ANNE PETTY INTERVIEW AND BOOK GIVEAWAY
Today, it is with great pleasure that I welcome author Anne Petty with an insightful interview. She has graciously allowed one lucky commenter to enter to win Shaman’s Blood and Thin Line Between for commenting on this interview. All you have to do is enter the giveaway is follow Anne Petty on her BLOG and leave your email address. You can also find her on Goodreads Anne Petty on Goodreads.
About this author
(From Anne’s Goodreads author page)
Writer, editor, publisher, anime/manga addict. Tastes run toward the dark side.
Anne Petty (Ph.D. in English, Florida State University) has over 30 years’ experience in the wordsmithing field as teacher, author, editor, and publisher.
Anne explores myth, legend, and the world of J.R.R. Tolkien in her online blog and her published non-fiction writing—Tolkien in the Land of Heroes (2005, a Mythopoeic Society Award Finalist), Dragons of Fantasy (2nd ed. 2008), and One Ring to Bind Them All (2nd ed. 2001). Chapters in anthologies include contributions to Modern Critical Views (2000); Tolkien Studies (2004); More People’s Guide to J. R. R. Tolkien (2005); Tolkien and Shakespeare (2007); Good Dragons Are Rare (2009); and Light Beyond All Shadow (2011).
Anne also writes dark urban fantasy/horror fiction. The first novel in her Wandjina series was Thin Line Between (2005), and the follow-up novel, Shaman’s Blood, is due out later in 2011. Recent short stories include “The Veritas Experience” published in The Best Horror, Fantasy, & Science Fiction of 2009 (Absent Willow Review). Another story, “Blade,” received Honorable Mention in AWR’s 2010 Best Horror, Fantasy, & Sci Fi competition.
Anne is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the Mythopoeic Society, and the Tolkien Society. She is a founding member of the Tallahassee Writers Association and is a regular presenter at writers’ conferences and pop-culture conventions such as Dragon-Con in Atlanta. In 2006, she founded Kitsune Books, a small press specializing in literary novels, short story collections, book-length poetry collections, and literary criticism. Kitsune Books authors have won Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards from the Florida Book Awards and the Florida Publishers Association.
How long did it take you to write Shaman’s Blood and Thin Line Between??
That’s a little hard to answer, because with both books I didn’t work on them consistently every day. I worked on them off and on for a number of years. I got the idea for Thin Line Between decades ago when the first job I took out of college was as a lab assistant in a natural history museum that everyone who worked there claimed was haunted. It gave me the setting and the idea of an art exhibit where paranormal phenomena occurred.
It took me much longer to complete Thin Line Between than Shaman’s Blood because of the initial research required for the first book. I spent a lot of time reading collections of Dreamtime legends, novels by Australian authors who used the Dreamtime in their plots, and a LOT of nonfiction, documentary material on Australia and its indigenous populations. I also spent a lot of time looking a photographs and videos of the areas I wanted to use for the Australian parts of the novel, and read a lot of archival magazines and newspapers from the 60’s and 70’s, to get the slang right for the time period. By the time Thin Line Between was published, I had a huge amount of research material to draw from. The time spent writing the sequel, Shaman’s Blood, was maybe four or five years, but there were long periods when I set it aside and worked on other things.
Are your characters other aspects of you?? Or do you just see them as an outside observer??
I find it very easy to inhabit the heads of my main characters, so I think all of them have some parts of myself in them. The mother/daughter dynamic and the way they relate to each other was closely drawn from my own experiences. But Nik and Ned also have certain character traits that probably come from me…Nik’s attention to detail and Ned’s artistic abilities. I felt especially close to Ned in Shaman’s Blood, and felt like I understood him really well. I loved writing his parts of the book because that required me revisit the 60’s, one of my favorite decades. Other characters were inspired by people I have known or met over the years, and a few were just fashioned out of thin air.
Do you listen to music when you write? And if you do, what would be on your playlist?
It varies with my mood. I usually don’t have anything playing while I’m writing because I can’t hear the characters’ voices clearly if songs with lyrics are playing in the background. But if I’m tired or feeling uninspired, music can make a difference. I like a wide variety of music. I listen to a lot of anime soundtracks and love the work of Yoko Kanno (soundtracks to Ghost in the Shell, Wolf’s Rain, Escaflowne, and Cowboy Bebop). I also like J-rock, especially bands like MUCC and BUCK-TICK. I like old-school industrial and hard-core bands like Rammstein, NIN, Ministry, and Skinny Puppy. I also listen to a lot of Celtic bands like Altan, Capercaille, and artists like Cara Dillon and Dougie Maclean. I love classical music, especially keyboard music of Bach, Chopin, and Liszt (holdover from my piano student days). So depending on my mood, any of these might end up in the headset. If I’m writing to music, I typically select something from my iTunes library on the computer and listen through headphones.
