When I write, I try and brainstorm the plot, theme and characters first. Deciding what general direction I want the story to go in. Once I start writing though, sometimes my characters will fight me. They have something to say or do that I hadn’t planned. (Sounds crazy, but other writers understand this) I try not to edit at all until I’ve written the whole thing first. Then I go back and start my editing.
2. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I lock myself in my room, turn on the fan to drowned out the noises coming from the house or outside and I don’t play any music. I need absolute concentration. When I get to a point where I’m pushing the story then I will stop, lay down and close my eyes- mapping it out in my brain. Sometimes a few days will pass and it will hit me, what I need to write next and I drop whatever I am doing and run to my computer.
3. What book do you wish you could have written?
I’m proud of what I have written so far and I don’t wish I could have written another book other than my own because it wouldn’t be coming from me.
4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Ken Follet and Dan Brown were early inspirations for me as well as Suzanne Collins. Hunter S. Thompson is a favorite of mine- his perspective on the world around him is intriguing and alarming but awesome.
5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
If Hollywood were to make a movie about “Butterflies Wake” and they most definitely should, I would cast the following stars as my main characters:
Camille- Meryl Streep
Lexi- Jennifer Lawrence
Callahan- Jennifer Hudson
Grimes- Ellen Page
Anna- Sadie Alexandru
6. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
When I wrote my Sci-Fi Series, “Beyond Earth” I chose the names based on what they meant, “love, strength, courage, etc”. But for Butterflies Wake, it was more based on how they felt. Camille was such a strong yet southern and innocent name, like Anna. Whereas the name Lexi makes me think of a strong fighter and Grimes reminds me of a tomboy like Techno-girl.
7. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Admitting to myself that I was a writer and not waiting for others to validate me.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Making films based on my books! Doing lemon-drop shots with Jennifer Lawrence!
9. Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?
I’ve always loved to write and as of right now I’m an okay writer. I think I get better every single day. I’m only 40 so I am hoping by the time I’m 50, I might write something that’s fabulous.
10. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Write SOMETHING every single day and read as often as you can, as many different genres as you can. It’s the best way to learn your craft. Also, learn to write without editing for a period of time. Let the creative juices flow. Then, when you’ve put a lot of it down, switch to your editors hat, but not before.
11. If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?
Make movies, work in the theatre or sing in a band.
12. Are you a plotter or a pantster? (Write by the seat of your pants)
A little bit of both actually. Like I said before, I put down a nice foundation and lay down the plans, but sometimes my story goes in its own direction.
13.Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read all my reviews even the bad ones. And nobody can escape a few bad reviews. If the person is making a point, I try to think of it as constructive criticism to better my work. If they are just being mean, then I figure that’s their problem not mine. The best way to deal with bad reviews is take out of it what seems constructive and apply it. Then go and read all the nasty one star reviews of some of your favorite famous authors like Stephen King or Suzanne Collins and remind yourself that art is subjective. Grammar, punctuation or writing out of tense, however, is not.
14. What is your best marketing tip?
Have everything ready for whoever is going to highlight your work. If they are going to highlight you and they have to do the work and look for the links, they won’t write about you again. Be professional and be prepared. Don’t stalk people, ask for help.
15. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
I’m very impatient, so it’s hard for me when I send my work to my editor because I want it back IMMEDIATELY! But, luckily, I have one of the best editors ever and she is always timely and I love her for that! Also, formatting is so tedious, its like nails on a chalkboard for me.
16. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
What is it?
I couldn’t ever do horror. I don’t like to be scared or to even think about twisted evil things.
17. Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
I can’t really afford conferences and so I don’t tend to go to them. But I did like the Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference in NJ a few years ago. Very professional and everyone was nice.
18. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Writing about rape or domestic violence is hard for me because I get really emotionally invested in my characters. But I know that if I don’t write it perfectly, and don’t give it justice, I will hate my own book.
19. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior?
20. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
Right now I am doing Nanowrimo and using it to write my sequel, “Butterflies Rising”. After this, I will also be working on my second Children’s book, “Sneaky Pete Meets A Stranger”
The following is some Crazy Questions That No One Ever Asks Authors; answer any you would like others to know about you.
1. What is your biggest failure?
Not really a failure, but I regret waiting so long to figure out my purpose in life. Waiting for someone to validate my existence instead of standing tall and saying, “Dammit, I’m a writer and I don’t need someone else to tell me I am in order for me to be one”
2. How has all the time you invest in others (IE: Writers 750, and the various LinkedIn groups to which you are a constant contributor) Helped or hindered you in your own writing journey.
Writers 750 might have been the catalyst to my writing journey. I have learned so much form the writing group about myself, about writing and about working with other writers. The most important lesson I learned was about how to keep it simple. When I would get the monthly theme, setting and ideas, I would map out my story and then 1300 words in, I realized I was only halfway through my idea but could only write 750 words. I had to learn how to self-edit. I had to learn how to take an idea and condense it and make it tight. That was and is the best way to learn.
3. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I’m almost always in a tough spot these days. But I never give up. You can’t ever give up. You just keep looking for the flashing light that says “this way” and keep moving. Just keep moving.
4. What is your biggest fear?
Having to endure the death of a loved one.
5. What do you want your tombstone to say?
Hopefully my name!
6. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Flight. I have always wished I could fly.
7. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
My name would be Alaska Knight and my costume would be a shimmering dark leather that bounced light off of it when needed, blinding my enemies!
8. What secret talents do you have?
I have 15/20 vision. I can sing very well and have a dance degree. I can make people cry by giving them therapy without them realizing it.
9. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
10. If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I’m definitely a jaguar.
11. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I want to write something so thought provoking that it actually causes an entire nation to stop and think.
12. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
Italian. It’s such a beautiful accent.
13. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy?
I was wild, energetic, dramatic, extroverted and a leader. I don’t really cling to material things, I can’t think of one toy I loved as a child, but I remember all the people.
14. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
I have very vivid dreams all the time. My mind is constantly working. I never have nightmares, usually just puzzles I need to then figure out. My subconscious trying to tell me something, no doubt.
I want to thank Arlene for taking the time out of her busy scheduled to grant us this interview. Below are links to follow Arlene on social media as well as her personal website. Please pick up copies of her books, take it from me you will not be disappointed!