This is an interview of Mimi and I, conducted by Lori L. Clark.

Author Interview: Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams, co-authors of Beautiful Monster.

Please welcome Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams, co-authors of Beautiful Monster, who took the time to answer my interview questions!

Q: What genre do you write and what is your favorite thing about writing this particular genre?

JSA: I write mostly horror. I don’t always mean to write horror, but that’s the direction it usually seems to go. I suppose my favorite thing about writing this genre is the creep factor. If I can creep myself out a little, I think that’s a good sign.

MAW: I write Young Adult and Middle Grade, fiction, nonfiction. This is my first foray into horror though I love reading horror. I don’t think I have a favorite thing about genre, I just love creating stories with real people and interesting developments.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your book, BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: It’s scheduled for release by Damnation Books on September 1st, 2012!

MAW: It is a really insightful look into human dynamics with two damaged characters: one who needs love for self-value and one who can’t feel love at all.

Q: What inspired you to write BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: Mimi and I had been working very closely on my previous manuscript. It just kind of evolved naturally from there. I think the subject matter was actually Mimi’s idea, so really, this is all her fault.

MAW: Oh sure, blame me! Actually, I had an idea where a kidnap victim fell in love with her kidnapper, but what evolved from that was a much deeper, darker story. Jared and I would throw ideas out and just go from there. It was really an amazing process, dare I say – spiritual? – and it was a whole lot of fun as well.

Q: What was hardest (and easiest) about writing BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: The hardest part for me was keeping the times straight. We wrote this book in alternating chapters, so I had a hard time remembering what day it was in the story. The easiest part for me was writing the main character, Sterling Bronson. I’m not sure where he came from, but he was fully-formed and rearing to go from day one.

MAW: As to the story itself, I think keeping Brenna likeable and not too sappy or perfect was the challenging part. Keeping her voice believable despite what was happening to her was hard. For me, the hardest part of writing the book was the fact that my husband and I were fighting and actually separated while I was working on it. That’s a lot of emotional turmoil on top of a book that was pretty emotionally intense. The easiest part was the motivation. There was never a time I didn’t want to work on the book. It was an engrossing process that was also a lot of fun at times.

Q: Are you working on anything new?

JSA: Yes. I am currently writing a supernatural thriller called Tyranny Hall. Also, I plan to go back to my first manuscript later this year sometime, put it under the knife, and do some heavy re-writes on it. Additionally, Mimi and I are talking about continuing with Beautiful Monster; maybe making it into a trilogy, assuming we can get the publisher interested in that idea.

MAW: I’m finishing revisions on a YA that is scheduled for release in Fall 2013 – assuming the Mayan prophecy of the world ending doesn’t come first. I also am finishing the first draft of a YA that an agent has expressed interest in, and as Jared said, we are talking about a second and possibly a third book after Beautiful Monster.

Q: If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

JSA: Have heroes and surround yourself by them. Also, write what you love, not what you think will get published.

MAW: Perseverance trumps ability. I know a lot of talented writers who gave up due to frustration, and a lot of average writers who reached publication because they stuck it out. It’s like the old Churchill quote: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

Q: What is the best piece of publishing advice you ever received?

JSA: Early on, Mimi, who has more experience in this business than I do, said to me, “Writing the book is the easy part. The hard part comes later.” This was a valuable piece of wisdom to me because it brought my head out of the clouds and gave me an honest sense of the way this business works, so I didn’t go into this expecting anything to be easy. I’m grateful for that because had I believed I was entitled to publication just because I’d finished a book, I would have been very disappointed. I think this is a mistake many writer’s make. You finish a book and it’s painfully discouraging to realize that no one cares. I think this accounts for so many writer’s giving up prematurely. I think you need to go into this knowing it’s going to be a rough ride.

MAW: I was at a conference where the inimitable Jane Yolen spoke. She said, “Love the writing,” and I came to understand that as love the journey of creating the story, because after that, things get really hard and you have no control over them. You don’t control if or when you’ll find a publisher or an agent, if your when your story ever becomes a book, you can only control the creation of the story, so love that, and keep doing it.