What do you do before you sit down to write? How do you get into the zone??
I have to admit that I’m not very disciplined about writing when it comes to my long fiction projects. I’m amazed by people who have set times every day where they write for a specific amount of time or have goals to finish a specific amount of words at one sitting. I rarely work like that. I can find limitless ways to procrastinate and let myself be sidetracked before my writing brain finally engages and gets down to business. When I’m working on a short story or piece of flash fiction, it’s easier to sit down and get right into it. But for novels, I spend a lot of time just sitting and thinking about the story before I actually start typing. The complex intertwined storylines of Shaman’s Blood required a lot of work to keep them moving on their own and in tandem, so I spent hours thinking about the ebb and flow of the narrative and moving chapters around or adding & deleting material to keep the momentum going.
My writing routine (if you can call it that) usually goes like this. I brew a pot of loose leaf tea (probably something from Silk Road Teas, like Clouds & Mist), find a munchy of some kind, check email while the tea’s brewing, maybe read back through the previous chapter or two and edit a bit just to get the characters’ voices talking in my head again, then try to stick with it for an hour or two. If I get stuck or just feel mentally fatigued, I get up and go take a walk in the woods (my husband and I live on a 10-acre wooded tract in rural Wakulla County, Florida. That usually clears my mind and lets my characters start talking on their own without any deliberate pushing from me. I carry a small notebook with me in case I want to jot down something that I don’t want to forget before I get back to the computer. If the cat insists on writing with me, I have to get her settled, heat up my tea, and then get back into the flow of the story.
Give your top 3 books and why you like them?
At the top of my list is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which was originally one long book that his publisher decided would be easier to market as three separate volumes. I’d read The Hobbit years ago, but got seriously interested in Tolkien’s masterwork LOTR when I started college. I was fascinated by the depth of his worldbuilding and especially his invented languages. I wrote my dissertation on how Tolkien uses the archetypal pattern of the hero’s quest on many levels. What strikes me most about LOTR is the emotional and intellectual impact Tolkien’s creation continues to have on readers over 50 years since it was first published.
My second choice is John Barth’s The Sotweed Factor. It’s a great bawdy, epic satire, set in 17th century England, where a failed minor British poet named Ebenezer Cooke gets shipped off to the American colonies to become, against his will, the Poet Laureate of Maryland. The writing is sheer genius — laugh-out-loud hilarious with a conclusion that’s gut-wrenchingly sad. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever read that would qualify as what critics call “The Great American Novel.”
My third choice is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Some of the first fiction I read as a child were the horror works of Stoker, Lovecraft, and Poe. That early gothic style, which is more about psychological terror than much of today’s modern gorefests, simply can’t be surpassed in terms of atmosphere and suspense. Dracula is the motherlode where it all started. I’ve tried to incorporate some of that narrative sensibility into all my dark-fantasy/horror fiction.
How do you connect with your characters? In dreams? Inner monologues??
Oddly enough, I almost never dream about books I’m writing. What I do is spend a lot of time day-dreaming about the story and listening to the characters talk. Frequently I’m running possible scenes from the book in the back of my mind while doing mundane things like the laundry or grocery shopping. As I said earlier, walking along our property through huge beeches and oaks is very productive. Whole sections of a book might begin to write itself this way.
What inspires your creations??
My main influences come from the years I spent studying world myth, legend, and folklore in college, especially Norse mythology and more recently the Australian Dreamtime legends. As a student, I was highly influenced by the writings of Joseph Campbell and his ideas of the mythic imagination.
The very first horror books I read as a child were Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe. Those three books kicked my nine-year-old brain off the rails and into the dark woods of the imagination. Also on the family bookshelves were works by H. P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells, and Frank Baum, which I read and reread with utter fascination. More recent fantasy works that have inspired me are Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea books and Tad Williams’ War of the Flowers. I also read a lot of Richard Matheson, Steven King, Dean Koontz, Joe Lansdale, Peter Straub, and Clive Barker. I do love a good fangfest, although to work for me, vampires MUST have sharp canines. I’m always on the lookout for fresh crossover horror/dark-fantasy fiction, especially if it’s tinged with that special psychological darkness that takes your breath away.
If you could be any character in a book, who would you be and why?
I would probably choose to be Zed, the wizard in Le Guin’s Earthsea books, because he could speak the language of dragons, the most ancient race of beings in her invented world.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? What path did you follow to lead you to your destination?
I know this may sound trite, but I’ve always wanted to write. Even at age seven and eight, I was writing little one-paragraph stories and drawing cartoon strips with big word balloons for the characters’ dialog. I was a very early reader and developed a love of books that has never gone away. I was the kid who often turned in two or three book reports in high school English class when many students struggled to complete just one. There was never any question in my mind as to what my college major would be – English Literature/Creative Writing. I took an accelerated track through the English degree program that allowed me to graduate with my Ph.D. in six years.
