Knowing when you’ve made it as an author

It isn’t when you start making an actual profit on your books, or even your own satisfaction with your writing and your plot.

You know when you’ve made it as an author when a reader feels genuine emotion for your story.

It has to be for your story and characters, too – emotion felt for their plight, because they’re unhappy with a character’s behaviour or thrilled when something finally goes their way. When I feel intense hatred reading Twilight, that isn’t a compliment to Meyer’s work at all – it’s the exact opposite, because I have no respect or enjoyment from the way she writes or her listless characters.

You have made it as an author when a reader weeps over the death of a favourite minor character. When a reader forgets to eat or sleep because they have to know what the hero will do next.

I have experienced this kind of thrill and joy as an author several times, but several rather notable times in the past.

I got my friend Bethany to read Of the Arbour and its sequel, Of the Arena, when I was first writing them. As she was in the midst of the sequel, I accidentally let it slip that one of the minor characters dies. This minor character happened to be her favourite. She was so upset with me she had to put the story down and hasn’t touched it since which actually works out okay since I’m rewriting it anyways.

More recently, my friend Lexi started reading Changeling. When she finished, I printed off a short story collection, The Time Between, that takes place between Changeling and its sequel, Abomination. She was so upset with the behaviour of one of the main characters, one usually charming and endearing who turned into a bit of a brute, that she almost phoned me to chew me out. Rather than do that, she stifled her rage until we met up at work the next day.

This very day, too, she read a defining chapter in Abomination that upset her. I hadn’t planned this chapter – I don’t really plan anything except major plot points though I guess this counts as one, technically, and the characters just sort of started acting this sequence out. It is a rather heartbreaking chapter, I’ll admit – and I even hesitated to put it in the book in the first place. But I decided that keeping it would allow for a sweeter, happier ending, so it remained.

Lexi read the chapter on her break today. I was putting out magazines when she finished. She found me, crouched down, picked up an ad slip that fell out of a magazine, crumpled it up, and threw it at me.

Don’t get me wrong – there is more to my stories than sadness. The happy stuff gets them too, but the things that upset readers seem to really stick out to me. I’m terribly attached to my characters, and I love it when others are, as well.

Despite the fact that both Bethany and Lexi were upset with me, I feel like I’ve accomplished something great, here. They were both so attached to the characters that when they did something decidedly out of character – or died – it genuinely touched them.

To me, that feeling is more important than any amount of money I might make.

Insomnia Strikes: Of the Arbour teaser

He could see shapes in the ceiling.

Shadows writhed in a sensual dance as the dying embers of his candle spat and faded. What little light remained cast an eerie glow across the worn stone walls of his room, and the edges where the mortar had crumbled and flaked away had shadows like spider legs stretched across the surface. The door on the other side of the room was invisible, swallowed by blackness; for a moment he considered taking the time to relight the candle, then decided that wasting the flint would be ridiculous. Master Korrin wasn’t about to give him more because he thought the shadows on his ceiling would give him nightmares.

He rolled his shoulders and winced as bolts of pain shot down his spine and spread through his muscles. Nightmares weren’t for the waking world—usually, he reminded himself with a small shudder. One required sleep to have nightmares. Continue reading

Sparring: Of the Arbour teaser

He was exhausted.

His muscles trembled when he moved, hopping back and scraping his feet on sharp rock. Lifting his arms was a challenge, but he had no choice—he had to keep going. When it came, and steel crashed against steel, he felt the vibration in his very bones. They seemed to grind together in his hands where he gripped the smooth leather hilt; but he felt no pain in his flesh, where the skin had grown thick and tough with practice. He knew his soles bled—he had seen the smears of brownish red on the stone floor—but he felt nothing. Aside from hot streaks of salt where the sweat slid down his temples and his chest, his flesh was numb; the pain he felt was etched into his bones, coursed through his muscles with each movement.

But he had to continue. What small part of his mind that wasn’t overwhelmed by his exhaustion knew that he had no choice but to keep going.

