Ed: Howdy! As I hear writers are creative people, please answer each of the following biographic questions twice, once with the truth and once with a lie.
SA: Emma Jameson and S.A. Reid. And…. Stephanie Abbott. But I’m far better known as those first two names.
Ed: Where you from?
SA: London. Actually – Jacksonville, Florida.
Ed: Day job?
SA: Sharecropper. Okay, I’m really a full time writer. But that statement may be subject to change without notice.
Ed: Same general payment plan for writing and sharecropping, I believe. How about a Dream job?
SA: Ophthalmic medical technologist. Hah, I crack myself up. My dream job is – Batman.
Ed: And the inevitable, Why do you write?
Ed: Beats bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee. So weird that video was “cutting edge graphics” within a single lifetime…
Now that nobody under thirty knows what we are talking about, let’s return to full honesty (or as close as writers get) for….THE LIGHTNING ROUND!
Game: Any permutation of Diner Dash
Album: Currently, “Ceremonials” by Florence + the Machine (also subject to change without notice)
Color: Blue. No, yellow! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….
Animal: I have three felines here telling me the only correct answer is, cat.
Piece of clothing: Sweatpants.
Movie: My sentimental choice would be The Empire Strikes Back. No, I won’t call it Episode V.
TV show: Currently, Game of Thrones. With Big Bang Theory a close second.
Drink: Gin and tonic
Song: Currently, Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain”
Line from a song: “Something for the rag and bone man/Over my dead body” from Radiohead’s “Go To Sleep”
Pizza topping: Pepperoni
Place: Destin, Florida, aka the Redneck Rivera
Three random things about yourself, please.
- I had to stop playing the Sims 2 for fear that if I kept it up, I’d never write anything again.
- Part of me is still fairly certain the entire history chronicled in The Lord of the Rings actually happened.
- I taught myself to swim when I was 35.
Ed: Oh, ditto on the Sims 2, I’ve discussed that elsewhere under the heading “My Writer’s Kryptonite.” 😉
Plotter or Pantser?
SA: Overarching plotter. Small and medium detail pantser.
Ed: What’s the Best and Worst advice you ever got as a writer?
SA: Best advice – Stop overthinking it and do it. (From my friend Debbie Hall.)
Worst advice – If you self-publish, you’re throwing your potential career away. (From folks who shall remain unnamed.)
Ed: Best/Worst thing about being a writer?
SA: Best – Writing.
Worst – Writing stuff that turns out to be faulty and having to rewrite it, sometimes more than once.
SA: Because the Big Six route never happened for me. Talk about a blessing! I am very grateful I was pushed down the Indie route. It’s been wonderful.
Ed: Is being a writer what you expected? How so or how not?
SA: It’s better than I imagined, honestly. The occasional note from a fan makes it all worthwhile. Still, I never dreamt I’d have to do so much self-promotion. Fortunately, because it’s a tight wire, and sometimes a nightmare.
Ed: Have you, or would you ever, collaborate on a story?
SA: What a timely question! My first collaboration, Manhandled, was recently published via KDP Select. My co-author, Rosemary O’Malley, has been my best friend since we were eleven, yes, eleven years old. And we had a terrible time collaborating, LOL! Looks like when it comes to writing, we both have control issues.
Ed: If you were starting to write for the first time, what would you do different?
SA: I would Google the term “Mary Sue” and save myself ten years.
Ed: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?
SA: Many good writers let themselves be silenced forever by the fear of criticism. It’s like Marty McFly’s line in Back to the Future – “I just don’t think I could handle that kind of rejection.” You have to take your lumps. You have to let people give their opinions, bad as well as good. And you have to believe in your writing so much, you will put aside hurt feelings long enough to decide what is useful criticism and what is not.
Ed: As usual. Michael J. Fox has shown us the way. 😉
What’s the moral of the story?
SA: Do what you love, and the personal satisfaction will follow. You may still end up working part-time at Starbucks. But you’ll be satisfied.
Ed: Now let’s talk about books…that would have been a really weird Salt n Pepa track. Anyway…
What’s the biggest consideration when you are deciding what book to read?
