Today I sat down with one of my favorite authors H.M. Schuldt (Heather Marie Schuldt) for a great interview. I hope you find her answers as thought provoking as I did.
1. What does your writing process look like?
I write anytime of the day I can. I’m the type of fiction writer who loves to have a story map worked out, but I give myself the creative freedom to develop the story “in the moment,” which means I can make adjustments if the story or characters call for it. I do some editing as I go, reading what I wrote – out loud – and see if it sounds the way I want it to. Then I read it again and see if it’s really how I want to leave it. I do most of my writing in my office, but I have another desk that I go to from time to time. I find myself wearing earplugs once in a while, either to drown out the background noise or to listen to music.
2. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
To me, I don’t think that I have any strange writing habits. I just need a black pen and lined paper. Yes, it has to be a black pen; and yes, it has to be lined paper. I usually don’t think about what might be odd to other people because I’m focused on trying my best and making the best effort to write a good story.
3. What book do you wish you could have written?
I never desire to be another author. There are many writers that I admire, some are alive and some are not. I stay true to my own voice and hope there are readers who like my story.
4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Dan Brown’s novel, Angels and Demons, is written in a wonderful way. Some books stand out more than others to me such as Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. I have many favorite authors. The writers in my monthly short story contest, the Writers 750 Contest, are very inspiring every month. Bram Stoker’s style is beautiful. Suzanne Collins’ talent shows very well. The creative story in Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland never ceases to amaze me.
5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
There are casting directors who have an excellent knack for being able to find the right actor for the role. I directed a one-act play in college called Sundance, and I ended up very happy with the final results. The play has five males and takes place in a metaphysical wild-west saloon. The actors did a great job taking on the roles of Sundance, Hickock, Jesse, the Kid, and the Barkeep. If the director knows the role of the character well enough, auditions can reveal whether or not the actor is a good fit. Since I was familiar with the actors in the theater department, auditions weren’t necessary. I had a good idea who could play the role. On the other hand, at the auditions for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and Bus Stop, I worked solely with auditions from strangers. A casting director’s approach can vary; the chemistry between the possible actors can also make a difference as well as an over all balance in the cast. In my books, there are plenty of Hollywood actors that could play the characters in my stories.
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?
I am very selective with names in my stories. Someone once said that the two most common names for male and female protagonists are Jack and Kate, but this doesn’t keep me from using the names. More importantly, I like to make sure the name fits with the story, setting, genre, and audience. Sometimes simple names can be a benefit because the name is ‘easy on the eye’ for the reader. I like to consider the meaning of the name, but I don’t force the issue in the story. In my library at home, I have several name books that I like to flip through. Sometimes I use regular names like Jill. Other times I work with creative names like Ragnar and Lenna.
7. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Setting goals and sticking with it are important to me. I always put forth a lot of effort. In 2012, I set the goal to publish an anthology by selecting stories from my free monthly short story contest, the Writers 750 Contest. My first Giant Tales anthology was a success. I published 7 books in 2 years. Just to be clear, six of the books were big-group accomplishments where I was the complier, one of the editors, and one of the authors. Six of the books are successful Giant Tales anthologies written by over fifty authors, and one book is a successful short novel where I am one of the five co-authors. These 7 projects were a priceless experience that benefited many people. If I can inspire others to do good work and have a positive impact on the company I work for, then I’ve done my job.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
One of my long-range goals is to have a few novels published and marketed by a reputable publishing house. My experience in writing short stories, publishing, and attending book events as a guest author has prepared me to write more stories and continue to reach out to readers in the community. Another goal is to keep serving the community as I continue to work hard at studying the craft of fiction and writing stories.
9. Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?
I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories. In first grade, I walked home with a friend so we could tell each other pretend stories. Later that day, I was in trouble because I never had permission to go home with her. In first grade, I did my first research project on rabbits by referring to the encyclopedia, and I loved it. I remember reading stories when I was younger, and I wanted to edit the words in the book. Recently, I heard someone say that there are many good writers but not many great writers. I try not to lump writers into categories like that. There are many great writers and there are many genres and styles of writing. Some writers are better at marketing their books. Others are better in person at live events. Some are more philosophical. Others enjoy intellectual conversations. In the end, it’s always about the story and the presentation of the story. Over the past three years, my library has increased substantially.
10. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Set realistic goals and stick with it. Be flexible and be willing to adjust along the way. Stay motivated. Stay focused. Get out and sell your stories. Be sure to have your one-sentence summary on the tip of your tongue, and tell other people about your work. Be bold and ask other people to read your book.
11. If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I’m a researcher. I love to research almost anything from composting to outer space technology and winning the lottery. I never get tired of researching. In the past, I’ve been involved with a fundraiser for the fight against breast cancer. I like to find ways to help orphans and widows in my area. I’d also like to earn a respectable position at a publishing house.
12. Are you a plotter or a pantster? (Write by the seat of your pants)
Both. I covered this earlier, but I work best with a story map. I like to know where I am headed, but I also like to have the creative freedom to develop the story “in the moment,” which means being spontaneous.
