Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Spotlight:  Interview with our writers.  Today's guest is Cassidy Frazee.
Tell us a little about yourself.

            Staring off, I’m old.  Probably not as old as some may think, but old enough.  I’ve lived my entire live in Northwest Indiana, which is, again, longer than I should have lived here, but I can’t afford to move where I want to move, so I stay here—for now!

I read a lot:  my private library has somewhere around two thousand books that I’ve been buying since I was about nine.  In fact, you can find a few novels on my shelf that are $.95, which was the cost of a novel in the mid-1960’s.

Beyond that I’m not an interesting person.  I did want to be an astronaut at one point, but that didn’t work out for me for some reason.

What are your favorite beverages and snacks? .

           I usually drink water.  There is something about cold water out of a pint glass that tastes like nothing else to me.  I’m not much of a soda drinker these days, because the taste of soda has changed considerably since I was a kid.  I like popcorn as a snack, but the thing I really love are pretzel sticks.  And those veggie chips; I enjoy those a great deal, too.

*waves in server to bring a bowl of veggie chips and a big tall glass of ice water*  If there's anything else you'd like just let Paul know.  *nods to Paul a thank you*

You've already published books, Can you list them and give links?

There is Kuntilanak, which is a horror story that takes place on the island of Bali.  My other story is Captivate and Control, which is a work of mild erotica about—well, if you buy it you’ll find out.  All I will say about the later is there is sexy goings on inside the story.

To date what do you feel is your best work?

I’m really critical of everything I write.  At the moment I feel my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel, Her Demonic Majesty (which I submitted to Harper Voyager back in October) is one of the best things I’ve written.  My huge—and unpublished—Transporting Series is right up there, however.  So it’s a neck-and-neck thing.

Where do you get your ideas?

They tend to come to me.  I don’t sit and go, “I need an idea, bring it!” I just let things happen.  When something does hit me, then I write it down in a Story Ideas file that I have on my computer.

*motions Paul to refill our glasses*  I think I would have to agree with you on this one Cassidy, nothing is quite as refreshing as just plain ice cold water.
Have you ever struggled with writer's block and if so how did you get past it?

I know what I’m about to say will go against the grain of a lot of people, but I don’t believe in writer’s block.  Like Chuck Wendig, I don’t believe in what most people call “writer’s block”, but rather that creative people have their ups and downs when it comes to producing.

I’ve said on my blog that there have been things that I couldn’t write, or finish writing, but that was because I hadn’t grown as a writer, and didn’t have the emotional capacity to write what needed to be written.  That’s not writer’s block; that’s being incapable of dealing with shit, and it showed.

William Gibson has said that when he has nothing to write, he doesn’t write, but he goes and finds things to do that help expand that creative ability of his.  There have been a few times when I haven’t felt like writing, mostly because I was feeling like I was beat down into the ground.  But I know I need to write, because that’s the only way you get better, and that’s the only way you finish what you start.  What I might do then is set a lower limit to reach, but I will reach it.

Also like Chuck, I think people spend too much time afraid of the old block.  It’s a convenient thing to do, though, because is removes any responsibility from the writer to create.  “Oh, I’ve got writer’s block.”  Okay, Jack Torrance, guess that means it’s time to murder the family.  Kick that boogie man in the ass, because it’s not the boss of you.

As for working through it, let Chuck show you the way.  He’s much better at explaining anyway.

 *breaks out in riotous laughter.*  Love Chuck!   That man has a way of getting all up in your face, and yet makes you want to do better.  He points out in a way that you see the points where you are failing, or at least not  doing your best.  Instead of making you mad, though he makes you want to do better.  If for no other purpose, to not find yourself on his next list.

What are your favorite genres to read?

It’s always been science fiction, though that’s getting harder to find these days, because it seems like everyone wants to write about dancing elves and singing dwarves off to fight a dragon, and maybe bone a shield maiden along the way.  If that’s your bag, great; you can have mine.  I used to love to read horror, but once it turned into a goddamn zombiefest, I gave up on that genre as well.  These days I just write my own.

Describe your writing routine.

It’s different for different times.  I usually do my blog posts in the morning, and get them posted before ten AM.  I always try to come up with a nice title, and I always write more than five hundred words for each post.  If I’m really feeling good, I’ll write a thousand; I think the longest blog post I’ve written was about twenty-two hundred words.

In the afternoon (if it’s the weekend), or the evening (if it’s after work), I’ll do my current work-in-progress.  Since I write everything in Scrivener, I can track my progress by watching my project stats for the day.  I always do a minimum of a thousand words a day, no matter what, unless I’m feeling like total crap.  Then I’ll do five hundred words.  Between the blog and the stories, I manage between five hundred and two thousands words a day.

Well I have to give you a personal thanks there, you've helped me tremendously in understanding the capabilities of Scrivner.   I'd still be dazed and confused over the videos if you hadn't advised me.  It is truly a wonderful piece of software, and I must say I am often amazed when you post your stats, or screen shots of your timelines or cards.  It pushes me to be a little more organized, a little more efficient.  Not that I 'm competitive or anything.  *Checks out Cassidy's boots, and new dress, adjusting my skirt.*
I know you use cards and timeliness. You’re obviously a plotter.

