Kristina Elyse Butke
101 Imaginative and Fun Author Interview Questions
Today's post comes from Authority Pub and it is a doozy because of the number of questions. If you noticed, I love doing tags, asks, and self-interviews, and they make up a large bulk of my new blog so far. I find talking about my process and the writing craft to be very cathartic, and I think it's a fun way to learn about me and what I do. If you'd like to know more about me, read on, friends!
Best Author Interview Questions
At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
I think as soon as you sit down and make the decision to write and commit to it, you're a writer.
What difference do you see between a writer and an author?
I think an author has been published, but a writer hasn't necessarily.
Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym?
Oh, yeah. I have used my pseudonym once, being credited for proofreading on a BL game, but I'd also like to use it for writing BL, too.
What do the words "writer's block" mean to you?
That there's something preventing my writing from flowing out of me, and it's usually something psychologically blocking me. Most likely, a manifestation of perfectionism.
How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?
I haven't gotten a negative review yet but I have gotten negative feedback and it's something I struggle with. I tend to take it personally and overthink it, and agonize over how to make changes or what I should do in the future. I do not recommend anyone do what I do.
Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?
I have written people into my plays before in anger. At the time it felt good, but it didn't really provide closure or fill the hole in my heart. Plus, I was kind of a jerk about it. I have since resolved never to deliberately write characters based on people I know (except characters who are influenced by me).
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Coming up with a plot. I'm all characters and vibes.
How long have you been writing, or when did you start?
I started writing stories in elementary school. My earliest memory of getting complimented on my writing was in second grade. So...that's like 30+ years!
What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
Be kind to yourself, and it's ok to make mistakes.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
Characters who are living, breathing humans I'll follow anywhere.
What comes first for you--the plot or characters--and why?
The characters always come first to me. I usually think about their appearance and names, then craft a personality from that.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I try to think of different emotions my characters could feel--the expressions on their faces; the sounds of their voice--and then create things that cause those emotional reactions.
When did you first call yourself a writer?
I didn't consider myself a writer until I wrote my first full-length play that got performed in 7th grade.
How do you use social media as an author?
I'm bad at it. I'm spread out among all sorts of different sites: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Then I have this website. I have all these profiles because I want to have a lot of listings in Google and protect my name, but in terms of engagement on the sites, I have very little. Social media takes a lot out of me, and it's actually one of my mental health triggers, I can lose myself pretty fast if I'm not careful.
What's your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?
Favorite: (It will be) seeing the cover art to the book and finding the book on the shelves in the wild.
Least favorite: The money. I would really like to get paid for my work. Granted, I submitted to certain places willingly knowing that they were non-paying markets in order to get more of my writing out there, but I would love to live in a world where all writing, and all art, is valued where the creator can be paid and sustain a living. When it comes to publishing books, writers are getting paid, but the way it's being done is basically taking the advance writers would get and splits it into four payments, and then spreading those payments out over a 2-3 year-period. It just seems like it's so hard to make a living writing!
What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?
There's a difference between designing the cover and making it yourself. I think it's ok to sketch out a design, and pass that design onto a professional to render it in the best way possible, but I think making covers yourself is a risk. You've got to be sure you use a good program and have a lot of design skills up your sleeves. You have to be highly critical of your own work, too. If you can afford to, I think it is better to invest in someone else doing your cover, or at the very least, your art.
Author Interview Questions About Their Book
I'm going to talk about Son of the Siren for this section.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
I've written two books so far and my favorite is The Name and the Key, which was my graduate thesis at Seton Hill. It's largely because I feel like I did a lot right with that book, and created a character--Andresh--whom everybody loved. I had fun writing it and since it was my first book, it's my little baby, and I can't forget my baby! However, I do think Son of the Siren features better writing overall.
What part of the book (Son of the Siren) did you have the hardest time writing?
Almost all of the times Queen Aurinda interacted with Lirien. I didn't want to make her fully a villain, but she does absolutely terrible things, and because she is a Queen, she gets away with a lot. She's particularly cruel to Lirien, and those scenes were hard to write.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
All the scenes in Elythia! I had so much fun writing about the Fae, and creating my super amorous couple, Lord Iesin and Lady Ariana, who rule Autumn Wood. Lirien meeting Kitra and the scenes with the Green Man were also fun to write.
Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?
This is a really personal question for me and I don't think I have it in me to answer it, because it's too traumatic for me to recount.
If you're planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
Son of the Siren is a standalone novel!
What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
I cut the gods and goddesses and their mythology from the book, including the royal family descending from one of those gods; I cut the vampiric Sleeping Beauty when I found out one of the books I read ages ago already did that; I cut a lot of Kitra's vengeful personality out and tried to make her more playful; and I cut 78 pages of writing that just wasn't working. This was all before I got feedback from my editor and beta readers, whew!
