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  • Kristina Elyse Butke

Writer's #Ask


Typewriter and old books on a table - Writer's #Ask
Photo by Daria Kraplak on Unsplash

Today's Writers #Ask meme comes from tumblr user M. Kirin, a fellow author and artist. M. Kirin's blog is full of all sorts of juicy, helpful things for writers, so take a look!


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01: When did you first start writing?

Really young. Definitely elementary school, probably in first grade. I know by third grade I was writing my own long(ish) stories.


02: What was your favorite book growing up?

I loved the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, Fear Street, Goosebumps, and then non-scary fare such as Bad News Ballet.


Covers to Goosebumps, 99 Fear Street, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Bad News Ballet

03: Are you an avid reader?

Yes, of comics (manga and manhwa). I read them all the time. When it comes to novels or nonfiction, it comes and goes. It's usually tied to my mental health. If I'm not doing so well, the reading stops because it's too hard for me to concentrate. I've had periods of 8-10 years where I've stopped reading novels. I read a couple novellas for Speculative Chic but other than that, I had a dry spell until 2021 when I started on some reading projects. As far as 2022 goes, at the time of this post I've read 12 books.


04: Have you ever thrown a book across the room?

Not because the book was bad. I think I used the book as a weapon. I was a pretty immature kid who didn't know how to deal with my anger.


05: Did you take writing courses in school/college?

What's funny is until graduate school, the only writing course I took in college was playwriting, and I had already been a playwright for a few years. I didn't even take creative writing! I was too busy knocking through courses for my literature degree.


06: Have you read any writing-advice books?

Yup. In graduate school we had to read them. I remember one book in particular my mentor Tim Waggoner recommended to me, and that was Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke. My most recent book was H.R. D'Costa's Midpoint Magic, which I read while I was struggling drafting Son of the Siren.


The covers to writing craft books Plot vs. Character and Midpoint Magic

07: Have you ever been part of a critique group?

For graduate school, every semester we were assigned two critique partners plus two mentors. I count that as a critique group. We also had workshop critiques at grad school. As far as outside of university, I am not a member of one. My time management is really poor and I just don't think I can give my critique partners the kind of attention they deserve.


08: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?

I'm paraphrasing terribly, but Tim Waggoner told me not to "fight my process" and to try not to compare how I write to how other writers do it. He gave me this advice when I was seriously stressing out during school. My self-esteem was low and I just didn't feel like I was doing anything right. He helped calm me down.


09: What’s the worst piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?

I have had it happen several times where people have told me I got something wrong when copious amounts of research existed to defend my writing choices, and they wanted me to change it. I do the work, people! I hate being told I'm wrong when I had already found the data to prove I'm right. This happens to writers all the time and it's called The Tiffany Problem, coined by author Jo Walton:


"[...] — your readers are modern people and know what they know, which is fine except when what they know isn’t actually right. For instance, the name Tiffany sounds extremely modern to us. It feels jarring when we read it as a character name in a historical setting, where we’d be quite happy with names like Anna and Jane. But our instinct is wrong, because Tiffany is a form of Theophania, and it was fairly common in medieval England and France. It went out of fashion later, and it’s because we don’t have seventeenth to nineteenth century examples that it feels modern. But you still can’t use it in a fantasy novel set in the exact time and place when the name would have been historically accurate, because it will jerk the reader out of their reading trance. They know it’s wrong and you can’t tell them that what they know is wrong."

So the kicker here is that I should actually be changing the historical or similar accuracies I wrote so the reader doesn't get kicked out of their mode...but there are some things that I feel shouldn't be changed, and I'm stubborn. Maybe this stance will come back to bite me, but for now, I take "changing factual information" as bad advice.


10: What’s your biggest writer pet-peeve?

When writers are writing in first-person POV and suddenly the voice changes from the character's to the author's. The story invasion is quite jarring.


11: What’s your favorite book cover?

