Friday, March 24, 2017

Who's In My Office Today? Author C.L. SCHNEIDER!

My Interview with C.L. Schneider!

Thank you for joining me today.  I am excited to introduce you to my readers, particularly those who enjoy the sci-fi and fantasy genres!
1.     How a person sees themselves is quite revealing, not to mention interesting, so I always start with the same question: please tell us how you’d describe yourself?
·             Wow. You start out with the hard question first!
·             I would say that I’m a really patient person (just not with technology!). I love the weird and the strange. I’m definitely a fangirl of way too many TV shows, and I love Netflix.
·             I have a tendency to be sarcastic and irreverent, and moody. I try not to let my moodiness show, though. Instead, I channel those emotions into my writing.  Speaking of which… I have tunnel-vision when it comes to writing. I’m perfectly happy to be alone with a notebook, even in a crowded room. It’s not that I’m unsociable. It’s just that I have a whole world in that notebook that needs my attention. 
2.     I know you have been heavily influenced by your love of reading.  In particular, you were always drawn to sci-fi and supernatural, but you have said you were drawn to fantasy by your interest in The Middle Ages.  Ultimately, this is what shaped your writing, so let’s focus the first set of questions on this.
·        Firstly, what about The Middle Ages was particularly fascinating to you?
·        I can’t really put my finger on one particular aspect that fascinated me, but ever since I was a little girl, I was drawn to that time period. Even though it was dangerous and less than sanitary, I always found it to be romantic and adventurous. There was so much yet to discover and learn. So much mystery left in the world.  
o   Did you discover your love for this era because of school, literature, or cinema?
§  I would say literature and cinema.
o   Was there something or someone that influences you the most from this time period?
§  When I was young, I was fascinated by the legends of Robin Hood and King Arthur in literature and movies.
§  I loved to read about King Henry the 8th and his many wives. It was a fascination that led me to read a large amount of historical fiction set in that time period.
§  The Renaissance Faire also played a big part. I went every year, starting when I was in elementary school and continuing well into adulthood. I always went in costume, of course. I felt so at home there. I never wanted to leave.  If I could dress like that every day, I would! Once I had my own children, my attendance dropped off. I don’t get there near as often as I would like anymore. It’s still one of my favorite places to go.
·        How did this lead you to fantasy?
·        As much as I enjoyed historical fiction, I didn’t read my first true epic fantasy novel until the end of high school.
·        My brother was always into comic books and scifi, which eventually grew to include fantasy. He kept telling me about all these great fantasy books that he was reading, but I just had not gotten around to it yet.
·        So many books, so little time J
·        Then he bought me a copy of The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. And I fell in love. I read it cover to cover, back to back. I had already been writing for years, but that book spoke to me. It cemented my desire to write fantasy.
o   What parallels do you associate between The Middle Ages and Fantasy?
§  I think both have an aura of mystery and adventure surrounding them, a sense of possibility and wonder, where humanity is on the cusp of so many things. It’s a romanticized notion.
§  The Middle Ages was dangerous and unsanitary. There were many hardships, especially for women. But I think that’s where fantasy comes in. It can take those base elements and plop them into a story, allowing you to experience them in a much safer environment.
·        What do you think most influences your reading and writing tastes?  Why, and what authors did/do you prefer, if any?
·        My tastes in reading and writing are similar. I most enjoy a character-driven story full of flawed characters. I love to read first person and that is also my favorite to write in. I find it easier to dive into the character’s head and become them when I’m writing first person.  My style is a blend of epic fantasy with a modern, contemporary voice. That comes directly from my favorite authors and their influence.
·        On the top of the list would be fantasy author, C. J. Cherryh. She had a huge influence on my writing, especially in developing flawed characters.
·        Other authors that influenced me are Marion Zimmer Bradley and Jennifer Roberson. I learned so much from all of them.
·        Later on, I fell in love with Jim Butcher’s writing as well as Simon R. Green. Devouring their books taught me how to write first person.
·        You love fantasy, but you say you primarily write in urban fantasy.  What is the difference between these two genres, in your opinion?
·        The fantasy genre usually involves magic or magical creatures of some kind, set in an imaginary world.
·        Urban fantasy takes some of those elements and drops them in the modern age. Most are set in a city/urban environment that can be real or fictional. The technology and advancements are what we are used to today, or close to it. It usually involves mythical, legendary, or magical creature(s). Sometimes the human characters are aware of what is in their midst. Sometimes they’re not.
o   Why do you prefer to write primarily in Urban Fantasy?
§  Actually, I don’t write primarily in urban fantasy. I would say I’m pretty evenly split between epic and urban.
o   What about Urban Fantasy draws you to it specifically?
