Interview with Debut Author, C. S. Wachter

Me: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

C.S. Wachter: During the summer of 2015 I began meeting with a couple people from my neighborhood who were interested in writing. We shared short pieces, no more than three pages. They were very encouraging. So … one day after we met, I went home, sat at my laptop, and started writing.

Me: Why did you choose to write Christian Fantasy?

C. S. Wachter: Ever since reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” in middle school, I’ve been drawn to fantasy that reflected the battle of light and dark, good, and evil. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy fantasy that doesn’t have Christian threads running through it; it just means, for me, those stories seem to lack something. Over the years, Christian Fantasy writers have enriched my faith. I decided that if I was going to write, I wanted to do the same for others. Much of what is out there today focuses on humans battling evil by themselves. Or, if they seek help, they turn to stronger demons. I wanted to tell a story where God is part of the tale and His help is given.

Me: Do you think you’ll ever add any other genres to your writing? If so, what are they and would you plan to publish them?

C. S. Wachter: Years ago, I read something C. S. Lewis said about fantasy reflecting reality but with enough distance that people could process things they would otherwise face with difficulty. This idea has proven true for me and because of that, I doubt I would ever write another genre. But, I have also learned never to say never. If I did write another genre though, it would probably be contemporary fiction, maybe with an edge to it.

Me: Where do you get your story ideas?

C. S. Wachter: My friend, Jan, says I have confetti in my brain. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the ideas just fill my head, frequently in the middle of the night, sometimes when I’m walking. It could be something as common as a leaf flying by on the sidewalk that triggers a whole idea in my confetti brain. I usually jot my impressions or ideas down as a note in my phone for future use.

Me: Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?

C. S. Wachter: There have been times when I couldn’t seem to move forward when writing a first draft. For me, that is a signal that something I just wrote isn’t right. I back up, analyze what I wrote prior to the block, and think through what I need to change to make the story flow again. I don’t know how it works for others, but for me, once I get past that change, I usually can move forward without a problem. I like to think the story already exists and I’m just the one discovering it and revealing it.

Me: On average, how many hours a day do you write?

C. S. Wachter: It varies, but I would say I usually get in at least three hours and sometimes as much as eight hours.

Me: How long does it take you to complete your first draft?

C. S. Wachter: The four books of “The Seven Words” series were written in twelve months. That averages one every three months. But … I have other books I started that I set aside while I continued editing “The Seven Words” books. Lander’s Story, (that title will change), started out as a short story (Leaving Wharton) which I wrote for family and friends for Christmas of 2016. After completing the short story, I decided I wanted to continue and used it to launch the book. Though Lander’s Story is almost half written, it has remained at that point for more than a year now. Once the editing, publishing, etc. is completed on “The Seven Words” and the sequel to “The Seven Words”, I look forward to plunging back into writing Lander’s Story. Having said that, though, Lander has been percolating in the back of my brain, so he hasn’t been forgotten.

Me: Are you part of a critique group? If so, do you find a critique group helpful and do you use the critique group while you are writing or after your first draft is finished?

C. S. Wachter: Yes, I do belong to a small critique group. Yes, it has been most helpful. I started writing less than three years ago and I have learned so much through my critique partners. They’ve helped me hone my writing in ways I would never have thought to do on my own. So far I’ve mostly shared drafts that have been somewhat polished because I didn’t even know about critique groups when I first started writing. Would I share a WIP before it is in the first-draft phase? I’m not sure.

Me: Have you ever gone to a writer’s conference? If so, what benefits do you think a writer’s conference has to offer?

C. S. Wachter: Writer’s conferences are not only great for learning about the craft from people who’ve done it, they can be great fun and a wonderful place to meet others in the various professions connected with publishing. Nothing beats networking face to face. I still stay in touch with friends I met at my first big conference in 2016.

Me: How many revisions/edits do you do before publishing?

