Author Spotlight

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Have you been wondering what some of your favorite authors are up to these days? We were, too! So we reached out to them and asked. We will be sharing their responses here every week. Check back on Thursdays to hear from a different Texas author.

Carol Beth Anderson

What is something you wish your readers knew about you?

I've always needed some sort of creative outlet. Writing has popped up in various ways throughout my life, but I've had plenty of other creative obsessions, such as acting, crocheting/knitting, and baking sourdough. (I'm baking a lot of sourdough during this stay-at-home time!)

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who and why? If not, is there a character you wish you’d written?

My two favorites are both in the series I'm currently writing. I'll only tell you about one of them. (I'd have to give Book 2 spoilers to tell you about the second one!) I love a character named Krey. He's smart and caring and funny, but he's got real flaws...his temper being one of them. I've enjoyed learning about Enneagram personality typing, and I've used it in creating characters in this series. Krey is an 8, which is the most aggressive personality type. 8s can come on really strong...and they can also change the world in big, positive ways. My husband is an 8. Maybe that's why I'm so attached to Krey!

Book covers for Carol Beth Anderson's works

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Growth is the goal. I want perfection and success out of the gate, but life doesn't work that way. I'm trying to shift my point of view so that I can see growth as the biggest measure of success, rather than striving for some unreachable, ever-changing bar. 

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Reading is a really important way for me to recharge. Spending time with my family and (remotely) with friends is important too. Getting back to a regular writing schedule has also helped me feel more normal during this abnormal time.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year?

I can't narrow it down to just one! I finished Brent Weeks's Lightbringer series a couple of months back, and it's some of the most incredible fantasy I've ever read. The magical system is detailed and fascinating. (His audiobooks are also phenomenal.) I'm currently reading the last book of Michael J. Sullivan's series, Legends of the First Empire. He's my other favorite author, and this series has probably been the best of his fantasy books...though they're all amazing. His characters always hook me; I'm so attached to them!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

 Photo of author Carol Beth Anderson

Previous Interviews

Varsha Bajaj

Rachel Caine

Nicky Drayden

Joe R. Lansdale

Jenny Lawson

Lara Prescott

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Martha Wells

 

Lara Prescott

What does your writing space look like?

I work from a tiny shed that has been converted into a writing studio--complete with A.C. for the Texas heat and a window to look at the birds who visit my backyard! Inside is a small wooden secretary desk, a comfy reading chair, candles, and a few objects I hope will inspire me.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

That as a writer you will face many rejections along the way, but it's rejection that will make you work harder and the victories taste sweeter.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year?

I absolutely loved Maria Reva's debut linked short story collection Good Citizens Need Not Fear.  

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Ha! Maybe what I'm reading now to pass the time? I just finished Lily King's new novel Writers & Lovers, which really captures the essence of what it feels like to be a struggling writer trying to make it. 

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

LaraPrescott.com

Author Lara Prescott in a black shirt and gray slacks

 

Nicky Drayden

What does your writing space look like?

In a word, messy! I thrive in chaos, and my desk definitely shows it. I've got piles of drafts, bins of swag, a stack of journals, and various knickknacks and trinkets I've collected over the years, including a functioning BB8, a dik-dik mug, shells and candy Christmas ornaments, and a picture of my old college roommate's goldfish for some reason.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Well, I wish I had a better idea of the differences between what a writer is vs what an author is. Writers write. Authors have written a thing and have to deal with the work of putting it out into the world. (And you can be both a writer and an author!) There is a lot of non-writing work for authors, and I wish someone had outlined that better for me so I could have gone into this career with clearer expectations. A writer getting into the publishing industry is like hopping onto a treadmill going at full speed. And just when you think you've got the hang of it, they start throwing live sharks at you.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

It's tough! Yesterday, I gave a mango seed a makeover, if that tells you anything. I'm just now starting to find the mental energy to start thinking about being creative again. I've got a couple fun projects planned though, so hopefully, those will provide a low-stress outlet for me to get some writing done. 

