Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Janice Hardy

Welcome to the start of a new session of Friday Features.  Where we grab our coffee, read a little about a fellow writer, and start a conversation with them in the comment section. Welcome all!

I'm so excited to introduce this week's interviewee, Janice Hardy!  Janice just published her second book in a trilogy, BLUE FIRE and is having fun touring the blog-o-sphere talking about her new book and her journey.  Janice's blog is choc full of great writing tips and perspective, so give her a shout-out over there!  Don't forget to check out her website, filled with current news about her books. And, she recently participated in Anna's Letter To Myself series.  Which is such a fabulous way to get to know a writer, so check out Janice's letter!

Here's Janice in her own words:


A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Yay!  Thanks for being here, Janice! Janice, your book, BLUE FIRE, the second book in THE HEALING WARS TRILOGY came out October 5th. How exciting!! Tell us a bit about what to expect when we pick up BLUE FIRE.

Nya and her friends are on the run, doing their best to avoid soldiers and the Duke’s trackers. But things go wrong (as they always do) and Nya winds up in Baseer, where she discovers life in the enemy’s city isn’t any better than life in Geveg. Probably even worse, and she’s pulled right into the middle of it.

Ooo, sounds exciting! What has been your highest high, and lowest low while working on BLUE FIRE?

The lowest low was during the third or fourth draft when I was convinced the first book had been a fluke and I really couldn’t write. I’d never be able to turn this mess into something someone would want to read. The highest high was when the reviews started coming in and they were even better than the first book. I had turned the mess into something good!


Tell us a little about how THE HEALING WARS TRILOGY came about. Did this second book surprise you in any way as you wrote it?


It first started about nine years ago when I was playing with common fantasy ideas and trying to turn them on their heads. I thought about healing and how it was usually portrayed as something good. I started wondering if I could make it used for evil. But it was a bad story at that point, no more than an outline, and I stuffed it in a drawer. A few years ago I pulled it back out, and the pain shifting idea still resonated with me. I started thinking about that world, and that led to the whole buying and selling pain idea, and the story developed from that.


BLUE FIRE was a constant source of surprises and not all of them good (grin). I was surprised at how hard it was to write, most of all. Surprised that I pulled it off in the end. I was surprised to find one of my characters had been keeping a major secret from me. There’s also something about Nya I hadn’t been expecting. There was quite a lot, actually.


Janice, what made you start writing seriously?


I decided I wanted to see my books on the shelves. I think I was also curious if I was good enough to publish. You never really know until you start putting it out there.


How did you connect with your agent, and get that first book into the publisher’s hands? Was it smooth sailing from there?


THE SHIFTER was smooth sailing almost from day one. I’ve never had a book go so well. I pitched my agent at the Surrey International Writers Conference, and ten days later signed with her. I had several other agents interested, and a few offers (one was waiting for me when I got back from the conference) so that sped things up a bit. My agent wanted me to do some revisions (like rewrite the ending) which I agreed with and did (twice). That took four or five months, and then we waited a teeny bit longer because there was an editor she wanted to submit to that was about to launch her own imprint (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins). My agent felt that editor would like the book. She was right, because B&B bought the whole trilogy.


That's wonderful.  It's nice to hear stories when things go smoothly. What has surprised you most on your journey toward publication and beyond?


That it moved fast from submission to acceptance. Everything I’d ever submitted had always taken forever, and everyone says be ready for the long wait. But my entire query process was six weeks, and my novel submission was a month. I was fully expecting it to take up to a year, but things happened quickly.


Fast is great! What are you currently working on?


Waiting on my revision letter for Shifter 3, and then I’ll be editing that for several months at least. There’s a lot to wrap up in the series and I imagine it’ll take some work to get all the arrows aligned. I’m hoping to start a new book in January, a YA fantasy about an undercover teen spy, but it’ll really depend on when Shifter 3 is done.


Janice, what are your writing habits? Do you have a set schedule or time of day that you set aside for writing? What do you do when you are stuck?


I’m a morning person, so I like to write from about 8 to 11am. I’ll edit in the afternoons or evenings, but the writing is always better early in the day. I’m not an everyday writer, and unless I’m on deadline, I prefer to write for a few days, then take a day off. That keeps me from getting burned out. When I’m stuck, I walk away. Go read, play, do chores, anything to occupy my mind so my subconscious can work on the problem in the background. Taking hot showers also helps. Something about washing my hair helps get the brain working again.


What has been your biggest trial in writing?

