Inside The Author with Xander Cross!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I can't really say I've gone on any. I have traveled to places I considered writing about in my twenties, like New Orleans and Salem, Massachusetts.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Charlotte's Web at the age of five, six at the latest.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I am not sure if I am answering this one correctly, but I will tell you something I indulgently hate: trendy writing rules. You know the ones. One year they say, "mix up your dialogue tags!" and the next they're all, "No! You can only use he/she/it said/asked!" I think people should find their own style. Words are music. They need to flow. Unleash them.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have my own version of the MCU. All of my book worlds are interconnected and ripple into one another. I also write long epics.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I definitely aim to make my books a little shorter now. I also had to streamline my editing process to make the best economy on my time.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The Fox. Kind of obvious for me. It has been my spirit animal since I was five years old.
What did you edit out of your books? (keep it family-friendly, please).
I had to drop a lot of world building out of Origin of the White Wind. My original manuscript was 142K. I culled over 27K out of that to make the 115K novel that is available on Amazon today. While I sacrificed some of the texture of my futuristic dystopia, I do roll some of it into the later books where it is organically appropriate.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Getting old - that way I can improve my writing skills and make stories into eternity.
What is your favorite childhood book?
It was Charlotte's Web, because it was the first book that made me cry. Watership Down ran a close second.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
I have a tie. One is that I have trouble sometimes getting the first draft written. One of my tricks is to write wherever I can dig in to get my daily quota, which is easy since so much of it is plotted out. The other is getting feedback from the editor. Not the important critical stuff - I'm paying for that and I want it. But inevitably, when an editor doesn't like something you do, they can make their frustration with your style known, and sometimes the rebuke can sting, whether or not you end up agreeing with it.
Also — the Library of Congress website is the MVA of the internet. Just saying.
What is the easiest part of your writing process?
Fixing my second draft. I love editing for myself. It's like reading and tweaking the book I want to read, which is the reason I wrote it.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
That wildly depends. It took me fifteen years to write my trunked magnum opus, which is epically huge and required eight years of research before I began. (It sits at a whopping 1,302,208 words for three books.) With my current series, it only takes me a couple of months to produce a first draft. But The Atlas Dystopia Apocalyptica is meant to be a quick, thrilling joyride, whereas my Tuatha de Danaan Bard series is a high fantasy epic.
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I used to be quite inept, and I still carry that with me. I was so inept, I made the MC of my trunked trilogy the same way. But to write competently for Hayate, who has mad levels of charisma, I had to research how to be charming. I read books and watched videos, and some of it got into my thick skull. So I'm hopefully not as inept as I used to be at the social game.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be an author?
Always. I fell in love with stories and books since they were read to me. I remember wanting to read for myself so bad and being frustrated by my illiteracy until I was four. On the first day of kindergarten, I learned how the alphabet I was taught by sight finally sounded, and how the letters all went together to form words. I could instantly read. By six, tragedy gave me the miraculous ability to hide in my own characters and stories. I began stapling notebook paper together to make little books about cheetahs and foxes (my two favorite animals of the time). I read books way above my reading level, including grown up fiction and non-fiction science books by the time I was eight. And thanks to the "Reading is FUNdamental" program, I took three free books home with me once a month in elementary school. Books are my life, then, now, and forever.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
George R.R. Martin. I listened to hours of his first three books on audio repeatedly while painting my house in the summer of 2006. He taught me how to craft a story with many characters, and his influence is felt in my trunked trilogy. The hard realism of every day life and how to show that through character dialogue, even when devoted to one POV, is what I took from him.
Jim Butcher taught me how to put together a fast-paced action thriller series in first person, and give the reader a glimpse of other characters' emotions while the MC remains clueless. I am in love with The Dresden Files, and I have read and listened to the audio (read by James Marsters!).
What's your favorite movie which was based on a book? Why?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Because for its time, it was beautifully done. Like them or hate them, every Tolkien fan had to gasp at the first sight of Minas Tirith. I mean, come on!
How did it feel when your first book got published? How did you celebrate?
It felt fantastic for twelve hours... then I looked inside my proof copy and saw the first mistake. After, it seemed every page I flipped had a mistake. I proceeded to grieve for the next two weeks, heartbroken and forlorn. But the snide remarks about my lack of perfection (mortifying) were rare. I am in the process of getting a second edition made, now that I have read my debut into a microphone, which is way more effective than reading aloud on its own. I have fixed as many mistakes as I could find.
So, sadly, I didn't celebrate the occasion.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don't know about authors?
How truly difficult it is to get the mistakes out. When you read and you see them, they jump out. But they hide like weasels when it's your own work, I think because our brains are wired to filter the errors, not correct them. It's harder for indies because we don't have four or five professional editors. We're lucky to have one and a group of beta readers to point out our errors as we read our copies sometimes up to twenty times in a year trying to get it prepped for publication.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
Yes! I am in the middle of the most wondrous chaos. I have just released TADA Book Two: The Dragon Game. I finished the third and final installment of my Wattpad/Instagram series Come by Night last month. Now I am writing my first draft of TADA Book Three, and I am excited to begin working on getting my trunked series out into the light of day.
Are you attending any conventions/festivals where readers can meet you and/or buy your books? Please provide all the "find it" information.
I am attending The Pages Promotions Winter Festival this February, and it looks like that will be a lot of fun.
Please provide links and/or instructions about how readers can purchase signed copies of your books.
For signed copies, please contact me over DM or Messenger on:
The ebook version of The Origin of the White Wind can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B081GJN5ZN/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8
And The Dragon Game: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08K39K7KN?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
I would say, don't try to get it perfect on the first draft. You're going to have to edit it anyway, so be prepared to read your manuscript quite a lot. If you want to be a writer, write, even if it is three sentences a day. It adds up, and over time the word count will increase. Your endurance will improve. Never give up and keep at it — but take it seriously. Set aside time each day and make yourself do it. You are the only one who can tell your story your way.
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