A Conversation With Author N. Wood

I recently met author N. Wood when I had an interview on her blog. I invited her to stop by here for a chat, and we ended up having a great conversation about fanfiction, genres and the challenges of self publishing. Enjoy!

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LissaI’m sure this is a question you get all the time, but what drew you to writing m/m romance?

N. Wood: Mostly from reading other stories of the same orientation and discovering that I preferred it to heterosexual ones. I began my story writing career through fan fiction, and I stumbled upon a m/m romance plot by accident. Rather than clicking the 'x' in the corner, I decided to persevere, and to this day it still remains one of my favourites to go back to and reread. The author introduced me to some groups on Facebook so I could find even more of them, and over time I gave it a shot at writing some myself. I haven't looked back since and now I write original m/m romance.

Lissa: That’s one of the things I love so much about the fanfiction world: it brings so many people to types of stories they had never considered. I’ve gotten many notes from readers from my fanfiction stories: “I’ve never read sci-fi before, and now I’m going to go see if I can find other stories like this one!”

by ~BlackJack0919
Another reason I love the fanfiction community is because it’s such an incredible “incubator” for writers. The support and encouragement I got from them was phenomenal. It’s such a fragile time for a writer, when they take that first, tentative step forward and share their work. A cruel word can crush that creative impulse before they really have a chance to explore what they can do. 

N. Wood: I've given up many times because of cruel words, but I've soon gotten back on the horse that threw me because writing is just my thing, there sure isn't much else I'm good at.

Lissa: Do you think someday they’ll be teaching classes on the impact fanfiction had on early 21st century literature?

N. Wood: Possibly, after all, fan fiction has been popular for a very long time, but it's only recently it's been noticed a lot more, what with a fan fiction other recently becoming a global sensation, and now Amazon jumping on the wagon by wanting to let fan fiction authors publish their work and get paid for it.

Lissa: I wonder if adding the commercial aspect will lead people to see it as a legitimate art form in of itself. Outsiders often deride it as being devoid of originality; it would be wonderful if the public could see just how incredibly inventive fanfiction authors can be.

N. Wood: Exactly. The main fandom for me was Twilight, but I never read any fan fictions where the characters were vampires. The imagination of a fan fiction author is amazing and people really should give it a try, however following all the issues with a certain BDSM book, I think there's a lot of people who believe fan fiction should never be published, and definitely never paid for.

by ~jeixonx
I was lucky in school in that my teacher was a really cool person, and I guess I owe my writing to her. She was more a friend than a teacher, pretty wacky at times, and a big Lord of the Rings fan too. She would slip quotes in anywhere she could think of in the most randomest of conversations. Anyway, she encouraged fan fiction from my class, and she was really fond of my work and told me to keep writing, knowing my love of the activity and my longing to some day hold a physical copy of my book in my hand. 

Lissa: It’s incredible the difference one teacher can make in a person’s life. Just one person who says, “I believe in you.” Not a platitude or a slogan from a poster, but a sincere connection and encouragement.

N. Wood: Speaking of posters, she had a huge Lord of the Rings one in the classroom, but one day we went into class and it had been taken down with a note left behind written in fake elvish with a translation underneath saying it was being held for ransom by the orcs of Isangard. My teacher knew who had played the prank and she gave a lecture about it before looking to the boy and quoting Galadrial: “You know of whom I speak.”

Lissa: Your biography mentions you write poetry. One of my favorite authors, Emily Brontë , was also a poet, and it influenced her narrative writing style. Has your background as a poet made you more conscious of word choice and the rhythm of a sentence? 

N. Wood: I used to write poetry, but I became somewhat bored with its restrictions. Some poets can paint a picture in a readers mind with very few words, but I wasn't one of them. I needed a much bigger canvas to hold the many stories and ideas floating around in my head, so I switched to fiction writing instead and I enjoy it a lot more. So no, I don't think my past of writing poetry has determined the way I write, because I've flourished so much more since then.

Lissa: I love going back to look at my old work to see how much I’ve grown as a writer. I learn something new with every book and I’m always trying to improve my technique. 

