Between the Covers Part Fo’

Folks, let me tell ya: GET THAT FLU SHOT! There is nothing sexy about 5-days of fevers and coughing and sore throats and general funkiness the flu brings. I think I forgot. Seriously. I think the flu was easier as a kid or I got soft as an adult cuz it laid me out for 5 straight days. They talk about body aches: there was one point where my skin hurt. Just my skin. Had to take two showers and brush my teeth with a Brillo pad just to become approachable. Fun times, folks, fun times.

And that is my super-sexy–and wholly inappropriate–way of telling you “sorry for the delay” and that we’re back in business. And back in business means bringing you back into the intimacy of Christopher C. Starr and Terra Harmony Between the Covers. You guys remember Terra, right? My fellow writer, homegirl, author of the Akasha Series. Picking up where we left off on Terra’s blog, we join Part 4 of our conversation, already in progress:

Terra: My question to you: what is your editing process like? What works best for you?

Me: My editing process is brutal. I go through two rounds: after the first draft is done, I go back and re-read, find themes I didn’t explore, stuff I want to embellish, continuity I need to fix. I usually expand the book then—the goal for the first draft was to get the story down. Once I’ve done the second pass, I get really harsh. I cut as lean as possible. I want my stories to have forward energy, not bog down in the magnificent eloquence of my narrative capabilities (see, like that. I’d have cut that). The last pass after that is copyediting. I didn’t do that for the first book, not well at least. I’m hiring an editor this go round.

What She Said: For me, editing is a very tedious part of the process. I finally have a system down, that may or may not have to be tweaked. I aim for 90,000 word books, because in my first round of editing I always cut 5,000-10,000 words. Then, I send it off to a paid editor. She cuts another 2,000-5,000 words. After running through her corrections, I go through the entire book and read it again, out loud this time. Reading out loud reveals so much more. I guess it slows you down or something. Off the book goes to a couple beta readers (mother-in-law included) who make suggestions and catch grammar/spelling mistakes, etc. Then I format the book for print, order a proof, and read the hard copy version of the book. By this point, I’d like to think there are no mistakes, but I catch plenty of them. I’ll be the first to admit, the versions of each book out there right now probably do have mistakes. But at some point I just need to move on, and get started on the next book.

Then I Said: Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently with the Akasha series? Would you approach if differently?

So Terra Was Like: As for knowing what I do now, I probably would’ve delayed publishing the first book of the Akasha Series until I had a better proofed copy. I think I could’ve started out with higher ratings from the get go. But what’s done is done; and at least I’ve learned from it. I also constantly debate whether or not I should have made the Akasha Series a little more PG. I have some very adult themes as you know, including rape. As I’m finishing up the fourth and final book of the series, it is finally all coming together for me (as I hope it will for the readers). There is a reason the antagonist did what he did, and although it maybe won’t be justified in everyone’s mind, I try to make a meaningful link to the ‘rape of mother earth’, so to speak.

I Had To Ask This: Is your name legally Terra Harmony? Or is it a pseudonym?

She Says: Kind of. Terra is legally my first name, and Harmony is legally my middle name. Put together, they mean ‘peace on Earth’. Yep, my parents were hippies. I chose to use it as my pen name because it fits with my ‘eco’ themes. What about you? Is Christopher Starr your pen name? If not, have you ever thought about using one?

And I Said: Christopher Starr is my real name but Christopher only looks good on paper. I tend to associate being called Christopher to getting into trouble: I can still hear my mother yelling my name now…

With a name like Terra Harmony, how could you write anything else but something “eco”? I think you should have written a dark, brutal mystery or a corporate raiding tome—something contrary to the hippy thing. But I’m contrary like that.

And there’s more where that came from. Provided Terra doesn’t kill me for taking so long to post, check out the next installment on Terra’s blog. That’s my word!

Between the Covers with Terra and Chris PART TWO!!

That’s right boys and girls, there’s a sequel! A sequel to what, you say? Nice to know you’ve been paying attention. Fine, here’s the recap: last month I participated in the Orangeberry Summer Splash and came across a stunning author, Terra Harmony. I reviewed her book; she dropped a lovely post for all you wicked little readers. While all that was going on, I discovered that Terra’s a pretty cool chick and we had plenty to discuss about the writing process and writing series in particular. So we turned our conversations into a behind-the-scenes, DVD-extras-style set of posts and here we are.

You’re joining our conversation already in progress. If you missed Part One, you can check it out on Terra’s blog.

Lil Ol Me: Did you plan the entire series out before you wrote it?

Terra: No plans. No outlining – just free writing. I think this was good and bad in a way. I tend to let my characters lead the story. Sometimes they take a turn in the plot that I myself didn’t see coming. When I start a chapter, I have no idea where it will end. The pro is I never really seem to get stuck. I don’t get writers block because I am not bound to an outline. I don’t have to ‘make’ certain things happen. The con is I really have to work hard at pacing, character development, etc. It doesn’t seem to come naturally in my writing.

I hope to do it differently in my next series (I am planning a mermaid/werewolf series – w/ eco issues of course). I really would like to write the entire series, then release them a few months apart. Right now, I am getting hounded via e-mail, facebook, etc. from fans asking when the next book is out. Don’t get me wrong – this is great! But it creates pressure that takes away from my writing a little bit.

Back to Your Boy: I can feel you on the pressure to push the next one out: I hear the same things and, while it’s cool there’s interest, I’m concerned about not putting the best book out I possibly can, you know? Writing a story that resonates with people is magic; you don’t want to mess it up.

For me, I planned in broad strokes. Like I said, the Bible gives me some pretty clear plot points so I decided what major periods of time I wanted to cover and who’s point of view I wanted to write from. I know where things to end up and as I move through each book, I get a sense of the emotional milestones I want my primary characters to hit.

Terra: When do your best ideas come to you? What invokes your muse?

It’s Me!: My best ideas come when I’m not looking for them. When I’m doing mundane things like cutting the grass, folding laundry, taking a shower. In a meeting with people I don’t like on subjects I could care less about. I daydream, play out the scene or push it around in my head. How about you? When do your best ideas come?

Terra: Showers are my best source of ideas, too! I am really, really clean when I am in need of inspiration. I talked about this with my critique group a little, and for them it was the same – mundane tasks. For one his best ideas occur when he is shaving in the morning. I guess this is when our subconscious can be accessed. “The subconscious mind is never idle,” said someone, at some point – probably.

When I really have to work a problem through, connect pieces in the storyline or whatever, I’ll go for a walk. We live by a lake and I’ve discovered that twice around (about an hour) is usually enough time to come up with a solution. I have to work to stay focused, but I have learned to trust that I’ll eventually come up with an idea. Writer’s block isn’t a thing for me anymore.

And Back to Me: “I am really, really clean when I am in need of inspiration.” Yeah, I can get that. My grass looks immaculate too when I’m writing.

I’ve also learned taking the WonderDog for a walk is helpful. I doubt he really appreciate me asking him the intricacies of my plot, but he does like being outside. Win-win.

You can check out the next installment on Terra’s blog later this week. And, as always, there’s more villainy goodness on the way! See ya!