Better Storytelling Secrets
Authors discuss their writing techniques.
Hi, I’m Mark O’Bannon. Welcome to this rare look into the secrets of storytelling from published authors.
Today, I’m joined by New York Times Bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn, the author of over 30 novels, including the Otherworld series.
Life as a Writer
How did you get into writing?
I knew from the time I was three years old that I wanted to “make books.” I began writing short stories before I knew how to print my name. I guess I’m just a born storyteller.
When did you first realize that you have what it takes to be a writer?
I always knew in my gut. But I also know that it would take time and a lot of hard work. I never shied off from submitting my work, and I never got shaken by the rejections. Disappointed? Yes. Shaken? No. To me they were badges indicating I was making the effort.
Where do you get your ideas from?
~Laughs~ Where don’t I get ideas from? They’re everywhere I look, everywhere I turn. From dreams to snippets of conversation I hear in restaurants to a license plate reading “Hunter” to music to…well…everything. I don’t understand NOT being able to find ideas.
How do you develop your ideas into a story?
My subconscious is good about moving things around and then dumping the idea into my conscious mind. After that, I play with it. But I’m an organic writer—I don’t plot heavily. The books evolve as I write them, though I do admit to waking up in the middle of the night, cursing, because now I have to get up and write down an idea before it gets away. However, keeping my iPhone by my bed helps—I just use Siri to record notes and email them to myself. The next day, I can usually decipher what I was thinking about. ~grins~
What kind of stories do you enjoy working with?
Exactly what I’m writing now—dark urban fantasy. A story has to have strong paranormal aspects in it for me to be interested in writing it.
What genres would you like to explore in the future?
Other than what I’m writing? I wouldn’t mind exploring paranormal horror, also perhaps some cyberpunk and magic realism.
Do you work from an outline?
I write a 1.5-2 page synopsis for each book and work off of that. Writing series instead of standalones makes it easier for me to build off the prior books. There’s already an ongoing story arc and while each book has its own story, there’s an overreaching plot to the series as a whole.
How do you build your story?
I’m an organic writer. My books evolve as I write them. I go into a book knowing the highlights, the beginning, the end, but everything else grows as I write and that includes the series story arc as well as the plot/story for each individual book.
For you, what makes a great hero?
Someone who’s flawed. Who has doubts, fears, failings. Someone who knows they’re up against great odds, and still perseveres. I always preferred Batman to Superman—Superman was too “good” and too invulnerable. I like my heroines/heroes to play in the gray areas, to get kicked down, and then to get up again.
If one of your characters were to describe you, what would he/she say?
“Opinionated. Volatile. Magically delicious. Warped. Not G/PG rated. Loves her friends dearly. The crazy cat lady. So type A she gives Bill Gates a run for his money. Takes no prisoners. A mean, mean author who beats up her characters and then expects them to get back on their feet and fight. She likes to play in the dark.”
How much time do you spend researching the setting for your stories?
All my books are placed regionally so I know the area. There are also fantasy settings, so I spend some time creating those.
What settings would you like to explore in the future?
I love writing regional work and fantasy settings. I don’t see that changing.
Do you like to know the purpose of your story before you sit down to write it?
I’m here to give my readers a great adventure, not teach them a lesson. I don’t write with an agenda or a set ‘theme’ though I do notice themes after the fact. One book, I called my “book of broken glass”…another, the theme ended up being “the boys next door are scarier than the monsters coming in from the outside.”
Do you have any favorite lines from your stories?
~Grins~ A few, yes. Here’s a small sampling:
From Darkling: “Some wounds are forever, I thought. Even when you drop the baggage, the claim ticket’s still burned into your soul.”
From Bone Magic: “Followed by my Lady and the pack, we ran until the stars burnt themselves out of the sky. We ran until the sun threatened to creep over the horizon. We ran until the madness left us.”
From Night Myst: “And she arose from her deathbed in a gossamer gown, with eyes the color of starlight and hair as black as the night.”
