An author interview on the craft of writing.
Featured Writer: Anna Questerly
Books: The Minstrel’s Tale I, II, and III
Young adult historical fiction
Buy Anna’s books:
Intro, from Heidi:
I first met Anna at her bookstore, Dog Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix. It is right next to the kitchen for the caterers where I work, and of course when I see a bookstore I have to go in and check it out. Let me just tell you, if you are ever in the north Phoenix area, and are in need of something to read, you HAVE to go into this store.
Dog Eared Pages has that magical quality of looking very small on the outside, but when you walk in – look out! You could seriously get lost in here. And if you do, that’s OK, because you will have PLENTY to read while you wait for the search parties. The atmosphere is complete with shelves and stacks of books that twist and turn and reach up to the ceiling. There are weekly discussion groups and writer events as well.
When we got to talking and Anna told me about her first book, The Minstrel’s Tale, I picked up a copy. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and Anna’s book does not disappoint. Her characters take you on quite an adventure, weaving the tale of a contemporary American teen with fairy tales, folklore, and little-known facts of 14th-century British monarchy.
How old were you when you started writing?
I attempted to write since I was about twelve years old. However, I was forty-six by the time I actually finished a story.
Where do you write?
I have a huge dining room table that I’ve taken over as a writing desk. It’s completely covered with manuscripts in different stages of editing, timelines, character sketches, maps, research material.
When do you write?
I get up early and write for a couple hours in the morning. Then I get two days off a week to work on my writing. Most of my editing and rewrites get done on those days.
What helps you write—music, pictures, maps, journals, etc.—what gets you into that mindset?
My magic book. My journal, is how I tap into the creativity, resolve plot issues, and develop characters. I write in it every day, yet I never reread it.
What are some things that stand in your way? logistically as well as creatively?
What do you do when you “hit a wall?”
On days I just don’t want to write or can’t figure out where to go, I promise myself that if I just write 250 words, I’ll call it a day. I think taking the pressure off helps, because on those days I almost always manage to get over 1000 words done and have a good idea where I’m going from there.
Do you use an outline—do you know exactly how the arc will play out—or do you just let the story develop as you write? If so, how do you outline? (notecards, etc.)
I do a bit of both. Like a roadtrip, I want to know where I’m eventually going, but I like to leave the way open for fun adventures and fortuitous discoveries. I always know my endings before I begin, but leave the path open to get there. It’s more fun that way, since I want to know what’s going to happen next.
How do you draft/revise? (i.e. do you just get it out in one big “dump,” then revise, revise revise, or do you revise and edit as you go)
I write my draft first and then revise– forever it seems
What are some tools that you use? (reference guides, manuals, websites—a favorite pen/notebook/computer)
I write historical fiction, so I use a lot of reference books, maps, andbiographies.
Do you use critique groups?
How did you find them? Yes, my critique partners have improved my writing immeasurably. I found them through writer’s groups at my bookstore, Dog-Eared Pages in Phoenix.
On your current project:
What kind of research did you do for this book? And, were you surprised by something that you learned in your research?
I was surprised how much 14th century politics resembles our current political/economical problems. For example; the Peasants Revolt in Britain was similar(although bloodier) to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
How good did it feel to write that last line?
Bittersweet. I am so happy to have finished, but I’m going to miss those characters.
On the business of publishing:
How did you find your agent/editor?
Great question; I actually had to make my own editor. My daughter edits for a living and has been so helpful with my books. I trust her more than anyone else I can think of and probably wouldn’t have dared publish without her help.
How has self-publishing shaped your career as a writer? OR What is your opinion of self-publishing?
I love the ease of self-publishing. The more I learned of traditional publishing and the problems authors have with their rights, royalties, and marketing, the more certain I am self-publishing was for me. It’s more important than ever to have good editing when you go it alone.
What can you share with our readers about marketing? (i.e. what, if any, support did you have from your publisher? Costs involved? Things that worked best/weren’t worth it, etc.)
The Kindle program that allows me to be paid for books borrowed has been great. I’d recommend it to any author.
What is a trick that you’ve learned along the way that has made the writing process easier?
I can’t remember where I read it, but it’s one of my favorite lines. If you get a button chair (butt-in-chair), you can write.
What writers inspire you?
Tolkien, Twain, Dr. Seuss, Steven King, JK Rowling and so many more
What do you like to read for enjoyment?
Historical fiction, fantasy, horror, sci-fi (pure escapism)
We all know that learning from our mistakes is part of the process of becoming who we are. As a writer, what’s one lesson you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to others?
How to handle a critique. This was a huge lesson for me. One of my readers pointed out that I had a character in the story I hadn’t introduced. I argued and showed her where I had introduced him in the previous chapter. I was ready to discount her suggestion, thinking she hadn’t read it correctly. While I was discussing it with another writer, he said to me, “Maybe you didn’t make the character memorable enough.” This was a big wake up call. If something isn’t clear to the reader, you can’t blame the reader. As the author it’s my job to make things clear to my readers.
What’s next for you?
Another series. This one will be present day. If Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones had a daughter wouldn’t that be a blast? That’s my main character for the new series.
While reading Kris Tualla’s book, Becoming and Authorpreneur; Navigating a 21st-Century Career in Publishing, I was pleasantly surprised to see her refer to you in her chapter on the importance of “branding.” It must be an honor to be referred to by other authors!
It is a wonderful feeling to be referred to by other authors. It’s always an honor to be recognized by one’s peers and Kris Tualla is an amazing author so it was special.
Here are the books:
Amos Questerly, a wandering minstrel in fourteenth century Europe, takes on a mysterious young apprentice. But his new protégé, Richard, carries a deadly secret. A secret someone is willing to kill for.
To reach safety they must earn their way to England by telling exciting stories of magical swords, princesses and dragons, while danger follows on their heels.
By the time Amos learns Richard’s secret, it’s clear even England may not be safe. The two, trapped in an adventure as thrilling as any of the Minstrel’s tales, must follow a perilous path that leads straight to the royal palace.
The Minstrel’s Tale continues…
A boy with the power of a king.
A wandering minstrel bound by an oath.
A secret that unites them.
When Minstrel Amos Questerly’s ten-year-old apprentice, Richard, ascends the throne of England, Amos soon finds himself entangled in royal affairs.
Determined to return to his wandering ways, the minstrel instead finds himself drawn further into the king’s inner circle where powerful enemies conspire and scheme for control.
The country at war, the treasury low, and the young king’s first decision triggers the roiling anger of England’s peasantry to erupt, and plunges London into a revolt that shakes the foundations of a nation.
The Questerly saga continues…
King Richard II, once a friend — now a powerful enemy, refuses to release Minstrel Amos Questerly from the impregnable Tower of London.
A daring plan to rescue Amos leads to more exciting adventures and incredible dangers in this thrilling conclusion to the Minstrel’s Tale.
Anna can be found online:
Thanks for taking us on 3 amazing adventures, Anna!