Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today, Angelia. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m a truck driver on a dedicated route, meaning I go the same places every time. I’m lucky enough to be home every night, so I get to spend time with my kids. I have four, but the oldest is on her own these days, and the second is preparing to launch. I met my husband in college. He’s a high school science teacher. My own degree is in English.
When did you discover your passion for writing? Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?
My grandmothers read to me from the time I was an infant. I read widely during my childhood and adolescence; science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, it didn’t matter. I wrote some fanfiction in high school and started original stories then, nearly failing algebra because I would rather write than learn to factor a quadratic equation. (fortunately, I had a great Algebra II teacher who got me past that) In college, I got in with the gamers and the SCA, both of which encouraged oral storytelling. When the kids came, I made up stories for them. It’s been a lifelong process.
How long does it typically take you to write a book, and then see it through the publishing process?
I can write a short story in a couple days to a week. I can get a novel drafted in a month. The rewrites take longer. The average novel takes about 4 months from inception to submission. The publishing process varies widely, from about 3 months of intensive edits to a year and a half of mostly waiting. It depends on the publisher.
Do the titles of your books generally come to you as you’re writing, or do you know what they’ll be called before the writing process begins?
Depends on the book. I knew I was going to call a book “Glad hands” as soon as I heard the term in truck-driving school. Alive on the Inside came early in the process. Heart of a Forest underwent half a dozen title changes, and I still like the original, All in the Merry Greenwood, better than any of them. Power in the Blood was originally called The Undying and the Undead, until the catchier title appeared. Some books just get called “the non-con short” or “that faerie thing” until they’re written and we have to come up with something for the publisher to call it.
Asking this question might be a bit like asking you to choose one child over another, but of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?
I have several favorites, but David Inman is the one I catch myself giving too much time to. He’s a secondary character in the Nikolai series, from Dark Roast Press, and if I don’t sit on him, he takes over every scene he’s in and demands more influence than he’s supposed to have. I have to be careful not to let him get away with it, but he is the best mind of the twenty-first century (born 2032) and does finds ways around me now and then. I love him for his brilliance, for his utter bitchiness–and David defines bitchy queen—and for his deep emotions that seldom make it to the surface in true displays of feeling.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope s/he takes away from the experience?
I want them to come away feeling hot and cold and shivery, saying of the science fiction or horror, “I can see exactly where it’s going wrong and I can’t stop it!” or simply sighing in deep satisfaction and feeling better for having read it.
How much creative input do you have in the cover design of your books?
This depends on the publisher. Most let me put in suggestions, some let me comment after the cover is at least drafted. I have a couple of publishers who habitually misspell my first name, so I am glad of the chance to make sure I’m properly billed.
Is there a particular sub-genre in which you enjoy writing more than others? (i.e. paranormal vs. historical vs. contemporary)
I love love love writing steampunk. I’ve never managed a full length novel, but the short stories are my favorite. Horror and paranormal are favorites too. The difference between horror and paranormal is a subtle one. The basic question becomes “What are you to the monster?” If you’re his main squeeze, it’s paranormal. If you’re lunch, it’s horror.
Do you prefer writing in the 1st or the 3rd person? What advantages do you see in writing in one vs. the other?
I usually write in third person. I see advantages to each of them, depending on the story I’m trying to tell. I doubt I could sustain first person for a full novel. I like first person when I need to be inside someone’s head for most of a story, and keep the tale strictly from that point of view. Third person lets me get different points of view, different parts of the story. For example, in Power in the Blood, we mostly get Oren, the hero’s, point of view. But he can’t be everywhere, so other scenes take us into the heads of a vampire preacher, an immortal Puritan witch, and a baby boomer vampire who is permanently twenty-two.
Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you attempt to dedicate to your writing?
I work a fifty hour week on the truck. Then there’s second-shift work at home, errands and all the stuff that makes up a life. I try to get about ten solid writing hours in every week, minimum. I don’t always succeed, sometimes I get more.
Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
I usually start freestyle, seeing who the characters are and where they want to take me. After it becomes apparent where I’m going, I lay out the road markers to make sure I get where I’m supposed to and hit all the points I need to along the way.
How much do your characters resemble you and/or the people you know?
Some characters, especially very minor, nonspeaking walk-ons, are me without any disguise. Others are combinations of people, collections of traits and attitudes that eventually form a new personality.
How much do you draw upon your own life experiences in your writing?
I draw on it a great deal. I’ve been almost everywhere described in Glad Hands, seeing most of it from the windshield of a semi. I’ve lived in a lot of the places and held a lot of the jobs I write about.
Are you surprised by the ever growing female fan-base of Male/Male fiction?
Not at all. I come to this out of slash fandom which was invented forty years ago by women, written by women for women readers. Even beyond fandom, there were Mary Renault and Anne Rice.
When did you begin writing in the Male/Male genre? What about it interests you the most?
I began writing it around 1998, in Buffy Fandom. Something about Xander’s interaction with Angelus during the latter half of season 2 grabbed me, and I started in. From there, I read widely and explored a lot of source material. What interests me most, right now, is a bit meta: it’s seeing how the writers change from fandom to original fiction, and how readers and writers who are not coming to this from fandom are changing the genre.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?
Write. Write some every day. If you can’t write a whole story, commit to writing 5 words a day. This comes from Vic Milan. It told me I was not a failure for failing to live up to Ray Bradbury’s advice of writing a whole story every day. With my schedule, 5 words is more doable.
Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
1) What doesn’t work for one publisher will sell like gangbusters at another.
2) Send the story and forget it. Start the next one.
3) Don’t over-commit. I have a tendency to promise stories half a dozen places and then hit really bad crunch time trying to meet them all.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
Write. Writers write. Others just talk about writing, about what they want to write, what they’re going to write, how they don’t have time to write. Write. Harlan Ellison says, “If anything can discourage you from writing, it should.” I agree. The only time in my life when I was not writing in some way was the six-month period when I was sleeping 20 hours out of 24 because of medication. Neither college nor children nor 50-hour work weeks can stop my need for writing. Can anything stop yours?
Write what you know, and you know a lot more than you think you do. As one of my engineering profs said, “When you’re faced with a problem you don’t quite understand and don’t know what to do, do what you know and the rest will present itself.”
Wisdom abounds and gurus are found everywhere from cartoons to the classroom. Listen for it.
What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
“When is the next Nikolai book coming out?” I have to tell them I’m still writing it, because it’s low on the priority list.
What is your most memorable fan experience?
I was at DragonCon—a convention with about 40,000 people– and sat in on the m/m romance panel. Afterward, I went up and introduced myself to Kiernan Kelly. She squeed and hugged me. When Kayelle Allen and Ally Blue asked what was going on, she introduced me and there was my first “Oh my God, you’re Angelia Sparrow!” moment.
Digital media—the e-reader/tablet computer/Android apps—is changing the way people access and enjoy books. What pros and/or cons do you see surrounding the business of e-publishing? How do you see digital media evolving in the years to come?
Got a week or so? Books are becoming impulse items once again, something people always have along and can read in public. There are no lurid covers visible to bring down the concernipation of concerned bystanders. E-publishing allows easier entry into the world of publishing, bypassing a lot of the traditional gatekeepers dedicated to publishing the same clones of everything that was successful last season. It’s easier for new writers to get in, but also, the pace of the industry demands a high volume of manuscripts, including some that really aren’t ready for prime-time. The price of readers and computers also excludes segments of the population from the digital revolution.