What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with this work?
I can only speak for myself because my book isn't out in the world yet, but I hope my book helps readers reexamine what they know about intimacy and consent.
What inspired the idea for your book?
Three fairytales: Allerleirauh, The Wild Swans, and The Little Mermaid.
How would you describe your book's ideal reader?
My original goal was teenagers aged 14-18 but since getting feedback from an Author Mentor Match author as well as beta readers, it looks like my audience should be aged up and the book changed to Adult fantasy. So, readers 18 and up...but with crossover appeal for readers as young as 16 years old, I think.
How much research did you need to do for your book?
I had to research the time period. The clothes, architecture of the palace, weapons, and dances all come from Tudor England. I also researched using a spinning wheel and loom, the best time to view the Northern Lights, and name meanings for certain characters.
How important was professional editing to your book's development?
So, so important. The book has received professional developmental edits; beta reading from a librarian, book reviewer, and a literary fantasy author; a first chapter editorial letter from an editor and traditionally published author; and critiques from a self-published author and a professor. I also just solicited two more beta readers, both of whom are published authors, to get additional feedback on the book's most recent revision, which was substantial.
What was your hardest scene to write, and why?
The final confrontation between Queen Aurinda and Lirien. This is where all of the emotions are laid bare and the truth comes out, and Lirien defends himself.
What characters in your book are most similar to you or to people you know?
Because I'm actively trying not to write about other people, I sort of picked at little pieces of myself, past and present, and put them into characters like Lirien and Kitra. Only people who know me really well will be able to see which parts of me ended up where.
How long did it take you to write this book?
When it was a graphic novel (seriously!) it took me like a month to make the front cover and first page. I realized I wasn't going to be able to pull off writing and illustrating at the same time, so the comic became a novel. I didn't start drafting the novel until I moved to Japan; it took almost three years to write "The End" on the first draft of the book.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I came up with it immediately. The book was always going to be about Lirien, and Lirien is the son of the siren, an identity he grapples with constantly. I thought it was the perfect title.
Would you and your main character get along?
I think so, but I'd probably ask Lirien to sing more than he'd like to, and that might annoy him.
If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
Thank you for coming with me on the journey. I love you all.
Fun Author Interview Questions
What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or pantser?
I'm a pantser who handwrites some plot points (but not a full plot) in a notebook and then wings the rest on the PC.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
Generally, silence. Sometimes music helps, but Son of the Siren has a lot of songs and riddles in it, so I avoided music on purpose so as not to be influenced by it.
If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?
From Son of the Siren, I'd write about Kitra or Brandegil. From The Name and the Key, I'd write about Laney.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
Margaret Rogerson or Holly Black.
What is your schedule like when you're writing a book?
There really should be a schedule, but there isn't. I can't bring myself to write every day and a lot of times I have trouble concentrating or brainstorming, so it really is a "write when the mood strikes" type of situation. This is not sustainable.
Have you ever traveled as research for your book?
I would love to. As of right now, I think of where I've already travelled, and that ends up in the book. Parts of New York City and Wales appeared in The Name and the Key, and lots of Japan appeared in Son of the Siren.
What's your favorite writing snack or drink?
I can't stop drinking soda while I write. *sobs*
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
When I finished The Name and the Key, I cried a little. When I finished Son of the Siren, I went shopping.
What do you think of Nanowrimo? Worth it?
I have tried Nanowrimo multiple times and failed. I just can't thrive under that kind of pressure--I'd never finish 50,000 in one month because I relentlessly self-edit as I write, run into plotting blocks frequently, and can never stick to an outline. I think Nanowrimo is definitely worth it to other people.
What is your kryptonite as a writer?
PLOTTING! AHRHOUOUGFSJGFOUWROHSLBFBJFLSJBFSJ I suck at it!
What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?
When I do what I call "auto-write" (where I just go with the flow, or hyper-pants it), I have reached the point of enlightenment where I'm no longer worried of what other people think and I'm just focused on the story. It's risky to just let the writing go off on auto-pilot, but my best and most fun scenes to write appear when that happens.
When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?
I Googled myself just now to answer this question! And what's weird is depending on what device I use, my Google results change. On my PC right now as I type, my #1 link is to my LinkedIn profile (what?) followed by this website. But on my cell phone, my Twitter pops up first. My goal is for this website to pop up first, and I don't know how to get my results to change in that way. …I do Google pretty frequently just to see if my blog posts are showing up, and to keep an eye on privacy violations (like websites that aggregate your phone number and prior addresses. Those suck).
Which of your characters are most likely to be an activist, and what kind?