C. S. Wachter: Many. As many as needed. For The Sorcerer’s Bane I probably worked through at least a dozen drafts before it even came close to a final edit. I hope future books won’t need so many drafts before final editing. It’s been a learning curve for this newbie author.

Me: Do you have a professional editor and do you think it is necessary for every writer to have one? Why or why not?

C. S. Wachter: Yes. I think it’s important because no matter how good your friends may be at picking out grammar errors or general typos, they don’t have the experience to do a professional-level edit. (Unless your friend happens to be an editor.) And, let’s face it, we can’t see our own errors. We need that set of eyes tuned to focusing on the problem areas to polish our work before it goes out into the marketplace to compete with others.

Me: Why did you choose to indie publish instead of publishing traditionally?

C. S. Wachter: The first reason: I wanted creative control of my work and was willing to put in the effort to start my own business to have that. The second reason: Time frame. I already wrote all four of “The Seven Words” series and I wanted the flexibility to release them in quick succession (one each quarter through 2018 and the sequel at the beginning of 2019). If I went traditional I’d have to wait for a publisher to decide to publish my first book, then wait approximately two years to have that first book published; and, most likely, wait another year between the subsequent book releases.

Me: Do you continue to study writing? If so, do you consider this important and why?

C. S. Wachter: Like with any craft, we writers need to continue to study and improve. However, I can get bogged down far too easily in learning about something rather than doing that something, so I limit my study. Conferences are great not only for connecting with others of like mind, but they are wonderful places to learn from those more experienced authors who are willing to share their knowledge. Connections I’ve made with others in the industry have made a huge difference in what I’ve learned.

Me: What are some of your favorite writing resources?

C. S. Wachter: The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell.

Me: What do you think is the hardest part about writing, publishing, and marketing?

C. S. Wachter: For me it’s definitely the marketing. I’m not a naturally outgoing person. I’m most happy sitting at my laptop quietly writing (well, not totally quiet … I happen to love heavy Christian rock). I learned so much through indie publishing and don’t have any problems continuing with that. But the marketing … goose bumps and a shiver up my spine. Social media is hard for me. I don’t blog, twitter, or do newsletters. I guess at some point I’ll need to learn, but for now, I’m slowly feeling my way forward in marketing.

Me: What advice would you give to new and/or young writers?

C. S. Wachter: Just do it! Don’t let your fears that it’s not perfect get in your way. The second piece of advice comes from James Scott Bell: ‘Write fast and furious; edit slow and careful’.

 

