1. Who are you? I’m Emmie Mears! In theory, anyway. For now.
2. What type of stuff do you write? I like to have my fingers dipped into just about every SFF pie. Lately I’ve been tending toward more broad speculative fiction, second world alt history and second world in general, but I’m looking forward to digging into some science fantasy and more straight sci fi as well as epic fantasy soon. (I have a hankering to write a first contact story, but we’ll see.)
3. What do you want to pimp right now? I have a rather grueling release schedule lately. A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS just came out, which is a contemporary magical realism, and I’m certainly proud of that. LOOK TO THE SUN comes out 15 November and is available for preorder right now, and that is a book that feels almost too timely — I’ve pitched it as Les Miserables meets Shadow of the Wind. It’s a second world novel with a Gothic feel about generational tragedy, love, and fighting against fascism.
4. What’s your favorite book? This will likely come as no surprise if you read the preceding paragraph, but Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It is absolutely stunning, and the moment I finished it for the first time, I picked it up and read it again. A more recent read was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which was phenomenal (and, combined with a non-fiction thing I read recently, inspired my next project).
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I’ve been very privileged to be able to write full time for the past year. I have a part time job as a banquet server as well. Besides writing, though, the full-time-ness of that job encompasses PR, marketing, accounting, finance, and enough emails to form an avalanche. I also manage a small contingent of ninja cats in my home.
6. Where can we find you? I am virtually omnipresent on the internet, it feels. You can find me on Twitter @EmmieMears, or you can find me on the Book of Face. I’m also on Instagram if you like cat spam and a parade of homemade food. If you like short stories and want to help support my writing, you can find me on Patreon, and for the eminent pragmatists among you, my general home on the interwebz is simply emmiemears.com.
Expect the Unexpected – 5 Tips for Writers
By the time this goes live, I will have finished my twelfth full length manuscript. That’s some novels, and with seven-soon-to-be-eight in the wild, I’ve arrived at a point where I get emails from people asking me to kick them in the butt. “Kicking internet folks in the butt” was not something I was entirely prepared for when I went into this career with the idea that maybe one day I could make a living doing the only thing I think I’m good at, but it’s something I’m being asked to do.
In the spirit of sharing hard-won wisdom and lessons, here are five things I didn’t expect from writing when I started:
5. Writing books doesn’t really get easier.
It hasn’t. In fact, books 10 and 11 were some of the toughest things I’ve done. Writing is a constant evolution of figuring out exactly how much you know and don’t know. It’s about trying something that has worked for you before (or that has worked for someone not-you) and finding out that lo, suddenly it worketh not. That can be…frustrating.
I’ve heard it said that writers don’t know how to write books. We have to learn each time how to write this book. In my experience of the past decade of finishing books, that is very, very true.
4. Writing is a lot easier when you can leave the business out of it.
I think in a lot of our minds when we start out, writing is like that internet meme.
Step 1–Have idea
Step 2–Be said idea’s miraculous conduit onto the page
It doesn’t work like that. Whether you traditionally publish or do it independently (I’ve done both), two words will dictate much of your success: bottom and line.
In trade publishing, that bottom line can be the difference between your book getting acquired and your book getting trunked. (Or, as I have personally experienced, an entire imprint getting trunked and every book it publishes going down with it.) In indie publishing, it can mean you’re spending more on your packaging, marketing, editing, etc. than you are making. That is not sustainable unless you are one of the mythical humans for whom money is not the difference between your pet iguana starving to death or not.
Having to factor in making art with the reality of making money is not an easy web of tightropes to walk. But it can be done.
3. On that note, if you don’t have it, money can be a massive systemic barrier.
As in all careers, having money to start with means that you have access to networking opportunities, career development, and the more esoteric bits, like automatically being taken a bit more seriously. Conferences and conventions, where heaps of connections are made, are decidedly not cheap. Tax write off, yes, but you still have to spend the money up front.
The same goes for indie publishing–you have to put money in on the front end there, for a great cover if absolutely nothing else.
That said? Slush works. Both of my agents, I’ve gotten through the slush pile. I’m a hybrid author, which means I’ve had trade deals and have indie published both. If you are seeking to go the commercial trade publishing route, you don’t need to know anybody (and no matter how much your friends love you, even if you have connections, they are never a guarantee).
2. There is never Only One.
Books are not like Highlander. Sure, we see the highly publicised unicorns like Twilight and Wool, that One Book that propelled its author to fame and fortune. But we have to remember those stories are unicorns. There is an immense amount of luck in the writing business that boils down to this: the right eyes hitting your work at the right time.
It can happen on the first book you write (I suppose, since it has to very few folks). But more likely there will be many books. The first that you publish, whether trade or indie. The first that earns you a five star review–or the first that earns you one star. There will be a book that someone will email you to tell you they desperately needed. A book you look back on and cringe. Because for most of us, this career is about building a mountain, not about being airlifted to the top of it or shot out of a cannon.
Which brings me to the last tidbit…
1. Your craft is the barre.
In ballet, the barre is the place you turn to re-orient yourself. To find balance and return to the basics that make the pro jumps possible. That is craft to the writer, but you have to build it. There is a general mythos around writing that suggests that the ability to do it well is this ephemeral thing called “talent.” But the truth is, it’s something we have to learn and hone. Everyone can get better at it. Sometimes when we start out, our barre is crooked and falls off when we lean on it too hard. We have to bust out the level and learn some physics and engineering and figure out how it best works for us, and even then we have to replace the screws that fall out and the bits of mirror where the silver wears away.
It takes effort and practice, and there is never a guarantee of being that unicorn. There is just the story, just the barre that holds us up and directs the flow of our movements.
But here’s the other bit–you can surprise yourself. If you’d asked me when I was 20 how many books I thought I could write, I don’t know what my answer would have been. At nearly 32, I’ve written twelve. Everyone’s mountain looks different.
And I’m just getting started.