Author Interview with Isabella Cheung

Dragon Soul Press sat down with Author Isabella Cheung for an interview. She is a featured author in DSP’s Lost Love anthology.

  1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think I really considered myself a ‘writer’ until I reached eleventh grade in high school. I’ve been writing for fun ever since I was a child, but I never really thought of it as something I could succeed in until I started doing it more. I was more-so into the fine arts (to specify, drawing) up until that year, when I took a Creative Writing course. Being in that class somewhat introduced me to writing for myself, rather than in a strictly academic fashion.

  1. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

My writing/creative process tends to come in little bursts, which makes it difficult to bang out an entire story all in one day. For me, good ideas tend to come late at night (a decent amount past midnight!), so I’m consistently stuck trying to decide whether to get a good night’s sleep or write! (It’s usually the latter).

  1. How do you come up with the titles to your books?

I usually don’t come up with a title until I’ve finished writing the story in its entirety, and even then, it can be somewhat difficult for me. I tend to try and pick-out words or phrases that catch my eye throughout the story.

  1. Who is your favorite character?

In the stories that I’ve written, my favorite character would probably be Irina, a fallen angel from my most recent story, An Angel’s Desire. From other series that I’ve read, my all-time favourite character would be Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices.

  1. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

While I haven’t made much progress on it recently, having to balance different workloads, I am in the process of drafting my first novel, which will hopefully be part of a four-book series in the future.

  1. On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?

Being an English Major, I tend to do a fair bit of academic writing throughout a typical day. I try to fit in at least fifteen minutes of writing in my free-time, whether that be planning for an upcoming project, or even a bit of drafting. Recently, I’ve had a bit of time off, so I have been writing a lot for my current WIP.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

I don’t think I could narrow it down to one author in particular, but a few whose works I tend to enjoy are: Cassandra Clare, Rick Riordan, Sarah J Maas, and Leigh Bardugo. Reading their stories is like stepping into an entirely different world and having the adventure of a lifetime. I think it’s cool to be able to read their books and think about the amount of planning and creativity it takes to invent these mystical worlds, and then apply it to my own writing.

  1. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Funnily enough, when I’m not writing I tend to be ingesting hockey in any sort of way (reading articles, scrolling through game highlights, etc.). I’m a huge fan of my hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks, and find the sport fascinating to watch. Playing it, on the other hand… it’s safe to say that I probably shouldn’t be put in skates too often!

  1. What are you reading now?

One of my friends recently managed to get me started on Sarah J Maas’s Throne Of Glass series, so I’m currently burning my way through those books. I’ve also recently read Stalking Jack the Ripper, by Kerri Maniscalco, and These Violent Delights, by Chloe Gong, both of which are great books for those who are big fans of mystery and historical fiction, like myself.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

I’m currently in the process of setting up a website for myself, but I’m available on Facebook, Instagram, and Linktree.

Writing Multiple POVs

Writing a story means deciding what point of view to take. Personally, I prefer singular points of view. It’s easy to keep track of everything that is going on. But at the same time, it can be a little limiting if you want to bring in certain reveals or plot twists, etc. Because of this, there sometimes can be benefits to having two or more points of view for the narration of your story. But keep in mind, you shouldn’t bring in different points of view just for the sake of having multiple voices. There should always be a reason. 

And below, are several tips for writing multiple POVs:

Each POV should add to the story: Your readers should care about the characters that they’re reading. Therefore, if you’re going to use different POVs, each character should serve a purpose. Not only should they help propel the story forward, but they should all be strong, interesting voices that your reader wants to root for.

Understand the story before you write different POVs: Whether you have one POV or more, understanding the story you’re trying to tell is the key to success. While you can kind of get away with figuring it out as you go along while writing from only one perspective, you can’t do this with multiple POVs. It will be entirely evident that you have no idea what is going on in the story. That is why you should know the plot inside and out before attempting to write different POVs. 

Separate your chapters: Don’t put multiple voices into one chapter – you will only confuse your reader. But more importantly, giving each of your character’s their own gives your reader a chance to properly bond with them and get to know them. Plus, it’s another way to add tension to your story because you can do things like leave one of your characters in a cliff-hanger of a situation, while moving on to another chapter – a great way to keep your reader guessing and wanting to continue reading.

Each POV should have a distinct voice: There is nothing worse than reading a book that is supposed to be multiple POVs and it reads all the same. Not only is that confusing for the reader, but it’s boring as well! Developing distinct character voices isn’t just about their dialogue or actions, it’s also about coming up with their internal thoughts and motivations. In fact, their internal thoughts and motivations can be quite powerful in creating a deep sense of who the character is. And once you’ve created your character’s voice, stay true to it. 