Author Interview: Laura L. Zimmerman

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Would you tell us a little bit about yourself, Laura?
Absolutely! I’m an at home-mom of 3 girls–ages 14, 12 and 5. I homeschool the two oldest and spend the rest of my time writing. (Haha. That’s a joke for all those stay-at-home moms that have “lots of time” on their hands, right?) I’ve been married to my “Mr. Darcy” for 16 years–we met in YWAM where we both served the Lord for a few years. I love to write Middle Grade and Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-fi, and am excited to be a monthly contributor to the Almost An Author website for the Fantasy/Sci-fi column! I currently reside in AZ but grew up on the east coast in MD and PA.
When did you become interested in writing?
I’ve always loved to create stories! When I was little, I liked to make Fashion Plate drawings and then make up stories to go along with the pictures. I remember using my mom’s old typewriter and the frustration of making errors and having to use white out–then the excitement of getting to change over to a Word Processor in high school! Lol. Overall, stories have always been a big part of my life. It wasn’t until I was married with the convenience of a computer and time home with my babies that I found I wanted to start taking all those ideas I’d had over the years and actually try to write a book.
Do you have a special writing place?
Well, we moved a few months ago so I lost my official writing space–which happened to be in the spare bedroom/junk room! So now I store my writing desk in my bedroom. I had some back issues from sitting for so many hours, so my husband has insisted on ‘proper’ elevation of screen/keyboard/mouse. So it feels pretty official, anyway! 😉
What books or authors have influenced your writing? In what way did they influence your writing?
I want my writing to be the best it can be, so I’m one to take plenty of notes at meetings or conferences, and to read books on improving my technical abilities. But then I notice I focus too much on technical stuff and can forget my ‘voice.’ I would say the writers that influence me most have very unique ‘voices’ that help remind me to stay true to my writing style, even if it might break a few rules here and there. Authors that come to mind are Ingrid Law–who has a fantastic Middle Grade voice!– and Tahereh Mafi–her poetic style of writing breaks from the norm but makes the deepest parts of my emotion scream ‘yes!’ I also enjoy Lauren DeStefano who has a more introspective style of writing, and Jennifer A. Nielsen with her amazing ability at weaving mystery throughout her novels that make my jaw drop!
Who are some of your favorite book characters and why are they favorites? Have they influenced the way you create your characters?
This is a tough one for me because I don’t want to sound cliche, but ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ are my favorite books for a reason! Scout has always held a special place in my heart. She was an innocent forced to grow up and face the harsh realities of the yuck in our world. The powerful emotions she experienced through each lesson she learned hit me hard–maybe because I was just a teenager when I first read it. And Elizabeth Bennet is the every girl that we all deny lies deep within. She’s that spirit that refuses to conform yet can’t get out of her own way to allow love to find her. As much as I like to think I’m balanced in my beliefs and that I never play the part of the hypocrite, I think Lizzie is a good reminder that we all make poor choices based on our individual filters, but that it’s never too late for forgiveness and reconciliation. I do think both of these characters influence the characters I create, although maybe in different ways, depending on the story!
Do you have a writing routine?
Again, before I moved I had a fantastic routine of writing first thing in the morning! But now my youngest daughter is in kindergarten and I have her at the bus stop during the time I would normally write. So, unfortunately, I don’t have a routine at the moment. I do have a goal of writing and editing each day, and shoot for about 2 hours total of a mixture of both. Some days are better than others! Lol!
Do you set writing goals for yourself? What kinds of goals and are they short or long term?
Yes!! I have daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals! My personality thrives on meeting small goals along the way. I find when I have no ‘To Do’ list, nothing gets done. I love the sense of accomplishment that goes along with crossing off another item from my list! A daily goal might be as simple as “Tweet a line I wrote”. Long term goals usually involve the completion of a rough draft or a full edit of one of my manuscripts. For 2016 I’ve already written 2 brand new rough drafts and have a goal to complete 1 more, to give me a total of 3 brand new books I wrote this year!
Are you a member of any writing organizations or critique groups? 
Yes. In Pennsylvania I was active in the ACFW State and Local chapters, as well as Lancaster Christian Writers and Scribes Oasis. Since moving to Arizona, I’ve joined a small critique group one a week, and have begun to attend a library writer group twice a month. I’ve also connected with the ACFW Phoenix chapter here. I always have an eye out for new groups to join, since I am most encouraged just by being with other writers! 🙂
Have you attended writers’ conferences? 
Yes, I’ve attended the LCW Super Saturday a few years in a row and was excited to attend the Write His Answer Conference in Philly and Keystone Conference, last year. With my move, I’ve sadly missed the conferences I wanted to attend this year. But hope to jump back in this winter/spring with some conferences out west!
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Good question! Well, first off, I would say never give up. I’m sure you’ve heard that time and again, but really, don’t ever walk away from your talents. God gave them to you for a reason and they can be used to glorify Him, even if your work isn’t published in the traditional way. Also, surround yourself with those you admire! If you want to be a writer, make friends with writers! Not only is it encouraging, it will help hone your talent and make you better at what you do!
Thank you, Kelly, for having me! I had a great time with this interview!! ❤
Bio: 
Laura L. Zimmerman is a homeschooling mom to three daughters, and a doting wife to one husband. Besides writing, she is passionate about loving Jesus, singing, drinking coffee and anything Star Wars. You can connect with her through Facebook and Twitter @lauralzimm, and at her website, www.lauralzimmerman.com . Laura is represented by Cyle Young with Hartline Literary Agency.