August 27, 2016
So during the last two weeks I've received quite a number of questions so I felt it was best to make a second AMA--so that the first one didn't just become a wall of terrifying text!
Ask Me Anything! Well, not just me: you are also free to ask the editor, Alexandra, and the web designer, Michael, anything and I’ll rope them into responding. ;) The quenching fruits of curiosity are within your grasp. Ask and it shall be answered!
Maybe even truthfully!
If I receive questions that I think the rest of you might like to know on the tour, I'll also share them on THIS AMA!
+++ Do you have a specific writing style?
There are some aspects that are consistent in my writings—metaphors, descriptions, nuances—but I’m actually pretty versatile. For example, The Kings series contains multiple point of views with each chapter heavily saturated in that character’s personality, whereas The Legends series will be written as more of a historical account with a distant narrator—like Lord of the Rings. I enjoy utilizing different writing styles to maximize the feel of the story I’m trying to achieve. In a series as vast as Steps of Power, where over 30 books are currently planned, having versatility not just in story and character, but writing style as well, ensures that the series never feels dry or redundant.
+++ What other characters have you cosplayed?
My first cosplay was done at 13—Sesshoumaru from Inuyasha. Following that Judge’s Choice and First Place winning costume, I created costumes for Inuyasha, Kikyou, and Itachi, but gave them to friends. I did complete a Roy Mustang costume that I kept for myself. I also began work on several other costumes (from Cardcaptors and Fushigi Yuugi, primarily). Then I moved states again when I was 16 and stopped cosplaying until a few years ago.
Then I made Dark Valkyrie Diana from League of Legends and last year, the female rendition of Eldaeus (that's me on the right... obv...) from Heroes or Thieves. I also made two other costumes for Jikun and Navon (soon to be altered to Navon and Saebellus) (but both lovely individuals don’t have the cosplay details down (aka, contacts, makeup, wigs), hence why the costumes will be altered to adjust to their cosplay styles.)
+++ Who are you going to cosplay next?
My next planned costume is Kamora, the goddess of nature and beauty, who is mentioned throughout The Kings, but more so in the series to follow. Seriously SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS COSTUME. I really want to spoil how awesome it’ll be, but I’m going to wait and show you!
+++ To Editor Alexandra Birr:
With a world as big as Aersadore, how do you keep all of the characters and events straight in order to avoid plotholes?
Short answer: very carefully!
Long answer: To be honest, I've got a great memory when it comes to the Steps of Power series. For the most part, I've got the info that J.J. and I need stored in my head. Buuuut I'm certainly not going to let the integrity of the series depend on the memory of the person who can't remember what she had for breakfast yesterday!
J.J. and I keep very diligent notes notes about everything Aersadore-related. You'll notice that during Kings or Pawns, there are sporadic name-drops to events that happened in the past, or regions that are named after someone/thing--like the Candorian Plague, or the War of the Dragons. We have a running document that includes all of the references we make; they aren't just random names, and we may even go back to tell their stories eventually!
In terms of keeping the stories plothole-free book by book, one of my jobs as an editor is to analyze the story from every angle, and we also take beta reader feedback very seriously. Then, at the end of writing each book, J.J. actually goes back through for an edit where she charts the course of the characters on a map with every detail accounted for--even the cycle of the moon!--to make sure that the timeline is straight. Call it crazy, but the product is in your hands! ;)
+++ What's your best advice for aspiring writers of fantasy?
I actually get this one. ALL. THE. TIME. xD
Hm... I'm going to assume fantasy is the key word here, yet this is still a tough one as there is so much diversity in fantasy. Urban? High? Epic? Sword & Sorcery? Low? In all cases, the one thing I feel one cannot go wrong with is world-building. Not necessarily all aspects that you'll write in the book, but you can't know too much about the world yourself. I suggest starting with the beginning of time. What is the story for how the fantasy world/peoples came to be? What are the differences in the story across cultures? Religions? Languages? How did the relationship between people's change over time. Where are they at now? All of this will affect the characters in one way or another and the characters are, imo, the story. You can take a good character and, flavoring them with that world-building, make them just a notch above the rest! I mean, that's my best advice, at least! Gotta take advantage of the endless creativity opened by fantasy!
+++ Any tips on creating better writing habits. Really struggling here.
I can tell you what I do:
I use discipline centered around a reward and punishment system upon myself. Each day, I have a goal--usually established the day or week before--with either how much I have to write or for how long. Typically, it is "how much" and is generally a chapter a day (writing or editing). So if I get done in three hours--huzzah! Reward time! A treat (something I like to eat), a video game (league of legends is my go to), a tv show or movie (can't go wrong here), or whatever else I want. As long as I've accomplished my goal, it doesn't matter how fast and the rest of the day is mine to do as I like with.
Buuuuut the same thing goes if I DON'T reach my goal... 16 hours later, if I haven't finished my chapter, I still don't get off the couch. No reward. No special food. No break. No video game. Nothing. And if I eventually must sleep, I receive no reward until I catch up--aka, complete all past goals AND that daily goal.
If I am in a writer's block, I instead have a "time"--usually 8 hours for myself--in which I must sit and TRY to write--I may do NOTHING else but sit and stare at the screen and try to write.
The biggest thing about writing is discipline, discipline, discipline. You carve out a time or goal and you do not make an exception for anything: you accomplish that time or goal before anything else. You will, of course, write more and your brain will get into the habit of cooperating when it knows it is "time to write and focuse." Eventually, when you have proven to yourself that you can be extremely disciplined, you can make exceptions to "work less here and there" or whatever--but only if you are certain that you can jump right back into being a hardass if you start being unsuccessful in your goals.
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