Hello everyone! Today I interview the lovely Kristen Taber, whose book Ærenden: The Child Returns recently came out. I had the honor of beta-reading this book, and thought it was fantastic and exciting––so I hope you all will check it out as well!
Q: How long have you known you wanted to write books?
A: I’ve wanted to write nearly my entire life and have toyed with poetry, plays, short stories, etc. since soon after I could talk. I began focusing on writing books in my high school years. At first, I tried collections of short stories in the suspense and horror genres, and then I stumbled on an idea that later turned into something much bigger. Something, as it turns out, which became my first publication, Ærenden: The Child Returns.
Q: What inspired you to write The Child Returns? Do you remember where you got the idea?
A: I remember it clearly, though the original idea looks nothing like the finished product. I took Spanish in high school. While in class, a friend of mine and I joked around about being twins named Estrella (Star) and Cielo (Sky). We invented a silly backstory about being superheroes at night, and suffering Spanish class students by day. Throughout the year, I retooled the idea, casting the twins in a fantasy storyline where one is a wizard and the other is a military ruler. A janitor at the school they attend—a young, orphaned boy—turns out to be their protector. At some point in time, the twins became a single girl named Meaghan and the boy remained her protector, though his role drastically changed. I started writing the book about seven or eight years ago, put it down because I didn’t like where it was going, then picked it back up two years ago, changed the plot line, extended it into a series, and fell in love. As I said, it’s nothing like it was so long ago, but its origins still stem from my youth.
Q: What's your writing process like? Do you outline or go straight into writing?
A: I do a bit of both. I have a general outline in mind when I write, but often, the books take on a life of their own. I plotted the Ærenden series to be one book, but around page 150, I realized I had a series on my hands. Characters, solutions for problems, even entire plot lines sometimes unfold on their own, much like watching a movie. I chase them, knowing full well I’ll be doubling my editing time later, but it works well for me.
Q: Did you ever suffer writer's block while writing this book––and if so, how did you deal with it?
A: No major blocks, but minor ones, sure. Typically, I’ll hit a wall where the characters aren’t talking to me and I leave them alone for a while. Working out (running or the elliptical) tends to help, as does running errands or cleaning. Activities that allow my mind to wander often create situations where my creativity flows best. My best characters have popped into my mind during these times.
Q: What was the revising process like?
A: I took a long time revising this book, mostly because it’s my first and I had a lot to learn about the process specifically, and writing in general. Initially, when I thought the book was “done”, I sent it out to friends and family for thoughts, as well as entered it into the ABNA contest where it made it through the Quarter Finals. The feedback I received in return showed me the book needed more work (as expected). I then entered it into a contest where people judge the first few chapters and provide feedback. This also helped me retool my style and learn more about proper vs. sloppy writing. After this, I began editing in earnest. I went through the book twice myself, then sliced and diced it several times with my editor (a friend who does a fantastic job with comprehensive editing), edited it again myself, and then sent it out to a few trusted people for beta reads. After receiving their feedback, I incorporated necessary changes, edited it myself twice more, and then called it “done” a second time. Though, of course, it's never truly finished. We’ve since found a few typos, despite all the eyes that combed through it, but reviews have proven the extensive editing process did its job. The final product is professional and all of us who worked on it are proud of what we created.
Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
A: Learning how to handle feedback was definitely the hardest part. Negative feedback is difficult to accept (to authors, watching someone tear apart our manuscript is like watching a pack of wolves tear apart our babies). And positive feedback, though easy to accept, can be dangerous as it’s often given to stroke our egos and not to help us grow. The truth lies somewhere in between and the trick is learning to discern it, which is not an easy task. Sure, if everyone says the exact same thing (that scene sucks or I love this character), then you can easily figure out what to keep and what to change. But this rarely happens. Art is subjective, so when people read a book (listen to music, view a painting, etc.) their opinions will often contradict each other. Taking all of the feedback I received became crippling. When one person liked a sentence or scene and another person hated it, I didn’t know what to do. I was constantly revamping the book and wondering if I would ever get it right. Then one day, after I changed a sentence for one person and changed it back for another, I realized my folly; I had found an infinite loop of madness.
I finally realized that with every piece of feedback I received, I had to be an emotionally detached
gatekeeper and ask the right questions. What is the reviewer’s motivation? What sort of books and
authors do they like? Am I getting this feedback the majority of the time? If so, why? Does it fit my style, the plot, the characters? Does it ring true to me? Once I learned to answer these questions and to own my manuscript instead of renting it out to each person who read it, I could move forward and create a solid, final product. I know it won’t please everyone, but that’s also something I have to learn to accept. If I’m true to analyzing the feedback I receive, I should be able to please most of the people and create something worthwhile in the process.
Q: What writing projects are you working on now?
A: I’ve been working on marketing for Ærenden: The Child Returns and helping other authors do beta reads, but I intend to hole up in my office again in the near future. I have a lot of editing to do on Ærenden: The Gildonae Alliance, the second book in the Ærenden series, if I intend to make my Fall 2012 release.
Q: If you could give one, most important piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
A: Learn everything you can. Never stop. Talk to other authors, read blogs, study grammar, read books, swallow whole everything you can get your hands on so that when you write, you’re teaching as much as you’re learning.
Q: Anything else you'd like to share about yourself or your book?
A: I can be found on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kristentaberauthor) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/kristentaber) and would love to connect with everyone on either or both sites. In addition, my book is currently available on Kindle and in Print, both through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Aerenden-Child-Returns-%C3%86renden-ebook/dp/B0084UZ5GM). Signed paperback copies can also be ordered by contacting me through my website (www.kristentaber.com).
Thanks so much, Kristen! :)