I feel like this question should go in a different section. Anyway, I'm pulling from Son of the Siren again, and I feel like Brandegil or Kitra would be activists. Brandegil would deal with protesting the illegal seizure of artifacts, and Kitra would advocate for the rights of tricksters and other magical creatures.
Do you play music while you write--and if so, what's your favorite?
If I need to be in a certain mood, I'll grab instrumental music; mostly soundtracks from movies, video games, or anime. My favorite soundtrack that works well for writing is from Sword Art Online (the soundtrack to the Aincrad arc). The songs are like a minute and a half or two minutes, have vastly different styles, but also equally evoke the sense of the fantastic. In other words, if you're writing fantasy, it's an ideal fantasy soundtrack!
Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?
When I briefly had cats, yes. They would come up on my lap and want a hug (yes! I had a hugging cat!) and I'd want to stop everything and give them my attention.
If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?
Ok, so I tend to imagine my books as anime. Son of the Siren would be animated by Kyoto Animation and Lirien, the lead, would be played by Hosoya Yoshimasa because he has a beautiful singing voice. His voice is a bit higher than how Lirien's is described in the book (Lirien is a "gentle baritone") but I don't care. Hosoya is a great actor and would pull it off well.
Have you ever killed off a character your readers loved?
I don't think so.
Questions About Writing
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given about writing?
To not fight my process. I'm paraphrasing, but my mentor Tim Waggoner told me this when I was struggling with what "real writers" do.
What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?
By continually reading and writing.
What advice would you give to help others create plotlines?
I would *not* give advice on this because I'm terrible at this.
What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?
Hindered: my self-doubts and need for validation. Helped: Not caring about what other people think.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?
On the whole, unfortunately writing exhausts me. The moments where the writing flows out by itself are rarer and rarer--and those are the moments that energize me.
What is the best money you've ever spent with regard to your writing?
The laptop I'm writing on right now!
What are common traps for new authors?
I don't feel qualified to answer this question as I am still a new writer (at least when it comes to fiction).
How many hours a day do you write?
I don't write everyday, but when I do it completely varies from like one hour to six.
What are your favorite blogs or websites for writers?
I'm going to go ahead and plug my Flipboard Writerlicious here. On a daily basis I compile articles on writing, publishing, and reading, and I take them from all different kinds of writing blogs I follow. So if you'd like to be one of 60,000+ viewers, bookmark my magazine!
At what time of the day do you do most of your writing?
Late afternoon into the night, but most commonly nighttime.
What's your writing software of choice?
I tried out Scrivener but couldn't figure it out and gave up on it pretty quickly, so I am a Microsoft Word girl.
How do you come up with character names for your stories?
I usually go based on sound, then meaning. If I need help with meanings I go to Behind the Name for inspiration.
Do you participate in writing challenges on social media? Do you recommend any?
I don't really participate in stuff like that on social media. It's probably one of the reasons I have almost no engagement. Most of the time I have no idea what challenges are going on, anyway, and by the time I do find out, it's almost over.
When you're writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?
I imagine my characters' faces or voices during the scene I'm about to write. I'll also listen to certain musical scores to get in the mood.
Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?
Experienced, published authors; reviewers; and reputable beta readers. Basically I need to know the background and experience of the people I want to critique my work in order for me to trust them.
What are the essential characteristics of a hero you can root for?
Kindness, honesty, equity, and loyalty. Kindness is the biggest one!
What do you do to get inside your character's heads?
They're already in my head, so it's not hard to already be inside theirs. I wish I had a better answer for this, but I don't really know how I pull it off; I just do.
Questions to Ask Authors About Other Books & Authors
What books do you enjoy reading?
Fantasy, horror, comics, manga.
Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?
Reading Juliet Marillier in college inspired me to switch from playwriting to fiction.
What books helped you the most when you were writing your first book?
Tim Waggoner recommended I read Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke. That helped.
What books did you grow up reading?
Fear Street, Goosebumps, Bad News Ballet, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark...
What authors did you dislike at first but then develop an appreciation for?
I don't read authors I dislike. I stop reading their work. There are too many books in the world for me to read, so I'd rather get on with something else than force myself to read authors I don't like.
Name an underappreciated novel that you love.
Megan Rose Gedris's graphic novel series Spectacle hasn't even broken ten reviews on Amazon as I write this...which makes me think it is underappreciated. I've really enjoyed reading the series (set in a circus!), with queer love, murder and ghosts, and lovely art.
Has any hugely popular novel left you thinking you could write it better?
Have you ever tried to write a novel for a genre you rarely or never read?
When I was in high school I started drawing characters that would go in a science fiction novel set in space. It was supposed to be epic/high adventure but I never came up with a plot, so it was abandoned.
What book (or books) are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain.
If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?
Margaret Rogerson or Holly Black, pretty please!
