Thursday, July 26, 2012

Author August: An Interview with Jen Veldhuyzen

I have decided that the month of August will be an "Author's Month" here at my humble blog.  I will be interviewing writers and posting writing quotes and inspiration.  And, since I can't play by the rules (not even when I am the way making them up), I have decided that I am kicking it all off a bit early.  As in...NOW! 

I was recently interviewed over at petrepan.blogspot.com and Jen Veldhuyzen was gracious enough to answer some questions for me as well.  Here are her really thoughtful answers to my questions:

1.  What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
10's a hard number! I'm not sure if I was still in C.S. Lewis phase or StarWars books. I do remember when I was 8, though: I loved 'The Indian in the Cupboard' by Lynne Reid Banks so much I decided to write my own story, back in elementary school. I wrote about a little girl who found a magical Easter Egg that transported her to other dimensions!

2. Do you think your early reading habits influenced what you write now?
Sure! I read everything and anything when I was little, from the dictionary to the encyclopedia to fairytales, so my writing kind of carries a wild blend of ideas and facts. My early reading habits also hurt my writing, though, since some non-fiction books made me think longer words=better writing. Not true! It's also taking me a long time to disavow myself of the idea that more convoluted sentences meant more poetic writing.
 

3. What character have you had a “book character crush” on?
I'd never actually had a bona-fide "crush," but the dark and adventurous Peter Pan from J.M. Barrie's book "Peter Pan" quickly became my favorite boy in high school, like a brother or something. I carried that book everywhere I went, right in the same pocket I carried my Bible. (Is that weird?) Right now, I've written about a superhero who shoots his author--is it okay if I say I think he's pretty hot? I love his handsome attitude and free-spirit as much as I love his nerdiness and vulnerability.

4. Which of your characters do you feel the most kinship with, and why?
Lem Benzaran's an undercover assassin who must brainwash herself so that her target, an enemy mind-reader, can't discover her. She must think and feel like her enemy, not just look and act like it, so when her best friend finds her in enemy uniform, she can't explain to him why she's helping the people who tortured him the year before. Ouch!

I feel like her because sometimes, life's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' proposition, and I just have to have the faith to choose a path and plow onward. Sometimes I have to balance self-control for the good of others with the fear of losing myself and my beliefs, just like she does. Sometimes I'm not sure if it's possible to reach my goals, and I hate failure as much as Lem does. Sometimes I have to stand alone, and yet I often find, like she does, that I'm never REALLY alone when I stand strong. Does that sound creepy? It's meant to be comforting.

5. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?
It depends on what I'm writing!

6. Do you plot out your stories or let your characters drag you on their adventure?
At first, I just kind of write. Things just come to me, and then they slow and I have to plan and nudge things along a bit. Sometimes it takes a few pages--and sometimes a few chapters of failure--to get to know the characters well enough that the story takes off naturally. When it does, the characters just do what their nature determines in each situation. Then the problem is harnessing them so that I don't include absolutely every conversation they might have or every action they might consider important.

7. It can be hard to feel like a “legitimate” author when you first start writing.  When did you first call yourself a “writer” and not feel like a fraud?
I started calling myself a writer when I got paid to write non-fiction, and when rejection letters for fiction began coming back with actual unique-to-me copy instead of form drivel.

8. Are you publishing traditionally or indie, and what nudged you in that direction?
I want to publish traditionally because 1) I need the feedback, critique, obstacles, and purifying fire to make my work shine and 2) I'd like to reach a wider audience with "the Man" on my side.

9. What part of writing is hardest for you?
Cutting things out.

10.   What is your current work in progress about?
I've written about a comic book character who shoots his author; after losing four girlfriends and his parents for the sake of entertaining the fans, he becomes bitter. The story follows his slow healing as he struggles with loss and tries to figure out whether shooting another author will save his world from supervillains or damn his soul.

I've also got a story about a teenage soldier, Roz, who catches his best friend Lem in enemy uniform. (That's the story I mentioned above with the mind-reader.) Roz decides between the friendship and his long-time enmity with Lem's grimey new boss; when he chooses poorly, he nearly costs Lem her life, and the enemy swindles Roz into a mental prison. He must break free of mind control and Lem must find the strength to complete her mission alone--before their common enemy eliminates everyone they love.

They both sound a bit dark, but really they're quite hopeful. I like hope, love, and healing, so that's what I write about.

You should definitely check out some of the amazing work going over at petrepan.blogspot.com.  It is wonderful to find someone who is as talented as Jen Veldhuyzen is who is also so encouraging and supportive of other writers!  You can check out some of her other projects here, here, and here.

If you are interested in being interviewed for the "Author August" series, email me at gingerlovinmind (at) gmail (dot) com.