I’m a little biased about the interview today. Morgan Busse is a fellow fantasy writer, but she’s also my good friend and critique partner! I’m so excited that she is teaching at Realm Makers this year because she has been a wealth of information for me over the last couple of years. But, enough from me, let’s hear from Morgan . . .
1. You just recently put out the 3rd book in your trilogy. What would you say was the most important things you learned about writing a series during this process?
The Follower of the Word series is the first story I ever wrote, so not only was I learning how to write during this series, I was learning who I was as a writer. What I discovered is that I am an outliner. I need to know how the story is going to start, what are the major plots points, and how is the story going to end.
I’m not sure about other writers, but I think it would be difficult to write a series without knowing the story you are trying to tell and what the ending is (and then write towards it with that goal in mind). And it’s just stinkin’ hard to write a series! Especially one as long and complicated as I wrote for my debut series! With a series, you not only have to find ways to wrap up that particular book, but also how it fits in with the overall story that arches across the series. You also have to keep track of various subplots, characters, and places. I’ll be honest, I would probably not recommend doing a series for your first novel unless you really, really love the story and are ready to be immersed in that world for years. But it can be done :)
2. Some of us saw that you just signed a contract for a steampunk series. Can you share a little bit about it with us?
I am always working on story while I’m writing another. Years ago I came up with a story and realized it would best be told in a steampunk setting. A couple months after I turned in the manuscript for Heir of Hope, my publisher asked if I had any other stories I was working on. I sent him a couple ideas, and he loved the steampunk series.
Tainted is the first book in The Soul Chronicles. Here is the blurb for Tainted:
Kat Bloodmayne is one of the first women chosen to attend the Tower Academy of Sciences. But she carries a secret: she can twist the natural laws of life. She has no idea where this ability came from, only that every time she loses control and unleashes this power, it kills a part of her soul. If she doesn’t find a cure soon, her soul will die and she will become something else entirely.
After a devastating personal loss, Stephen Grey leaves the World City Police Force to become a bounty hunter. He believes in justice and will stop at nothing to ensure criminals are caught and locked up. However, when Kat Bloodmayne shows up in his office seeking his help, his world is turned upside down.
Together they search World City and beyond for a doctor who can cure Kat. But what they discover on the way goes beyond science and into the dark sphere of magic.
Tainted is set to release Spring of 2016.
3. Where do you get your inspiration for these amazing stories?
Everywhere! Sometimes I will hear a piece of music and suddenly see a scene in my head. Or I’ll read an article and ask, “What if?” Or I’ll see a character in a desperate situation and wonder how he/she got there, and how will he/she get out of it. If I keep going back to the characters and wondering what happened to them and what is going to happen next, then I know I have a keeper of a story. At that point, I’ll create a folder on my computer and start collecting information on the characters, plot ideas, settings, etc. I do this while I am working on my current manuscript. Usually by the time I am ready to start writing the story, I have been dreaming it up for a couple years. Here are some of the questions that prompted my current novels:
- What if you could see inside the soul? (Daughter of Light)
- Can anyone—even a murderer—find forgiveness? (Son of Truth)
- What would you sacrifice to save mankind? (Heir of Hope)
- What would happen if your soul died? (Tainted)
4. I know you’re a preacher’s wife and have a small herd of kids . . . what’s your writing process like?
Crazy! Or at least that is how it feels sometimes! When I first started writing years ago, I had four kids and none of them in school. During that time I wrote during nap times (assuming I didn’t need one myself), or at night. By the time I received my first contract, my kids were in school, which made it easier to have a schedule. When I’m working on a rough draft, I write one thousand words a day, 4 days a week. It’s a bit slow, but I usually end up with a fairly clean rough draft after about six months to a year, depending on how long the book is.
I let the manuscript sit for a couple weeks, then I come back and do a read-through and work on any edits or rewrites. After than I ship the story off to my critique partners and consider their ideas (it helps to have others read my story and catch things I didn’t). Then I send the manuscript off to my editor.
The main thing I learned is to write everyday on my assigned work days. Writer’s block? Write anyway. Think it’s a bunch of garbage? Write anyway. I have found more often than not that when I come back, I find the scene is much better than I thought it was. You can’t improve a story that hasn’t been written, so get that rough draft done!
For those of you with family, it is not worth sacrificing your family for your writing. The story will always be there, but your family will not. Your children will grow up and leave the nest. Your marriage needs you to be there, or it might not be there someday. I never wanted my children growing up thinking that writing took their mother away from them. That is why I write when they are in school. When my family is home, I put my writing away except on deadlines. And because I have invested in my family, during those deadlines, they come together and help me by taking care of the house and fixing dinner. They are my biggest supporters, and I couldn’t do what I do without them!
5. Morgan’s Faves:
Food: Sour candy, donuts, and tea. I usually limit the first two for special occasions. Tea, however, I drink all the time, especially when I’m writing.
Color: Green. Green can be both dark and light, cool and warm, peaceful and energetic.
Book: That’s a hard one. I think I’ll go with fiction: Lord of the Rings, and nonfiction: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Movie: Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.
6. What do you hope the attendees get out of your workshop, “Show Don’t Tell: How to Share the Gospel through Fiction Without Preaching”?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked by two different people how to add the Gospel to a story without destroying the story and how do you even add a Christian worldview to a story (this by a non-writer). Those are both excellent questions! In my opinion, great novels weave theme, worldview, even the Gospel into the story in such a way that the reader never pauses or realizes what the author is doing. It should be an organic part of the story, not just an added element.
I will talk about techniques I used in my own stories, how speculative writers have a unique opportunity to share the gospel, why the Gospel isn’t just for the unsaved, and how writing this way can change your life. Even if you don’t plan on writing the Gospel into your story, you might just pick up some tips on how to weave your worldview into your story without turning off your reader.
7. Any advice for the newbies?
Well, sure, lots! I could do a whole class on things I’ve learned over the years. But here are a couple that I think every person aspiring to write should do:
- Learn all you can, then learn who you are as a writer.
- Write, write, write! Writing is just like sports or music. You need to practice all the time. Randy Ingermanson once said that you need to write one million words before you start writing something worth reading. I agree.
- Take time to live life. Life will provide inspiration for your stories. A person stuck at a computer all day and night forgets what real people are like, and what the world looks like.
- Don’t forget your family. They are your true legacy.