Today I’m delighted to welcome Rachel O’Laughlin on my blog as a part of her Coldness of Marek Blog Tour!
Coldness of Marek, an Adult Epic Fantasy, is the first book in the Serengard Series and it comes out today!
A Writer In The Spotlight – 15
Bio: Obsessed with all things history, Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories and only recently fell in love with fantasy as a genre. She lives in New England with her husband and children, grows roses and tweets often. She adores lattes, The Fray, long drives in the country, and any dark story with a good twist. Coldness of Marek is her first novel.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Yes! I always knew. When I was a little kid I used to write picture books, and by the time I was six or seven I was writing chapter books. They were all pretty lame, I’m sure, but I had a lot of fun. One of my friends who has read a little bit of everything I wrote through the years claims my signature event is a kidnapping. “Someone always gets abducted in your stories,” she claims. Glancing through my various drafts, it’s pretty true. Why do I always have a kidnapping? I have no idea. I guess I’m morbid like that, ha.
When and where do you write?
I write for about a half hour in the early morning before my kids awaken, and then again for two hours in the afternoon while they nap. These days I tend to perch on the loveseat with my Netbook. I’ll occasionally go to a coffee shop when I have a babysitter, and a lot of words to catch up on. I’ll end up writing again after dinner if I’m on a deadline. Hubby is a sweetheart and watches the kids whenever he can. WIN!
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Quite a bit, actually. I always have emotions pouring through me, sketchy visions of what characters are feeling and saying to each other, but I often fail at plots. I can write pages and pages of dialogue that makes no sense whatsoever plot-wise — but it has ALL THE FEELS — and then writer’s block will hit when I’m trying to iron out those details. When NaNoWriMo comes around, I fortify myself with all the chocolate and coffee and push through every barrier, no matter how bad the writing I end up with may be. It’s totally worth it. I fast-draft in spurts throughout the year, and then revise when I can look at things with a cold, critical eye. It works for me.
What do you say to people who want to be writers?
Draft something. Anything. Get your words down, and finish a whole MS. It might not be the one you want to polish and take all the way, but simply writing words will keep your brain going and your craft improving. Someday you’ll write something amazing that you want to share with the world, and all that drafting will pay off.
Is it better to outline and plot your novel or “go with the flow”?
I outlined my first two 100k manuscripts, then I completely went with the flow for COLDNESS OF MAREK. It took a lot a revision AND a full rewrite, but it was nice to just run with it while writing. The second book had a definite outline…but I just tossed half of that outline out the window, so we’ll see what happens. I do have a future novel that I’m outlining the heck out of and I have a feeling it will be the most epic of anything. Needless to say, my process seems to change with each project, and I’m cool with that.
Do you set goals for yourself as you write?
Always. Rewards for reaching 15k, 30k, 50k, 80k, for finishing a revision, for getting through edits, anything. Usually the reward is just a break and an episode of The Mentalist or something, but it keeps me pushing through instead of procrastinating. It’s cool when I have rewards from the outside, too. Like, my sister-in-law brought me a pound of homemade butter for finishing my rewrite. My husband is more of an endless dispenser of chocolate and delicious drinks whenever he sees me getting bogged down.
On Coldness of Marek
To write this book, where did you get your inspiration from?
I wanted to try epic fantasy when I was about 13 but I was just terrible at it, and I swore off of fantasy. Then, when NaNo 2011 rolled around, the cliffs and cliff men begging to be written, and I knew it had to be a fantasy. Really, the image was just THERE and I couldn’t shake it. Trzl was challenging. I felt like I knew her, because she reminded me of a tenacious girl I grew up with. Just, boom, she existed, everything about her crystal clear. Maintaining that consistency wasn’t easy, though. I was tempted to change her all the time. I had to force myself to come back to my muse and ask myself what she would REALLY do. Mikel, on the other hand, was this purely fantastical character that was hazily in the back of my mind for years and I couldn’t shake him. I tried to fit him into an apocalyptic mystery, but he didn’t really belong. He definitely belongs in the midst of swords and soothsayers.
What type of music did you listen to when you wrote this book?
I can’t listen to music while I’m actually writing, but I always have a playlist that I listen to in the off-time to give context to certain emotions I want to evoke in the story. When I drafted COLDNESS, I was listening to Norah Jones, Keith Urban, Colbie Callait, and Vanessa Carlton. But during the rewrite? Breaking Benjamin, Switchfoot, and Jewel. Oh, and of course, The Fray. Always The Fray. 😉
What are you working on now?
I’m deep in the sequel to COLDNESS, with a lot of revisions already done. It’s going well! This main character is so different from Trzl. Akkk, I want to tell you so much more, but I don’t want to spoil it, so all I will say is this: NINJA ASSASSINS. That is all.
Which authors inspire you now? Any books you would recommend?
Oh, my. For plots, Agatha Christie, J.R.R. Tolkien and Rafael Sabatini. For writing style, L.M. Montgomery all the way. But those are all old books, haha. I just love classics. In modern lit, I’m definitely inspired by Leigh Bardugo, Geraldine Page, and Michael Crichton. I would recommend anything by Crichton to anyone, any day of the week, but especially his book TIMELINE. If you haven’t read it, you just…you have to. Also, GONE WITH THE WIND (Margaret Mitchell). That book floors me over and over again.
Why did you choose to self-publish Coldness of Marek and would you recommend self-publishing to would-be-published writers out there?
I chose self-publishing because I decided I’m not interested in having an agent represent me at this point in my career. I want to slowly get to know my audience, what they like about my writing, and what they’d like to see more of. I want Serengard to evolve somewhat organically, and I don’t have that option with an uber-competitive market and a readership that already has certain expectations. That said, I would love to have an agent represent some of my other projects. I believe I can write something that could sell on a large scale — someday — and I might want a major book deal and a wider audience reach.
I only recommend self-publishing if a would-be-published writer is ready to be very dedicated and open. It’s just like being a street musician. You’re basically sitting there with your coffee can, asking for coins for your art, because there’s no way the crowd is going to know who you are at first. You want people to hear you, and you have to be willing to work extra hard for that. Willing to put out cash you might not earn back (pay for editing, invest in a nice cover and promo), and spend endless hours interacting with readers (on twitter, facebook, email, etc). It can be very rewarding, including having the ability to plan and act out every step of the process, but I especially just love the down-to-earth-ness of this process.
Everybody has different reasons for publishing different ways. If you have good reasons for self-publishing and you know you can do it, I’d say go for it.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Rachel!
Thank you so much for having me, Eve!
COLDNESS OF MAREK is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble. You can order it signed by the author here. And please note the book is also available on Amazon in Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.