Saturday, January 24, 2015

0 Mindee Arnett, author of POLARIS, on treating writing more like a craft than an art

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

With POLARIS I learned two critical things, both of them more affirmations than revelations. The first is that even when the writing is hard you have to push through it. That might seem self-evident, but it’s one of those things where you don’t really know what “hard” is until you’ve run smack into. The affirmation aspect of this is that I learned that I can push through it. I was in a very hard place emotionally when I started work on POLARIS, and it didn’t go away throughout the whole process. Some of it was struggles in my personal life and some of it is what I call the post publication blues. All writers get them and they are awful—the mean reds times a thousand. But the great thing is that even when it’s hard, the writing is always worth it. I’m proud of POLARIS, despite all the struggle or maybe because of it.

Secondly, I learned that it’s okay to channel your own emotions into a story. Like I said, I was in a very dark place when I wrote this book, and a lot of that darkness translates to the page. The main character Jeth struggles a lot in this book. I’m downright awful to him at times. But ultimately, I think that emotional struggle has a big payoff in the end, both for me personally and for the reader, I hope.

What do you hope readers will take away from POLARIS?

Like I mentioned above, POLARIS is a dark book, way darker than AVALON. The characters get hit with a lot. I don’t pull any punches. But my hope is that readers will tough out the hard parts and decide that the end was worth it.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My road to publication was both long and hard, but also fairly typical for most writers, I think. Over a period of about seven years, I wrote four complete novels (complete = beginning, middle, end and some revising, although not nearly enough), all of which did not sell. They still haven’t sold. They’re not worth going back to, they’re so bad. I also wrote dozens of short stories, some of which were published and many that never were. For those first four books I sent out a bunch of queries and received a bunch of rejections. But once I wrote my fifth novel – The Nightmare Affair – everything started to move fast. I sent out about 10 queries, and I found my agent in that first round. Less than two months later, I had a book deal.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

The only advice I ever have to give is always self-directed first. And the most important advice I ever gave myself was that you must learn to treat writing more like a craft than an art. Don’t get me wrong—it is an art, and no amount of technical skill will a good novel make—but if you don’t actually study the craft, attempt to learn some of the why/how/what behind the creation of your art, you’re going to have a very hard time getting better at it. You know? Without skill and study you end up trying to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome each time. This is basically what happened with my first four unpublished novels.

For me, this turn from regarding my writing as pure “art” to treating it like a skill made all the difference in breaking through. And the thing is, I’m still studying and trying new things even now. For example, I’ve always been more of a pantser, but within the last few months I’ve written two different outlines, one of them 15 pages long! If you’d asked me last year if I could write an outline of that length and detail I would’ve told you no way. But then my agent and I decided to send out my next projects as proposals and I had no choice but to learn how to do it. And you know what? It’s completely awesome. I’m so glad I’ve developed this skill. Everything new you learn is going to make you a better writer. It’s always a win.

What are you working on now?

I have two projects in the development stage. The first is a young adult high fantasy. The other is another sci-fi. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about a world where every human being is a carrier of a deadly virus. In 1 out of 5 people this dormant virus activates, turning the hosts into homicidal maniacs before it kills them. Of course, activation is most likely to occur during teenage years. So, you know, lots and lots of trouble for my young characters.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Polaris
by Mindee Arnett
Hardcover
Balzer + Bray
Released 1/20/2015

Following the events of Avalon, Jeth Seagrave and his crew are on the run. Jeth is desperate to find the resources and funding he needs to rescue his mother from an ITA’s research lab and leave this whole galaxy behind for a new life somewhere else. But the ITA is just as desperate, and soon Jeth finds himself pursued by a mysterious figure hell-bent on capturing Jeth and his crew—dead or alive. In a last-ditch effort to save everyone he holds dear, Jeth enters into a bargain with the last person he ever thought he'd see again: Dax Shepherd, the galaxy’s newest and most fearsome crime lord. And he’s not the only one: upon arriving back at Peltraz spaceport for the first time since he witnessed the death of his old employer, Jeth discovers Dax has a new partner: Jeth’s mother, Marian.

This shocking turn of events is only the first in another breathless, action-packed sci-fi adventure rife with danger, love, and betrayal, as Jeth has to once again ask himself how much he’s willing to invest in a morally bankrupt galaxy in the hopes of saving those he cares for.

Purchase Polaris at Amazon
Purchase Polaris at IndieBound
View Polaris on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mindee ArnettMindee Arnett is the author of two forthcoming young adult series. The first book in her contemporary fantasy series, The Nightmare Affair is forthcoming March 2013 from Tor Teen (Macmillan) while her YA sci-fi thriller, Finding Eden (tentative title) will debut Winter 2014 from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins). She lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She's addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space.

Her short stories have appeared in various magazines, including Happy, and she has received an honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. She has a Master of Arts in English literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media. She also blogs and tweets. Find her online at www.mindeearnett.com.

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