§  I love creatures and urban legends. Being able to explore some of those legends, to bring those creatures to life, and play with the fabric of reality is really appealing to me.
·        You also write in Adult Epic.  Would you please describe what this is for readers who are unfamiliar with the genre?
·        Epic fantasy is often a journey or quest story. Many times it involves long travels across multiple lands with fantastical creatures. The people and societies are medieval in nature.
·        War and great battles are a common theme, as well as magic. The protagonist’s decisions and choices have far reaching effects that influence the outcome of things on a grand scale.
·        Adult epic is just how it sounds: epic fantasy with mature themes and situations. Think of it as an MVLSV rating on your TV J I don’t write gratuitous violence or sex, but I don’t shy away from whatever the scene requires.
3.     You debuted as a published author with your trilogy, The Crown of Stones.  I would like to focus the next set of questions on this series.
·        I read this series was born from your desire to create a character whom you could get lost in.  You said your protagonist, Ian Troy fulfilled that aspiration.  What makes him so special to you?
·        I had been writing my whole life, but as soon as I created Ian, I knew he was special. Not only would he be my first published main character, but I constructed him to be so flawed, he felt real. It was incredibly easy to fall into his head and write from his prospective. I never had to wonder for an instant what he might say, or how he might react to a situation. I knew him so well. I could see the story unfolding through his eyes.
o   Where did you find the inspiration for this character?  Was he based on a real person or a beloved fictional personality you enjoyed?
§  My father loved westerns. My mother read a lot of mysteries, historical fiction, and biographies. My sister enjoyed horror and crime novels. And as I mentioned, my brother read a lot of comics and scifi. I was the baby of the family. By the time I was old enough to read, our bookshelves were filled with many different genres, including the classics. It gave me a wide reading base to grow up with, and so many wonderful characters to fall in love with. 
§  When I sat down to write Ian, I wanted to pay homage to some of those beloved characters that had sparked my imagination (and my love for books) so many years before. To do this, I knew I had to incorporate a bit of those characters into Ian’s personality. So I made him part cowboy and part outlaw. I wanted him to be a good guy, but a rogue, a detective when he needed to be and a monster even when he tried not to be.  I needed him to be flawed and suffering, yet bold and strong, valiant yet broken.  Drawing from those favorite characters of my youth allowed me to add those complexities into his personality.
o   How did you develop this character and the world in which he lives?
§  There was one simple key to developing Ian. I made his greatest strength his greatest flaw: magic.
§  From there, I needed to determine what he wanted most, what he feared, what he liked and disliked, his other strengths and weaknesses.
§  A character’s childhood plays an important role for me. Much is engrained in us during that time in our lives. One tragic event can change us forever. One harsh comment can fester inside us. But I didn’t want Ian totally wrecked from it, so I created enough hardships to leave him conflicted, but not completely broken by his youth. That way he still had a ways to fall in the books.
§  I know some authors do a character interview, but mine is more like pages and pages of barely legible scribbles in a notebook as I’m trying to dissect this person and decide what makes them tick.
§  From the start, I wanted Ian to stand out.  So I looked for how best to accomplish that. By making his entire race appear physically different from the rest, it added to the Shinree being ostracized and suppressed as a people. It gave more fodder to the other of the races to use against them. It also fed into Ian’s loner mentality. The other races were crafted around the Shinree’s plight and history, based on their attitude toward the Shinree and their level of involvement in their suppression/slavery. 
§  The world itself had to be dark but with just enough beauty to add in a sliver of hope.
o   What do you hope to convey to readers through Ian Troy, if anything?  Is there a message in his struggles or tale?  If so, what is it and why is it important?
§  I didn’t start out trying to convey anything. I was simply telling Ian’s story. But as it unfolded, I began to realize the messages were there, whether I intended them or not.
§  The story deals a great deal with addiction. Not only living with it and fighting it, but how it affects the people around you. 
§  There are many instances of judgements and misconceptions based on race, so the story dives deep into prejudice and oppression, and the consequences of the choices we make. I think facing real world issues in the context of a novel provides a safe environment to consider the subject matter, which can potentially alter views and shine new light on old problems.
o   Do you think the world you crafted around Ian Troy changed your initial view of the character you had intended him to be?  Why or why not, and how do you think it affected your trilogy, if at all?
§  I imagine it did somewhat. The Ian that was published was not exactly the same Ian as I created in the beginning.  Most of those changes were due to my determination to grow as a writer.
§  Those that were attributed to the world-building would be mostly his views of the other races and his behavior toward them. With crafting such extreme prejudices between the realms, I created a major divide between the races. Ian was not immune to that divide. If anything, due to his upbringing and his forced battle training at a young age, his opinions were more skewed. It was something he had to learn to work through as the trilogy progressed.
