Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow blogger, L.S. Engler, had some very thought-provoking responses which I’m sure will interest you, as well. After you read her interview, please be sure to hop on over to her Blog account and follow her for a regular dose of her insight. And now, I turn the microphone over to Ms. Engler…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
It’s so funny; I always start my interviews out with this question, yet I hate answering it! But here we go: Hello, everyone! I’m L.S. Engler, and I grew up a farmgirl in Michigan, now transplanted into the Chicago suburbs. I have two cats who are the best things ever, and I’ve wanted to write stories since I was a wee little child playing Zork on our old Macintosh in the farmhouse office. My life has been a lot of crazy adventures leading up to this point, which is when I finally decided to drop my hamster-wheel day job and take on writing professionally once and for all. I’ve never been happier.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
Bowlful of Bunnies (collection of short stories): http://www.amazon.com/Bowlful-Bunnies-L-S-Engler-ebook/dp/B008CSRAVY/ref=la_B008MNDXME_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410101611&sr=1-2
The Slayer Saga: Soulless (Volume 1, zombie trilogy): http://www.amazon.com/The-Slayer-Saga-Soulless-Book-ebook/dp/B00MPXOO16
4. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
Right now, I’m really enjoying the crazy world of self-publishing, which I think it a great way to get your work out there into the world, to help build a platform, and honestly, just to get some people reading it, even if it’s not nearly the numbers it would likely be if I was traditionally published. Traditionally published, though, I wouldn’t be able to interact with my readers the way I do now, and I really enjoy that. Still, I grew up in academia, where traditional publishing is held up on such a high pedestal that I really would like to pursue that with a few of my books, as well. There’s just something about being accepted and being in actual book stores and watching the magic happen just because an editor believed in your work that would be phenomenal. There’s a term starting to float around, ‘hybrid writer,’ and that’s the kind of writer I want to be. The best of both worlds. I’m greedy like that.
5. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
As mentioned above, I’ve been whipping up stories for as long as I can remember, but it was around sixth grade that I really decided to get “serious” and sat down to write a novel. I remember it filled up two three-subject notebooks, a true epic, and I would give anything to find those notebooks again. I bet that story is hilarious. The funny thing is that I’m still working on that same book, only it’s been changed a lot in the past decades, that’s for sure.
6. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
My all-time favorite author is Terry Pratchett, who I wish I had discovered much sooner in my life. His Discworld series is such a joy, and I’m constantly astounded by how incredibly clever and deep those books can be at times. Of course, there are many authors after that who I love, far too many to mention, and I’m constantly reading a multitude of books. I won’t bore you with the long list of about ten books I’m currently reading through, but I will highlight the ones I’ve been enjoying the most. I’ve got Kay Kenyon’s “Seeds of Time” giving me a lot of really great ideas for some bad-ass science fiction, and Angela Misri’s “Jewel of the Thames” is a really charming read about a young woman following in Sherlock Holmes’s footsteps. I’m also rereading Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” a classic that I love more each time I pick it up.
7. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I have a Kindle, but it’s mostly just for cheap indie books that only come out in ebook form and to check the formatting on my own. You just cannot beat a real physical book. You can’t! I’m such a bibliophile and I would fill my room with books if I could. I almost practically have.
8. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
I always try to read 100 books every years, but I have never actually made that goal. My highest has been 73, my lowest was last year at 36. I’m not doing so hot this year; I think I’m only at about 12, but I think moving and publishing two books by the end of 2014 is a pretty decent excuse, don’t you? I tend to read short of a gazillion books at once, so I’ll go a long time without finishing one, then finish a handful all at once. Right now, I’m actively reading six, which is about average for me.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
9. What is the title of your current work in progress or the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
My most recent release is the first book in a trilogy about a post-apocalyptic world swarming with zombies, entitled “The Slayer Saga: Soulless.” In addition to the next book in the series, “Heartless,” I’ve also been working on a novel called “Madeline,” which will tell the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” from the perspective of the mysterious Madeline Usher.
10. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact inspiration for “Soulless,” because it seemed to have come out of nowhere, yet it was also a very distinct product of some things I was digging at the time of its inception. I knew I wanted to do something with zombies, thanks to a lot of “The Walking Dead,” and the setting in my mind was very “Thundarr the Barbarian,” though I’m discovering that not many people seem to have as many memories of that cartoon as I did. A world with hints of our own, but developed into its own world far, far removed from its unknown and mysterious path.
11. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Like I said before, “Soulless” takes place in a world overrun by zombies, called, as the title suggests, Soulless. It’s been centuries since they started to overtake the world, and humanity lives on the brink, slowly building itself up, only to be torn down again by these ravenous creatures. The legend of a great warrior, known as the Slayer of the Soulless, has been passed around the villages for years, and one young girl decided that she would rise above the ashes of her destroyed world to claim that title. As she grew up, she easily lived up to the title, traveling the world to protect the people and destroy the monsters. The semblance of safety starts to settle in, but, just as the Slayer visits a citadel in the mountains that hasn’t been attacked for as long as anyone can remember, a terrible plot rears its ugly head, one that will completely destroy everything she’s fought for her entire life. Will she be able to find the Queen in her floating airship before it’s too late? Or have the Soulless finally managed to triumph over the world, with the very help of the people who were supposed to help destroy them?
It’s part horror, part sci-fi/fantasy, part steampunk, all rolled up into an epic series with a strong female lead and a very unique world. One of my beta readers said it made her think of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets the Hobbit,” which I thought was pretty cool and accurate. I’ve also had people point out that it’s much different than what they expect from a zombie novel, which also makes me pleased as punch. I love surprising people, and I think I’ve done a good job of that in “Soulless”…and there’s even more surprises to come in the next two books.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
12. How often do you write?
Every day. It’s almost a necessity. Just as I start to feel really off if I don’t eat or sleep or shower, if I don’t write, my day is pretty much shot. Sometimes, it isn’t much. There are days when I can only have time to scribble down a few paragraphs. Other days, I can churn out a few chapters. But I have to write at least a little bit every day or I’m pretty sure I’ll lose my mind. Most of my writing gets done in the morning; I have three roommates, and I need quiet when I write, so I plug away as much as I can while they’re still sleeping. I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing a little bit before bed, too.
13. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
Even with the amount of confidence I have in my own editorial skills, I always have at least a few friends look it over to catch the things I miss. The more eyes you have on a document, the better. Of course, even with several people looking at it, you can still miss other things, so I’m considering sending my next book to a professional, though I’m not sure if it’s in the budget yet, unfortunately.
14. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I’m a pantser wishing desperately she could be a plotter, but, for the most part, the most detailed outline I whip up for a book shows the basics of the beginning, middle, and end. I have a general structure in mind, but I like to just go at it and see where the story takes me. In a way, I find this to be a good thing, because, if you’re flexible in the writing stage, you might be more flexible when it comes to editing. If you’ve had a set method in stone for the duration of the book, and then you come to discover that it’s better off without this part, or that this part has to change, wouldn’t that be difficult? I feel it’s easier to let go and change things in the pieces I haven’t planned as much as other pieces.
I also HAVE to write by hand first. I’ve tried writing on the computer, but I just can’t do it. There’s something about the physical act of pushing that pen on a paper and literally creating the words that revives me and energizes me. When I try to sit at a computer and make words for a story, I just end up staring blankly at it. Some people think it’s a waste of type, because I have to go and type it all up anyway, but, really, if you use the transcribing process as another way to edit and find parts of the story that need fixing, you’re using it as a second draft and revising period, and I really enjoy that.
15. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
This can vary on a variety of different factor, and it really depends on the book itself. It took me two years to finish the last full draft of “Serpent in a Cage,” but “Soulless” took me maybe four months. I’m trying to be more productive in my work, so I’m giving myself a few months to write the manuscript for the books in “The Slayer Saga,” a few months for brush up, and then it’s time to publish. Giving myself a deadline really helps to put the fire under my butt to get my work out, even though I’ll admit that, sometimes, I don’t feel they’re as ready as they could be. Still, if I waited until everything was perfect, I would never get anything published at all! Giving myself set deadlines and sticking to them has helped me break away from the never-ending spiral of constant nitpicking.
16. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
What writer doesn’t need a cup of coffee to help them out? I used to drink it all day, but I’ve limited myself to just one and, if I’m really in a zone, I’ll switch to tea. Beyond that, I need quiet, which can be really difficult to achieve at times, so I’m lucky if I get a few hours to myself some days. Other days, I seem to have the whole day for writing, and it’s glorious. I am at the whim of my roommates’ erratic schedules, but at least I always have an hour or two to myself in the morning with my cuppa, and that’s where some of the best magic happens. It also helps if I have my cats curled up next to me, purring or sleeping.
17. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
Usually, it’s the opposite. It’s real life that’s always getting in the way of my writing! There are (very, very rare days) when I get the chance to spend most of it working on my writing, and I do start to feel like maybe I should have been doing something else, especially if it’s a lovely day outside, but, really, my writing time is precious, and it’s the most important thing in my life right now, so why feel guilty? This IS my real life.
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
18. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
Ooh, that’s a tough question, especially because I have so many characters in my head at all times. If I limited it to the characters in “Soulless,” though, I think I would love to be the Queen. She’s got it made, floating above the world covered in zombies, protected in her floating airship. But she still goes around and helps people, delivering supplies and sometimes reinforcements for battle. As much as I’d like to be, I’m probably not much of a fighter, so a life in the airship would be better suited for me. The Queen is so graceful and elegant in a world filled with roughness and death, so that would be rather lovely, too.
Thank you, L.S., for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.