any trial, so long as our heart is in the right place.
That’s just a fancy way of saying I think I’m very good at make-believe and I try to challenge myself by writing situations and characters outside of my personal comfort zone. Did I enjoy writing about Augustus; the pedophile, megalomaniac, all around terrible person? Objectively, I wasn’t thinking too much about him at the time, I was immersed in the narrative, and certainly more focused upon Macha—her welfare and courage was the real meat of that arc, not the perverse predilections of a madman. Now upon rereading the material, I had the same reactions as many of you toward Augustus: revulsion and condemnation.
That’s the point, though: don’t skirt around issues of evil, crime and darkness any more than you would devalue the virtues of love, comradery and hope by treading lightly with your words. The most horrible events happen all around us, daily, in tandem with life’s beautiful events. We shouldn’t only pay attention to what we want to see, to what keeps us comfortable: that’s a myopic, vegetative existence, and it leads to silos, stupidity and bigotry. Occasionally, we need to be scared and horrified. That’s part of being human.
For more of my thoughts on Evil and its portrayal, check out these posts:
And thanks for the great question, K!
What is the one thing you wished you’d never done in your career? —D
Hmm…I like to look at mistakes as stepping-stones, however, if I could take one thing back (and this is sage-advice for new authors): I wouldn’t invest any kind of money in an advertising campaign until I had more books under my belt. We didn’t spend a lot of money on the small campaign I did at the end of 2014, though no one knew who the F I was, or they thought I was Rihanna’s ex and were surely disappointed when they followed me on Twitter.
From a practical, business standpoint, it’s like advertising when you only have one product in your store. Wait until your merchandise is fuller and then start shilling. Build a presence and personality that people know, first, and you may not even need to spend a dime on marketing. But that takes time, and we’re not always patient. Being a writer is a waiting game, though, whether you go it alone, with small press, or with Simon & Schuster pondering your latest manuscript. Don’t expect breakthrough or lasting success in a day—that kind of charmed luck would be better spent on repeatedly playing the lottery.
You say you’re a cat whisperer; what does that mean? —J
“Person who talks to cats.” I wish there was a less spinsterish way to say it, but there you go.
I’m closing up the mailbag for today. In case you weren’t aware of how to contact me, you can send me any questions or comments via the Contact Form.
I’ll answer your questions in a somewhat timely fashion. (I’m much chattier on my FB page.) I look forward to hearing from you.
All my love,