·        Did you begin with the intension of writing a trilogy or did it just grow into one through the writing progression?
·        I had always intended to write a trilogy. I wanted the first book to introduce the characters and the world and to hopefully draw my readers into the pain the land of Mirra’kelan and its people has been feeling for so long.
·        I wanted the second book to take the readers deeper into the mystery. My aim was to explore the world and its history, while also intensifying the personal struggle of not only my protagonist, but the other characters as well. Book 2 gave me the perfect opportunity for Ian Troy to spiral even further down than he already had. He wasn’t the only one, either. Many characters suffered and the world they live had become even more dangerous.
·        The third book was to slowly raise Ian and the gang, and their world back up. It uncovered all the remaining mysteries and tied everything together.
·        Ultimately, Ian had to learn to embrace who and what he was. The three books allowed him to complete that journey.
·        Does one of the novels in the series speak to you more than any of the others?  If so, which book is it and why does it stand out to you? 
·        Book 1 is my baby. There is no denying that. I cried the first time I held it in my hands. It was my childhood dream-come-true.  It was where I fell in love with these characters.
·        I adore book 3 and how it all came together. It was amazing to write.
·        But there was something about book 2. I really dug deep with that one. I tore into Ian’s soul, and put a few other characters through hell, as well. In doing so, I connected with them in an even deeper way. I think the greatest improvements in my writing came during the writing of book 2.
·        Without consideration of your own taste or preference, is there a particular book in the trilogy that you feel will resonate with readers more the rest?  Why, or why not?
·        Most people have said that they’ve loved each book more than the last. So I suppose, by that logic, it would be book 3.
·        I think that’s because the trilogy was such an emotionally intense journey, for not only the characters, but the reader. That was how I designed it. And finally seeing how all their arcs played out, who lived and died, how all the conflicts were resolved; there’s a kind of relief in that.   
4.     In the next set of questions, I would like to cover an array of topics.  Knowing you are a blogger, as I am, I find myself wanting to pick your brain regarding this aspect of our literary world.  There are so many variations to blogging, but as an author, I personally focus on books.
·        What can readers expect to find on your blog?
·             Mostly they can expect to find book reviews and guest posts.
·             I don’t blog original content as much as I should. After I published the first book in the trilogy, I tried writing an original post every month, but forcing myself to come up with something to write about, just wasn’t working. I wrote and rewrote. I stressed about it like crazy and wasted far too much time. Eventually, I decided it was something I had to let go.
·             So, for now, I write a blog post when I’m moved to write one. They come out so much better that way.
·        What’s your view on reviews?
·             I believe reviews can be helpful to an author, but they can also be a hindrance. It can be hard to read them objectively, when you want everyone to love what you’ve created. Yet, focusing too much on bad reviews can diminish your confidence and breed an excess of self-doubt. Reading too much into gushing reviews can do just as much harm.
o   Do reviews influence you as a reader?  Why, or why not, and how?
§  They influence me somewhat, but I don’t base my decision solely on reviews.
§  As a writer, I know that a story is experienced by everyone differently.
§  Now, if a book has twenty one star reviews and nothing else, then maybe I’ll pass. But if there is a healthy mix, and the cover and premise interest me, I won’t even look twice at the negative ones.
o   What do you look for in a book as a reader, and how do you view yourself as a reviewer?  I mean, what makes a good book, in your opinion, and what turns you off to a story?
§  Normally it’s a cover that catches my eye first. I have a thing for covers and can fall instantly in love with a book if the cover is striking enough.
§  After that, I read the blurb. Character names are important to me. In fantasy, there are a lot of unique names for characters and places. If I pick up a book and I can’t pronounce any of the names because they are so outlandish, I’ve immediately lost interest. Just because the book is fantasy, doesn’t mean it has to be so out there that you can’t make it through a sentence without struggling.
§  I’m turned off by stories where the characters are flat. I’m a character person. If I can’t connect to a character or be made to care about them, I lose interest.  I’m that way with TV shows as well. I watch a show for the characters more than the plot. I can forgive a lot in the plot if I love the characters.
§  If the pacing is too slow or the scenes are repetitive, I find myself wanting to skip ahead. I love a good fight scene. But if you have a fight scene every chapter and it goes on for half the chapter, that’s too much.
§  To me, a good story is one that you can’t stop thinking about. It leaps into your thoughts when you’re making dinner or driving. A good story should make you feel what the characters feel. It should play out like a movie in your head, and leave you sad when it’s over.
o   Do you read reviews of your work?  If so, do they affect how you direct your current or future writing?
§  I do read reviews.
§  My first reviews were so wonderful, I was shocked. I published the first book because it was my dream. I never really thought about anyone actually reading it, let alone loving it!
