Writing FAQs

Side note: This is also posted on facebook, so if you’re one of my friends, there’s a good chance you’ve read this already.
So I get a lot of questions about my writing when I’m talking to my friends, so I figured it might help to give answers to the most common ones. Also, it makes me feel all professional and author-y to pretend that people care 🙂
1. So what kind of stuff do you write?

ANSWER: I mostly write Science fiction/Fantasy, specifically for young adults because those are the sorts of books I personally enjoy reading the most. I strive for stories that are character driven and fun to read.
2. Alright, but what have you actually written?
ANSWER: You mean aside from mountains of essays and papers for school? I guess the main pieces of writing that I have would go in this list:
  • Magical Instincts:  The first novel I wrote. It’s set in the Atlantean Solar System, and is about a sweet 14-year-old girl named Mystra who finds out she has magic and the journey she goes through while training to become a Mage. The tone is Harry Potter meets Jane Austen meets Star Wars.
  • Earth Mage (Previous titled Easier Scryed Than Done): The second novel I have completed (started Summer 2007, finished Summer 2010). It’s about Jezel, an energetic teenager from Earth, whose uncle finds a spaceship and asks her to be part of the crew. They travel to the Atlantean Solar System and Jezel becomes a Mage and fights evil. It’s kind of like Psych crossed with Star Wars.
I am sending out queries to literary agents this summer in hopes of getting this manuscript published sometime soon.
  • Two Knights In One Day </u>: A Sleeping Beauty re-invention that gives it a lighthearted romantic comedy twist. It is told from the Prince’s point of view. The original was around 20-something pages long, but after submitting it to several contests, I have many different lengths available. This story won a contest in August 2009.
  • Water Lilies of Remembrance : A Little Mermaid/Ophelia (from Hamlet) cross-over short story I wrote both for my creative writing class and for Enchanted Conversation. It’s dark and tragic–very different from what I usually write. This was the story that taught me that I love writing about obsession and pain perhaps a little too much. Link at bottom of post.
  • Guardians and Ghosts: An ongoing project that I’m co-writing WITH Courtney Mohland. The idea is that we both have characters who are writing letters back and forth to each other, and we have to create a plot with our letters. The catch is that we can’t plan out the story or talk about it outside of our letters. My character is Cassandra, a Victorian ghost buster who uses elemental magic to help spirits find peace. You can find the letters at http://www.guardianghost.wordpress.com
  • Elements Sketches: Some blurbs that I wrote in class when I was bored and then realized I was very fond of them. There are 4 blurbs, each around a paragraph long. Each is centered around one of the four elements, and I use an abstract, almost poetic style to describe a very short scene. These are extremely loose on plot and only vaguely tie together. It’s not my normal writing style, but they’re short :-). I’ll post some of these on this blog later on.
3. Why did you write two novels…why aren’t you trying to publish the first novel before writing another?
ANSWER: The most confusing thing about my novels is that I didn’t write them in chronological order, but I DO intend to publish them in chronological order. They are both set in the same world and they share some overlap of characters, but Jezel’s novel comes aproximately five years before Mystra’s novel. I started writing with Mystra’s novel because she’s a much more cooperative character to write–her story is told in 3rd person and was a lot simpler because it uses classic storytelling techniques. At the time, I believed that I could publish Mystra’s novel and then go back and write Jezel’s book. After spending four years revising Mystra’s novel, I realized that the best way to introduce the world I’d created to readers for the first time was through the eyes of a newcomer to that world. Mystra’s novel also has a TON of cameos from characters from Jezel’s novel, and unless the reader is already familiar with them, it’s just confusing to read. So I made the hard choice to shelf Mystra’s novel and start the story back at the beginning.
4. How long have you been writing?
ANSWER: I didn’t want to be a writer until after I wrote Mystra’s novel at age 15, the summer before my sophmore year in high school. I’ve been writing pretty consistently since.
Sidenote: For anyone who wants to be impressed, it started out as 112 pages and two summers and 3 drafts later, it was around 327 pages (and that was AFTER I cut the first 10 and the last 25 pages of it!) Jezel’s novel is 185 pages long at the moment.
5. Where do you get your ideas?
ANSWER: For my novels, I have to give most of the credit to my best friend from my junior high years, Sarah, who came up with this game that she called The Mindplay. It was basically the two of us doing a talking-only role-playing game. This was before either of us knew anything about Dungeons and Dragons. The basic idea was that Sarah was the narrator and played all of the characters except for mine. My character was Jezel, and after I played for a year or so, Jezel got married, and I took on a new character: Mystra. So I feel very strongly that I have a personal relationship with my characters, because I am not just writing their story–I feel like I actually lived in the story! This is the reason why my novels are so dialogue driven. It’s because Sarah and I spent years walking around our yards doing nothing but talking. So I don’t see my characters in my mind when I’m writing, I hear them talking.
It’s been extremely challenging transferring The Mindplay to book form. For one thing, when Sarah and I played it, we were shameless copyright infringers. The Mindplay was originally a Star Wars/Star Trek mash up, and it won’t take much effort for anyone who reads my novels to spot the similarities between the Mages and the Jedi. If you’re ever curious about which characters from Star Wars (Expanded Universe too, not just the movies) have been re-invented into my stories, it’s a rather fun discussion to have.
My favorite days are those when I read a book or watch a movie with a character name in it that Sarah used, but I didn’t know it at the time. For example: When I watched The Golden Compass and they said the name “Asriel” and I freaked out because Sarah had used that name in the Mindplay and I remembered seeing the book on her bookshelf years earlier. It’s kind of like my own personal Easter Eggs!).
For my non-novel stories, I get my ideas by spending a LOT of time thinking. My best ideas come when I’m in the shower, mowing the lawn, or while I’m lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. Books, movies, and music also play a large role in my idea-generator.
6. Can I read some of your writing?
ANSWER: YES!!! I never turn down a request from friends who want to read my stuff, and would be thrilled for you to read it, even if you don’t know me that well. I especially get excited when people read my writing and give me feedback–I genuinely get excited even about the criticisms because I’m always looking for ways to make the story better. I will only ask that if you DO ask me to send my writing to you, that you’d actually READ it because too often, I will send it to friends and they never read it. I get that it’s really long and that life often gets in the way of good intentions, but I still get a little sad when people just let it sit on their computer, unread.
If you want something more immediate, a VERY shortened version of my Sleeping Beauty retelling can be found at: http://www.diamondsandtoads.com/2009/08/prince-with-good-manners_06.html .
A VERY shortened version of my Ophelia and Little Mermaid mashup can be found at: http://www.enchantedconversation.org/2009/06/water-lilies-for-remembrance-by-tahlia.html
And of course, Guardianghost.wordpress.com has writing from both me and Courtney.

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