I have known Cynthia Richards for some years and was so excited for her when she published her first and then her second novels in quick succession. Publishing can be a long and tedious process for authors who are unprepared and I hope sharing author’s publishing experiences helps struggling authors to persevere. Recently, Cyndi and I spent some time together and naturally we got to talking about her writing process. I am grateful for her time and am always inspired by her dedication, professionalism, and hard work.
You have two published novels. You published the first novel under a pseudonym. Why did you choose to use a pen name for your first novel? What are the pros and cons of using a pen name?
I think it’s very important to be consistent with your readers. When they see an author’s name, they should associate it with the author’s brand (genre, quality level and style). My first novel – Devil Music (Co-authored under the pen name Thia Myles Vincent) – is classified as a Horror Romance. Because this is a genre I typically don’t write in, I chose to use a pen name. I use C.R. Richards for my preferred genre of urban and dark fantasy. The downside of having more than one pen names is splitting your marketing time between two different brands. It can be overwhelming.
Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get involved in writing? How long have you been writing?
I first started writing when I was in junior high school, joining the newspaper staff as a reporter. Eventually I became Editor-in-Chief of my high school paper. I went on to college with every intention of becoming a serious journalist. After working freelance for small presses in Utah, Arizona and Alaska, I decided I was tired of Ramen noodles and changed careers.
Several years later, I realized my heart really was in fiction. I started writing epic dark fantasy seriously about nine years ago and have released my first solo urban fantasy – Phantom Harvest – in February 2013.
Some people think that writing is easy, but there is a lot of craft involved to create a masterful story. How did you go about learning your craft?
I attended several online courses from Writer’s Digest University to learn specialized writing techniques such as plot development and scene set ups. Joining writer’s organizations like Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers or EPIC helped me to learn the craft as well as networking with more experienced authors. It is, however, when I submit my manuscripts to my trusted professional critique service that I learn the most. They expose my bad habits and offer suggestions on how I can improve my writing.
What do you feel is the most important craft element for aspiring writers to master?
Character Building. Make me care about your protagonist and his friends or enemies; you’ll have me hooked to the end of the book. If I don’t find your character(s) interesting or I can’t empathize with them, I’ll close the book and never open it again.
Tell me about your writing process. (Do you write daily? Do you plot? Etc.)
I write religiously every day. If the muse isn’t with me on a certain day, I focus on flowcharting plots or other unpleasant, but necessary tasks. Most of my story ideas come from dreams, usually a single scene. I write down the dream. Then I outline the story that develops from the original idea. The outline helps me to write the rough draft in a few days. Like most writers, I edit my manuscripts and then edit it again until I’m satisfied enough to send it to my critique service.
What is the most significant change in your life since you have become published? Is it all glamour and celebrity?
My shrinking free time is what I’ve noticed the most. <Grin> Marketing my book often competes with the day job and writing time for my next novel. I’m still waiting for the glamour…
How much writing (how many novels etc) did you complete before you were published?
I’ve been writing epic fantasy for as long as I can remember. Two fantasy series with three to five books each are sitting up on blocks on my “to do” shelf. Then there are the half dozen rough draft outlines of story ideas for books I have waiting for me as well. Writing a book takes commitment. A writer must be willing to invest the time it takes to write, edit and go through the publishing process with each book. Sometimes you may find it isn’t a book’s “time” to be written. The story may have plot issues, etc and you need to take a step back before you can finish it. Or the market isn’t open to your book and you just can’t sell it.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about the publishing industry that you did’’t know before you were published?
Finding out how subjective the publishing industry can be was a harsh surprise for me. You may submit your work to a publisher, editor or agent…even a reviewer after it is published…one person thinks it’s good writing, while the other hates it. The trick is to find someone who believes in you and your work. Those are the folks you want in your corner.
What is the most important piece of advice you could offer to aspiring authors?
Be true to your story. While it is important to consider the helpful criticism and advice you receive, no one understands the vision for your story like you do. You were given the story to write. Stay true to the story’s theme. Take the advice and criticism you can use to make the story better and throw away the rest.
C. R. Richards is the author of The Mutant Casebook Series. Her literary career began as a part-time columnist for a small entertainment newspaper. She wore several hats: food critic, entertainment reviewer and cranky editor. A co-author of horror and dark fantasy novels, her first book was published under the pen name Thia Myles Vincent. Cynthia is the Publisher, Editor-in-Chief and head bottle washer for the Books and Banter Newsletter. She is an active member of EPIC and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.