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?
Generally speaking, I never respond to a negative review. Once in a while, there might be a kernel of truth in a proper critique. If so, I quickly find it and get the most positive piece of advice I can out of it. It’s a good idea to think about bad reviews as junk mail. It’s best to keep a good focus on your goals and stay focused on the steps that will get you there. I’d much rather read the good reviews.
14. What is your best marketing tip?
Be creative to develop a name brand. Be disciplined to find out what works for you. Get to know the business and work hard. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Promote yourself, seek reviews, and have a good website.
15. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Every writer faces challenges. I’ve addressed most of the challenges over the past three years. It’s important to learn how to deal with distractions. Be sure to get rid of time burglars. Most of the time, it’s best to say no to extra hobbies in order to write. Deadlines are your friend. Accept the fact that you won’t be able to please everyone. After all these challenges are dealt with, then it’s a matter of not going overboard. What I mean is that writers still need to be healthy, exercise, and make good contributions in the world. I’d write all day long if I could.
16. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
One day a long time ago I said, “I will never…” and then sometimes life doesn’t turn out that way. I’ve learned to take one day at a time, and I try to keep the audience in mind.
17. Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
In 2014, I went to five local events as a guest author. Four of the events were at the Kannapolis Cultural Arts Festival called Kaleidoscope and the last event was at the Cabarrus Art Council’s Art Walk. I love meeting new people and telling them about Giant Tales and Gryffon Master. Someday I hope to attend a big conference as a guest author.
18. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
In the past, I haven’t written anything that was difficult to write. Love, action, and race are real issues in life. People can identify with all three. In my current novel, the main character experiences a teleportation and I describe what she feels and goes through when her body begins to disappear and reappear somewhere else. It’s written in first person narrative, and since I’ve never teleported anywhere, I used my imagination to describe what she went through. This is an example of the beauty of fiction, especially fantasy and high fantasy; I relate to real life situations, but I can also use my creative imagination.
19. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
I have 7 books published. My short novel is called Gryffon Master: Curse of the Lich King where Ragnar the Viking warrior tries to escape from a dangerous jungle, but an evil Lich King is hunting him down. Then I have two books from the Giant Tales Apocalypse 10-Minute Stories series, which include: Lava Storm In the Neighborhood (Book 1) and Final Ships In the Neighborhood (Book 2). The last four books are in the Giant Tales 3-Minutes Stories series, which include: Giant Tales Beyond the Mystic Doors (Book 1), Giant Tales From the Misty Swamp (Book 2), Giant Tales: World of Pirates (Book 3), and Giant Tales: Dangerous Days (Book 4).
20. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I am working on a fantasy novel and hope to see it published in 2015.
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?
Sometimes I am too helpful to the point of sacrificing myself. Time is money, as some people say. The past three years are not a failure though. The experience has been priceless at Writers 750. I’ve worked hard, learned a lot, and in many ways, I am better prepared to face numerous situations in the future. When my plate is full, I’m much more likely to say no. Even if my plate is half full, I still might say no. If it fits in with the goals, I will find a way to work it in. Quitters never win. And winners never quit.
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.
I love my free monthly short story contest, the Writers 750 Contest. Hundreds of writers have gotten a lot out of it. I started it in April of 2012. I’ve met so many talented writers in the Writers 750 Contest. You can find the titles and authors of the short stories from 2014 at my website, http://writers750.com/
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 don’t look at challenges that way. In the past, I have been faced with life threatening situations. So many other things in life seem small compared to what I’ve been through. Each time I have been in a life or death situation, there isn’t much a person can do other than get down on your knees, pray, and walk away with more faith than the day before. I’ve had several life or death moments. Some things in life are just beyond a person’s control.
4. What is your biggest fear?
Tunnels. I don’t like tunnels, especially the one coming out of the Boston airport. It feels like it’s 10 miles long.
5. What do you want your tombstone to say?
Job Well Done
6. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Flying without any side effects or complications. I went to flight school my first year out of high school and flew airplanes. I’ve always loved flying.
7. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
Bat-woman. Remember, I like flying. I’d be happy as an American billionaire, an industrialist, and a philanthropist who fights crime. My costume would be black and very flexible with wings.
8. What literary character is most like you?
Each person is an original. It might seem fun to compare, but I usually don’t. If I could spend one day as a literary character for the fun of it, it might be Sherlock Holmes.
9. What secret talents do you have?
If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore. I will say that in fifth grade, I was super fast with solving the Rubik’s Cube. I had all the solutions memorized.
10. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
I’m a lover of the ocean and the beach. Some of my stories take place on a beach, on an island, or in the current novel I’m working on, out in the ocean. Escaping Captain Drake from Giant Tales World of Pirates takes place on the beach and also takes place on an island. Dragonship from Lava Storm In the Neighborhood takes place on an island near the shore.
11. If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I’ve always loved lions, but I also like flying. So being a gryffon makes good sense. Here is an image I put together:
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