Charlotte Boyett-Compo [windlegends]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
The first book I remember reading was Stone Soup when I was in grade school. By the time I was twelve, I had written my first 'book'. It filled a spiral bound notebook and was a western. When I was 15, I wrote my second 'novel' and my best friend and I had co-written a play that was put on before our entire junior high school classes at assembly. I was hooked. The first people to read my writings were my friends. My parents never did read anything I wrote before they passed away in the late 90s. My husband is now the first person to read each and every book as I finish it. He has a degree in journalism and is the first editor the story will see.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I am multi-published in the dark fantasy sub-genre of speculative fiction with over 70 books to my credit. You can read synopses, excerpts and over 800 reviews of my work on my homepage at http://www.windlegends.org/
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Several years ago my husband had an office built for me off the back deck of our home. It's where I spend my time from 9-12 and then 1-6 every day. Before I start to write each day, I answer any email correspondence, check my MySpace, Facebook and GoodReads pages to see if I have any friend requests, then buckle down to write. I usually work on two novels at once and possibly a short story for an anthology. I also write freelance articles for various genre-specific websites. Currently I am writing a serialized novel that will begin its release in January 2009 from a website directed toward 50+ year-old readers.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
It depends on what kind of novel I am in the process of writing. I write in several sub-genres of the speculative fiction genre: magic realisim, urban and dark fantasy, horror, SF/futuristic, supernatural/paranormal romance, dark romance, and alternate history. I am a devout fan of John Saul, Dean Koontz, and John Sandford, so if I'm reading their latest release, I am usually influenced to write in the same genres. If I am reading books by Christine Feehan, JR Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon or Kresley Cole, chances are good my writing will take on the dark romance/paranormal influences.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
A good plot, a well written story to emphasize it, believable dialogue and characters that are true to life. If you create a story the reader doesn't want to put down and one a reviewer says is fascinating and believable, you've done your job. If the dialogue is stilted, the characters cartoonish, the plot full of gaping holes and the story completely implausible with timeline issues, chances are the book isn't going to be a success. Reviews are subjective but a poorly-written book will always stand out like a sore thumb.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
First person annoys me and I just won't buy books written in that manner unless it is an author who is on my auto buy list. Even then, I most likely won't enjoy the tale as much as I would have if it had been written in third person.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Dean Koontz, John Saul, Robin Cook, Brian Lumley, John Sandford, David Wiltse, Michael Connelly, Ken Eulo, Noel Hynd, Stuart Woods, Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, Kresley Cole, and Rosemary Rogers. I have all their books and have read each one. My favorite book of all time was Anya Seton's GREEN DARKNESS with Rogers' SWEET, SAVAGE LOVE running a close second. I am in awe of Sandford's ability and Koontz has increased my vocabulary 1000 times over.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
He or she must be as close to real life as you can make him or her. Give them some faults, some flaws to make them more human. Even if they are paranormal creatures, you need to give them something with which the reader can identify. When I sit down to create a character, I tend to make the males Alpha Males with a tortured background--either mental or phsycial. I give them sgentle flaws that will make a female reader want to embrace them and take away the hurt. I give them strengths that male readers will understand. I don't care as much about the female characters. To me, they are more window dressing. I prefer to tell the tale from the male viewpoint because I find that more interesting. I'm not into the kick-ass female heroines that appeal to some female writers. There is a market for them but they just don't flip my switch.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
You'd have to ask my grandchildren that question but I would say yes. I grew up at the knee of my Irish talespinner grandfather who would put me on his knee as we sat on the front porch swing. He would begin a tale then have me finish it, adding my own brand of imagination. His only requirement was that it be 'real'. I credit him with teaching me how to spin yarns that are believable. I also credit him for giving me the very bad habit of telling tall lies when I was a child. But you know what they say: When I was young, they called me a liar. Now that I'm grown, they call me a writer.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
I believe it is. The best revenge you can get is to create a character based on someone who has done you a wrong or who has given you heartache and really punish that characters. Kill them off if you like. There is some satisfaction in being able to push a rival's head into a vat of poop. You can't get away with it in real life but in your imaginary worlds, you can do all kinds of dastardly deeds to get even. It is very cathartic.
Yes, they are and if you use those internal conflicts properly, they can tell the tale more effectively and you will rid yourself of all that angst that has been building in your soul. Re-direct the pain, the sorrow, the anger into something constructive.
Does reader feed-back help you?
