Dragon Soul Press proudly announces Author Lydia Anne Stevens and her Hell Fire Series featuring six books! The first, Highway to Hell, releases August 19th! Enjoy our interview with this author below.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
There has always been a part of me that has known I want to be a writer. Ever since I was a little girl, being drawn into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Series, I envisioned myself being Laura herself, living a life and becoming so immersed in the story that it had to be written and shared. The passion continued for story telling with the American Girl stories. Perhaps it was the quintessential idea of being an American and chasing a dream but it drove me to enter and win contests such as the Daughters of the American Revolution Essay and I used classics such as, Nathanial Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to pen essays and papers which have since been used by professors as exemplars for outstanding academia.
As far as creative writing, I have always developed stories. I even have a note that I wrote to my parents telling them I was running away when I was ten. I wrote them the whole story of where I was going, what I was taking, and what I was going to do when I got there. To this day it still makes me chuckle. I even told them I was going to take the dog with me and how I planned on feeding him. I have boxes of papers and notebooks with stories I wrote which may never see the light of day again, but I’ve always been a writer from the time I could pick up a pen.
The passion for novels and writing has continued into adulthood through reading more classics like, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Dracula by Bram Stoker. It morphed into a love of “forbidden” romances when I was a teenager and then I discovered J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Ever since I fell into the fantasy genre I can’t get enough of reading and writing it. My favorites are now urban fantasy with or without subgenres such as, Karen Marie Moning, Kevin Hearne, Darynda Jones, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, Rick Riordan, J. R. Ward and of course, J. K. Rowling. I will write almost any genre in my freelance writing including horror, romance, commercial fiction, erotica, mystery, science fiction and suspense.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about three months to write a book. I do have to say that writing is what I do all day every day. I have a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and am pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing so I feel that to be clear, everyone has a different writing speed. For a client I can do a full-length novel in two weeks and average between 10,000 to 15,000 words per day; therefore, I can have a 75,000 word novel done in that time. However, there are different factors to this. Sometimes I am presented a plot by a client and sometimes I have to come up with my own based on a theme or genre for them so in some ways, the brainstorming has already been done.
With my own work, there is a lot of research that goes into the themes, mythology, religion, cultural facets etc. I am a panster with my own work so when I sit down to write, I have the story premise and then I just write, looking up the information I need about the aforementioned techniques and machinations of the process as I go. I am the writer who has notebooks, pens, sticky notes, napkins and receipts for whenever inspiration hits with my own work because I never know when the characters will start talking. So, for my own work I say three months to incorporate all of the things that have been conceptualized, brainstormed, inspired etc. and that is about one month of all of that, one month of sitting down and just writing and pulling in all of those bits and pieces and then another month for revising, editing, and re-writing to a draft that I feel is appropriate to hand off to an editor or beta reader. There is an additional editing process of course, which could take several more months depending on the editor or publisher, but for my own self disciplines I say three months.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have compartments in my brain for my story ideas. They are in neat boxes all lined up almost like a factory, and I can see it in my head. Depending on what work I want to focus on, I take the lid of that particular “Pandora’s Box” and let the inspiration and ideas fly. When I need to focus on a client’s work I put the lid on the box and ignore the rattling for an hour or two before I can open another box. I am very visual so being able to see where the twenty-six current story ideas are being stored is useful to me. Occasionally I have a character who rattles the chains on the box and breaks out, going through a stroll in my subconscious until my conscious self acknowledges him or her and then that is why whatever being resides in the seat of power gifted us puny humans with coffee. Those sessions with characters are often interesting depending on what they have to tell me and at what God-awful hour of the night they might decide to tell it. Those are also my favorite characters who refuse to follow my carefully crafted rules which are put in place to protect my sanity. But then again, any writer who claims to be sane is either in denial and needs more of the blessed caffeinated stuff, or they are lying. I also have two hats I wear when I write. One is a black top hat from England which belongs to my brother. The other is a straw hat I recently won which is embroidered with the phrase, “do not disturb.” My close friends who know my writing quirks remind me it’s too late for that, but the hats help contain the chaos within, so it flows through my fingers and onto the page. One hat is just for more formal writing than the other.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Life is my inspiration. I know this is the party line but it’s true. The people I meet, connect with, and interact with are inspiration. But it is more than that. I can look at a back lawn, sunflower littered with grass that most people would complain is too long and needs to be cut and yet I see the tiny village of fairy people whose homes are being threatened by the humans. The story starts to roll in my head and all of a sudden, I have Pixie, the fairy, who rides a bumble bee and they endeavor to save their home and the bees who have become endangered.
The point of that is, I see life as still being full of magic where others might see it as a lawn that needs to be mowed. Magic may not be classically defined anymore such as with Tolkien’s ideals of magic with wizards, orcs and flaming eyeballs, but fantasy isn’t just a genre to escape reality. It takes the harshness of reality and provides a place for a reader to cope with their own circumstances and realities. The magic is in the effect that humans have left on society either from the past or present and the essence of what humanity is. I see the magic in the places they have been and the things that they do and influence. In a world where technology allows us to see all of the bad things that happen, I chose to focus on the wonder of how humans en mass, are still beautiful and magical either together or as individuals. This inspires me and is where my ideas come from. Magic for me is still very real but more importantly, it is something worth writing about.
What do you think makes a good story?