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working on (or will be as soon as my brain cells return to functioning) a sequel to Escaping Exodus, a space opera set aboard a sentient space-faring beast the size of a small moon. I'm really excited to be returning to this world and all of the visceral environments. The characters have aged a few years and are dealing with deeper and darker problems now, and the stakes get higher as conflict brews and threatens to bring about an all-out war.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Check me out at nickydrayden.com for more info, and feel free to join my newsletter to get my infrequent ramblings as well as info on giveaways and book announcements.

 Drayden headshot


Jenny Lawson

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Write for yourself.  That way even if no one else ever sees it you'll have it for you.  And when you write for yourself you tend to be more honest and authentic and less guarded so technically it works out for everyone.

What does your writing space look like?

It's...a bit insane.  I converted the dining room to my office so there aren't any doors to keep the cats and dog out and they are all over my desk.  A giant, old, broken taxidermied bear dressed as a supreme court (Ruth Bader Ginsbear) is propped up beside my desk.  My walls are full of dolls that most people think are super creepy but I love them.  The wall behind me is all books (color coded because I'm weird) and my floor currently has 6 giant stacks of books to be read.  My desktop is covered with the book I'm currently working on.  We're at the stage of copy editing and I owe whoever copy-edited this a dozen drinks because I'm sure I've driven them to alcoholism at this point.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Reading.  I sometimes struggle with reading because I have anxiety disorder and it can make it hard to concentrate but I started a book club (The Fantastic Strangelings Book Club) so now I have to read a bunch of advanced copies so I can pick good books and in a way it's really saved me.  Forcing myself to read lets me escape from myself and from the world and it gives you such an amazing break, if only for an hour at a time.

 Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

I see a lot of people struggling because they think they should be using this pandemic time to get a million things done and write a book and learn eight languages and that's AMAZING if you can do that, but it is hard as hell to focus during times like these so if you try to write a book and fail right now, know that even professional authors are struggling at the moment so not being able to write is not a sign that you shouldn't ever write a book.  It's okay to take a break.  It's okay to try again later.  Don't let the pressure get to you.  Sometimes just surviving from day to day is a victory.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

I have a blog at thebloggess.com and I've written three books.  Well, two books and coloring book.  But I think that counts. 

Black and white photo of author Jenny Lawson with curlers in her hair while holding a white hair dryer


Varsha Bajaj

What does your writing space look like?

I use a desktop, which sits on a gray desk. It’s by a big window, which overlooks the oak tree in my front yard. Squirrels race up and down the tree, sometimes providing welcome distraction. I also have a fairy sculpture on my desk who watches over me.

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? If so, who and why? If not, is there a character you wish you’d written?

That’s a tough question. My favorite character is a toss up between Karina Chopra and Chris Daniels, my protagonists from Count Me In. I love Karina because she is spunky and has a lot of courage. I love Chris because he is a very good friend and stands by Karina. He also has the best sense of humor.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

I’ve been walking, while keeping a safe distance from others. It helps that I walk in the mornings when there’s hardly anyone around. I’ve also been baking cookies (chocolate chip), watching Netflix and playing Banana gram with my family.

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Are you managing to work during these difficult times?

I am trying to be productive and write, which is hard right now with all the anxiety. Creating art though makes me feel a little less scared.

So many of you are distance learning right now. Keep at it even if it seems impossible.

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

You can go to www.varshabajaj.com to learn more about me and my books.

 

 

Martha Wells

What does your writing space look like?

For the past few years I’ve done my writing at home, usually in my bedroom. I write on a laptop, and using the bed as a desk makes it easier to spread out research materials, and it also gives my cats a place to sleep while I’m working, so they won’t try to get on my keyboard. When I still had my day job, I wrote during lunch and on breaks in a tiny office stuffed with computer equipment, with a very loud air-cleaner right over my head, or at home after work in my living room.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

I wish I had known what a long hard road it was going to be. My first novel was published in 1993, and since then I’ve had more than twenty science fiction and fantasy books published, including a Star Wars novel, and most of that time I still had to have a day job. People see depictions of writers in the movies or TV as rich people working in mountain cabins or fancy offices, while in reality most writers, probably 90%, don’t make enough money from their writing to support themselves or their families. Writers and artists are freelancers, and publishers don’t give you insurance benefits or retirement accounts or anything that you would get from a regular employer. Writing is a job that you only do if you love it, and I do love it, but I wish had understood how hard it was going to be to succeed.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve read in the past year? 