To some extent. Sometimes a reader will completely miss the mark on what I intended in the story. Sometimes they surprise me with insights I hadn't even considered when writing the tale. I always answer reader mail the very day I get it. I have a few readers who write each week and one or two have become internet friends. I can count on one hand the nasty email feedbacks I have received. One was from a man who took umbrage at having his name be the name of one of my characters. He was really off the wall and I had to wind up turning his emails over to my publisher.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Not as a general rule. I don't enter contests and the awards I have received--there have been many--are from reader choice rather than from my peers. Those kind of awards mean more to me anyway. It's nice to know a book or a short story has touched readers so much they feel it deserves an award.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
No. I'm not into the critique partner thing. I don't want anyone seeing my work until it is finished, edited, polished, edited again, and as clean as I can make it.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I think I found my voice when my first book was published in mass market paperback in 1996. It was along about that time that I finally got on the internet and as I started visiting genre-specific websites to offer my book for review and myself for interview that I found I had a growing audience of readers who were eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. I haven't stopped writing since.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I like to write at least a chapter a day in whatever book or books I'm working on. I don't necessarily have a word count but most chapters range between 6-10 pages. Most of my novels fall in the 75K range although I do have some that are over 200K. When I receive edits, that is the only time I impose a set schedule on myself. I like to do the edits the same day I get them and have them back within a day or two. Usually, it's the same day. I'm lucky in having editors who are fantastic at their jobs and I also have the WhiteSmoke program which gives me as clean a manuscript as possible before I ever submit it. I do have a goal to write twelve books a year: six for Ellora's Cave and six for New Concepts Publishing, my two main publishers. I also leave myself time to do at least four short stories for anthologies.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
One thing I don't have and that is a phone. I do not like the distraction of having it ring because it always seems to do that when I'm 'in the groove'. I don't play music, either, unless I am trying to get in the mood for a certain scene like a battle or a very poignant moment. I have a televsion and stop for one hour each day as I eat my lunch to watch the previous day's episode of General Hospital--my one addiction to daytime viewing. It's a guilty pleasure with which I reward myself. Since I write seven days a week, on the weekends, I spend that hour reading someone else's books.
For inspiration, I am surrounded by some of the things I've collected over the years and gifts my readers have sent to me. I have many statues of the Egyptian god Anubis, the Grim Reaper, Dravula, and gargoyles that line my office shelves and the entertainment center that houses my TV. I also have numerous research books on myriad subjects as well as compendiums I have made. I also collect windchimes and have about a dozen hanging from the porch of my office. The sound is very soothing to me.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
My first novel was written on an electric typewriter then transferred manually to the computer. A couple of years later, I discoverd scanners and that was a godsend! Now, I write entirely on computer although I carry both a spiral notebook and a mini tape recorder with me wherever I go. I make copious notes while sitting beside my husband on long trips and make careful note of unique and eyecatching names of towns we see on road signs. I have created several character names from two towns that were on the same sign. I also jot down impressions of people I see in malls or at airports. I keep the recorder beside the shower because I've written some of my very best dialogue while taking baths. I don't do outlines because I believe that stifles creativity. I'm known for the various twists and turns in my stories and if I'm boxed in with an outline, my creative juices don't flow as well. I might make notes on where I want the tale to go but I hated doing outlines in school and hate them still!
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
My publishers at New Concepts Publishing (http://www.newconceptspublishing.com), Ellora's Cave (http://www.jasminejade.com/default.aspx?skinid=11) Cerridwen Press (http://www.jasminejade.com/default.aspx?skinid=13), Samhain Publishing (http://www.samhainpublishing.com), Phaze Books (http://www.phaze.com), Ravenous Romance (http://www.ravenousromance.com) and the organization I started for speculative fiction authors, http://www.iwofa.net . I have pages on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766034494), MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/charlotte_boyett_compo), and GoodReads as well as numerous other social and professional pages. I have a readers group on Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/windlegends/join) and of course there is my official webpage at http://www.windlegends.org . I belong to many Yahoo lists that are genre-specific or related to writing and books.
What has been your experience with publishers?
My first publisher was a subsidy publisher and I strongly discourage any writer from going that route until every last avenue has been investigated. I wound up...along with hundreds of other authors...taking that publisher, Commonwealth Publications, to court in a class action suit we won. You've think I'd learned my lesson but I went with still another subsidy publisher for my second book and wound up...again...in a class action suit against Sovereign Publications that sent the publisher and her husband to jail. After that, I took my work on-line and for several years the publisher who released my work was great. Then she, too, fell into the same trap as the first two: not paying her authors and not providing what she was contracturally obligated to provide. Seven of my fellow authors left that publisher and we formed our own publishing house. I have since moved on to larger publishers and am making four times as much as the average $10K a year most writers make. I paid my dues and feel I've earned my place. Now when I contract with a publisher, I learn everything I can about them, talk to their authors and if something seems too good to be true, I know it is.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on the serialized novel, Dark Days of the Reaper for Ellora's Cave, The WindWatcher for New Concepts Publishing, and two other short stories.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
My mother had a saying: There's nothing like a failure but a try. Dig those works out and spruce them up. Pick the one you think is the best and submit it to a reputable on-line publisher. I have a sign my husband gave me back in 1991. It says: If you don't do it, you'll never know what would have happened if you had done it. Another sign reads: People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours. DON'T ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN. I am encouraging you to give it a shot. What have you got to lose?
Des Moines, IA- USA