SA: Blurb and sample. Though I have been swayed by personal recommendations from friends.
Ed: You are looking at the back of a book in a bookstore, reading on online blurb, or whatever. What sort of thing makes you say “yes,” what sort of things makes you say “pass?”
SA: “Yes,” if I am absorbed or intrigued. “Yes,” if the writing pulls me into this other world, be it a fantasy realm or stark realism. “Yes,” if something about the lead character’s situation makes me eager to learn more.
“Pass,” if the blurb is poorly written, too vague or too excruciatingly detailed. “Pass,” if the lead character reads like someone’s “Mary Sue” – their blatant wish-fulfillment alter ego. “Pass,” if I feel like I’ve been there, got the t-shirt.
Ed: Oy, I hear you on that “wish-fulfillment” main character. It’s usually enough for me to see the MC has the same name as the author to put me off my feed…unless it’s an autobiography. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah.
What genre do you enjoy most?
SA: I can’t make it any narrower than “fiction.” I love mysteries and fantasy novels, true, but I also enjoy well-done romances of every kind, thrillers, satirical novels (like Carl Hiaasen) and visionary science fiction. Some of the most thoughtful books I’ve ever read have been YA or middle grade Newberry Award winners. So I can’t really answer that question.
Ed: What genre would you read only if you lost a bet?
SA: When I worked in the bookstore, there was a small subset of the “Western” section called “White Indian.” It is exactly what you might think. Now, heaven knows Hombre is one of my favorite movies. But I’m not reading any “White Indian” novels. I was already forced to endure Dances With Wolves once, and once was enough.
Ed: “Tatonka.” Do you have a favorite author, and do you think they influence your own writing?
SA: I have several favorites, but I don’t know that my favorites truly influenced me. These include Jane Austen, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, M.C. Beaton, Nevada Barr, Ellis Peters and T.H. White. Having said that, there was a formative time in my life when I read everything a certain writer named Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote (best known for The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series). I could tell you all about her strengths and weaknesses as a novelist. And I fear I have inherited all her weaknesses!
Ed: Heh, I remember hauling a hardcover of “Avalon” around in Jr. High some time, that thing was a brick. 😉
Do you have a favorite book, and how many times have you read it?
SA: That would probably be one of the following:
The Once and Future King, by T.H. White
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
The Heritage of Hastur, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
I have no idea how often I’ve read them. But I can quote passages of all three from memory. Did you know there’s a homage in The Empire Strikes Back to a passage in Gone with the Wind? Oh, yes! I may be one of the few girl geeks who knows.
What’s the first book you remember buying with your own money?
SA: Tricky, because my parents were always good for a loan if I wanted a book. Um – after earning my first paycheck, I think I bought Frank Miller’s graphic novel, “The Dark Knight Returns.”
Ed: Any books you have been told you should read, and know you probably never will?
SA: I have been told I might enjoy “On Writing,” by Stephen King. Nope. Not gonna.
Ed: That book is actually in my “okay” file, as in nobody ever would have heard of it if King hadn’t written it.
Ever lied about reading, or not reading, a book?
SA: All the time, in high school. I faked my way through an essay about “The Red Badge of Courage” pretty well. And in college, I refused to finish the old English version of the “The Canterbury Tales.” Only time I ever turned to Ye Olde Cliff’s Notes to see me through.
Ed: Technically, that’s “Middle English.” Old English is more like German. 😉
Ever read a book you were sure you were going to like, and not liked it?
SA: Yes, most recently “Hastur Lord” by Marion Zimmer Bradley (not really) and Deborah J. Ross (MZB’s sister in law and a lovely woman, from what I can tell). Terrible, terrible, terrible book.
Ed: Ever grudgingly read a book, and loved it?
Often. Most recently a serialized online offering by Subtilior called “Nine Eleven Ten.” I had to be forced to start reading, and now I can’t stop.
Ed: What’s your favorite line from a book? (not your own)
“A few days before her wedding to Frank, Scarlett received a letter from Suellen, tear-stained, poorly-spelt and full of truthful observations about her character.” – Gone with the Wind
Ed: Now on to the picks which you did just so happen to write, and a bit about them.