So far this year it’s probably the short novella “The Empress of Salt and Fortune” by Nghi Vo. It’s a fantasy set in a world based on Imperial China, and the story is about an exiled imprisoned empress. It’s an epic story in a short format and I really enjoyed it. I also just read The City We Became  by N.K.Jemisin, and loved it. 

Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

My next novel is coming out on May 5. It’s Network Effect, a sequel to The Murderbot Diaries novella series. I worked very hard on it and  I hope people enjoy it!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

My website is www.marthawells.com

 

 

Cynthia Leitich Smith

 What does your writing space look like?

It depends! Officially, I have an office decorated in framed, original children's picture book illustrations. An interior by Joy Fisher Hein from Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt; Kurt Cyrus's cover of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard; an interior by Vera Rosenberry from The Bug Cemetery by Frances Hill; and an interior by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu from my own debut book, Jingle Dancer. There's also a 1950s-inspired desk set, a daybed that I use as a worktable, and a big denim chair for reading and editing.

A desk in a corner of a room near a window with white walls and some framed art above it

Right now, though, I'm answering these questions downstairs on the love seat in my living room. That allows me to use my TV to turn on a YouTube live stream of the moon jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of the jellies out of the corner of my eye, and I find that deeply peaceful.

Long haired chihuahua with dark fur and light brown spots over its eyes (like eyebrows) on a red cushion

Meanwhile, Gnocchi—my long-haired Chihuahua—watches on a padded bench out the front window for other dogs to bark at. Her peacefulness comes and goes. I adopted her from Austin Pets Alive! last year after researching a short story for The Hero Next Door, edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. It's set in Old West Austin and centered on a girl who volunteers to walk shelter dogs and ends up placing one in a forever home with her cranky landlady.

Book cover for The Hero Next Door featuring yellow text on pale blue background

It might interest readers that last month I went on a writing retreat here in Austin, staying at a historic bed-and-breakfast off of West Sixth Street with Kekla Magoon. Readers may know Kekla from The Summer of Styx Malone, Light It Up, How It Went Down or her popular Robyn Hoodlum series.

She is my co-author of The Blue Stars, a forthcoming middle grade, graphic novel series, which will be illustrated by Molly Murakami. Book one is already in the illustration stage, and we had a wonderful time working together on book two. Our writing process involved a lot of brainstorming, laughter and snacks!

 What is something you wish your readers knew about you?

I have a collection of fairy doors in my condo. My work in progress features fairies, and I like the magic and whimsy that they bring to my home. I've been posting photos of them to my Instagram this week.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

Books are all about connecting hearts and minds. Don't worry about literary "perfection," an unhealthy and impossible goal. Both within and beyond of the pages of books, story is what binds and raises up humanity. By choosing to write for young readers, you're already serving the most important audience and helping to foster hope for the future.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

I'm dancing to the soundtrack from "Xanadu." I'm sending notes of encouragement to fellow writers. I'm becoming more courageous with my cooking—trying new recipes and experimenting with whatever ingredients are available.

Is there something you wish we'd asked you? Please answer that question!

Something new and exciting: I am now the author-curator of the Heartdrum imprint at HarperCollins. We'll be bringing more Native and First Nations literary voices and visions to kids and teens. Our emphasis is on contemporary stories that engage young readers and celebrate the full range of our Indigenous humanity. Our upcoming releases include a sophomore, middle grade novel by Christine Day, the author of I Can Make This Promise, and a humorous and heart felt chapter book series by Dawn Quigley, the author of Apple in the Middle.