A good story is something that can make a reader take a part of it into their life and either learn something from it, or use it to cope with their own life and any difficulties they may face or help them recognize the importance of the blessings they may have. How a writer tells a story doesn’t necessarily make it good or bad, that is just technique and technique is something any writer should constantly be working to improve. A good story is the idea that it is going to reach a reader, even if it is just one reader, and be profound enough to impact them in a positive manner. These are the kinds of stories that make a reader hurt, love, cry, laugh, rejoice, anger, and celebrate with the characters. They are the stories that even if it forces a reader to take a good hard look at their life and count the blessings of what they have or make them uncomfortable in the fact that they inspire that reader to change-they still make the reader think or say, “well, damn.” This is either good or bad, but the effect is the same. It brought the reader to a place that makes them actively engage with the story and apply themselves to the circumstances of the characters or the circumstances of the story to the reality of their own life.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sound and attitudes are my Kryptonite. I can write with sound but prefer complete silence. It is difficult with an eight-year-old, but I write better at two in the morning when the only sound is the characters in my head. The worst, however, is people’s attitudes. Writers are underappreciated. It isn’t a “real” vocation because people tend to appreciate the humanities when it is someone famous or historical, but most writers and artists aren’t appreciated because family, friends, and fans, might not understand the process. They want to appreciate the completed work, but don’t understand that it takes hours of hard work which isn’t just sitting at a desk and suddenly words appear on the screen.
I’ve heard more than once that my job is sitting at a desk and that there is no manual labor, therefore it can’t possibly be real work. I disagree. Mental work is in some ways more grueling than manual labor, but without getting into all that is PC and right with the world, the fact remains that ignorance is often the culprit of malcontent. If one doesn’t understand what writers do, it is difficult to appreciate the contributions it makes to society and culture, and therefore breeds poor attitudes in general. People want the instant gratification. To be able to click a link and read some text is all they care about. Think about how much people read on a day to day basis for even menial tasks like traffic signs, work emails, social media posts, articles etc. Then think about creative writing and how much effort that takes. People want the words and they are integral to everyday life, even creative works which may be an escape from life, but they don’t care how they get there.
I find myself very depressed when I am told my writing isn’t real work or how this is a dream and not worthy of a real vocation. I remind them it isn’t a dream anymore since it is what I do on a day to day basis, but there is the misconception that real means lucrative success such as a New York Times Bestseller. Even then the moment might be fleeting, and I never became a writer for the money. However, people’s attitudes effect my writing if it is persistent or really negative. I have to carefully assess whether that person is beneficial to my life and what I want from my writing career, and then move on. As a human, I still feel the emotional highs and lows, so when someone attacks my high points in life, it can be my Kryptonite and I might not write for a few days. The beauty of superheroes, however, even writer superheroes is that we always get back up, dust the pen and cape off, and carry on with our badass selves.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Hahaha! Actually, don’t quit. Don’t you ever quit. You will want to. You will think about it, but don’t ever give it up. Everyone on this planet has a gift to give, whether the gift is good or bad and has a positive or negative impact on the fellow man, but writing is your gift and you gave up for a short spell and it was the worst time of your life. You forgot yourself and your gift, but don’t you dare ever give up again. You will be told you can’t do it. You will be told to get a real job like everyone else and it will hurt like Hell. But it is going to hurt a lot worse if you quit. There is a dark place in your soul where the creature who doesn’t write and appreciate your gift lives. Don’t ever let that creature take over again. Everyone has their demons they have to live with. You have two choices, learn to live with the demon or tell it to get stepping because you have things to accomplish in this life and with this gift. Besides, if you think about it, it isn’t your demon anyway. It is the preconceived judgements of others that moved in, took over for a spell, and then festered. Don’t you ever give up on yourself and your gift again. Ever.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I do read a lot of bestsellers so this one is a bit hard. I love Frewin Jones’ The Faerie Path Series. I typically read adult with a few YA ventures but there is something youthful and hopeful about this series that touches me. I think writers always retain a sense of youthful vitality. To be a writer one has to have a vivacious outlook on life, but this series really embodies the idea of fantasy representing the idea of hope within youth. Frewin Jones, a pen name for Allen Frewin Jones is a British writer who is 65 and has over 90 children’s, YA and fantasy novels. However, because he is a foreign writer, I’m not sure how well he is appreciated in America? If I were to choose an American writer, I would go with Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. Being a native Mainer, it is nice to see the success one man from a small town can achieve. I think because he is the Horror King, his memoir is underappreciated, but I recommend it to any writer, aspiring or established because of how earthy and genuine his novel about his writing career has been.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Commas! I’m getting a little better, but generally the words come so hard and fast that I just don’t consider punctuation until it is time to revise. Then I am so focused on the characters, setting, plot etc. that I just don’t see them. Revising aside because I think every writer has something they can improve on; I find the most difficult part of my artistic process to be prioritizing the writing. Sometimes I desperately want to write on one of my novels, but I know I have the piece due for a client or an essay for school etc. I am finding more time for my own work now that my Masters Degree is completed. The PhD will be focused solely on a creative piece I want to work on, but my focus is now evenly split between clients and my own work, without the academic essays to include in that as well. The only other detriment is when I have a list of priorities which seem to all be at the top and then nothing gets done because I’m so frazzled, I forget to have coffee. Then I have a day assessing my life choices. The day one forgets coffee is the day they take off from work, writing, peopling and all other sorts of activities.
Where can readers learn more about you?