October is here!
Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing?
I call myself an overachiever but truthfully I’m a sarcastic control freak who almost died three years ago and, as a result, now tries to squeeze every bit of life out of each day given to me. I started writing as a kid, dreaming with classmates in Junior High English about someday being writers. I kept a journal as a child – full of how unfair my childhood was, who I had a crush on and my dreams for life. I wrote lovesick poetry in high school that I’m embarrassed to say I kept, and I started blogging in 2008 as an adult.
That answer itself is a tad cliché. Show me a writer who doesn’t say “I’ve always written since I was a child”. While it’s a somewhat interesting answer, I assume what you really want to know is how my path to being a writer as a job got started.
The first step was my blog which started me on a regularly scheduled creative outlet. As a blogger, writing was always at the forefront of my mind. That new focus steered conversations with friends differently, and one night at book club I found out several of my fellow reader friends were thinking about writing. One of them had a husband who was writing a novel – something I didn’t realize everyday people did. He was looking for beta readers so we all agreed to do that. Looking back, what we really were was alpha readers since we deconstructed from a writer’s eye rather than a reader’s eye. Those feedback meetings were instrumental to getting me fully on my path toward being an author.
That same year, I heard from another friend about this thing called National Novel Writing Month which intrigued me. I told my book-club-alpha-reading friends about it and we agreed to tackle it together. Thus my writing group was born. That was ten years ago and without that group I probably wouldn’t be where I am. We learned together how hard writing is and dug in to figure it all out. We revised together, learned craft together, cried together, celebrated together and most of us have now progressed to the professional level together. To date, I’ve written four and a half novels and many more short stories – two of which have been published traditionally.
How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?
If it isn’t on my calendar, it doesn’t happen. I have a full time corporate job Monday thru Friday and two daughters who dance competitively which together take up most of my days and evenings. I’m also a chapter president in the League of Utah Writers and a full-time college student. My everyday life doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to write. After a couple of years of hobby writing, I got serious about wanting to be a professional author and now I treat my writing as a job because someday it will be. I write from nine until midnight four nights a week, after my kids go to bed, and several hours on the weekend.
How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or some other method of getting your words down?
I am a technology geek so the ‘how’ is always electronic based, and I can’t live without Scrivener software. I use a laptop for actual writing with a file on my phone to jot down ideas that occasionally turn into pieces of stories. The ‘where’ isn’t always the same except that I always write at home – since I write late at night and don’t have a lot of alternative options available. I have an office with a great desk setup but I don’t always find it the best place to write because it isn’t dedicated space. I pay bills there, my husband and kids share the space, etc. The first novel I ever wrote was drafted entirely at my kitchen table before the office. Lately I write mostly in my recliner on my bed propped up on pillows – wherever I can escape the chaos of family life and get some quiet.
What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?
I never thought I would like the revision process but it has become my favorite after I learned the intricacies that can take a rough draft to a polished gem. The entire process of creating a new story – regardless of the length – is the best part of being an author.
My least favorite part of writing is all the things I never realized I’d have to do that aren’t part of the writing itself. Trying to juggle family vacations and author events with a limited amount of time I can be away from my job is challenging. Writing projects and associated deadlines that collide and overlap can derail everything swiftly. Editing one project while I’m trying to draft another means both projects suffer and take longer. If I could snap my fingers and replace my corporate income with my writing so I had eight or more hours in a day, these frustrations would be gone. If you see my fairy godmother around, please tell her I’m looking for her?
How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?
My latest published piece is a short story in It Came From the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror titled “Baby of the Lake”. It’s a ghost story which was partly inspired by the seven years I spent living in a haunted house. It took me about four months start to finish – pretty long for a short story – mostly because I had to first exorcise my own ghosts before I could find the real story which made it to print.
My current project is a novel that I’ve been working on for about ten months. It’s almost finished so I assume I’ll be finished in a year’s time. That one grew from hearing an NPR story back when they were talking about dismantling Planned Parenthood. I thought “what would society look like if we started down that path?” and my creative muse ran away with the idea.
What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?
In truth, I think the best kind of marketing is writing a great book that readers tell their friends about. Which means my best marketing efforts go into writing good books at this point in my journey. Getting published is not as hard as getting readers so anything I can do to connect with a potential reader personally is a plus. For that, I rely heavily on social media. I have two published short stories both in anthologies which I’ve promoted with my fellow authors. Blog tours and guest interviews like this one are what I like to do the most. I share the journey of all I do on my website so fans can watch as everything unfolds. I know I’m pretty unfocused in my efforts but right now that’s okay.
What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?
I’m working on a dark fiction novel set in the not too distant future. It’s about a woman who wants to live her life and make her own choices but society and politics have evolved so that she can’t. I think of it as Rosa Parks meets 2050 where we’ve legislated morality as a country.
Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.
Most of my projects are on the back burner since I don’t have the luxury of writing full time. If only I didn’t need to sleep! I have one project I keep coming back to with lots of quantum physics and individual stories that all tie together. It’s complicated and would take me years to finish it so I’m holding off on starting until I have the time to really do it justice.
What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?
Talent can only take you so far so if you’ve got a little bit you have plenty. If you’re willing to work hard and continually strive to learn and improve you can do even the seeming impossible. The most talented writers still have to do the hard work before they make it in this business. The most important thing is to finish what you start and then start something new. I’ve heard it said that once you’ve written a collective million words, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea on what you’re prospects will be. How long it takes to write those first million words is entirely up to you.
My turn for a question. I already admitted that I know the least about effective marketing. What would your advice to me or others like me be for developing the right marketing strategy?
Great question! Although you can get some great ideas on what has worked for others, before you develop your marketing stategy what it really takes is trying different things and finding what works for you. This will mean some trial and error.
For example, I was determined to send off a press release to newspapers every time a new book of mine came out. What I have found that works better - for me - is to focus on getting the word out online. The easiest way to do that is for me to write on my blog/website at least five days a week.
I will try anything once, maybe even twice, but if I don's see some real results after the effort - new connections, interested readers, new readers, I try something new.
I have learned that people like book trailers and author/character interviews, so I try to do these often. They also like to read reviews, though it is a struggle to get readers to post them. I am learning that advertising through Facebook creates interest for a new book and that connecting with other authors is a great way to get the word out about your book through book tours and such.
If you're not aware, my book, Marketing Your Book on a Budget, provides many ideas for you to try for your own marketing purposes. You can try some things there, gather some ideas of your own, and create a marketing strategy that suits you.
Terra Luft is a speculative fiction author whose imagination is most often drawn to dark tales. An overachiever by nature, she tackles every project with coffee and sarcasm, and believes all rules exist to be broken. She works full time by day and writes by night searching for an elusive work-life balance people tell her exists. She lives in Utah with her husband and two daughters, their naughty dog and a cat who stole her heart. Terra is published with Crimson Edge Press and Griffin Publishers and is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the League of Utah Writers.