I taught English at the high school and university levels, but then got recruited into private enterprise as Publications Director for a company producing multimedia educational materials. I’ve also done a lot of freelance editing and book-doctoring, and have stayed in the publishing/editing/writing field ever since. I’d published three books of literary criticism before completing my first dark-fantasy novel. Now I’m mostly focused on my fiction writing, and only occasionally do an academic non-fiction article or something like that.
If you could travel in time, where would you like to go and why?
I would definitely go back to the Jurassic or Triassic. I really want to know what T-Rex did with those tiny little useless-looking arms! And I’d love to know what colors and markings the dinosaurs really had, and what hadrasaurs sounded like.
How do you see your books? In an outline, in chapters, in fragments?
I’ve written about this in my blog, but I’ll summarize it here. When I write long fiction, I almost always know the beginning and the ending of the novel – in fact, I usually can see those two critical scenes in some detail. Then I like to clearly chart my path from that starting point to the finish line. This road map might look more like numbered short chapter sketches than a hierarchical outline, but my brain works in spatial mode so that I’m always trying to picture the shape of the book, where the energy peaks and falls. I like to know clearly where I’m going, and how I’m going to get there. I allow myself to change things up if I find I’ve painted myself into a corner somewhere, but usually I’ll stick to that road map pretty closely.
I know this doesn’t work for everyone, and I really am in awe of writers who can just sit down with an idea and no final destination in mind, letting the story follow its own course. I’m the kind of person who packs for a trip days in advance, using a detailed list made the week before! I want all those details in place before I get on board and buckle up, so to speak. Charting the plot of a novel is a bit like that for me, although a little less controlling. But not much. It really helps me to visualize the storyline if I can see how many chapters fall into the beginning of the journey, the complications along the way, and the climax of the literary trip. I like to color-code these chapter sketches according to the energy level – blue for background narrative, purple for setting mood and atmosphere, green for rising action, and red for peak events. That way I can see the entire shape of the book at a glance, which helps me adjust things as I go along.
If I cut sections out, I keep the chapter sketch in place but redlined through, so I can see how that changes the dynamics of the book’s ebb and flow. And if I want to use that deleted material somewhere later, I know where it came from in the storyline and what the motivations were. Working from an outline like this also helps me plant things along the way and keep track of important plot points that I might otherwise forget or not pay off at the end. It helps me keep continuity (along with many copious lists of people, places, things, etc.) as the book progresses.
I’m an organized kind of writer who writes best with the road map in front of me. And if this sounds a little anal-retentive, you should see what happens when I write non-fiction pieces requiring a lot of research. >.<
If you had a million dollars, what would you spend it on and why?
I’d use it to establish a first-class writer’s retreat in a setting out of the city, maybe in the mountains or along a picturesque shore, where aspiring writers could come stay for short or more extended sessions. They’d have the solitude to completely immerse themselves in their work in progress, as well as have access to seminars and consultations with name writers who wanted to share their expertise and knowledge. Book consultations would be available, as well as group sessions where writers could read and respond to each others’ work.
What future book projects are you working on??
I’m just getting started on a new novel called The Cornerstone (not part of my Dreamtime series). The basic premise is how to catch a banshee. I have the plot pretty well nailed down, and now I’m starting to flesh out my chapter sketches. I’ve also got a couple of short stories and a flash fiction piece underway.
Feel free to share any other thoughts that you would like to share with your readers.
This past weekend I was on the faculty at the 2011 Rosemary Beach, Florida Writer’s Conference, chaired by novelist John Dufresne. We had a wonderful gathering of participants, with an impressive array of talent. The main messages that they came away with are worth sharing here:
1. Be professional – If you want to get published, you must think of yourself as a writer and not a hobbyist. Read submission guidelines carefully, and always check the publisher’s website to see if there are updates in their submission policies. Be professional in all your dealings with agents, editors, and publishers. If an editor rejects your work but gives you some advice, consider that golden — most rejections are just a form letter. Don’t argue or flame a publisher for rejecting you – editors and publishers talk to each other and share information about writers who seem promising or those who seem like they may be hard to work with. Burning bridges is not a way to further your writing career!
2. Read widely in many different genres and styles, not just the ones you like the most. You can learn a tremendous amount about plot pacing, tuning your ear to dialogue and description, and bringing characters to life by reading the work of others. Don’t ignore the classics – they’re called that for obvious reasons. Take a look at Aristotle’s Poetics. Everything you need to know about plot and structure is all there.
3. Develop a thick skin and don’t give up. The more you send your work out, polish it, edit it, polish it some more, and keep sending it out, the more likely you are to find just the right publisher for your work.
4. Join a critique writer’s group, or a book discussion group. Take some writing classes or seminars. Go to writers’ conferences. Always try to keep learning your craft and finding new ways to develop your skills.
5. And above all, keep writing.