One of the things that people don’t get is just because you lay out a story in an outline form, that doesn’t make you a plotter.  Here is a picture of the layout of my current story; on each of those chapters is a small instruction, and that’s more or less happening in that chapter.  That’s the extent of my “plotting”, at least for this story.

For some of my novels I’ll get a little more in-depth with details, but that’s only for things that may involve something intricate, like the supernatural murders that happened in my last novel.  If you don’t keep the players in line, before you know it you’re like any number of writers who’ve popped up on Facebook screaming, “This novel has gotten too big for me, I don’t know where to go, my characters won’t talk to me!  HALLLLP!”  I like to get my story down right the first time so I don’t have to spend months rewriting and reworking the thing.

How much of yourself do you put in a story?

Albert and Audrey Dahl—from a group of stories I’m writing/have written—are pretty much me:  it’s as close to doing a Mary Sue as I’ll ever get.  And in the very first drafts of the novel they were so horrible.  Really, that was back when I didn’t know what I’m doing.  I’ve grown up, and so have they.  Other than that, I stay out of my stories, other than to step into them from time to time and look around to know I’m getting it right.

Do you speak from a narrative voice from yourself?

I’m very visual when I write, so my voice tends to see things like I would.  I’ve often said that when I’m writing, it’s as if I can see a movie in my head, and I’m only doing the novelization.

How do you develop your characters?

I start from a simple sketch, and then build as I go along.  Sometimes I’ll have a character done in simple stokes in a few hours, other times I’ll keep working on character until they’ve become a part of my life.  Just remember to give them a few flaws so they aren’t super perfect.  Except when they are, of course.

How much of your writing gets edited out? For instance, I've written several chapters then cut them because my story just wasn't progressing. Have you ever done that?

Almost never.  I’ll rework a chapter so it doesn’t sound as if it were written by an eight year old, but very rare are those moments when I cut something be cause it isn’t working.  In fact, the only time I can think of having to cut out something that I’d written before, and felt it didn’t fit, was a couple of paragraphs at the end of a chapter when the character said something to another character she’d just knocked out, and I realized that person wouldn’t have said something like that.  So I removed it.

I edit myself as I go alone—even during NaNo, I know, turn me in—and if something isn’t working, I rewrite on the spot.  When my first draft is finished, that’s what I want it to be.  Anything that would get cut would never make it to the first draft.  It’s just how I am.

What advice would you give to the budding writer that wants to write romance or erotica?

One, if you think kinky is using the whole chicken, allow me to hit you upside the head with a dead fowl and write about how kinky it was.  As for two . . . damn, this is hard.  I don’t write romance, per say, but there are large stretches of my novel Transporting that deal with romance, and what one person does to find it while working on something that’s far bigger.

The problem I have with romance is that we, as a culture, have seen so many convoluted stories on romance that we have a skewed view of how romance should be portrayed.  I would say, look at your romances, look at what worked for those around you, and extrapolate.  To me, romance involves small things, moments that mean so much, but are still part of a bigger picture.

And erotica?  That’s even more interesting.  So much of what we see as erotica these days really stems from porn—I mean, where else are you going to see stories about having sex at work with just about anyone you want?  I won’t say that hasn’t happened—I used to work at Playboy, and I heard some extremely good stories about the Swinging 60’s and the Get High 70’s—but so much of that stuff is just so gone these days.  Really, too, who wants to have sex at work?

Erotica is more that simply bumping naughty bits.  There are feelings there as well, though they can be far more complex that just, “Oh, he/she/it loves me!”  Depending on what you’re writing—three-way sex scenes, gay and lesbian, BDSM, straight up fantasies with guys doing blue cat girls (oh, you didn’t think that was erotica?)—try making the characters real.  Try to make the emotions real.  And most of all, keep your own elf out of the story.  If there is one area where writers who aren’t very skilled really Mary Sue their characters, it’s erotica.  After all, if your boss is some kind of manic sex fiend, who doesn’t want to hook up with them?

Well stated!  I have to agree with you on that.  There's so much more than just the "scenes" where they get their nasty on.  To me that's just porn and it should go to Hustler.  It's the story that makes it worth the read for me.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was fourteen or there about.  That’s what I wanted to do.  I wanted to tell stories and get published.  But I couldn’t type and my spelling sucked.  So I had to wait a few decades.

Do you write on spec or on contract?

I haven’t been fortunate enough to get either of those suckers.  I write and try to sell.

Do you have any quirky rituals or habits that are part of your routine?

I need music on; I detest silence when I’m writing.  It doesn’t seem natural to work without something blasting out of my speakers.

As a writer what would you say your best writer skills are? Your worst? ( ie character development storyline plot story arc etc)

My best skills are that I look at this like a job, and I do it, every day.  My worst is I will sometimes take the lazy way out of describing things and do something half assed.  Then I know I gotta go back and fix it, but I hate the fact that I did it in the first place.

Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  We hope to be reading many more stories from you in the near future!

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