How, and when, do you tend to come up with titles?
SA: The stork brings them to me from Half-Assed Title Heaven.
Ed: How do your characters get their names?
SA: From Google.
Ed: If you could live in the world / with the people of one of your stories, which one would it be and why?
SA: I would live in the Past Lives world and be Hayden Cross. Why? Superpowers, baby!
Ed: What do you think your books say about you?
SA: There are writers who use the em dash and the ellipse too much. Wait, that’s what my beta readers say about me.
Ed: Is there anything you have written which you would now like to change or revise, wish you had written differently, etc.?
SA: That’s the beauty of e-publishing, you can always change and revise if you need to. Not long ago, a reader from England contacted me to let me know I had some errors in my book Something Different (writing as S.A. Reid). Soon, perhaps by the time this interview is posted, I will have corrected those errors. I appreciate constructive criticism and will always act on it if possible.
Ed: Tell me about your favorite character.
SA: I suppose at the moment, my favorite character is Gabriel MacKenna from Protection. Although possessed of great native intelligence and a facility for languages, he is born into a blue collar British family around 1900. Higher schooling is out of the question, so he leaves middle school to begin his carpentry apprenticeship at age 13. In his mid-twenties, on the cusp of marrying and starting his own family, Gabriel discovers his favorite little sister is pregnant by their father, who has been molesting his daughters for years. In a rage – a psychotic break – Gabriel kills his father and mother (who tries to get between them). So at the beginning of Protection he is serving two life sentences and by page 12 he does something many would consider unforgiveable. But I view Gabriel as a good man dealt a very bad hand. I think he’s a character worth knowing.
Ed: Have your favorite character tell me about you.
Gabriel: Circuits exploding in a shower of sparks … black smoke … inertia.
Ed: …and back to Stehpanie. What’s your favorite line which you have written?
SA: I don’t really have one. I don’t think of myself as that kind of writer. But just to play along, here’s a line from my upcoming book Blue Murder (writing as Emma Jameson):
“It was the perfect declaration for an earthbound angel with crumpled cardboard wings.”
Your computer is smoking, wheezing, and sparks are shooting out of the back. You can save one thing off the hard drive. What is it?
SA: My work in progress, Blue Murder. (Forgive me, second work in progress, Soulless.)
Ed: You have one perfect day of free time, no obligations, needs, or responsibilities. What do you do?
SA: I finally watch Kick-Ass, Batman: Year One, State of Play, Centurion, Frozen Planet and the last season of Spartacus. Also, the last season of Supernatural. I suffer from DVR guilt.
Ed: Heh. State of Play and Frozen Planet are the only two of those I’ve seen. 😉
Someone “in the business” suggests you change something you feel is a critical part of one of your books, and guarantees it will increase sales. What do you do?
SA: I laugh like a crazy person and say no way. Then weep nervously for days after.
Ed: You are offered just enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life, if you will just stop writing. What do you do?
SA: I go for double or nothing if I will just never show my face again. Because not writing is off the table. But surely disappearing must be worth something!
Ed: What question do you wish I had asked?
SA: What’s the deal with that new Game of Thrones character, Jaqen H’ghar? Well, Ed, I’m glad you asked. Remember in season 1, when the bed slave was in the bath with Virserys Targaryen, and she said, “I’ve seen a man who can change his face?”
And remember when we last saw Aria’s “dancing master” Syrio Forell, he was fighting some city guardsmen? I don’t think they killed him. I think they dragged him into the dungeons, where he changed his face to be Jaqen! No, it hasn’t been confirmed in the books. But that’s my theory and I’m convinced it’s right!
Ed: I still need to watch that, too.
Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie. 🙂
Do check out any or all of Stephanie’s books, listed below with a five-word-synopsis provided by the author (I make them do that, as I know how much authors loathe distilling their tangled creations into sound-bite-worthy fluffery, and I’m a bit of a jerk that way)
“Detective solves murder, finds love.”
“Love in a men’s prison.”
“Married man and rent-boy lurve.”