Mindee, what did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?
I learned so much during the writing process for this book, way more than any other so far. Part of the reason for that is that I did so much wrong in the early drafts. This is my first book with multiple points of view, and I went into that structure believing I knew how to do it. I was wrong. So, so wrong. But fortunately, my editor was able to give me just the right advice on how to fix the issues with it. But it took a lot of painful and strenuous rewriting. That said, what I primary learned is how critical it is to know two things when starting a story. First, you need to know your character’s arc. Or, when writing multiple-POV, all the arcs. Second, you need to know your antagonist’s motivations clearly and early. These two pieces—character arc and character motivation—are critically when writing a multiple POV book. Well, they’re critical in every book, of course, but a little easier to get a handle on in a single POV book.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
Like most it was a long, hard slog. I started off writing short stories in the sixth grade, and I focused on those all the way through college. I even managed to publish a few shorts. Then finally I turned my hand to my true love—novels. For some insane reason, I started writing my first book while working on my master’s degree. I completed it, revised it, and sent it out to agents and editors, only to receive universal rejections across the board. I then shelved the book and started on the next one to the same result—and the next one, and the next. I wrote four complete novels only to have everyone rejected. Before starting my fifth book, I decided that I needed to make a change in my writing process. Before, I simply sat down and wrote, completely by the seat of my pants. But for the fifth book, I decided to go into with a plan. Rather than rush through, I carefully planned things out as I went. This proved to be the magic formula. That book became the one that landed me my agent and my first book deal.
Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?
For sure, as I mentioned above, the key for me was realizing that being a complete pantser didn’t work for me. I had made the mistake of taking Stephen King’s writing advice in On Writing completely to heart. Although it’s a great book, King makes it seem like that to be a good writing all you need to do is just sit down and write your book. I felt that if I did any kind of planning or outlining at all that the book would be wooden and predictable. I was wrong (and he is wrong as well). I’ve since learned that all writers outline. We all do. Some of us do it by writing a first full draft like King. And some of us do it in actual outline form. The key to breaking through is to find the process that works for you. That said, if the process you’ve been using hasn’t gotten you through the door yet, then it’s time to change things up. Try a new approach and see if that doesn’t prove to be the solution.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
The most important advice I think any writer needs to hear is that you must protect your love of the story itself. In this business, there is a lot of discouragement. Even once you’ve been published, the discouragement and rejections don’t go away. In fact, they get harder. You’ve got to learn to love the writing process simply for the story itself and not for anything else. The story never disappoints or rejects. Not when it comes from you.
What are you working on now?
Up next, I’ve got the sequel and conclusion to Onyx & Ivory. Right now I’m in the early stages of a pretty amazing collaboration on a YA contemporary fantasy/paranormal, and I’m also doing prewriting for a middle grade fantasy. I hope to have more to share soon.
ABOUT THE BOOKOnyx & Ivory
by Mindee Arnett
Balzer + Bray
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.
Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.
And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.
With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A literacy advocate, Mindee is available for school and library visits, both in person and online, as well as writing workshops for both teens and adults. For more information on available presentations, click here.
Have you had a chance to read ONYX & IVORY yet? What form do your outlines take? Do you protect your love of the story? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Anisaa, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann