February 26, 2003

: a continuation of last week’s interview feature. For part 1 see: http://www.ausu.org/voice/articles/articledisplay.php?ART=425

Q. What is your writing process? Do you sit with a paper and pen, hit a typewriter or use a word processor?

A. I use a combination of longhand and pc for most of my work. In the planning stages, I draw out complicated diagrams, like those flow-charts we used to do in high-school, with boxed items and lines running from box to box. When I’m into the actual writing process for a novel, I compose directly on-screen, but take lots of hard-copies, because I like to edit by hand. I write short fiction and poetry in longhand, always. Yellow legal pads and a nice black ballpoint pen.

Q. How often do you write? Do you ever slip up or go on vacation?

A. I try to write every morning except Sundays, from about 7 a.m. until noon. Not everything produced in that time is usable – much of it is garbage. I try to have a couple of projects on the go at once, in order to avoid getting stuck in BlockLand. After a novel is complete, I usually take a few weeks off to let the fizzing in my brain settle down a bit. I read all the time and I don’t have a TV, I stare off into space a lot, and I’m fairly active outdoors, and I figure that even if I’m not writing, I’m working. A writer’s mind never really shuts down.

Q. The process of writing can be tough. Do you fight to create good stories for Polly or is there a massive group of plots ready to go?

A. I keep an ideas notebook on the go at all times, but I don’t have Polly-plots ready-made. Life is too fast for that – I prefer to throw ideas into the stew and let them bubble for a while. Chiefly, the plot for a book will emerge out of whatever I’m interested in at the time – some line of research, or a place I’ve visited, or something I’ve overheard in a restaurant. Life is material, so I’ve not yet been troubled by a lack of ideas. Too many of them at once, usually.

Q. How long did you write before you were published? What was your reaction to your first cheque?

A. I had been publishing short fiction and poetry since university-days, which gradually morphed into a desire to write full-time. I think my first thing in print was a poem. My first novel was rejected by 17 publishers before it found a home, which is not uncommon. Every time it was rejected, I tried to make it a bit better. The first time you’re paid anything at all for doing the thing you’re passionate about – it’s magic.

Q. How long does it generally take to put a book together from start to finish?

A. It takes me about a year to write a novel. And it takes a publisher about nine months from receiving the final manuscript to its being an actual book. In between, there are re-writes, editing, proofing the galleys, then the publisher gets their marketing and distribution machines in gear – it’s a long process. By the time a book comes out, the author is generally well into the next one, and can hardly remember what the last one is about.

Q. I hope you’ll let me know if you come to Calgary or the general area on a book tour. Do you do book tours? What is the schedule like and how far have you gone?

A. I’d like to do more book tours – I enjoy them enormously. It’s expensive, though, and not every small publisher can afford to send its authors across the country. I have toured a fair bit in Ontario, but not out of province – yet. When they send me to Calgary, I’ll let you know – I’d love to come and visit.

Q. If you had one wish as a writer what would it be?

A. Here’s a joke – A writer is working away at a book, and suddenly Satan appears in a flash of smoke. “I’ll make you the most famous, celebrated, best-selling, popular writer on the planet,” he says. “All you have to do is give me your spouse, your kids, your pets, your mother and father and your soul.” The writer reaches for a pen to sign on the dotted line and then stops. “Wait,” the writer says. “What’s the catch?”

I would wish for all of those things, without the necessity of any pact with the devil.

Q. Have you read any other series books by authors of similar genre? I’m thinking of Lillian Jackson Braun and her The Cat Who :series.

A. Oddly enough, I haven’t, though I try to keep up with what other series writers are doing. Too many books – too little time. I hear they’re great fun, though.

Q. Do you use any particular writing tools–software? I have just purchased Fiction Master and find it helpful so far.

A. I’ve read about these kinds of plot-helpers, and been intrigued by them, but that’s as far as I’ve gone. I’d rather do it the hard way. I use MS Word, and write my books one word at a time. Still, I think such programs can probably be enormously useful as a way to get past writer’s block, and to teach you about structure.

Mel, it’s been a distinct pleasure interviewing you. I look forward to all your future books, to reading some of your poetry and (hopefully) meeting you some day.

Take care, Laura.

Thanks. This has been a blast.

– Mel

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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