I sat down with Genevieve Powell, the author of Possessed by Vengeance (book 1 of the Goddess of Vengeance series), Cold Kiss Goodbye and its sequel Reaper’s Girl. I just finished reading Reaper’s Girl this week and I was very excited to be able to ask her some questions about writing in general and her books in particular. Here’s our conversation:
Q – When I write, I am afraid I am not much of a planner. I normally start with an idea and a couple characters and I just let it develop as I write. What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
A – I am definitely a plotter, but how much so depends on the story. Sometimes I write a 5-10k outline (yes, 10k!) which is nice because it gives me confidence in the structure of the story. Other times I begin with a few key scenes in mind and let the rest surprise me because I can’t wait to dive in and get to know the characters.
I’m a big fan of a few plotting tools. One is Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and the beat sheets other writers have developed from his ideas on structure, and the other is the snowflake method (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/). I usually use both before I start a rough draft so I don’t have to fix the structure later – although stories always come with their own surprises!
Q – When did you decide you would like to be a writer? Have you always liked to write?
A – I always wanted to be a writer. My earliest memories are of making up stories for other kids. By the time I was in the second grade I was plinking out stories on my family’s first computer. I taught myself to touch type so I could get the words on the page as fast as they came to mind.
Q – What book do you wish you would have written? Why?
A – Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty or Holly Black’s White Cat, both the first books in a series, both YA (and I know I’m cheating by naming two). Both these books have detailed, immersive worlds that are so lushly imagined, then peopled with memorable characters. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to.
Q – Have you written or plan to write in other genres?
A – Yes! As an avid reader, I love a beautifully wrought story in any genre. My particular weaknesses as a reader are science fiction and historical fiction, both of which I enjoy writing too. I have a sci-fi novel I’ll be querying soon with agents.
Q – Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
A – Racy, definitely. I think a well-done love scene can tell us much about the characters and the evolution of their relationship… but it’s hard for me to write!
Q – What’s in your reading list right now?
A – I’m currently reading Jamie Ford’s latest, Songs of Willow Frost – his debut novel, Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is one of my all-time favorites. I’m also reading Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Traveled, which is a wonderful book about writing poetry.
Q – When I met you a few months ago you were in the final stages of preparing your YA paranormal novel Cold Kiss Goodbye for publication. Recently you have released the sequel, Reaper’s Girl. What made you want to write in that genre and for that age group?
A – I had to write about Sam, and Sam was a teenager – she just had to be. She has this struggle with powerful grief and depression, at a time when she’s still discovering her identity, which is a really different experience from dealing with that as an adult. Sam’s story mirrors some of my own experiences as a teen. I wanted to write the story of struggle and hope that I would have loved to read as a seventeen-year-old who was just hanging on, waiting for life to get better.
Writing about ghosts was the best way I could grapple with the intensity of longing one experiences for the dead. And also, it was fun.
Q – Now, I know your books are going to be extremely successful and one of these days a big Hollywood producer is going to want to make a movie out of it. Who will play Sam and her two sidekicks?
A – Oh, I’d love for my actors to be relatively unknown. I have an obvious kinship with the struggling artist! I imagine Sam as someone with the look of Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit). For Abby, someone like Alicja Bachleda – you have to look at images of her looking pale and tense, though, not Hollywood perfect! For Ryan, Logan Leman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower).
Q – You are a mom. How do you find time to write and do you have a special place where you write?
A – I try to write at night after my kiddos are in bed, but I’m usually exhausted. I find that writing in the throes of sleep deprivation is kind of like I imagine writing drunk would be: you can really let go and be imaginative, but man, you’re going to need to edit! And, let’s be real — I also get a babysitter twice a week. You have to invest in yourself as a writer.
I have a home office. It’s definitely my happy place. I don’t go in there during the day – I’m busy changing diapers, running around at the playground, pretending I’m a dinosaur. Then when I get to sit down at my laptop with a cup of coffee, I know I’m entering a separate place, a space of creation. Or sometimes of online shopping. It depends on the day we had.
Q – Do you have any advice to give new writers? When you first started writing for publication what were your expectations and were they met?
A – Oh, do I have advice! Three things.
My biggest piece of advice would be to join a critique group or take workshop classes and learn how to critique. Nothing will improve your work so much as thoughtfully identifying what works and what doesn’t about someone else’s story. You’ll better understand how to edit your own work effectively, how to develop your strengths and shore up any weaknesses.
Of course, read. Read widely. Don’t shy away from reading books on craft, either; they can be a shortcut to better work. My absolute favorite is Alice LaPlante’s The Making of a Story, which covers all kinds of techniques to experiment with and gives great examples from literature.
And last of all, follow the fun! Work hard on your writing, but if you aren’t enjoying it, too, then maybe it’s not the time for that project or that genre for you. Find something you love, that you want to return to every day.
Powell’s books are available on Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/nzx5yoq
or you can check out her author’s page at https://www.facebook.com/genevievejpowell?fref=ts