Be selective of which character is the narrator: Don’t just throw in several narrators just for the sake of having two or more voices. Much like my first point, each narrator should add to the progression of the story. What I like doing is look at the chapter or scene that I’m writing and then decide which character has the most at stake, what am I trying to convey story-wise, and which character’s perspective would make the most impact. Based off these questions, you can come up with the appropriate narrator. 

How do you handle multiple POVs? Do you like writing multiple POVs or do you prefer only one? Let us know!

Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Writer

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But I have only been seriously pursing it for the last four years since graduating from my master’s program. And in the time that I’ve been trying to be a “serious writer,” I have learned some valuable lessons that I wish I’d been told before becoming a writer. And in case you need a little reminder, here are the five things I wish someone had told me before I took the plunge. 

Time

Writing is very time consuming – especially when you’re doing it with an end goal in mind. And as a result, you’ll probably see a dip in your social life or sleep cycle occur. But that is what caffeine was invented for. While this time consumption can be quite isolating at times, it does help to find some like-minded writer friends who understand your same struggles and can help motivate you when the time commitment just seems overwhelming.

Outlining

This one took me a while to finally figure out, but having a clear outline is everything! If I could go back in time to my eighteen-year-old self, I’d tell her to get on the outlining train ASAP and avoid years of unfinished manuscripts because halfway through, they were so chaotic and riddled with plot holes that they were tossed aside. Seriously, now I even outline my short stories. It makes a world of difference. 

It’s Okay to Suck

Writing is something that takes time to perfect. You will suck at first; there is no avoiding it. I just wish I’d known this sooner. But in order to suck less, you just have to keep practicing your craft, as well as embrace the editing process. All first drafts will be cringy and that is okay. 

Don’t Rush

Patience is a virtue, and you need to be patient with yourself. Writing a book is a long and arduous process. It is going to take time. Don’t get upset with yourself if you’re not writing “fast enough.” Go at your pace, take your time, and remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint. 

Don’t Forget to Live

Yes, writing takes up a lot of our time. But you can’t forget to make time for real life. It’s okay to step away from your fantasy world and back into the real world from time to time. In fact, I have learned that a little break from your manuscript every once in a while is healthy and restores your perspective on it. 

When You’re Stuck On A Scene

As writers we all experience writer’s block. But nothing is more frustrating than when we are in the middle of an important scene and then, BOOM! The writer’s block strikes. And suddenly we find ourselves gently banging our heads against the desk, wondering when it will back. Getting stuck on a scene is not fun. I’ve come up with a couple ways of breaking through the writer’s block barrier:

Tip 1

Try writing the scene from the perspective of another character. Sometimes getting into the head of another character can give you a fresh perspective on your scene. 

Tip 2

Make a music playlist for the scene. Nothing helps get creativity flowing quite like music. If you use music to set the scene it might help you get through the writer’s block. I usually like to make a writing playlist ahead of time, specifically to try and get ahead of any potential writer’s block.

Tip 3

If you are artfully inclined, try sketching out the scene. Alternatively, if you’re like me and your artistic expression doesn’t range beyond stick figures then you can try making a mood board on Pinterest. Sometimes seeing a visual representation of our scene helps to get the creative juices flowing again. Alternatively, doing something creative can get us back into the writing frame of mind. 

Tip 4

Circle back to it and instead write the next scene. Just because you’re stuck on one scene in particular, that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep moving forward. Plus, this might help to get the flow going again.

Tip 5

Try writing in a different style or POV. 

Tip 6

Write the dialogue only. I really find this one particularly helpful. Sometimes we get stuck on a scene because we’re trying to set the scene with descriptions etc. But if we get the dialogue and character interactions down, we can then circle back and layer on the other elements afterwards.

Tip 7

If all else fails, get up and go for a walk, come back, make a hot cup of something, and then try again. This is my go-to solution when nothing else is working. 

What writer’s block solutions do you like to try when you’re stuck on a scene?

First Five Pages Checklist

The first five pages of your book are so important. As aspiring authors, we are well aware of their significance. And we place so much time and emphasis on getting them right. While we probably have a fair idea of what to do and not do in our first five pages, here is a quick recap of things to keep in mind when looking at the start of your novel.

Important questions to ask yourself:

Does the first line engage your reader?

Is your main character properly introduced?

Has the POV and narration style been made clear to the reader?

Does your reader get a good feel for the world – i.e. have you set the status quo?

Have you established your main character’s deepest desire?

Is there an inciting incident?

The most important thing to avoid at the beginning of your novel:

The information dump. 

Your reader is only starting to get to know your main character and within these pages, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with backstory or world building information so early on. Remember, you’ve got a minimum of 80,000 words to work with, you can take your time introducing the important background information.