On the future of digital, I don’t think paper books will go away. The format has been around for millennia because it is durable. One can still read materials written on papyrus in ancient Egypt. I think digital will become the popular choice for ephemera: popular fiction and textbooks. Collectors will get print-on-demand paper. I think there will end up being a standardized format. Beyond that, I pack up my cloudy crystal ball, because everything is changing very fast.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
I’m most likely to pick up a horror novel, probably one by a friend or acquaintance of mine. My all time favorites are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Julian May, Harlan Ellison, and Barbara Hambly. In the smaller names, Bryan Smith, Sara Harvey, B.G Thomas and Elizabeth Donald.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A professional crafter, probably a crochet artist.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
I read. First and foremost, I read. I try to read 50 books a year. I don’t always make it, but it helps. My writing improves with my reading. I crochet. I garden. I cook. I watch movies. I used to sew. I’m learning to knit. I would like to get back to cross-stitching in the next year.
If time travel were possible, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?
Assuming instant translators, there are a lot of places I’d like to visit. There are very few where I’d like to live. A whirlwind tour of Egypt under Ramses II, a visit to Athens in the Golden Age, late Imperial Rome for some recreational decadence, then off for a visit to Viking-era Ireland and Norway, and maybe a stop in the Age of Sail. Most of this would be research, but part of it would be confirmation of my research.
If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?
My table manners are terrible and I hate eating with people. I despise lingering over food, preferring to eat while working and be done with that chore. So this question is unanswerable.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
You’d find my desk covered with a variety of stuff, including a large glass stein lettered with “Donations for the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center” which currently holds a bunch of crochet hooks (all size N), a pair of very stale cigars, a Dr McCoy 2.0 action figure, a half-finished crochet lace choker, a random selection of coughdrops, paperclips and pennies, a few lengths of cloth topped with a coil of florist wire and a hot glue gun (they’re gonna be fairy wings soon!), a row of pill bottles that looks pretty scary.
And this is why I work on my laptop from a recliner in the front room, balancing a board across my knees and typing to the background chatter of Nickelodeon.
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
My sense of humor is fairly broad. It took me a long time to find it. I spent my adolescence laboring under the burden of my own genius, and a sense of humor was beneath an alpha like myself. I grew out of that, thank goodness. My kids often make me laugh. I enjoy a variety of comedies, from A Clockwork Orange (which is a very dark, bleak comedy) and American Psycho (Pride &Prejudice, with yuppies and chainsaws) to the Marx Brothers and even some Stooges routines. Fibber Magee and Molly always make me laugh. I catch them on the radio in the wee hours.
Do you have an all time favorite fictional character?
Han Solo, flat-out. Just the way Brian Daly wrote him for the three books and the radio series. Not a fan of what later EU writers did.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Noise. I have hearing loss from bad ears, so I’m quite protective of what I have left. Loud music, high background noise, dairy cases that sound like jet engines, even too much racket from my kids all set my teeth on edge.
Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?
Any day my job does not involve castrating sheep with my teeth is a GOOD day.
Do you speak more than one language? If so, which one(s)?
I have three years’ classroom experience of Spanish and German, each. Which, at this late date (20 years after graduating college) means I can read children’s books, maybe.
Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?
Running water. I’ve done primitive camping, and I do NOT want to live like that. I know how, though, which makes me valuable in a zombie apocalypse.
Do you have any new projects/works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
My newest release is Power in the Blood, a family drama set against a vampire apocalypse in Memphis. Oren and his six kids are Breathers, meaning if they die violently, they will become immortal. The very rare immortal Undying are vampire hunters. And Memphis is ground zero for a vampire explosion, caused by a church that thinks it can bring about the Second Coming if everyone is a vampire. The release date is January 27th, 2012.
Thanks again for spending some time with us, Angelia! It’s been great having you with us. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
I’m everywhere! My website is http://www.brooksandsparrow.com My twitter is @asparrow16. I’m also Author Angelia Sparrow on Facebook and valarltd at Live Journal and Dreamwidth. I sometimes remember my blogger: http://angelsparrow.blogspot.com/