We are our writers.
Local Author M. Lee Holmes is set to release Cult of Shadows the third novel in The Watchers series on February 17th. Recently Christina Anderson and Jayna Ostler of the Wasatch Writers Fellowship met with Holmes to talk about her book and the series and how she has developed as an author.
Jayna: What did the idea for your story come from? How long did it take you to develop your ideas for The Watchers series?
I am not certain where the idea for my story came from. Thinking back, I believe pieces of it were inspired from many different movies and books that I love. At least, those helped shape the story into what it has become. My story started with a character. I conjured this person from nothing, and slowly a story appeared around her. This story has been years in the making: ten years at least. As the ideas popped into my head, I started formulating the plot. It was ten years before I even starting writing anything down, and by then I had most of the important parts figured out.
Christina: So, this is your third book in The Watchers series! What have you learned while you’ve progressed through this project?
One of the things I’ve learned is not to give up on myself. Sometimes while writing, the story just flows naturally, as if it’s meant to be. Other times, however, it doesn’t. I can write several chapters in a few hours sometimes, and other times, I will be stuck on the same chapter for months. During these times I get really frustrated with myself, which turns into self-doubt. I wonder if I’ll ever finish, but I persevere because I’m this far and now I have to finish. I know several people who would be very angry if I didn’t finish the series.
Christina: Many authors struggle to finish their projects, but you’ve succeeded in publishing three books in just a few years. What revision or editing tips can you give to fellow authors?
The most important piece of advice I can give is to hire an editor. Even if you think it is as good as it can be, it’s probably not. That said, you should always edit your work to the best you can make it. For me, that means rereading and revising at least a dozen times. I suggest not doing this until there is a completed manuscript. If you stop to read over things you’ve written without finishing the project, chances are you never will.
Jayna: What have you learned about the self-publishing process?
I’ve learned that self-publishing takes a lot of time and effort and hard work. The amount of time required for marketing equals a full-time job. That was not something I was prepared for. If I could go back in a time machine, I would have done more research on marketing tactics and had a plan mapped out before publishing my work.
Christina: You’re throwing a book launch party this Saturday. What do you enjoy most about your book launches?
Well, this is my first one, so I can’t really say, but I am very excited to talk about my books with people and answer questions. I will be doing a reading, which I’m quite nervous about but I think that will also be fun.
Jayna: We definitely don’t want spoilers, but which character was your favorite to write in this new book and why?
My favorite character to write about in any of my books is Rhada. I simply connect with her on many different levels and even though its not always fun to be inside her head, I find myself intrigued by her thoughts and actions. As I’m writing scenes, she does things that sometimes surprises even me. Her hot-headedness was surprising to me. I knew she couldn’t be meek, but it is so unlike me to feel a connection with someone so head-strong and charge-taking. It was even more surprising to realize that I created this person.
To find out more about author M. Lee Holmes, her novel Cult of Shadows and The Watchers series, visit her website today!
Interview With M. Lee Holmes: Author of Shadows of Men (The Watchers Book One)
One of the many benefits I’ve enjoyed since forming the Wasatch Writers Fellowship has been building friendships with amazing authors. I’ve known Melissa for almost a year now and I have to say, she is fantastic. She is incredibly dedicated to her writing, her family, and our Fellowship. So when she told me she was preparing to publish her debut novel, Shadows of Men, I had to interview her. Read on to learn more about Melissa’s thoughts on character study, her daily writing routine, and Kindle Writeon. -CRA
What is it about writing that keeps you at it every day?
I feel the need to write as a pressure that is constantly building inside; like a volcano on the verge of erupting. I have to release the pressure. And I feel immensely guilty when I don’t write. Some days I’m not in the mood to do it. I sit and stare at my computer screen and maybe pound a couple of words, or I re-read what I’ve already written. But either way, as long as I do a little, that pressure is relieved.
You have two children who are constantly vying for your time and energy, and yet you still manager to get quite a bit of writing done. Describe your writing process for us.
I definitely have a routine I rely on; I wake up around 7-7:30, make my coffee first thing(that’s very important), depending on what day of the week it is, I take my older son to school, come home, make sure my toddler has breakfast, toys, and cartoons to watch, and most of the time I can get about an hour of writing done until he starts begging for my attention, which I can’t deny him. Sometimes I have really great writing days where I feel like a machine and just go, go, go. But sometimes, I can only push out a sentence or two and then feel done for the day. I never try to push myself because it never comes out right when I do. If I find that my brain seems like it’s in a haze of conflicting words and I’m struggle to make something like ‘we walked to town’ more interesting, then I give up, pat myself on the shoulder and know that there is always tomorrow. I never try to write at night, unless I come up with a really great idea suddenly that has to be written down immediately. I’m usually too tired to even think about writing after 8pm.
What is it about the Epic Fantasy genre that drew you toward writing your series, The Watchers?
To be honest, I have no idea. I guess from fantasy films I’ve seen, perhaps, though I couldn’t tell you any specifics. I’ve read a few fantasy novels, Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Shadow Campaigns, to name a few. But it’s not actually my favorite genre. I like to read dramas mostly; stories with one or more very strong characters with strong character development. I sometimes feel that fantasy can focus more on the plot rather than the characters.
I started gaining ideas for this story several years ago, I mean like, ten years ago, a long time. It started as little visions of characters, though I didn’t know who they were or what they were doing. But they stuck with me over the years and developed into their own people and I felt like I needed to give them a life. The story just sort of happens, I don’t really choose it.
