7 Questions With Author L.A. Myles
L.A. Myles has been making up stories since before she could write. First through songs, then poetry. Once prose entered the scene, novel writing was inevitable.
A fantasy fiction girl through and through, L.A. loves to write stories that will whisk the reader away to different worlds, plunging them into action and adventure with hints of romance and dashes of magic. Along the way, if she can inspire even a handful of individuals to embrace their power, just as her characters learn to embrace theirs, then she will consider her work an enormous success. If she can also make the mundane world more tolerable, she will be delighted.
L.A.’s debut novel Liquid Fire is due out fall of 2019. And while Liquid Fire is a young adult fantasy novel, she has another novel in the works, Doorways, which is new adult fantasy. She also has short stories ranging from high fantasy to magic realism.
Born and raised in Northern California’s wine country, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two children, cat, beta fish, and, as of June of this year, six guinea hens.
Of all the social media platforms, L.A. is most active on Twitter. She is also sharing parts of her works-in-progress and short stories on Wattpad and is, kinda sorta, on Facebook. Come check out what’s happening at her website.
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What’s your definition of the first draft?
Writing is such an evolutionary process. For me, a story begins as an image, a scene, and from there it builds as the characters reveal themselves and their situation unfolds. The information first comes as a flood, which I jot down as quickly as I can in a very rough outline. From that outline (it rarely has more than major scenes), I start filling in all the missing chunks and connecting scenes.
During this time I also work on expanding my character interviews where I ask the characters all sorts of questions – everything from favorite color, favorite food, how they learned to fight, weapon of choice, to how they feel about the current ruling situation and dealing with their elders. I also work on maps with travel times, landmarks, and that sort of thing. It’s really a great time to expand the universe and clarify my knowledge of that world.
The draft that has all its scenes, minor and major, is what I call the zero draft. It invariably has a few – insert name here – in it, but it has everything else. Which means working on names and consistency in the language is next on the hit list. I also create a spreadsheet to track all my information to make sure I have no oddities happening. I don’t want to have a road trip to town Z take three days in the first half of the novel, and then two weeks in the second half when they are traveling by the same method and in the same conditions.
Once I have all the names in place, the travel times the same, and everything else lining up, that’s what I consider the first draft. It will need a lot of trimming out of excess words as I over communicate everything about the characters and the world. But all of that will be fixed in the edits after the first draft.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your journey?
Become active in social media earlier. I’m naturally a social media hermit. I’ve had a Facebook account for years but until recently I only ever used it for messaging my friends who live overseas or in different states. It’s been a running joke among people who know me that I’m never on it.
When I finally got to the place of having a finished novel, I realized just how important social media has become. (I know. I know. Slow on the uptake on that one. But better late than never.)
My niece talked me into joining Twitter, and I discovered the amazing #WritingCommunity on there. That opened up all sorts of doors for me. The writers I’m in contact with on Twitter are very supportive and helpful. It’s been incredible to be part of a supportive writing community again.
Twitter hosts #Pitmad, which is this amazing day-long event where writers can tweet pitches, and agents and publishers are on Twitter watching for those tweets. The rules are strict about how many characters you can use, etc., but the opportunity is there to create some great contacts and to support your fellow authors. Also, it’s educational to see what pitches create interest, both my own and other people’s that I’ve retweeted.
Twitter is also how I discovered the small press, Phoenix Manifest Publishing, that eventually accepted my manuscript and with whom I’m now working to publish Liquid Fire.
How do you manage to juggle life and writing?
While writing Liquid Fire I was a new mom to my second child and working 40-plus hours a week. So writing time was limited to about 20-minutes a day after everyone else was settled for the night and right before I passed out from exhaustion.
Strangely, now that I have the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom, the writing/me-time hasn’t increased all that much. For me, family comes first, so I still do most of my writing right before I go to sleep and after everyone else is settled for the night. Actual time at the keyboard has increased to anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, but nighttime is still when I do the bulk of my writing.
My youngest is now blossoming out of toddler range, so she will at least give me a little time in the late morning for checking social media and that sort of thing. But she is still young enough to think she’ll stop existing if I’m not paying 100% attention to her, which is not conducive to focusing on writing. So, it’s a lot of balancing my time and honoring the fact I need to write to help take care of myself.
