M.J. Moores Interview – “Getting it Right” – By Trisha Sugarek
This is one of more in-depth interviews that I have had the pleasure to do. M.J. delves into the writing process. Why we do it, what we are feeling, and what we experience when we write. I hope that the readers of Indyfest enjoy this one as much as I did.
IM: Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.
MJ: My ‘dream’ work space would be in the midst of nature, somewhere where the bugs didn’t bite and the weather was extremely temperate, lol! However, my actual work space happens to be one of two places in my home: my office or my craft room. It all depends on how much juice my computer has at the time and how severely external forces work to distract me. 😉
MJ: First, I do away with as many distractions as possible—and these tend to come mostly via the internet these days. I check my email accounts (all three of them), my social media, briefly snack on something crunchy (like flavored mini-rice cakes from Mr. Christie—cheesy tortilla when possible), then either review my notes for moving forward or dive into a list of feedback comments for a chapter revision.
IM: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?
MJ: Oh, this is fun! I used to play a version of this game with my drama students called ‘Liar, Liar’. The idea was to reveal two truths and one false piece of information about yourself to a partner to see if they could determine which one was the lie. They had up to three questions they could ask to try and catch their partner in the lie. As an example, I always said: 1) I have moved more than 14 times in my life; 2) I tried out for the very first Canadian Idol TV show; and 3) my shoe size is an 8. My shoe size is 7. 😉
IM: Do you have a set time each day to write, or do you write only when you are feeling creative?
MJ: Neither. If I only wrote when I felt creative, I’d never get anything accomplished. As a wife and mother, as well as a freelance editor, if I want any time for myself, I need to carve it out of each day with striking precision and extreme flexibility. I intentionally set aside one day (out of the seven we can legitimately claim happen on this earth) to focus solely on my own stories. I devote an hour to writing my Infinite Pathways blog two mornings a week and try to sneak in a third morning whenever possible for my author blog. Every single day of the week, I’m writing replies and keeping up with clients or PR items (such as guest blog posts or articles for online magazines to keep my name swimming around out there in the ether of the internet). It’s not a lot of time to write for myself, but I have to support my writing interests by doing these other things.
IM: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?
MJ: Know your tendencies, identify why you gravitate toward those things, be fully aware of what you are doing and when you are doing it, let yourself do these things for a set amount of time, and then push all that crap aside and simply let yourself write.
Personally, I need to procrastinate. It’s during those times when I’m scrubbing the toilet or baking a bunch of muffins that my mind does its best work regarding plotting and discovering things about my characters, their problems, and the world they live in. If I don’t let myself get distracted by the mundane, I’m not productive. 😉
IM: Where/when do you first discover your characters?
MJ: My characters are born from plot ideas. I say to myself, “Who might this happen to?” or “Who does the conflict revolve around?” and then my imagination takes flight. Unintentionally, each of my main characters is a reflection of some aspect of my life. It might be something I always wished I could be/do or it might be some unresolved aspect of my past (or present!) that seeps its way into the story to inform the core nature of these characters.
IM: What inspires your story/stories?
MJ: Often dreams; although recently, they have manifested from conversations I’ve had. The plot for my SFF quartet The Chronicles of Xannia stemmed from not understanding why my now-husband-then-boyfriend was so troubled by the plausibility of Y2K. It was after a particularly emotional reveal on his part that I began wondering about the idea of ‘those who believe’ and ‘those who don’t’, and my wily and tenacious character Taya Fyce was born. For my unpublished urban fantasy quartet The White Raven, it was me fooling around with a book title generator on a fellow author’s website and following the prompt she left: write out the title and develop a blurb for the book as if it were real. I got ‘The Hollow Kiss’ for a crime/thriller and, since I write speculative fiction, I also had to add a fantasy flair for my own sanity. I whipped something up in a matter of minutes, commented as requested, and then had to live with my brain chasing down this idea for the next week without respite! My lead character, who becomes the White Raven, was born of that conjecture.
IM: Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?