BLUE FIRE. They aren’t kidding when they say the second book, especially if it’s a middle book, is the hardest thing you’ll ever write. Second books incorporate all the hard stuff, (tons of backstory, saggy middle problems) and you have to overcome those and write a book that isn’t a rehash of the first or a setup for the third. From a technical standpoint, characterization was something I struggled with for a long time.


What is the most outlandish thing that a fan or aspiring writer has said to you?


Oh wow, I’m not sure. I guess I’ve been lucky so far that nothing really strange has happened. I’ve had some folks tell me about typos, which always struck me as a little odd, since there’s nothing I can do about them once the book is printed. But maybe they’re trying to be helpful in case the book is reprinted.


What marketing tools have you used that have worked to get the word out about your books?


I started blogging, I frequent writer’s forums, I printed business cards for the books that I can hand out when folks ask about them. I do a lot of school visits and various events. Just mostly get out there where people are talking about books.


How has the blogging and on-line community changed your connections with other writers or fans?


It’s let me connect with people all over the world, which is great. I’ve found lots of opportunities from folks online, or forums, or just seeing something on someone’s blog.


What is a favorite on-line resource?


I’d have to say Absolute Write. It has a lot of great info on the main site, and the forums are full of helpful information and people. It’s also a great way to connect with other writers of all levels.


What is a favorite blog post that you have written?


Ooo that’s a toughie. I think Overcoming Adversity Through Adverbs is one of my favorites, because it was something that I figured out could be a huge help while editing, not only to me, but to others. And it was a new way of looking at adverbs as something not to be avoided at all costs, but to use as a first draft tool.


Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.


Fiction First Aid, by Raymond Obstfeld and Scene & Structure, by Jack Bickham are two that finally made things click for me. It took a while to get Bickham, but once I did plotting became so much easier.


What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?


I just want to keep writing stories that people want to read, (and my editor wants to buy). I want to be able to do this for the rest of my life. As for the reach-for-the-stars goal, a National Book Award would be nice.


That would be very nice! So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?


Having fans tell me how much they enjoyed my book. I love that thrill you get when you read a really great book, and the thrill is even better when you’re able to provide that for another book lover.


If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?


Comfy chair, a good surface for my laptop that allows me stretch my legs out, good lighting with no glare, nothing distracting in line of sight, but things to look at if I need to take a break and look away. And within reach of drinks and snacks. Maybe a couch for naps or thinking.


Speaking of distractions, tell us about a few in your life.


Three cats who think my mouse pad is for their naps. Computer games that call to me to come play with them. My growing stack of to-read novels. And of course, my husband, but he’s gotten really good at knowing when I need to be distracted or left alone.


And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?


Tea for sure.


Oh, and do you NaNo?


Never have, but it would be fun to do one day. I just need a year when I’m not swamped in November.


Now, Janice since we're so excited about your new book--take a moment to plug any author visits, book signings, giveaways or other publicity so we can get on the BLUE FIRE bandwagon!


If you live near Gainesville, GA, I’ll be at Hall Book Exchange on Saturday, October 23 from 2-3pm. They’re doing a 24-hour Read-a-Thon for charity. I’ll also be at Barnes & Noble at the Avenue Forsyth on October 28 from 6-8pm. One of the local middle schools is having their book fair that night and I’ll be signing books. I think that’s it for public events.

Here's the official BLUE FIRE blurb:

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.


Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.


Sounds intriguing, Janice!! Everyone can pick up a copy here, and please make sure to check out Janice's website and blog.  After leaving a comment or question here, in the comment section, of course!  Thanks, Janice for being here today.  I really enjoyed getting to more about your journey beyond publication!!  Now, who's going to get this party started??

19 comments:

  1. Excellent premiere of FF Season 2!

    Janice, it's intriguing to read about your smooth sailing experience with the first book, but the roadblocks showed up big-time for the second book. What about the third. Was it equally as hard to write or was it just plain relieving to get the story out and done with?

    I look forward to checking out FICTION FIRST AID, looks great!

    Thanks Ladies, what a good start to a Friday.

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  2. Jon--Thanks so much for getting us started!!

    Janice--Thanks again for the wonderful interview!

    I'm embarrassed to say that the question I most want to ask is about what kind of computer games you like to play. Because I get sucked into those as well!

    And, how involved was your agent in picking your next project beyond the trilogy?

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  3. Great interview! Thanks to both of you. I love hearing how published authors sometimes struggle too! That's encouraging. Best of luck with the trilogy!

