Friday, August 13, 2010

Janice Hardy Interview

What books/authors have influenced your writing?

In a way, probably all of them, since reading in general helped me figure out the types of stories I wanted to tell, and how to put a novel together. But Harlan Ellison is my favorite writer, and every time I get stuck or feel uncreative I grab a book off the shelf and re-read some of his stories. They always get the juices flowing again because I just love his prose. I also love Dave Duncan's prose, and I have one of his books (The Gilded Chain) highlighted with notes in the margins because I studied it to figure out why his prose read so smoothly and how I could do that with mine.

What genre do you consider your book(s)?

Fantasy for sure, and I think most would put me squarely in the traditional fantasy category. Made up worlds, magic of some type (even if it's not the usual type).

Do you ever experience writer's block?

I get stuck, but I've never been blocked. I think that's because when I just flat out don't feel like writing I don't write. If I force myself to sit and the keyboard and work anyway, it only makes it worse. Some days the words come, some days they don't. I don't worry about it if it's an off day, though if I'm on deadline and have to get work done, then I might try to get into as best I can.

Do you write an outline before every book you write?

Yeppers, I'm a big fan of outlining. But I use a loose outline. I like to figure out my major plot points and act climaxes (I like to use the three act structure), then do a rough chapter by chapter summary to basically lay out the story. Some chapters I know what's going to happen, others I might have "Protag finds out the big secret" and I have no clue how that's going to happen. It changes as I write, and I update my outline as I go. I've found it's a good way for me to hash out those first ideas so the more original ideas can happen organically in the text itself. Like brainstorming on paper. I almost always know where my characters are going, but rarely how they'll get there. That keeps it fresh for me.

Have you ever hated something you wrote?

Oh sure. I've written some hideous scenes, and even hideous books. You never know if something will work on not until you try.

What is your favourite theme/genre to write about?

Fantasy is my favorite genre (or anything in the speculative genre) and I just had a conversation recently about a career theme. I was inspired by a wonderful workshop at this year's RWA conference that really got me thinking and looking at the types of stories I've told, and want to tell. I really love writing stories that explore the moral gray area of situations. There is no right or wrong, every choice had consequences, and characters have to muddle through and figure out what's best for them, knowing it'll be worst for someone else. You can learn a lot about a character by forcing them to make impossible choices.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Wow, I'm not sure. I was eight years old, and I did an illustrated four-book series called Dog City about dog archaeologists. I've always told stories and can't remember a time when I wasn't writing them down. My mother tells me I drew pictures and told stories about them as soon as I could talk. Eventually that love of storytelling led me to want to try and publish, so I got serious and started working hard on developing my craft and voice. Every book had its own inspiration, but the need to tell a story was always there.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Sure. I love to use a short sentences and fragments for dramatic emphasis, I have sentence rhythms I use that give the text a certain tone.I'm a fan of onomatopoeia and like to use sounds for surprise.

How did you come up with the title?

The original title for book one was actually The Pain Merchants, and that's how I sold the book. But booksellers were concerned about the word pain for the MG crowd. We (my editor, agent, and sales and marketing team) went through about 50 or 75 different titles trying to come up with something. The Shifter was one of them, which fits since it's what my protagonist, Nya, is called in the book. In contrast, book two, Blue Fire, was completely different. I had no title for a long time, but my editor asked me how I liked Blue Fire. I said it was intriguing, but had nothing to do with the book. She asked if I could make it have something to do with the book, and immediately an idea popped into my head. It turned out to inspire one of the coolest scenes in the book. Book three has been a mix of thought and random creative thinking, and we have a tentative title now, but I'm not sure if it'll stay that yet.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I know I should say yes and have this wonderful and inspiring thing, but there really isn't. I just want to tell a great story and have readers walk away thinking "wow, that was cool" and keep thinking about it after it's over. There are things to ponder and larger issues and themes that could be taken as messages, but it's never intentional. It's just what my characters were doing or thinking and how the story panned out.