Q: What book–or author–has inspired you the most, and why?

JSA: I read avidly and am a little bit inspired by everything I come across, but if I had to pin down a single author or book that really made me want to do this, I would have to give some serious credit to Stephenie Meyer. It was reading those books that made me say, “I really want to do this.” And more so than Twilight, I thought her novel, The Host, was excellent. I don’t mind that I’m not supposed to like her, I do.

MAW: I’ve been so very fortunate to know a number of amazing writers and I couldn’t pick just one, nor just one book. The person who deserves the most credit for my being a writer is my third grade teacher, Mrs. Shirley Saenz Lohnes, because she was the first person to ever put the notion in my head. I am grateful to her still, and I am still in touch with her.

Q: Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.

JSA: I received 192 rejections between two novels before someone said yes, so I’d become accustomed to being ignored. The publication of Beautiful Monster has happened so fast my head is spinning. I really don’t know how to make sense of it. It’s about writing the right book at the right time for the right publisher, I guess.

MAW: Nearly 18 years ago, I was working in PR and advertising. I wrote all the time, but it was for other people. I began looking at writing for myself, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way – a LOT. But I had a few successes, too. About 14 years ago, I met a woman who had published several nonfiction adult books on Borderline Personality Disorder. I made contact with her, and over time she asked me to coauthor a workbook with her. After 12 years, that book is just now being taken out of print. I wrote for online review sites, parenting magazines, and whoever would let me write for them. I had minor successes and near misses with children’s publishers along the way. Then in 2001 I applied to and was accepted into the Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned an MFA in writing. The following year, I had 3 nonfiction children’s books (the Hey, Ranger series from Globe-Pequot) accepted, and a year later, a manuscript I wrote for my Masters Degree (My Brother the Dog from Tanglewood Press) became my first published novel.

Q: Do you have a writing process?

JSA: I light candles and incense, get into my nude, and do a five-minute Calypso dance for good luck before each writing session. Just kidding. I feel like I should have a process, but really, most of my writing takes place in my head while I am doing other mundane things.

MAW: I try to keep a schedule and follow a process, but real life has a way of interfering with that. Instead, I set goals, like finishing a character study or writing a chapter by the end of the week. I try to do something writing-related everyday, which can include reading, or jotting notes, but sometimes “writing-related” gets stretched and I include sorting the mail or doing laundry. On the other hand, going to my laundromat is an excellent opportunity for character study, so I think it does count!

Q: What’s your big distraction or vice while writing?

JSA: As far as distractions, I have two elderly toy poodles. One is blind and epileptic and the other one is convinced that every noise she hears is the beginning of the apocalypse. They can distract me, but the people around me are awesome in that sense. If I’m writing, I don’t get bothered. Also, it’s good to turn my phone off. As for vices while I write… I drink a lot of coffee. It seems to speed up my synapses or something.

MAW: My biggest distraction is the internet, and I have to stop myself from checking Facebook or email. Texting is another big distraction, so I try to resist. Sometimes I just have to take the laptop and go somewhere that has no wi-fi. Again, my Laundromat is good for that!

Q: What are your three all-time favorite books?

JSA: Francesca’s Party by Patricia Scanlan, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Moonfall by Tamara Thorne.

MAW: Just three? Lamb, by Christopher Moore; Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz; The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe (or the Complete Works of Shakespeare – it’s a tie really).

Q: What makes you passionate about writing?

JSA: It’s my world and I can do what I want in it…I can kill the people who bother me! But really…I don’t know what makes a person passionate about writing. I guess, very simply, that it’s a way to express yourself without interruption. Most of all, I think it’s just a kind of a “calling”, for lack of a better term.

MAW: I love words – I always have. I have always written, my mother has the evidence to prove it and I pay her handsomely to keep some of that stuff hidden. I just have to write, whether or not I make a living at it. There is a wonderful book entitled “The Midnight Disease” that talks a lot about the compulsion to write, and I was both horrified and delighted to see so much of myself reflected in that book.