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  4. Book three was much easier compared to two, but not as easy as three. I had to rewrite it twice, because the first draft was more about understanding the war and how the mechanics all worked, then I had to revise so it was Nya's personal journey thorough all that. And there is some relief at having it done, even though I do love the story and characters.

    Thanks for having me, Heather! I like MMOs (World of Warcraft, EQ, AO., etc) sim games like The Sims and Civilization, I'm eagerly waiting on Fable 3 to come out next week. And I love the sneak'em ups like Splinter Cell and Thief.

    My agent was very involved in helping me pick the next project. I had a breakfast meeting with her (we were at the same conference recently, so that was nice for some face to face time) and told her about the four or five ideas I had brewing. We discussed why Shifter sold and what folks liked about it, and how it might be a smart idea to stick with the themes I was successful with. In this case, exploring the moral gray area. I love stories like that, so I was happy to head in that direction. There had been a session later that day that talked about career themes, and I knew that gray area was going to be mine.

    Once we narrowed down which project, we discussed it more at length and she made some very insightful comments that I knew instantly were dead on, but hadn't thought about. Like turning one of the characters into a guy, which added a great romance element and upped the tension big time.

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  5. Nice to meet you Janice! I'll be back with questions later and a longer comment later... I'm stealing time from work as it is... But congrats on all of your successes thus far and here's to many more! :)

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  6. Can I just say I love the cover of BLUE FIRE! It sounds like a great read--thanks Janice (and Heather ::waves::)

    No real question--it's just nice to know someone who has "made it" still struggles with some of the anxieties we "pre-agented" folks have. Good luck Janice!

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  7. Loved reading this!! I follow Janice's blog, so getting to know her more was awesome!

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  8. Janice, it was so great to read this interview! I love your blog and how useful it is to me as a writer. It's great to get a chance to hear your publication story. And thanks for the reading resources! The Scene and Structure book sounds like one I should pick up!

    And how about more, do you have fiction books that have really influenced you? What are ones I could learn from?

    Thank you, Heather and Janice!

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  9. Thanks! I think there are always struggles with any kind of creative endeavor. The process isn't about rote and rhetoric, it's organic. And highly subjective, so you never truly know if what you have is working or not.

    Tina, I have a highlighted, scribbled all over copy of Dave Duncan's "The Gilded Chain" that I studied to figured out how he did his prose. I just love the way he writes. That was one of the first times I remember really looking at someone else's work to better my own. You might try picking up the authors who you most admire and picking apart their prose. Really study it to see what and how they do what they do.

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  10. Great interview. It's interesting how your agent is helping you firm up the plot for your next book too.

    I'll have to check on the two books you recommend. I've heard good things about both of them.

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  11. Janice, good luck & congrats! And your writing story is inspiring. From a nine year idea to easy agent and publishing.

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  12. What a fantastic feature, and a fantastic interview! I really enjoyed reading this, thank you both.

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  13. Most welcome! My agent is very hands on, which I love, especially since she has such a great sense of the industry. She's in it for the long haul, which makes me feel like I'll always have someone in my corner when I need them.

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  14. Janice, I love that idea of having a broader theme as a writer. It's true there is some common thread between books that most of us write. I'll have to think about what mine would be.

    I love that you have a great relationship with your agent. As it should be!

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  15. Hearing about that career theme really opened my eyes. (It also gave me an idea for a post for the tour! Yay!) I'd never thought about theme in that way before. It can be such a unifying factor, both in our books, and in the kinds of stories we like to write.

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  16. I'm baaaack! Aaaand Heather pretty much stole my question... :)

    I was going to simply ask how your relationship with your agent plays, if she's involved with plotting your next project and such.

    The more I strive to get an agent, the more defined my list of 'wants' for said agent becomes. But primarily, I just want someone who looks at me and imagines cackling over a breakfast meeting with me twenty or thirty years from now, and still loving me and my writing. It's great to hear about successful authors relationships with their agents work.

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  17. How weird! I just got THE SHIFTER today. Now I'm really, really looking forward to it. Great ?s, answers. Thanks, ladies!

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  18. Perfect timing, Anita! I hope you enjoy The Shifter.

    A. Grey, having an agent that loves your work is a must. One of the things I really liked about Kristin (my agent) is that I got to sit in on a workshop session she did once (this was before she was my agent), and her energy was infectious. You could just tell this was someone who'd go to the mat for you.

    Of course, I have a friend who was actually turned off by that, which just proves that there's no right type for an agent, just the type that clicks with you.

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  19. what an awesome interview. thanks so much to both of you ladies for your brilliance!!

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