Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Airship Ambassador: Every author I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their works in print. What have your publishing experiences been like?
Colleen Anderson: My experiences have been long in development. I started selling poems a long time ago. The earlier years saw a piece or two if I was lucky being published. I guess I was too stupid or stubborn to give up. And I’ve worked at improving my writing, doing a creative writing degree, taking workshops, surviving Clarion West, etc. I never give up. But writing is a bit of a love-hate thing for me. I don’t always like doing it but to stop would be like going cold turkey from an addiction. I must do it to truly survive in spirit. And there is a hungry need to share the various tales of wonder to be amazed at how diverse our world is but always how crazy beautiful scary our minds can be in the worlds we create.
I’m still on my journey to the next level and have yet to see a novel make it into print. That’s the next Olympian feat. I’ve written two, I’m starting a third.
I’ve also always wanted to edit an anthology so when Brian Hades as Edge asked if I would co-edit Tesseracts 17 with Steve Vernon, I was honored and thrilled. I’ve since co-edited Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug through Exile, and it’s an honor to see it nominated for an Aurora Award. I’ve got several anthology proposals in the works as well. But everything is in the early stage and nothing set. But I do want to do more, because I’m one of the weird ones that actually likes copyediting. And speaking of copyediting, when I took a course on editing it improved my own writing a great deal.
I also have freelanced edited for years and worked on my people’s manuscripts, as well as editing and slush reading for Chizine (was one of the poetry editors) and for a short time was fantasy editor for Aberrant Dreams, which was both frustrating because the zine rarely came out but also hone my editing skills to a new level.
AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons have you learned about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?
CA: I don’t have an agent and have only had a few reject my first novel. My second one was rejected by the one agent sent it to with a comment that nothing was wrong with it but it didn’t wow her so I couldn’t even rewrite. I’ve sent it to a publisher but the jury is out on agents. If you have the next best thing, you may have an agent who will help and promote you but I know just as many authors with numerous books under their belts who have never had an agent or have one but it’s the author who is selling the manuscript.
As for editors, the good ones ask for rewrite and help pare your story down to what it should be. Others are more copyeditors where they want a near perfect story and won’t ask for much. I don’t always take everything an editor requests but I think about it, and if I’m going to reject their suggestion I say why. Also, writers should realize that if an editor takes the time to ask for a rewrite it means they have already given your piece more attention than the rejections, and your chances of selling the piece go up.
I can’t understand authors who choose not to do a rewrite and just give a flat out no. I would never do that. Authors should remember the door swings both ways and that they can negotiate. Just the same some editors can be unreasonable and aren’t always right but I would always attempt a rewrite at a request unless I didn’t have the time and it was a major major rewrite on spec.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
CA: If it hasn’t I should have put away the pens long ago. Yes, it has. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become truly great at something, whether it’s dance or baseball or singing. Those people practice and practice and practice. It’s the same with writing. My early stuff was purple beyond belief, when I was learning the essence of writing and sentence structure. Then there was learning how trim exposition, write realistic dialogue, putting in setting, conflict, etc. I’m still improving and probably will I actually missed that my drabble (100 words exactly) went up on Specklit on April 7. It’s short enough to read in a breath or two and can be found here. 🙂 as long as I write. And I’m still exploring. However, I have vowed after this current novel I’m setting the next one in the current world because there is so much research and worldbuilding. Of course, if I sell one of my previous manuscripts it could mean I’ll be writing a series set in those worlds.
AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
CA: Indeed it can. Sometimes I go out and write, having a few drinks. I’m less distracted and can’t procrastinate when I’m out, and paying something seems to galvanize me. I work better to deadlines so an anthology deadline helps or setting myself a goal. I also try to always carry a small booklet around. If I’m waiting somewhere or by myself, I’ll start to scribble ideas or work out plots for stories where I’m stuck. I actually wrote many poems for a collection while in Spain. Since I was travelling by myself I had alone time to ponder. Sometimes I play the what if game, looking at something, and trying to see it new and say, what if babies in bubbles floated up from that tree, or glowing snakes lived under the sidewalk but only came out at a full moon. Those are settings but many things start from that question. And when I can I try to remember my dreams. A novel I finished last year came from a very complex dream.
AA: How is Vancouver, BC for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc
CA: Writing is something you can do anywhere, as long as you have pen and paper, or computer, or maybe a stone and a chisel. 🙂 I do have to hunt down some medieval maps soon and my new UBC alumni card will help with that so I guess that’s a good resource. I have many books as well as ye old google and I use these for research because I’m too lazy to get to the library. I would say it’s pretty much like any major city.
AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Buffalo Gals? What kind of reactions have you received?
CA: Since it’s so new out on the shelves I would have to say no, but wouldn’t that be nice if they did.
AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?
CA: I’d be an artist or dance or some type. I wanted to be an artist when I was six and went to art college so that’s never really changed; just the medium. I do make jewellery on the side (on of my devices when I’m stuck on a story) and I love dancing though I haven’t done much in recent years. I’d have to do something creative or I’d die. I have a pin that says “Write hard, die free.” That pretty much sums it up.
AA: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?
CA: Yes, I have a day job as well, though in the past my day job was writing for a short time for the internet before the dotcom market fell. And I freelanced for years as a copyeditor. I was good at selling myself so I had just enough work. I loved the freedom to choose when the work, hated the uncertainty of monthly finances. My ideal job, if I had to have one would be copy editing. And overall, work hinders writing. It’s hard after a stressful day (and my job is highly demanding) to come home and turn on the creative side. But maybe if I had no day job I would squander a bunch of my time. I’m not disciplined like some writers. I work in spurts and manic frenzies.
We’ll pause here in our chat with Colleen. Join us next time when she talks about photography, LARPing, and role models.
Keep up to date with Colleen’s latest news on her website.
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