Guest Post/Interview: 8 Questions from Joshua Viola, IPPY Gold Medalist

I had the profound honor of reading Blue Violet by fellow IPPY award-winner, Abigail Owen. The novel is a well-written Romantic-Fantasy that’s brimming with cinematic flare. Abigail offered me a rare behind-the-scenes look at her writing process. Enjoy our interview below.
– Joshua Viola, seven-time award-winning author of The Bane of Yoto

1. Congratulations on winning your IPPY award! How does it feel to be acknowledged by literary pros for Blue Violet?

Thanks! It feels surreal. Blue Violet was the first book I finished writing. I’d tried a bunch of other times and never got past about page 100. When I finally finished Blue Violet I thought, “Yay I finished. But I’m sure it’s not very readable.” I did get wonderful advice from my editor – Wendy – that helped me get it to a better place. And as more and more readers contacted me to say how much they liked it I thought, “Maybe I can write a decent story.” The award definitely helps boost my confidence.

2. Who was your inspiration for Ellie?

No one point inspiration point for her. Friends tell me that when they read Blue Violet they hear my voice in Ellie. But I think Ellie is more confident and more cheerful than I am. In general I like a female lead who has some kick-ass elements about her. I have little (to no) patience with wimpy women who can’t think for themselves, make up their minds, or go get the job done themselves (unless there’s a back story providing a very, very good reason for that behavior).

3. I would consider Blue Violet to be, in part, a romance. I’ve always been fascinated by romantic storytelling and certainly enjoy both reading and viewing such media. And you’ve done an exceptional job with it. But for me, as a writer, I haven’t been able to find a working formula. You clearly have. Does romantic storytelling/character development come easy to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing romance?

Romance is one of my favorite genres. Having read so many of them you’d think it would be easy to write – but it’s much harder than it appears. My first draft of Blue Violet had Ellie and Alex falling in what Wendy termed “insta-love” with absolutely no build of up the relationship. To fix that I added a ton of new scenes where they interact with each other in different ways and get to flirt and talk before falling into each other’s arms. I found that made a huge difference – just having them spend time together that wasn’t making out. It made the making out later in the book feel more connected and real. Now the make-out scenes – entirely different story. Even harder to write. It’s very easy to make it to PG, or head the opposite direction and go all Harlequin in those scenes and pour a little too much cheese into it. Still working on that formula.

4. Supernatural-Fantasy plays a large role in Blue Violet. When writing my own novel, The Bane of Yoto, I considered it to be a hybrid of genres, too. I borrowed from SF, Fantasy, Horror, etc to tell my story. But at the end of the day, I always considered TBOY to be, overall, a Fantasy novel. I was surprised to learn that so many of my readers consider it to be Science Fiction instead. What do you think defines these genres and do you feel others observe Blue Violet in a different light than you originally planned?

Good question. I find that everyone has their own definitions of genres. Blue Violet could fall under fantasy, paranormal, romance, young adult, new adult, supernatural, or any combination of those. Personally I tend to think of Science Fiction as anything off-Earth or in places not very Earth-like (different alien species, planet very unlike earth etc.) which is why I’m guessing TBOY seems to fall there for your readers. Fantasy to me is more doing an alternate or hidden version of Earth (Blue Violet – humans don’t know about Svatura), or building an entirely different world that’s still very Earth-Like (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings). Paranormal and supernatural to me both add the superpowers element to the story, although both could also go down the ghost or horror path too. So far most readers have put Blue Violet where I see it – paranormal romance, and new adult.

5. Your work has a very cinematic feel to it. Would you say film has inspired your writing process?

Thanks! You’re the first person to say that. And film has absolutely influenced me. I am a movie junkie everything from really old (and I don’t mean like 1970s old, I’m talking some of the first movies) to musicals, to classic Hollywood, to contemporary stuff. The fight scenes in my books in particular I picture a lot like watching it on a screen. I actually have a hard time reading a book if I’ve already seen the movie or TV show – even though I always think the books are better. But the images are too powerful in my head I think. To me , books and movies are both about a good story. I just love a good story!

6. Facebook has become a fantastic marketing tool when used correctly. How do you feel about social media marketing for writers?

The advent of the eReader was huge for Indie authors giving us the ability to quickly/easily self-publish with instant access to a large world-wide audience. But social media is the engine that drives readers to our books. For a manageable personal budget – and compared to the marketing machines of traditional publishers a pittance of a budget – I am able to reach more and more readers because of social media. A lot of authors don’t like the time that goes into it. And it can be a lot to manage. But as an Indie author, that’s part of the biz in my opinion. And I’ve discovered the huge bonus that I absolutely love interacting with my readers. Love social media.

7. What has been the most challenging part of self-publishing? Would you ever consider traditional methods?

Two challenges. The first is figuring out what to do and how to do it. I managed to write the book. But then I had to find an editor, come up with a book cover idea and work with a designer, publish the book, try to encourage reviews, figure social media and different ways to use those. There are still so many things I want to do – like make a book trailer. That I haven’t figured out yet. The second is the time commitment. Doing all of those jobs – mostly on my own – takes a lot of time.

I would definitely consider the traditional route. And in the fall I intend to start pursuing that avenue more seriously. Getting that professional help and extended reach to readers they provide would be great. But after having tasted the power of being the only decision maker, I will be selective about how it works out.

8. What are your plans for the future as a writer?

Keep writing and writing and writing. I am completely addicted. I have 2 more series – one a distopian, and one that’s fantasy with dragons more of a focus – that I intend to start early next year after the 4th book of the Svatura series is released. And I have a bunch more ideas for other series floating around in my head. I’d also be interested in writing with another author at some point. I see a lot of team writers out there and it seems like it would be fun to tag team a book. Hopefully my future also includes a publisher who I can work with. I’m just at the beginning of things and it’s fun to think of all the possibilities.

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