Q: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

JSA: I am in the beginning stages of the publishing process, so this question is a better one for Mimi to answer.

MAW: I wrote my first book after traveling to several national parks and hearing the silly questions tourists ask. I sent the idea to several publishers in a nonfiction proposal. Globe-Pequot saw it as a series and created these adorable coloring books for kids filed with fun information based on the questions. Instead of one book, I wound up with three.

Q: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

JSA: All the time. Writing, in general, is a lot of hard work with little to no recognition. Being discouraged is part of your job description. There are only two ways to deal with it that I’m aware of. One is to have a strong support system composed of friends and other writers. The other is to keep writing the next story.

MAW: Oh – lots of discouragement! I collected close to a hundred rejections over the course of a year on my first book before it was picked up by the publisher. I worked on the book, revising it and tightening the story before sending it out three more times. Then a publisher who had actually had the original manuscript for almost a year contacted me. The real key is to keep writing and working on your craft. There is no other answer than that. One of my favorite stories that keeps me motivated is when Madeleine L’Engle won the Newbery Award. After giving her acceptance speech, she was approached by dozens of editors all saying, “Madeleine, why didn’t you send me this book?” She replied, “I did. Would you like to read the rejection letter you sent me?” I love this! I want to be able to say this!

Q: What is your writing schedule like?

JSA: Right now there is no schedule! I haven’t written anything in almost two weeks. Now that the contract has been signed and the process has begun, I’m looking forward to working on Tyranny Hall between the editorial revisions of Beautiful Monster. Usually, I try to write four or five times a week for a minimum of two or three hours per sitting. I meet with Mimi once or twice a week to go over and critique what each of us has written. On weekends, I usually spend several hours on Saturday or Sunday writing. My limit seems to be about eight hours. After eight hours of writing, I tend to get numb and start writing really poor material.

MAW: Like I mentioned before, I try to do something writing-related every day. It’s hard to keep a set schedule. In fact, as I write this, I’m in the middle of changing jobs and preparing to go out of town. I steal my writing time where I can. Once things settle down some, I’ll try to get back to a more regimented system, but I also know I have to be flexible and grab my writing time where I can.

Q: What do you do to relax and unwind?

JSA: Drive aimlessly. I spend more money on gas than anyone I know. I like the open road and I love not having to be somewhere at a certain time.

MAW: I read, I go for walks (I can’t afford the gas like Jared can!) I also knit and crochet sometimes, but I’m terrible at finishing projects.

Q: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

JSA: Ideas come from everywhere. A lot of times, someone says something that triggers a whole series of ideas. My first manuscript, The White Room, came to me one night when I was at a club with some friends of mine. We were downstairs playing pool when one of my friends said to me, “I’ll be right back. I think I left my phone upstairs in the white room.” He called it the white room simply because it had white couches, white chairs and white drapery throughout the room. I knew immediately that “The White Room” was going to be the name of an elaborate club for the story that had been percolating in my brain. The idea for Tyranny Hall came from a nightmare I used to have. As for knowing if an idea is good enough to write a book about, I don’t think you ever really know. I think if you execute it properly, you can write a great book about anything. Stephen King wrote an awesome book called Christine. If he’d said he had this wonderful idea about a story about a haunted car, I think most people would have glazed over, but he executed it well, so it worked.

MAW: I’m a people watcher and a notorious eves-dropper, so I find stories ideas all over the place. I love asking “what if” questions and puzzling through the possible outcomes. As to whether a story idea is good enough for a book, I agree with Jared – nearly anything can be a good story if it’s executed well.

Q: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

JSA: Mimi and I do a lot of brainstorming together. I also get a lot of feedback from family and friends. I don’t do intensive outlines, simply because I find it too hard to follow. If I know the beginning, the middle, the end, and some important plot points along the way, I seem to have better luck just letting the story shape itself around those key points.