Your writing tends to be character driven, what advice would you give to writers on that front?
To be character driven, you must have a strong sense of emotion. To be able to portray vividly what a character is thinking, and also what the characters around them are thinking, you must include the most important things; body language and facial expressions. This can give a reader insight that otherwise would be bland or too sterile verbalizing it. If you’re writing from a certain character’s point of view, but you want to express that another character is upset, let’s say, you don’t just simply say “Liz was upset”. You have to express it in the way her nose wrinkled as she narrowed her eyes; the way she pulled anxiously on her fingers and shifted her weight uncomfortably from foot-to-foot.
I spend a lot of my time silently analyzing the people around me. Sure, I’m probably wrong in my assumptions most of the time, but I feel that I have a strange ability to read other people’s emotions. I know, most people can do this, but I do it to the extent that I pull images of people from my memory as I’m writing and use their expressions and mannerisms as examples.
One thing I will warn others when trying to write a character driven piece is to be aware of the bits and pieces between. I find myself having to go back and add descriptions of surroundings, sounds, smells, other people in the room, because I tend to become so focused on my characters and what they are doing, I forget the other things that are so important in making any story interesting to read. These characters have been inside my head for a long time, so I feel a sort of kinship with them where my reader, I’m sure, does not. I have to remember that while I can visualize what is going on around my characters and what the environment is like, my reader has no clue unless I verbalize it.
You’ve used the Kindle Writeon program in the past. What was it about Writeon which made it feel like the home for your work in progress? Can you explain it a bit for readers who may not have heard of Writeon?
I have only part of my first book posted on Writeon and I’m not certain I’ll be posting any more of it. Honestly, I don’t consider it a ‘home’ for my work. My work’s home is safely saved into dropbox where I can click it open for only the eyes of the people I want to peruse it.
But that is not to say that Writeon isn’t a great program. I think it could be a very helpful tool for people who are perhaps just getting started; who are maybe a little frightened of getting their work out there. And the best part about it is that your work doesn’t have to be completed and it’s free to post. If you’re writing something you think doesn’t quite sound right, but you can’t figure it out for yourself, you can post it to Writeon and get helpful feedback from other writers. And I’ve only read positive things on Writeon. The critiques are professional, friendly, and encouraging. Even on works that I personal felt were not great, the comments were very friendly and uplifting. The process is simple; first you go to http://www.amazon.writeon.com and create a profile. Then you take the work you want comments on and post it. Done! Simple as that.
Now, the tricky part is keeping your work on the front page so that others see it and see it often and the only way to do that is to get followers and likes. I have not been fussing over this so much myself because I’ve had some good feedback and feel that I can move on. But for everyone else who wants lots of readers, make sure you message every person who reads it and ask them to ‘like’ the work. That will keep your story on the front page.
You’re currently in the process of editing a novel and have selected beta readers. How did you identify the best initial audience for your work?
I chose people who I know and trust to give honest critiques. My story is fantasy so I made sure to include some family and friends who love reading fantasy and have read more fantasy than I probably ever will. Getting honest feedback is so important. Of course, we all want to hear that our story is great and amazing! But that doesn’t really help tweak and polish to the point that a publisher is going to think those things.
What other projects do you have in the queue to begin working on in the future?
I’ve started developing an idea for an urban fiction, which would also be for the LGBT community. I have a strong desire to write horror in the future, though who knows if that will ever pan out. I love a good horror story but they can become so cliché and laughable so quickly, and my fear is that I would create something just like that. There are a few historical fictions I would love to write and have started doing research for them. And a drama about three sisters and a journal, which is all the information I’m going to give.
I’ve also found a new passion for writing short stories and will continue to do that for various journals, hoping that one day they will pick mine!
What are two things you’ve enjoyed about being a part of the Wasatch Writers Fellowship?
First of all, I was desperate for like-minded people to talk to. I have been talking about my passion for writing with everyone I know for so long, they have mostly lost interest and I started to feel guilty for filling their ears with it all the time. Having a “support group” is really what I needed. I am learning so much that I did not know before and I love being able to have conversations solely about stylistic writing, or prose vs poetry, without anyone becoming bored to the point of tears.
Secondly, meeting new people and making new friends. I know, it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I was a little nervous at first, because I’m not exactly a socialite, but I knew that I needed it and I needed to make myself go and I am so glad that I did. Everyone in the group is amazing; friendly and helpful, and always eager to give solid feedback. Being a part of the Wasatch Writer’s Fellowship is a lifesaver for me.
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Get your copy of Shadows of Men (The Watchers Book One) on Amazon.com today!
Interview with Wasatch Writers Fellowship’s Bryan Stubbles
Article by Christina Re Anderson
Recently I conducted an with playwright/screenwriter Bryan Stubbles. He has graciously provided us with links to a collection of his work.
Utah-born and raised, playwright and screenwriter Bryan Stubbles has a BA in Film Studies from the University of Utah. He spent most of his adult life living abroad. His films have been produced in three countries. He was fortunate enough to have three play readings in the space of a month at the end of 2015. Hobbies include history, languages, volunteering, jogging, travel and cooking. He is also Wasatch Writers Fellowship’s most eligible bachelor.
For more information about Bryan, check out his IMDB page.
Check Out Our Authors Pages
Writes screenplays, novels and short stories. Started the Wasatch Writers Fellowship.
Matt HamblinWrites novels and short stories but never finishes. Built this web site and does graphic design.
Juggles writing and parenting like a boss. Swears she will finish her novel someday soon.