It's not my favorite, but one of my favorites...basically, if I had the ability to hire a cover designer, I'd hire Sija Hong, who designed the covers for Judy I. Lin's A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet.


The covers to A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet, art by Sija Hong

12: Who is your favorite author?

I can't pick just one, especially since I'm discovering new authors all the time. But for now I'll say Margaret Rogerson, Juliet Marillier, and Holly Black.


13: What’s your favorite writing quote?

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." - Toni Morrison

14: What’s your favorite writing blog?

I don't have a favorite so I'm just going to plug my Flipboard curated magazine Writerlicious. I've had it since 2010, I think, and I scour the web for articles about writing from all sorts of sources. Over 64,000 people have read it, over 13,000 subscribe to it regularly, and I've compiled over 21,000 articles. Anyone can read it; you don't have to have the Flipboard app to do so. Please check it out!

Diverse hands holding pencils on a colorful background - Writerlicious flipboard magazine

15: What would you say has inspired you the most?

Costumes really inspire my writing. It determines what time period I set the book or play in. I will literally look at historical clothing and decide how I want my characters to look, then those characters develop a plot. I'm a very visual person!


16: How do you feel about movies based on books?

I don't mind them. If the movie is good, it will make me want to read the book, and if movies can help drive books into the hands of readers, that's good!


17: Would you like your books to be turned into TV shows, movies, video games, or none?

I want my books to be turned into an animated series. I would love it if Kyoto Animation did it--I just love their backgrounds and character designs. Studio Mir is another excellent choice, too. I'd love for the animated series to be dubbed in all languages, but particularly Japanese and English. I've got my favorite VAs I'd love to cast!


18: How do you feel about love triangles?

Not a fan.


19: Do you prefer writing on a computer or longhand?

I write longhand for all the plotting and pre-writing and problem-solving. I like to type out the actual drafts.


20: What’s your favorite writing program?

I use Microsoft Word (I got intimidated by Scrivener and quit). I also like Notebook.ai for worldbuilding and The Novel Factory for plotting.


21: Do you outline?

The barest of bones. And it's nothing fancy. Just bullet points. I have made outlines in Novel Factory before, but those usually get ignored or drastically changed.


22: Do you start with characters or plot?

Characters. I visualize them first, then think of a story to put them in.


23: What’s your favorite & least favorite part of making characters?

As I said before, I'm a visual person, so I love coming up with character design, as well as names. My least favorite part of character creation probably has to do with their role in the narrative--I struggle making POV close enough and tend to miss opportunities for showing emotion in third person limited. Maybe this problem has to do with voice? I can't explain it very well.


24: What’s your favorite & least favorite part of plotting?

I hate plotting, period. I am all vibes.


25: What advice would you give to young writers?

Be kind to yourself and try to be patient. Things happen very slowly in the writing and publishing world.


26: Which do you enjoy reading the most: physical, eBook, or both?

I collect physical books because I think they are beautiful and comforting, but to be honest, I've really gotten into reading eBooks. This is largely because I live in Japan but will be moving back to the States soon, and cannot take all my books back with me, so the convenience of having my library on a portable device is great. Also, I love using WordWise for phrases I don't know. You can highlight a word you don't recognize and it'll pop up with the definition and the wiki about it, if both are available. It's quite convenient!


27: Which is your favorite genre to write?

Fantasy.


28: Which do you find hardest: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

The middle. I always run out of enough things for my characters to do.


29: Which do you find easiest: writing or editing?

Well, I thought it was going to be editing, but based on the adventure I've had working on Son of the Siren, I'm going to say editing (revisions) is the hardest part. Writing the book took me like three years...and it'll be even longer based on how many revisions the book has gone/will be going through. Yikes.


30: Have you ever written fan-fiction?

Yes. But I don't share it or post it online. I write it just for me.


31: Have you ever been published?

Yes. Small things in literary journals--all poetry so far.