I’ve also learned to accept there will always be more housework, more yardwork, more everything-work than what I can get done, and taking care of me by making time to write is just as important as getting all those tasks done. The tasks will still be there tomorrow. And if I want my sanity to be there to take care of them, I need to write.
What should readers expect from your next novel?
I have two in process, and I’m not sure which will be out first. One novel is the second book in the series (after Liquid Fire), and it’s focused on the main character coming to terms with what’s happened and happening to her.
She’s fighting to remain who she was instead of accepting who she’s becoming, and her relationships with those around her suffer because of that. It also puts her in an unhealthy place mentally. She has a lot to deal with, and she’s really going to have to suck it up and get on with things if she hopes to live. The book is fully outlined, but not yet a complete first draft.
The other novel is a NA fantasy tentatively entitled Doorways, which is about a college art student who’s thrown into a different world. In that medieval setting she has to learn who she can trust in order to survive long enough to find a way home. That story is in the second round of beta readings.
I think after betas there will be one more round of edits before it is ready to start querying. Since the editing stage can go on forever if you let it, I plan to cut it off after this stage unless something major comes up. This particular work has been through a lot of both major and minor edits already, so it will be time for it to go out into the wider world.
What’s the best advice/feedback on writing you’ve ever received?
Two spring to mind. One is a comment from a reader of Doorways for the chapters I’d posted on Wattpad. (Wattpad is an awesome place to post chapters to get beta reading and critiques. The down side is some publishers won’t pick up stories that have been fully published on that platform. It’s an interesting conundrum.)
Anyway, I got this wonderful comment from a reader- “I truly love your story. Your characters feel so real (even the mythical ones!).” That comment made my week and then some!
The other is feedback I received from an editor early on with Liquid Fire regarding making my story more believable. They pointed out that if I have a noble in my story doing something like shoveling manure, I needed to justify the action within the story, because most readers will judge the believability of a story based on the history of our own world.
So if I’m writing a novel that even loosely resembles medieval Europe, readers will have certain expectations – like nobles would never do anything to get their hands physically dirty. If I’m going to have my noble do something that would be uncommon in our own history, then I need to justify the action within the logic of my world.
It’s a little thing, but it really changed the way I worked with certain elements in the story and really helped me ground the actions. It also helped shift my viewpoint, and I really like the changes it brought about in the strength of the story.
What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
Fantasy. The first novels I read in the genre were Ursula K. Le Guin’s EarthSea and Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I think that was around 4th or 5th grade. Reading Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles is what really sealed the deal for me though.
Their worldbuilding is so incredible and the personification that happens where even the wind can seem alive, left a huge impression on me. From then on, 95% of what I read (outside of school books) was fantasy. The rest was poetry and various books friends gave me to read.
I’m an avid reader too. I used to devour books and would look for the longest book I could find when choosing books at the bookstore, just so I didn’t have to come back in two days to buy another book. I can spend hours in a library or bookstore pouring over books. I love it.
I lived in Ireland for a number of years and there was an amazing used bookstore near my flat. I had to ban myself from there for a time just so I could catch up on all the novels I’d bought before I purchased more. The college library over there was awesome too, and I would sit on the floor between the bookshelves and go over book after book.
I still love reading and that immersion into other worlds. I just don’t have the time I used to so I have a massive TBR list now.
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
I love this question, especially because I write fantasy. A lot of people don’t realize how much research goes into fantasy writing, you know, since it’s all made up in your head. But fantasy writers spend a ridiculous amount of time researching all sorts of things.
How fast can a horse walk? If traveling by caravan, how long would it take to travel fifteen miles? What kind of food was the common staple for the middle class in 12th century Europe? How long does it take to die from a stab wound to the armpit? How often do those wounds go septic, and what does that smell/feel/taste like? What did people use to make their houses in the 12th century? What did they use for ‘toilet paper’ or did they bother? There’s everything from how to plant, what plants grow best in what climates, to weaponry and fighting styles, and so much more.
In addition to that research, there are a myriad of other world building items you need to work on such as mapping, currency, religious belief structures, clothing styles, availability of certain textiles… The list goes on and on. Some of the work will show up on the pages of your manuscript, but the vast majority will hide behind the scenes creating the layers upon layers that will make the world believable.
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