N. Wood: I often go back and read my old fan fiction stories, and believe me, with many of them it's clear to see how I've grown. I learned a lot from my beta readers over the couple of years and I can see myself getting better with each story, and that helps with my current work as well. I often mentally slap my knuckles with a ruler if I do something I know my beta's would have scolded me for!

Lissa: Would you believe I never had a beta? (Well, if you read my stories, you’d probably believe it!) Only the pieces submitted for contests were beta’d and that’s because the rules required it.
by Nic's events

N. Wood: There isn't anything wrong with going natural. At first I only had a beta for contests too, but I learned a lot from her and kept her on for my longer stories as well. She was a great help and I wouldn't have improved so much without her.

Lissa: I didn’t know anyone in the fandom when I started writing my stories, though I began to make friends as time passed. Now, some of my friends from the fandom are pre-readers for my novels. 

N. Wood: I have one friend who's stuck by me from the fandom, but I've lost many others in the process of publishing too.

Lissa: The self-publishing revolution has been amazing for both writers and readers. Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route? 

N. Wood: To be honest, as a back up at first. I'd submitted to a few publishers and each had turned me away, so I decided to give self-publishing a shot to see if it was any better and it truly is. The downside is that there's a lot more work involved. You have to find an editor to go over your story, or do a fine comb through yourself before hand, preferably both.

Lissa: I’m no good at self-editing. It’s almost impossible for me to see my own mistakes. As the oft-repeated quote says, you see the book you think you wrote, not what is actually on the paper. 

N. Wood: My biggest issue is grammar and punctuation, because I think my teacher was too busy quoting Lord of the Rings, either that, or I zoned out at that point because I can't remember learning much of it at school. Random little commas pop up all over the place to say hello!

Lissa: I’ve always joked I do my best proofreading after I’ve hit “SUMBIT.” 

N. Wood: Submit, LOL. I think that proves you right! I'm the same, I think everyone is. Like I said earlier, I learned a lot from my beta which is actually a problem sometimes, because mistakes usually glare out at me in others work, but it's always harder to spot in your own.

Lissa: In this respect, indie writers are at a disadvantage. Readers are quick to point out any typos or mistakes in an indie novel, but seem to gloss over them in works from authors of the Big Six. (And I see plenty of them!) There’s a double-standard there that’s frustrating. Readers seem to demand a higher level of precision from indie authors. 

N. Wood: I agree. When I released my first indie book, most of the reviews were about mistakes I'd made, not about the actual story itself. Then I had someone write a list of everything they hated about the book, and it was a long list, all about things that aren't real or 'why does this happen instead of that?'. All I wanted to do was cry, but I replied to the review and said 'it's not called fiction for nothing. Not everything has to be accurate you know. If I want my character to do this instead of that, then he will, because I'm the author!”

As for the covers, there's the hassle of locating the perfect images and sorting out the copyrighting and royalty payments for them. My suggestion would be that if you have your perfect cover idea in your mind, get a camera and go out and shoot the pictures yourself, then go home and edit it until you have what you want. For self-publishing, I make my own covers.

Lissa: The cover of my last novel was a picture taken by the daughter of a friend. I wasn’t able to find something I liked. One day, I was browsing through her vacation photos and it was like, Eureka! 

N. Wood: Oh yes, I'm the same. I know exactly what I want my covers to look like and I try to find La Cala is a bend in the river where it meets the beach and the sea a few miles from where I live. It's one of my favourite dog walks and I took the picture at sunset last autumn. It's been on my personal Facebook since then and the angle of the river was perfect for my book cover because it looks like a cove, and La Cala means, The Cove.


Lissa: I’m not very artistic, visually, so I usually need help coming up with something. Do you have a concept for the cover in your mind even as you’re writing the book, or do you look for inspiration? 

N. Wood: When I wrote fan fiction, I used to make the cover first with pictures I found that inspired me from parts of the story I knew I would write. The banner would then become something for me to stare at if I began having writer's block.

Lissa: I was dependent on the kindness of readers for my banners. I never made one. But now, I’ve made trailers for all of my books and a few “quote posters.”

Do you think visuals like that help draw readers to books?


N. Wood: A bit of yes and no really. I like to have some visuals to help picture the scene, though if the author paints it well enough with words, it's not needed. On the down side, everyone pictures something different when they read, especially what the characters look like, so I'm not too fond of the covers and other art that show their faces how the author themselves pictured it. When I read, or write even, I like the characters to present themselves in my mind rather than from an inspiration picture I've been shown.

