Tuesday, March 27, 2012

10 Questions with Chick-Lit Writer E.M. Tippetts (@EMTippetts)

This Author Spotlight features chick-lit writer Emily Tippetts.

Emily writes under the name of E.M. Tippetts and is the author of SOMEONE ELSE'S FAIRY TALE and PAINT ME TRUE (see above). Emily also writes science fiction under the name Emily Mah (see below). Emily resides in London.

1. How did you get into writing?
I was one of those kids who always wrote, from the age that I could hold a crayon. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I learned where books come from, but actually getting published has been a long road. My strategy was to get trained in a fallback career and then focus on writing, so I did a bachelors and then a law degree. In my last year of law school I applied to the Clarion West Writers Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and amazingly enough, got in. If I were advising someone who wanted to be a writer, I’d suggest taking classes earlier than I did, training will make all the difference. I have no regrets, but after Clarion West, it took me five years to sell my first short story and about six to sell my first chick lit novel. I’m not sure how much longer I’d have waited to publish my second or third novel if the indie publishing movement hadn’t gotten off the ground. I started writing chick lit just as that whole genre was melting down spectacularly.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I’m one of those people who has to write. Some romanticize this condition and say it makes you a true artist, that fact that you have to do your art. I don’t agree with this characterization; it’s really some form of obsessive disorder, I’m sure. Not that I’m complaining. I love the feeling of fulfillment I get from writing, and I was lucky enough to be able to get good enough at it to be published. I think if I had no prayer of ever seeing print, my life would be very difficult. I’d be dominated by this obsession that would just eat up hours of my time.

3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
I write or do something writing related 6 days a week. I only take Sundays off. When I’m working on a novel, I try to get 2,000 words down a day, but it’s important to give yourself a break now and then. If I only have time to edit, I call that good. Also if I spend a whole evening formatting and uploading an ebook, that counts too even though it’s not producing new material.

To write any piece, I start by freewriting, just doing scenes or snippets of dialogue until a larger plot starts to form. Then I outline in my head - I used to do it on paper but I’ve done it enough times now that I don’t need to write it down. I then start my regimen of 2,000 words a day (though towards the end of the process I’m often writing quite a bit more than that.) Even when I’m to this stage, though, I am revising that outline as I learn about my characters and come up with different ideas to get to the ending I want. I delete a lot of material. To give you some idea, the novel I’ve been working on for the last six weeks, I’ve written at least 40,000 words that I’ve cut and discarded. The piece is only about 10,000 words right now, but I’ll keep a larger percentage of those 10,000 words thanks to all the cutting I’ve done.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
This would be a long list if I named everyone, so I’ll just pick a few off the top of my head. Octavia Butler was very inspiring. I met her after she’d won the McArthur Award and was recognized as one of the greats, but I learned from her that she was dyslexic and had a speech impediment. She’d spent her childhood thinking that she wasn’t a very smart person, but she wanted so badly to be a writer that she worked and worked at it until it happened for her. I’m still not entirely over the fact that she passed away so young.

By the same token, I have a lot of respect for Connie Willis, who also worked very hard to break into the field. I’ve often heard her tell the story of when all eight short stories she had out to magazines got rejected on the same day, and how she considered quitting at that point. This May, I’m going to see her made a SFWA Grand Master. In case you can’t tell, I admire people who don’t give up easily, because if I am to have a writing career, that’ll be my story too.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
I’d put it outside the quotes, but I know other people feel differently. As my linguistic anthropologist friend always tells me, languages shift. To me, though, I only put punctuation inside the quotes if it applies exclusively to the text inside the quotes.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I am for it, of course. I went to Oxford! And it’s how I was taught in first grade, so that is what feels right to me, even if my linguistic anthropologist friend (who is also one of my proofreaders and has a degree in English) is against it.

7. What is your book, Someone Else’s Fairytale, about and how did it come to fruition?
Simply put, it’s an ironic take on fairytales (and yes, I choose to make that one word though I know it’s more commonly two). My main character catches the eye of a Hollywood megastar, but she’s not really into the whole being swept off her feet by Prince Charming thing. My challenge to myself as I wrote it was to make it a fairytale while in no way diminishing my heroine. She’s not a damsel in distress. She’s slain her own dragons. The question then becomes, can any man rescue her in a way she could never rescue herself? (And yes, I realize that there I put a question mark on the end of a sentence that isn’t a direct question, so obviously I break grammar rules now and then.)

8. What’s your current writing project?
I’m writing a young-adult romance set in a fictional town on the coast of northern California. My main character is sixteen and being raised by her single, working mother, and the plot gets going when an LDS missionary comes to town and starts acting very, very strangely. Most of my chick lit has LDS characters in it. I began my romance writing career with Covenant Communications. Fairytale was a rare departure.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, by Kindal Debenham. Fantastic steampunk!

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
I guess the question there would be, what doesn’t? I’ve been working on a writing career proper for over a decade now, so in order to get ideas, I’ve practiced finding new ones every day. A part of me is always analyzing and mining my experiences for material.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
Thanks so much for having me on your site! My latest two novels, Paint Me True and Someone Else’s Fairytale are available as ebooks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Fairytale is also available in paper format, from Amazon, and soon Paint Me True will be as well. I just got the gorgeous cover design proof from Tiger Bright Studios, a company I can’t recommend highly enough. These novels are written under the name E.M. Tippetts, and you can get updates on them at www.emtippetts.com.

I write my science fiction and fantasy under the name Emily Mah - both of my pen names are variations on my real name, Emily Mah Tippetts - and I’m in the process of uploading my previously published short stories onto Amazon. You can get updates regarding this at www.emilymah.com.

Thanks for the great questions! I’m sometimes slow at replying to comments made on blog postings, but I do endeavor to visit often so I can answer any other questions people have.

You're welcome, Emily. Thank you for sharing your work. It's always impressive to meet writers who work is more than one genre. Let us know when your current YA romance novel is available.

Visit Emily's websites and purchase a copy of her book, and be sure to follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/EMTippetts

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