Also from Night Myst: “I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. The faint taste of leather and sweat and passion. And something behind it. Magic rode the currents. Shadow magic, spider magic, blood magic. The taste of sweet poison and wine.”
And, from Haunted Moon: “Bones are for memories. Bones are to feed the earth and the worms. Bones are not meant to be walking above the ground without flesh and soul attached.”
Do you have a routine? A certain place to write? Do you listen to music?
I write full time, and have a home office. I get up and start work. I always write in my office, though I may do my thinking elsewhere. I work a 60-80 hour week including writing, research, promo, admin, so my routine is work until I’m done in for the day. And yes, I write to music a lot of the time. Usually hardcore alternative, darkwave, industrial goth, but sometimes Celtic stuff gets in the mix, or a few other genres. Each book has a playlist and—some books back—I began listing the playlists in the back of each book. The playlists are also listed on my website under each individual title.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t get writer’s block. If the story slows, I figure I’ve gotten off track, I go back to where it was flowing and see what happened. But usually, if I stall out, a walk outside, playing with the cats, or watching TV for a little bit will jog things again.
How do you go about fixing a story?
I’m not sure what to say about this. Revisions? I make the revisions that are necessary after talking to my editor, and it usually doesn’t take more than a day. As long as I write the story that needs to be written, as opposed to trying to force it to go in a certain direction, the books flow smoothly. I continue to tighten and refine during the copyediting process when I get the copyedits back.
How do you know when to stop?
I stop when I reach the end. No book will ever be 100% perfect. Many books later, I still think, “I could have tinkered with this word or that. But at some point, you have to let go, and since I write three books a year, I don’t have time to worry the work to death. There will never be perfection and the sooner writers understand and accept that, the better. You do the best you can each time.
Words of Advice
What words of advice would you give to new writers?
Someday may never come. If you want to write, prioritize it, sit down, and do it. Don’t talk your story out. A book means putting words on the paper, not discussing it till the energy is gone. Learn the marketing side of the business—if you want this to be your career, it has to be a business as well as an art. Don’t take dubious shortcuts. Expect to spend several years on honing your craft. Your words are not set in stone, don’t be a prima donna—don’t refuse to learn how to revise and edit your work. Don’t expect instant gratification—pay your dues by putting in the hours and sweat. Learn how to submit and don’t take rejection personally. If you can’t learn how to shake off rejections, you’ll never make it in this business. Not everybody has the talent to be a writer—I’m sorry, but they don’t. But if you keep at it, work your ass off, and love the process, you may find success. If you quit, you’ll fail.
So, what is YOUR plan for the zombie apocalypse?
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?
With each book, my response will be: my latest book.
What are you working on now?
Finishing up Night Vision (book four of the Indigo Court Series) and about to start Autumn Whispers (book 14 of the Otherworld Series).
I’d like to thank today’s author Yasmine Galenorn for being with us today.
I’d like to thank you as well. Please check out the other great interviews in this series with authors, and remember to keep writing! The next published book could be yours.
– Mark O’Bannon
About the Author
New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes urban fantasy for Berkley: both the Otherworld Series and the Indigo Court Series. In the past, she wrote mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, and nonfiction metaphysical books.
Yasmine has been in the Craft for over 32 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in the Seattle WA area, with her husband Samwise and their cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com
Visit Yasmine Galenorn Online:
Website: http://www.galenorn.com (Galenorn En/Visions)
Blog: http://www.galenorn.com/Blog (Life on the Fringe)
Written by Mark O’Bannon
Mark O’Bannon is the CEO of MEOw Publishing and is the author of “The Dream War Saga.” His books include: “The Dream Crystal”, “The Dark Mirrors of Heaven”, and “Aia the Barbarian.”
You can find Mark on Google+ and Twitter. Over the past 15 years, Mark has taught Writing, Self-Publishing and Internet Marketing for authors. Visit his blog, “Better Storytelling” or his website, www.MarkOBannon.com