Lissa: I agree wholeheartedly; the cover of my third novel will be the first to feature a character's face, and it's partially obscured by her hair. I told the artist much the same thing as you said above.

Tell us what your writing process is like. Are you an outliner or do you write the story as it comes to you?

N. Wood: I'm a bit of both. Usually when a new story idea hits me, I write a brief summary of it in a document to keep it fresh in my mind. At the moment, that document has at least six outstanding ideas all waiting their turn to be written. When I decide which to attempt first, I then give names and appearances to my main two characters, the others are bulked out whenever they're introduced in the story. After my characters are ready to go, I do a minor outline plot of what exactly happens in the story, spreading out out evenly to determine how many chapters, and sometimes I write another brief summary for each chapter so I know what I'm doing. Then once I get started with the actual writing, the rest comes to me as I go to fill in the spaces.

Lissa: That sounds nicely organized. I’m writing my fourth novel now, and I still haven’t gotten to that level of organization. Everything is in my head, except for a few scribbled notes on scraps of paper. 

Character bio worksheet by ~masencantaluna
N. Wood: Notes are a good thing, especially for later on when you need to go back and remember which person has which colour hair and eyes, and drives what kind of vehicle. When you write the notes for each character, be sure to adapt them with age, colour, anything else you might refer to later on, to help with the consistency.

Lissa: Did you have that level of organization from the beginning, or is it something you developed as you went? 

N. Wood: With fan fiction, there wasn't much need to be as organised. We already knew what the characters looked like because of the descriptions in the books, or from the films. Like you, the plots were all in my head and I wrote them as I went along, one chapter a week. I became more organised when I changed to writing original stories. It was harder to remember which guy had which coloured eyes, so I began making notes. That gradually moved on to doing a miniature plot of each chapter so I knew what the story would be like for each part, but the main bulk of the chapters remain a fly by the seat of my pants kind of thing because the characters tell the story themselves and I'm just the slave who writes down what they tell me to.

Lissa: What’s been your biggest challenge as an author? For me, it’s putting myself “out there” and trying to market my books.

N. Wood: I would agree with both of yours. Getting your name out there is a pretty big part of it. You need to make a big impact early on and show your few readers what your style is like and what you're capable of creating. If they like it, they'll be ready for more and will pass it on word of mouth to their friends, and so on. Marketing books is just as hard, and to be honest I hardly know where to start with it. Making an author page on Facebook is good, as well as a blog to share teasers and information, and tweeting to keep your fans up to date.
Wikipedia Commons

Lissa: My Facebook page is something along the lines of: “Here’s an article on writing I found on someone else’s page, and a funny picture of a cat.” Whew! Social media done for the day! 

N. Wood: I'm kinda the same ;) I'm too busy writing to come up with my own articles, so if I spot one that's useful, I share it and give credit to the original poster.

Lissa: The ebook revolution has been amazing, but it’s made it a little harder for authors because there are so many of us out there. It’s like being in a football stadium full of people, all of them jumping and waving their books at a reader walking through.

For me, reviews from book bloggers seem to have been the most productive means of promotion. Has your experience been similar?

N. Wood: A positive review from bloggers can help a lot, especially if the review is honest. What nags me is when all the five star reviews on a book aren't deserved and are only there because of the author's friends to help bump the book. That's a big no-no, because then when someone unknown to the author reads it and thinks 'what a load of crap' they'll give a bad review and it's actually the bad reviews I think a lot of people look for first, so they know whether it's worth buying or not. If it says there's a lot of inconsistency and mistakes, they're going to pass it by.

Wikipedia Commons
Lissa: I was really wounded when a reviewer said all of my good reviews must have come from a “support group” of fans. (Which I wish I had!) I suppose people are a lot more suspicious these days with the scandals of authors buying reviews, and using sock puppets.

