Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Interview with Wren Emerson

In mid-June, I posted about a wonderful Digital Debut: Wren Emerson's I Wish..., the first book in a Young adult series titled The Witches of Desire. Recently, I was lucky enough to get Wren to spare a bit of time to answer questions.

Thus, I bring you my first interview, with the talented Wren Emerson:

1) When did you start writing, and when did you start thinking of yourself as a writer?

That's a hard one. I've always written. Not always with the clear intention of getting published, but I've always felt compelled to put words on a page and express myself that way. When I heard about indie publishing and decided that's what I wanted to do for a living, I started to think of myself as writer. Wild horses wouldn't have pried that out of my mouth to another living person though. I still don't necessarily bring up my writing when I talk to people in real life. I'm actually a little shy about the idea of people who already know me in a real life context knowing that I write.

I anticipate changing that when we move this summer. I plan to introduce myself as an author to the new people we meet and that's all they'll ever know me as. I guess what I'm saying is that it's much easier for me to reinvent myself than to try to change the impression of me that people already have as a non-writer.

2) Did you start by publishing short stories, or dive right into a novel?
I find short stories to be really hard for me. I'm working on several right now for different projects and oh boy. I started with I Wish and in a lot of ways I think it was far easier to write than any short story ever will be for me. I just don't think short, I suspect.

3) I've seen that you like to outline. Have you always written like that, or is it a learned habit?
I haven't. I've also never finished any fiction projects I've ever started. If there's ever been a person who can write themselves into a corner, it's me. Having an outline gives me the opportunity to work out my plot holes in advance and address them before I'm 30 pages in. I highly recommend everyone try it.

4) Do your characters seem real to you? Would they be people you would like to know, or perhaps like to be?
I've heard authors talk about how their characters talk to them or tell them what to write. I've never experienced that in my entire life no matter if I worked from an outline or let the characters develop organically. If I thought of my characters as real I wouldn't be able to put them through the conflict they need to make a good story. That's not to say I don't take the time to flesh them out and figure out their personalities as much as possible, I just never feel like they are real.

5) What would be the ideal writing day for you? Place, setting, music, aromas?
Oh my gosh, my ideal? I'd love to write on a screened porch overlooking my crystal clear in-ground swimming pool with the trees of the forest that surrounds my secluded property swaying gently in the background. A soft breeze would blow the scents of the spring blooming flowers to me and my music would be the soft hum of woodland animals and insects go about their day.

The reality: I wrote I Wish during January of this year. I squeezed writing time around the minions' school days. My house has terrible insulation so it was cold (like FRIGID) most of the time. I did the bulk of my writing propped up in bed on my laptop with the blankets pulled up to my armpits. When the kids were home, I dealt with constant interruptions to deal with their needs and requests or to break up yet another argument. I listened to a lot of 90s music to put myself into a teenaged frame of mind and to mask some of the arguing. Most evenings I'd type with one arm pressed against my side since the littlest minion would often crawl into bed with me and fall asleep against my side.

6) If there is one bit of advice you could give a beginning writer, what would it be?
Well, I can't say enough good things about outlining, of course. But my main advice would be write every day. If you at least get some words on a page you can polish them and start the editing process. The more time you spend writing, the more you'll produce in a shorter amount of time. There's definitely something to say for applying butt to chair on a regular basis.

7) How did you come up with a name like Thistle Nettlebottom?

I needed a name that would sound really odd. I Wish was originally built around the idea that there was a girl traveling with her family from some unknown danger and hiding in plain sight. Ok, I asked myself, how do they afford to travel? Ramona will be an author. Ok, so she's a famous author that already makes her harder to kill unnoticed. Well, if she were to give her granddaughter a crazy name it would make her that much more noticeable to the public eye. And from there it was just a little trial and error until I found a name that was both crazy, yet still sounded good together.

