Andrea and I first met in an online critique group a few years ago, and struck up a great partnership. She was incredibly helpful in critiquing The Lady of the Tower, and there were many days that her insights gave me the inspiration and encouragement to keep going. As first to the indie world, it was great to be able to share experience back to Andrea as she approached publication, along with recommending my wonderful editor and cover designer, Jenny Toney Quinlan. Today, so happy to host Andrea to an Author Chat, and I highly recommend Thunder on the Moor as a great timeslip read!
Andrea, as we’ve struggled through the process together (and shared some tears and laughter along the way) what do you think are common traps for aspiring writers?
That’s a tough one. I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but I think one of the biggest traps an aspiring author can fall into is forgetting why they wanted to write in the first place: the love of words, of telling a story, of seeing that tale come alive on the page. If you don’t love what you’re writing, it becomes a mechanical process, and the work can suffer. Thinking you’ve learned everything there is to learn can also be a trap. Trends change, so do styles, and while you don’t need to be a prisoner to the latest writing fad, it’s always good to stay up to date on things. Finally, taking every review to heart can stall a writing career, either by making the author so confident, they stop making an effort, or by discouraging them so much, they give up in frustration. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is going to love what you write, or that writing requires work and effort, even if the reviews are good. So enjoy the reviews, but then get back to the real business of writing.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal and why?
A unicorn without a doubt. They possess an underlying innocence and goodness, yet they’re mystical and full of mischief as well, projecting that air of perfect imperfection, just the way I like my heroes. They also carry me back to days of old, and I love traveling to the past. As I’m a hopeless romantic, who always has to add a love interest to my novels, as well as a touch of the paranormal, there couldn’t be a more perfect representative.
How important is working with your editor or beta readers, and how would you describe your relationship?
Super important. This is one of the most crucial things you can do for yourself as an author. After writing a novel, you can no longer stand back and look at it objectively. It’s important to get other honest opinions and suggestions on the work. You’re going to miss things, from typos to plot holes, because in your mind, you know what’s going on in each character’s head. The reader, however, is not in your head, so you need to find out where those missing bits are, where the continuity flags, or simply where you’ve typed the wrong letter.
A good editor can polish your book, giving it the critical eye it needs. And don’t get upset if they do suggest taking another course or eliminating a scene. They’ve spent a lot of time doing this and know what will work and what won’t. I trust my editor, Jenny, to do just that. And I think she feels like she can offer suggestions freely. I’ve had to delete or alter a scene here and there, and though the process can be painful, I’ve always been pleased with the outcome.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I actually don’t find it that challenging, maybe because I raised two boys, not to mention a husband. The only other female in our household was the dog. I just try to think how one of them would react, keeping in mind of course, they’re not living in the sixteenth century. If I had to name anything though, that would probably be it. Not just figuring out how a male would react, but how a sixteenth-century male would react.
About your latest book:
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
I try to keep as close to the historical record as possible, though since most of the historical figures I write about are fairly obscure, it’s sometimes hard to find information on their personalities. That being said, I do the best I can and hope it doesn’t misrepresent them too much.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Absolutely! They help me see what I got right and what I didn’t. If they’re good, I do a happy dance and revel in the joy for a moment, thankful I’ve touched someone with my tale. If they’re less than flattering, I take a look at what the issue was. I won’t say I haven’t had a few where I thought the reviewer didn’t have any idea what they were talking about or probably never read my genre before, but for the most part, they made logical arguments, even if I didn’t always agree with them. I realize everyone has different tastes, and maybe my book just wasn’t for them. Sometimes though, their critique makes sense, and it helps me improve.
What was your hardest scene to write?
There were a few scenes that were difficult to write for one reason or another. Of course, the scene where Annie is attacked was probably the most emotionally draining. It clearly defines the true personalities for a few of the characters though and has a large impact on what happens afterwards, so I plowed through. I actually started crying at one point and said a few prayers that I’d get it right. Luckily, my editor gave some much needed suggestions that helped soften it a bit.
Another hard scene to get through was the death of one of the reivers. I keep a box of tissues by my computer for just such occasions. I really didn’t want to kill him, but it was time for him to go. The rest of the story depended on it. Sometimes that’s just the way it is. Things have to be written into a story to move it along, things that effect later events or how the reader feels about characters or situations. Alas, they become casualties of the storyline. Death by pen as it were.
Next up on the difficulty scale would have to be the love scenes. I kept blushing as I was writing them, walking a fine line between what was an emotionally satisfying love scene and what was just gratuitous sex. I tried to avoid the latter. Hopefully, I succeeded.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favourite? Why?
I think I probably had the most fun with the kidnapping scene, because that’s where Will and Maggie finally start to develop a relationship. I enjoyed writing their banter, alternatively antagonizing and flirting with one another. Though their encounter is fraught with distrust, misunderstandings, and false information at that point, it is the beginning of a beautiful love affair.
Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. In fact, it was while doing some genealogical research that she stumbled across the history of the Border reivers. The idea for her first novel came to mind almost at once, gradually growing into the Thunder on the Moor series. And the rest, as they say, is history…
Connect with Andrea:
Amazon Author Page