N. Wood: Oh yes, I agree there's a lot of scandal, especially if you are a known fan fiction author. A certain book ruined it for a lot of people, and now there's a big gang on Goodreads who'll give you one star without reading your work and mark you as a P2P – pulled to publish author – which severely damages a new authors reputation. I have many of them, and a lot of the shelves you're put on with Goodreads are rather crude and upsetting, such as: 'are you effing serious?', 'burn it now', and 'gonna be sick'. It takes one person to say it used to be fan fiction, and they all jump on the wagon to dish it without reading. Problem is on many occasions, it's been reworked a lot by the author that it's almost a brand new story.

A good thing to do is offer a free copy to those you know will make an honest review. I've done this a few times, handing out ARC copies, and the feedback has been honest and good.

Lissa: The fair feedback I got from my first novel helped to improve my second. I try to learn something new with each novel. Sometimes, criticism is a little difficult to take, but if there’s something you can learn from it, it’s incredibly valuable.

N. Wood: Also, I think being the word of mouth yourself is a good start too. Your followers will grow bored if all you talk about is your own work, so give a little love and promote stories you may have or may not have read yet, and do spots on your blog for other authors too, because it's a big circle and it'll come around back to you eventually.

Lissa: I’ve received such kindness from my fellow authors, and the only way I can pay it back is to pay it forward, which has been even more rewarding. I’ve met so many wonderful authors and made new friends all over the world.

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La Cala by N. Wood

Summary

When Lance McCarthy chose Ibiza for his holiday destination, he didn't expect to spend the week with Malachy Walsh, an Irish man dressed in blue striped pyjamas. La Cala is an erotic short story that may well bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.


Excerpt: 

       We sat at the table and ate in moderate silence, only breaking it with soft moans of approval at the taste of the food. It would help to soak up the alcohol and relieve us of some of our hangovers. After the last mouthful was swallowed, we reclined in our seats and patted our full stomachs, before he broke the silence.
“I can’t remember if I asked you, or if you told me, but what’s your name?” he asked, with a cute wrinkle to his forehead while he frowned.
“Lance,” I offered. “Lance McCarthy.”
“Lance.” He tested the name on his tongue. “I’ve never heard that name before, is it short for something? Closest I can think of is Sir Lancelot.”
I snorted as I chuckled, then shook my head. “Oh God, no, just Lance. I’d hate my parents if they had called me Lancelot.”
He laughed too, a deep, masculine sound, but it was musical to my ears and had me throbbing with the desire to have that as a soundtrack on repeat.
“Well, Lance, that was a great breakfast.” He rubbed his bare stomach for emphasis and peeked out his tongue, licking the last traces of taste from his lips.
“Thank you...uh...Mack, right?”
He stilled at my words, lifting his eyes from his empty plate to meet my gaze. “Oh, I did tell you my name then?”
“No.” I shook my head and nodded towards where his hand rested on his stomach, his fingertips idly scratching his full belly. “I just assumed because it’s written across your knuckles. The handwriting is the same as on your arms. You wrote it yourself, didn’t you?”
His eyes dropped to study the black ink on his fingers, one letter per knuckle, spelling out Mack. It had been one of the first things I had noticed about him, after the fact that he was so damned hot, of course.
He smiled to himself and I wondered what had made him do so, but he spoke before I could ask. “That’s just my nickname, what my friends back home call me and it’s easier for the customers to remember and pronounce than my real name.”
Customers? He must have meant those that allow him to mark them with permanent ink. He could mark me any time with ink, or his teeth...
I bit my lip to keep myself from thinking such thoughts, and realising I’d been quiet a little too long, I asked the ultimate question. “What is your real name?”
“Malachy Walsh,” he answered quickly, the words rolling into one with his thick brogue. When I didn’t react, he gave a knowing smile. “Like I said, Mack is easier.”
“No.” I shook my head. “I just didn’t hear it well with your accent. Malarkey Walsh?”
He chuckled at my attempt to speak his name. “No—Malachy. Mal-a-key.”
When I managed to pronounce it properly, he smiled and gave a nod while I repeated it a few times, liking the feel of it rolling off of my tongue.

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About the author:


N. Wood is a budding young author living in Cornwall, United Kingdom. She first gained an interest in writing when she became a published poet at the age of nine. Since then she's moved onto both short and novel length fiction with a M/M romance baseline.





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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed having this interview/conversation with you, Lissa! Thanks so much for having me!

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