32: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Greatly appreciative. It's hard to find readers, and when someone actually wants to read my stuff--it's like the greatest birthday present ever.


33: Are you interested in having your work published?

I want to find homes for all of my books, so yes, I'd like my fiction to be published.


34: Describe your writing space.

I have two of them here in Japan. One is at a gorgeous desk that I bought and decorated beautifully, but the table is a little low on my legs and the chair is not comfortable, so my second place is at my tray table by my bed.


35: What’s your favorite time of day for writing?

Weekends during the day and evenings on weekdays...just not too late. I can't be a night owl anymore.


36: Do you listen to music when you write?

Sometimes. Mostly soundtracks and scores and classical music, depending on what mood I want to create. Video game, movie, and anime soundtracks are my go-to.


37: What’s your oldest WIP?

Well...I started writing The Name and the Key in 2010, finished it in 2013...and I've since decided it needs a total rewrite, so that would make it my oldest WIP.


38: What’s your current WIP?

I'm revising Son of the Siren as well as writing the prequel to The Name and the Key.


39: What’s the weirdest story idea you’ve ever had?

I had an idea for a Southern gothic musical about a man who collected corpses trying to bring them back to life, and there was a corpse ball and everything, and characters with names like Doc Carrion and Marie Tourniquette. There was no real plot. Just vague ideas. I never even wrote music for it.


40: Which is your favorite original character, and why?

Andresh is my favorite original character. He is charming, has a sort of hidden darkness to him, and is much-loved by my readers. He was (and still is!) so much fun to write.



41: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline?

I honestly let them do their thing and I try to keep up. It's through editing and revision that I try to ensure that what they do makes sense in the bigger picture.


42: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Hmm...it's hard for me to say. Do I like putting my characters through some challenges? Yes! But with Son of the Siren, for example, there are terrible things that my lead goes through that did not delight me as I wrote it. In fact, it was quite disturbing, and part of the reason it took so long for me to write the book. Lots of trauma ended up on the page.


43: Have you ever killed a main character?

It's complicated.


44: What’s the weirdest character concept you’ve ever come up with?

I came up with a weird carnivorous walking-stick creature who lives in the fae forest of Elythia. His name is Berach. You can find him in Son of the Siren!


45: What’s your favorite character name?

I really like the name Lirien. It's the name of my lead in Son of the Siren. It's got a nice flow to it, and it's influenced by the Celtic god of the sea--Lir or Ler in Irish myth, and Llŷr in Welsh myth.


46: Describe your perfect writing space.

I'd like a space with a large desk with bookshelves and a comfortable chair! My Japanese workspace at home almost fits the criteria...


47: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

I'm not sure how to interpret "make them yours..." but I would take Nathaniel Thorn from Margaret Rogerson's Sorcery of Thorns and have him team up with Andresh from The Name and the Key and they would become a powerful magical duo.


A girl holding a jeweled sword surrounded by thorns. SORCERY OF THORNS by Margaret Rogerson

48: If you could write the next book of any series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

I'd like to add a book to Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreaker series and make it about Grey (again). Of course, there's already a new spinoff coming out called Forging Silver Into Stars, but it focuses on other characters in the book. In fact, I don't remember who they are, so I'll have to reread the original series to find out!


Silverwork on starry cover with fire pit - FORGING SILVER INTO STARS by Brigid Kemmerer

49: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

I'd like to collaborate with Junji Ito about facial pareidolia in a haunted house. The concept might be too similar to Uzumaki where characters saw spirals in everything, but I think Ito would make some really cool artwork for it.


50: If you could live in any fictional world, which would it be?

I know it would be absolutely dangerous to, but I wouldn't mind heading to Elfhame. Holly Blacks' fae world in The Folk of the Air series is richly imagined. I would go there just to wear the clothing.



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As with all these fun tags, you can add this to your own blog, and if you do, I'd love to see it! Be sure to link to it in the comments. Thanks for taking the time to read through all this!