I got a fun email from my niece today. She’s helping out a friend whose seventh-grade daughter is an aspiring novelist. The email was addressed to me (self-published author) and my sister (actually published-published author) and included a short interview. I include it here with my answers.

1. What skills do you think are important to write a novel?
Imagination, love of language, and persistence. If you want to write a successful novel you also need to know your genre and write for your audience.

2. What is the best way to get into this career? Should you start small, or just jump in with a lengthy novel?
Read, read, read, then write, write, write. Write short stories, outlines, sketches, articles, blog posts–bogging is an excellent way to practice your writing skills and get feedback on your work.

3. What qualities are important to create a vivid story and vibrant characters?
“Show, don’t tell.” Whatever quality you’re trying to convey in your characters, convey them through their actions and words, not by outright description.
Know their motivations. Try this trick: each character has a Big Bag, a Carryon, and a Surprise. For example, my main character, Matt Bugatti:
Big Bag: Brilliant mathematician obsessed with his contribution to his field.
Carryon: Wants a family life.
Surprise: Expert pistol marksman.
Finally, at the end of every page, the reader must want to see what’s on the next page.

4. What is the best way to get published?
You have so many options today that you didn’t even a few years ago. Self-publishing an ebook is fast and easy through Amazon, Smashwords, or others. Self-publishing a paperback is only slightly more difficult through Createspace. If you want to get your work in front of people, Wattpad is a great forum, especially for young readers.
I can’t comment on getting published via traditional publishers. That is a portal through which I have not passed. But I would recommend Jeff Herman’s book here.

5. What is your favorite part about being an author?
Seeing what emerges on the page. I have a vague outline in mind when I start, but where it ends up always surprises me.

6. What regrets do you have, if any?
I regret that I didn’t start when I was in seventh grade and keep at it. I regret that I didn’t get an editor sooner.

7. What made you want to become a writer?
I had a story to tell. If you don’t have a story in you that wants to get out, in fact, that will emerge alien-like from your heaving chest given a chance, you’ll have a steep hill to climb.

8. What is your least favorite part about being an author?
Promotion. See my blog here.

9. When you first entered the career, did you have any worries or fears about your writing or getting published?
None whatsoever. I do now.
When I started out I thought I was an excellent writer. I based that opinion on reading other writers in my genre (Ken Follett, Dan Brown, James Patterson, Vince Flynn) and thinking “I can do that.” so, no worries. I now have a much better idea of what I’m good at and what I’m not good at, which means now I have something to worry about.

10. What were a few important things that you have learned by writing?
I learned what I was capable of. I learned that good writing doesn’t always succeed, and bad writing doesn’t always fail. I learned that zombies sell.

Copyright © [2016] by Charles O’Donnell, All Rights Reserved

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