The crash came again and again. His breath was loud in his ears, and sweat stung his eyes; he blinked it away and pushed back, giving himself even a fraction of a second to catch his breath.

Cain’s cheeks were flushed mottled scarlet, and his curls were plastered to his skull with sweat. Sage could have smiled, if he had more energy. It came as something of a small relief to know that Cain was just as worn out as he.

The reprieve was brief. Eyes narrowed, sword hilt clenched in both hands, Cain let out a guttural roar and pushed forward off the rocky floor. Sage only had a moment to react, and then their swords were once more locked together. One more step back; another swing and block; and the screech of metallic song that made his ears ring.

As he danced around Cain’s attacks, blocking almost mindlessly, he wondered how long they had been at this. Sunshine streamed in dusty beams through the open mouth of the cave. Sage’s sword met Cain’s once more, and when he shoved it away he hopped backwards several steps, both in an effort to dodge Cain’s relentless blows and to better see the sun.

An hour at least since they began the fight. An hour of the most brutal training of his life.

By the gods, how he wanted it to end.

But there was no end. There would be no end until blood stained one of their blades, and Sage had sense enough to know that it couldn’t be his.

Authors are a sick breed

Authors – and anyone who creates a character – are a twisted group. Why? Because they literally play god for these characters and can do to them whatever they please.

Of course, this does include the niceties. Happiness, wealth, romance – most characters get these at some point. But in order to make a story interesting, there must be some devastation. And that devastation usually happens to the main characters.

Authors like to watch their creations squirm.

It isn’t that we’re a terrible group of people – but life simply isn’t a long trail of ups. The downs have to happen as well. But when an author thinks of something bad to happen to a character, they can sometimes enjoy it.

We are perverse. Continue reading

Why do I (and you) write?

What a loaded question. So I’ll start off simple and chip away from there.

I write to tell a story. I write to entertain people and to cement ideas that are whirling about in my head. I’m not here to make a point. I’m not here to put some subtle allusion to society, to politics or religion or war, into my novels. If that happens on its own, or someone sees it that way, so be it.

But I am here simply to tell a story.

Some people want to make a point, and I admire that. Deeper tales knitted into something light are necessary to get you thinking. I certainly have opinions on things, some quite passionate, but I’m not the type of person to shove them into my book just to get someone to notice it.

Continue reading

A basic writer Q & A

Because they can be insightful, because I have nothing better to do that’s a lie, I should be developing the world of Changeling more, or writing more Abomination, or editing Purity, or starting on the rewrite of Of the Arbour, or–

And hey, maybe it’ll give everyone else more of an idea of just why I do what I do, and where this all comes from.

Taken from the deviantART page of Elisa Nuckle.
1. When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing stories for most of my life. I cleaned out my closet recently and discovered so many little half-baked stories that I’d come up with when I was younger than ten. I’ve known I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 13, but only recently have taken the major steps toward that goal, and actually written something worth publication.

2. When you were a beginning writer, what did your write primarily? What do you write now, primarily?  (i.e. romance, fan-fiction, poetry)

I wrote plenty of Star Wars fanfiction that will never see the light of day. From there, I began to write sci fi stories that were based closely on Star Wars. In grade seven, a friend and I wrote a novel about vampires called Tears of Blood, which was completely scrapped save for one character: Fane, the son of Dracula, who now resides in Purity. I now usually write fantasy, high and epic. Continue reading

Naming a book

And what a bloody process it is.

The title of the book is, obviously, one of the most important parts of the writing process itself. If you have a stupid name, despite how good the book may be, people are going to judge it and be less likely to pick it up or buy it.

Being that I work in a bookstore, I encounter some pretty heinous book titles quite often. Namely, romance and mystery titles. They’re often punny or just straight up ridiculous.

Ideally, you would name your book something enticing that relates well with the plot or characters. For example, my favourite book, Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is called Outlander because the main character, Claire Randall, is nicknamed Sassenach by her confidante Jamie Fraser; Sassenach is a Scots Gaelic word meaning, you guessed it, outlander (at worst; at best, it means Englishman, which Claire also is).  Continue reading