Logo featuring a feather in a circle with the word Heartdrum below it

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

I'm online at: https://cynthialeitichsmith.com/ If you check the pull down menu, you'll also find tons of resources for readers and writers of books for young readers. 

Rachel Caine

What does your writing space look like?

I’ve attached a photo of this too ... but basically, I have a comfy recliner I’m working in right now in my living room with a swivel table, a lap desk, a super cool rainbow-shimmer keyboard, and an iPad as my screen on an adjustable stand. Pretty basic, but it does everything I need right now! Plus good ergonomics, in that I have no strain on my neck, back, shoulders, elbows or wrists. (Good ergonomics for writers are a specialty of mine!)

In some ways, lockdown hasn’t affected my life much at all ... I’ve been kind of under house arrest since September (2019) when I started chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer (soft tissue sarcoma). I was already having to take extreme precautions to avoid crowds and infections, so this is just more of the same except I can’t even go pick up groceries now, and have to rely on the kindness of friends to keep us supplied. 

But the bonus is: more writing time!

Caine workspace

 

 What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?

I wish someone had advised me that a writing career is a long, long, long road with many ups and downs. I thought in the beginning that getting my book published was my goal ... and it was! But as soon as that happens, you need a new goal. A bigger one. And you have to keep chasing the next goal, because if you stop moving, you’ll lose your way. It’s not a straight path to success; there are lots of off-ramps that go nowhere, and lots of times you have to backtrack and reroute and try another direction. And when you get to success, you still have to figure out what the next goal is and how to sustain success. So ... I wish someone had advised me to have patience and persistence most of all. This is a game of inches and precision, and you will have setbacks and mistakes. It’s okay. Just keep going.

Photo of author Rachel Caine

 

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?

Like I said above ... it’s a bit of “more of the same” for me right now, but what I have to do is get up every day with a plan of what I need to accomplish. Some days it isn’t possible, depending on how I feel; right now, I’m battling some extreme fatigue due to anemia (because of chemo treatments). So if I can’t do what I planned, I give myself permission to nap, play a video game, watch TV. I take a vacation day. Then get back to work the next day. 

I have a hard minimum of 500 words a day to write, and usually even if I’m very, very tired I can make that small number. My upper limit is 3000 words a day; if I hit that, I get to quit early and do something fun.

Goals are critical, I think!

 Is there something you wish we’d asked you? Please answer that question!

Would I like to do a giveaway of some books? OF COURSE I WOULD! I’d be happy for you to pick up to 10 winners to receive their choice of:

  • Book 1 of the Stillhouse Lake series (adult thriller)
  • Book 1 of The Great Library series (SF YA, but fun for ages 14 and up)
  • Book 1 of The Honors series (SF YA, again fun for ages 14 and up)
  • Book  1 of the Morganville Vampires series (YA, ages 14 and up)
  • Prince of Shadows, a standalone period retelling of Romeo and Juliet (YA, ages 14 and up)

This offer is open to US residents only. Each winner will receive either a print copy or eBook directly from the author.

The giveaway has now ended. Winners will be notified via e-mail.

Where can readers go to learn more about you or your work?

My website at rachelcaine.com is always a good place! Or they can contact me directly at rachel@rachelcaine.com.

Book covers for Honor Lost, Sword and Pen, and Bitter Falls

 

Joe R. Lansdale

What does your writing space look like?
My writing space is loosely but not messily organized. There are a few small piles, but the space is over 1200 feet and has lots of bookshelves filled with books. My desk is in a corner so I can look down a short hallway into the den where I have a couch and TV for movies. I love to write and read and watch films.

What advice do you wish someone had shared with you when you started writing?
That there is no such thing as the muse, or rather you're it. You don't wait on the muse, you get up and go do it. You provided the muse. I work almost every day, and the only time I don't is if something unusual comes up.

How do you recharge and stay creative while sheltering-in-place/during this pandemic?
Life, books, family, film, teaching martial arts, they all recharge me.

Where can readers keep up with you and your work?
www.joerlansdale.com, I have a fan page on Facebook, as well as a twitter account under my name.

 

Updated 4/16/2020