Do you prefer eBooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
I think printed books are beautiful and are normally what I prefer, but because I live in Japan and have to move back to the US, I have stopped buying physical books (can't ship them home; I have hundreds of them) and have switched to eBooks. And one thing I really love about eBooks besides being able to load them up onto my Kindle easily, is the Word Wise feature, where you can highlight a word you don't know and it will give you a definition.
What are your favorite series or series authors?
Brigid Kemmerer for the Cursebreakers series and Holly Black for The Folk of the Air.
Have you listened to any audiobooks? Which did you enjoy the most?
I don't listen to audiobooks. I want to get through a book quickly; I prefer to hear the voices in my own head; and I will have to devote all of my focus to the audiobook so as not to get distracted, and it's hard for me to do.
If you could be a character in one of your favorite books, who would you be?
I always wanted to be Josephine March from Little Women.
What author in your genre do you most admire, and why?
I feel like these are just variations of the same questions over and over again, which is why my answers are all the same. I'm going to pick my newest favorite, Margaret Rogerson, who writes completely creative standalones that feature a lot of things I love. I just want to pick her brain; her ideas are so good. And I like her characters.
Have you used an app to borrow eBooks or audiobooks from the library?
What books have you read more than once in your life?
I won't reread them now because I don't want to support the author, but I did reread the Harry Potter books growing up.
Personal Questions for Authors
Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?
Well, the book hasn't been published yet, but when it is, I think I'll feel like I'm finally a real author. Right now, I have some poetry published, and when that happened, I felt like an author, too, but it seems like publishing a book means it's totally official. That I'm the real deal.
Is there a particular genre you would love to write but only under a pseudonym?
Do you see writing as a kind of spiritual or therapeutic practice?
I do tend to get a little more spiritual as I write because I often pray for guidance through hard patches. And writing is also therapeutic because sometimes I process things, like past trauma, through characters and situations.
As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal?
This is a question that shouldn't be asked (here's an article with reasons why; you can find several if you Google).
What spiritual or therapeutic practices help you get into the right headspace?
Praying helps. I also think of patron saints and gods or goddesses who deal with creative flow, output, and writing, and hang art of them somewhere in my writing space to help inspire me.
At what stage of your life have you done most of your writing?
I did a ton from my late teens into my twenties. I was on fire. It was probably mania that helped that output. Now I'm better, but I'm a slow writer.
What's the trickiest thing about writing characters of the opposite gender?
Giving them a voice that sounds authentic, I think.
What do the words "literary success" mean to you? How do you picture it?
Being published; being able to write full time without the need for a second or third job to support myself. I realize this is really hard, nigh impossible, to have happen, but I'm shooting for it anyway. I guess the most important one to me is being a published author of multiple books.
If you didn't write for a living, what would you probably do for work?
I would continue presenting workshops at conferences and conventions, and probably teach on the side. However, teaching really exhausts me, so I would rather be a lecturer for only 1-2 classes instead of the 3-4 I was previously doing. I would like to teach for the fun of it as opposed to teaching for survival.
Would anyone in your family disapprove of anything you've written?
I think my fanfiction, probably. I don't publish it online for a variety of reasons. It's personal to me.
Does anyone in your family read your books?
My family has read The Name and the Key! When I graduated I had the manuscript printed and bound as an actual trade paperback book (not for sale) to make it easier for people to read it. I have had family members attempt reading Son of the Siren, but they would get busy or I would make such substantial changes to it while they were reading, I just told them not to bother reading it anymore. When it's officially finished it'll probably be like how it was for my thesis--it has to be in book form for people to want to read it.
Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?
My mother and my sister. My mother reads and comments on all of my writing. My sister defends me all the time and talks me through my rough spots when I write. I have other supporters, but I think those two are my biggest cheerleaders.
Do you have other writers in the family?
Yep. My brother writes and posts fanfiction regularly on A03, and my sister is working on a nonfiction title.
If you could invite any three people for dinner, whom would you invite?
Besides the writers I listed above, just to switch things out, I'm going to say Edgar Allan Poe, Junji Ito, and Queen Elizabeth. It will be a very interesting dinner!
Would you share something about yourself that your readers don't know (yet)?
I am really, really good at rhyming lyrics and poetry. You'll find out when you read Son of the Siren.
If you had to describe yourself in just three words, what would those be?
Creative, emotional, variable.
If you had the power to cure a disease of your choosing, what would it be?
Cancer. It has killed members of my family and we're at risk for it because close family members had it. I don't want to lose any more people to it. Thousands of people share this pain with me, too...so I want to cure it for them as well.
You made it! You survived this giant post!! Do you want to try it out for your own blog? Be sure to link back to me in the comments if you do! Thanks so much for reading through all of this. I appreciate it!