§  But those first reviews didn’t at all prepare me for receiving my first bad one. Once I did, I cried. I remember being amazed at how one person could say it’s action-packed and then the next review would say it was slow. But I developed a thick skin pretty quickly, and thankfully, those reviews have been in the minority!
§  I don’t write based on reviews, or on what I think will be popular. I write the story as it needs to be written, and I stay true to my characters. That being said, if I were to consistently receive reviews pointing out the same issue, I would certainly take another look at it. It would be stupid of me to ignore a negative pattern.
o   What do you want readers to know about reviews in general?
§  I love to hear how my books make people feel. I’m so grateful for that and for all my readers. My only thing is: don’t put spoilers in your reviews! Personally, I hate spoilers, so that’s a huge pet peeve of mine.
§  The Crown of Stones is full of twists and turns. There are so many reveals. All it takes is a word or two, and something I spent the whole book building up to, is spoiled for someone. 
·        What is your writing process like?  Do you set aside an allotted amount of time each day or week to focus on writing, or do you create as inspiration strikes?
·             My stories usually sprout from the creation of a character. After I have a clear understanding of who will tell the story, I craft a few other characters.
·             I do a rough outline, and then start writing. I start every story in a notebook first.  I call it my skeleton. Once I have a few chapters down that way, I transfer it to my laptop and put the meat on the bones.  Sometimes, if I’m not clear on the next chapter, I go back to the notebook for a couple of chapters.
·             Very often I don’t write linearly. I write whichever chapters or scenes stand out the most in my mind. Then later I go back and marry them all together.
·             Once the draft is done, I put the story through multiple rewrites before it goes to my editor.
·             I don’t wait for inspiration. When I’m writing a draft, I try to do something to move my story along every day. If it isn’t writing, it’s plotting, brainstorming, or research.  I do my best writing in the morning after the kids get on the bus.
·             Life happens, of course, and at least one day a week my writing time seems to get eaten up with grocery shopping, errands, and the like. When that happens for too many days in a row, though, I get grumpy.
·             The weekends are much harder to carve out time.  I’m often up ridiculously late, then, trying to do something so I don’t feel guilty about doing nothing. 
·        How does being an author affect your approach to blogging and vice versa?
·             If I’m inspired, I write a blog post. If I have to scrounge for something to write and force myself simply because I feel like I should—I hate that. If it doesn’t come natural to me, it doesn’t get written.
o   Did you begin blogging because you were a published author?  What encouraged you to not only write, but to publish?
§  I had never blogged a day in my life until I published Magic-Price. After, everyone said: you have to blog. So I did. I tried, anyway (see answer above!).
§  I started writing when I was a child. I was a huge reader. I was the kid who would leave the library with a stack of books so large, I could barely see over the top. Writing was simply an extension of my love for books.
§  When I was 16, I wrote my first full length novel. That’s when I started dreaming of being a published author. Life got in the way, but the dream never left me. Every time I would go in a bookstore, I would envision seeing my book on the shelf. After a while, as the years dragged on, it used to depress me. I grew to have a very love-hate relationship with Barnes & Noble!
§  Once my kids were in school full time, I knew this was my chance. I devoted to myself to writing, and Magic-Price was born.
·        What is your opinion of the Indie vs Traditional debate?
·             There are pros and cons on each side. I don’t think one path is right over the other. Rather it’s a matter of what’s right for each individual.
·        Are you self-published, signed with a small press, or are you a traditional author with a literary agent/publishing house?
·             I am a self-published author.
o   What was your road to being published like?  Did anything surprise you?  After going through your experiences, is there anything you wish you’d have known or done differently?
§  I had planned to go the traditional route. Once Magic-Price was completed, I started looking for an agent. I did all the research, sent out my query letters, and waited. I had a few nice bites, but no takers. One rejection letter had a more personal, positive message that inspired me. After that, I read everything I could get my hands on to improve my craft.
§  Then I sat down and completely rewrote Magic-Price. My intention was to start the agent hunt again when it was done. Then I discovered CreateSpace. I decided to self-publish instead of spending months or even years hunting for an agent and publisher. I still believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
§  I think what surprised me the most is the community. I had no idea other authors would be so welcoming and supportive.
§  One thing I wish I had known was to start building up my online presence before I published.  I rarely used Facebook and didn’t know the first thing about Twitter. Now I practically live there!
5.     What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
·        The first book in my new urban fantasy series, NITE FIRE: Flash Point is available now.
·        I am aiming to have the second book out in the fall.
·        I am also currently working on an Ian Troy short story for that will be a part of an anthology to be released later this year.
·        Want to learn more about C.L. Schneider’s current WIP or upcoming New Release?

I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule.  I look forward to discovering the world of The Crown of Stones, as well as, your new urban fantasy series! 

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