MJ: I can, and yes it does happen often, but being a planner keeps me always on the periphery, where I can orchestrate and oversee. But that doesn’t mean I never surprise myself or that my character always listen to what I envision for them. 😉 I tend to ‘get lost’ most often in the intense moments, as I live them right along with the characters.
MJ: I adore YA and certain types of NA or Adult fantasy that willingly take me on a journey. I have long admired the writings of Maria V. Snyder, but as of this past month, I have found a new, local author—Karina Sumner-Smith—whose books (characters and writing style) have lifted my heart and push me to better my writing so that I might affect my readers in a similar way.
IM: When did you begin to write seriously?
MJ: I first started looking for an agent for Time’s Tempest, book 1 in The Chronicles of Xannia, when I finished university and had time in my then-job (as an executive assistant) to polish this manuscript I’d been working on sporadically for the past five years. However, I got several rejection slips and decided to focus on other avenues of interest.
IM: How long after that were you published?
MJ: Nine years. I spent a lot of time working on my career and improving my craft. By 2009, I was a part of a great writers’ critique group and I started reworking my novel with them. Over the course of two years, I remained with that group until it disbanded, and then started my own group with a few of the interested members of the original group. That lasted another year, and then I joined two larger regional writers’ groups and began attending not only workshops, but writing conferences. Come 2012, I was trying to get a fledging freelance writing and editing business started (that was a year after my son was born and I was in desperate need of some “me” time). I hired a couple of substantive editors to give the manuscript another go over, integrated a lot of those suggestions, and then dove back into finding an agent with a much better understanding of the industry (although still not 100 percent). Just as I was seriously looking into self-publishing this series, a colleague from a small press in the UK mentioned that her publishing company was branching out into new genres and were now accepting manuscripts. I took a chance and sent her a copy of my magnum opus; she said yes. I’ve been officially published in print since 2014 (non-fic e-book since 2013).
IM: What makes a writer great?
MJ: Perseverance, a passion toward personal betterment, a willingness to keep learning, and above all, the ability to recognize good advice/feedback when you get it. 😉 If we can’t write believably and without error, we will lose our audience in a heartbeat!
IM: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?
MJ: Book 2 in The Chronicles of Xannia, Cadence of Consequences, took just over a year to write, but because I gave birth to my son in the intervening time, that was more realistically spread out over three years. Then, substantive editing and revisions took another four months before I could get a line and copy editor to check over things for me while I started on the logistics of cover design and interior formatting. Book 2 is now published one year after Book 1’s release. Book 3 will look much the same (without the birth of a child to spread one year into three), although I have been working on two novels at the same time and will be able to start querying agents for the new series just as Book 3, Rebel’s Rein/Rain, comes out. My goal is to work up to three novels a year. Seeing as I’m already publishing one e-book and one fiction book per year, this shouldn’t be too difficult—just need to find my stride!
IM: How have your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?
MJ: My life experiences are littered in large and small ways throughout all of my stories. The biggest impact usually has an emotional edge, but I’ll take something like the idea of being ostracized and magnify it 150 times in order to look at the big picture and emotional equivalency impact. Every main character (and many minor ones) has some aspect of my personality imprinted on them— it helps me love even the jerks and the ‘bad guys.’
IM: Have you written—or do you want to write in another genre?
MJ: While I enjoy the overriding genre of speculative fiction best, I will write general fiction, as long as there is a strong inner and outer quest/journey. I’ve dabbled in historical fiction, short stories, contemporary New Adult, sci-fi, and fantasy. And in 90 percent of my writing, I find a way to include an element of romance—I’m a bit of a sucker for the innocent stuff.
IM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
MJ: If you’re a writer struggling to find representation, don’t lose sight of your goal. The road may be long, hard, and crazy-frustrating, but don’t let that get you down; don’t start cutting corners. If you have to yell at the wall and chuck a beloved object across the room, do it. Let yourself give up, but also give yourself permission to start over again with learned expectations.
If you’re a reader, keep trying indy works that aren’t free. The reason we charge for our wares is to attempt to make back some of the money that went into the publishing of our manuscript— and so many more of us are ‘doing it right’ these days, so keep trying; keep checking us out!
M.J. Moores Website: http://mjmoores.com/
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