MAW: I have to have some sort of rough outline to work from. If I don’t know the ending to a story, I don’t know where I’m going. I always write with an ending in mind, even though that ending may change later. I love the brainstorming process, whether I do it alone or with someone else. Throwing all the possibilities on the table is like having a big grab-bag of toys to play with.

Q: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

JSA: Yes, I have hit some very serious snags. One book I was trying to write was nothing but one big snag. I’ll go back to it later I hope, but I finally kicked it to the curb and started something new. As for writer’s block, I have one word: Dodecahedron!

MAW: HAHAH! Yes! Dodecahedron! When I was working on my Master’s degree, I got the worst case of writer’s block in my life. Just sitting at the computer would cause me to shake and cry – very seriously. I had a wonderful mentor – Tim Wynn-Jones – and he helped me to work through the block using small steps, like word collecting and word classifying – things that didn’t seem like writing but were actually helping me. I began to study writer’s block and the creative process, and I came upon the dodecahedron, a 12-sided dice of sorts. I use it all the time as an idea generator, and I have taught it to lots of people.

Q: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

JSA: I don’t eat when I write.

MAW: Jared lies. I’ve watched him eat an entire bag of gummy bears while working on a few paragraphs. I vary between chocolate and potato chips – neither one is good for me, but I can’t help it. They are great for those mid-paragraph thinking moments.

Q: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

JSA: I used to do a lot of photography. I still do it a little, but not much. I also like jogging, weight lifting, scary movies, aimless drives, and good books.

MAW: Reading, crochet, knitting. I used to sing with a band. Now I just sing with the radio.

Q: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

JSA: Making writing a priority in a world that already demands more time than you have.

MAW: The hardest thing is telling someone “I’m a writer,” and they say “Do I know your work?” – Ugh.

Q: What is the best thing about being an author?

JSA: Aside from the elation of writing something you know is damned good, I would say the best part for me has been meeting my heroes.

MAW: Meeting other writers and being with people you don’t have to explain things to – like why there is such a thing as a good rejection!

Q: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

JSA: To write at least three more novels.

MAW: Keep writing, keep promoting my books, keep moving forward and getting better at my craft.

Q: How do you come up with your character’s names?

JSA: I steal them! I lifted Sterling’s name from a student at the school I was attending at the time. Brytt was the name of a guy Mimi knew. Cadence, in The White Room, was what I always wanted to name my son, and Brooks came from a kid I met in 2005. Sometimes, they just pop into my head. The most recent name that occurred to me is Bronx Treverton. Not sure where it came from or what kind of story might belong to a guy with name like that, but there it is. It sounds like an over-the-top hero from a romance novel to me.

MAW: I used to work at a call center, so I would write down really awesome names for later use. Sometimes I just take bits and pieces from other names and combine them. Sometimes I steal outright, just like Jared.

Q: What is the best compliment you could receive from a reader?

JSA: “That is disgusting!” or “I couldn’t put it down!” Even “What the hell is wrong with you?!” is a good one.

MAW: I’ve had kids write to me or tell me, “This is my favorite book ever and you are the best writer ever.” It thrills me!

Q: Where can readers go to find your books and order them?

JSA: The book is schedule for release on September 1st, 2012 by Damnation Books.

MAW: The “Hey, Ranger” books and “My Brother the Dog” can be found on Amazon or BN.com, or can be ordered at any local bookstore.

Q: Besides the stalking method I used, how can people connect with you?

JSA: https://jsascribes.wordpress.com/

MAW: http://kwjwrites.wordpress.com/ or my website http://www.kwjustesen.com

Click on the thumbnail below for the full-sized cover image of BEAUTIFUL MONSTER!

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Comments
  1. Linda L. Bennett says:

    Great Interview, very interesting and of course you made me laugh with your one comment, Jared. I can almost see Mimi sitting at the laundromat sitting and watching people. I am so excited for the both of you and I cannot wait to read your book. 🙂

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