8) Perhaps most important of all, when is the sequel to "I Wish..." likely to come out? Any hints about what we will see or what it will be called?
I was hoping for a mid July release, but we've got a move coming up so I'm pushing it back until at least August so that I don't make myself crazy or become tempted to put out a really poor quality book. It will be titled Your Word is my Bond, a play on the old saying "my word is my bond" and it refers to Ramona's power. In this book she is the catalyst for a lot of huge changes for Thistle personally and the entire town of Desire. Ben's history is explored, who he is and where he came from. And probably the biggest thing I can say is that the ending I have planned is a game changer. I'm a little nervous about what fans are going to think about it because it has the potential to cause some pretty intense debate, I think. But it's going to be *good*.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. The questions were fun to answer. If anyone would like to talk shop with me about any aspect of indie publishing you can catch me on Twitter @wrenem, my blog: http://wrenemerson.wordpress.com, or by email wrenemerson(at)gmail(dot)com. I love meeting new people so don't be shy!

Excerpt from I Wish... (The Witches of Desire):

When a two hundred and fifty pound man takes a swing at your face, the last thing you want is to be blind. But that’s exactly the predicament I found myself in while fighting Shep Claphan one September afternoon. I could hear voices murmuring around us, but I couldn’t hear him. I knew less about Shep’s past than I did about my own, but I always imagined him as a soldier or a stunt man or a martial arts expert. And he was attempting to kick my ass. Not exactly a challenge when you consider that I was 5’7″ to his 6’4″ and weighed half as much.

I didn’t hear his foot lash out until it caught me in the stomach. It stung, but it was obvious since I was still standing that he pulled most of the power of that kick. What I did hear was the gasps of the people that surrounded us. I swung in the direction the kick had come from, but I didn’t hit anything. Chuckles from the peanut gallery.

He kicked the back of my leg, forcing me to take a knee. Behind me. I swept my leg along the ground, hoping to knock his feet out from under him, but he was too fast. I followed the movement into a standing position and punched in short efficient jabs. I was gratified to feel one land somewhere soft. It wasn’t a solid connection and judging by the way it slid off his body, it was most likely his shoulder. At least now I had an idea of what his position was. I swung at him again, but missed by a mile, judging from the reactions of the people watching.

“I can see you. I can dodge you if I can see it coming. You can’t see me so you don’t have that advantage. You need to use whatever other information you can gather. Listen for my breathing. Hear the leaves and sticks being crushed under my feet. Smell me sweating if you have to. When I move in close your body knows it, it feels my heat and the air I disturb around you. Listen to what your body is telling you.”

Shep’s voice was normally a sound I enjoyed, the deep bass mellow and soothing and a perfect match to his barrel chested body, but right then I just wanted to slap him. He wouldn’t end practice until I managed at least a couple of good hits, but my past experiences with this had been less than impressive. I didn’t expect much more from this one.

I tried to push back my irritation. His advice was sound even if the last thing I wanted to do right now was admit he was right. I took a deep breath and tried to narrow my focus. Shut out the whispers and giggles from the people around us. Shut out the aches from my muscles and the deep throbbing of forming bruises. Ignore it, it doesn’t help me.

I didn’t hear him move so much as I felt the way his shifting body crossed the sunlight on my face. When he swung at my face I was ready. I knew the direction he was coming from and I grabbed his arm and used it for balance as I kicked him twice in his ribs under the arm I held immobilized. Hearing his breath exhale with a sharp woofing sound was gratifying, but I didn’t pause to celebrate the minor victory. I dropped his arm and danced backwards out of reach before he could grab me. I’ve been flipped by Shep before and it ranks high up on my list of things I’d rather avoid.

An advantage to my attack I hadn’t anticipated was that his breathing was now audible to me. My next punch was a thing of beauty, connecting solidly with his jaw. I wasn’t using full power either, but it had to have hurt him at least half as much as it killed my hand.

“Shep, your head feels like it’s filled with rocks.”

“You know, I’ve heard that from every woman in my life.”

By now I was really in the moment. There’s just no other excuse for the stupidity of my next idea. I ran towards Shep, jumping while still a few feet from him, planning to plant a foot in his chest and execute a neat back flip and while he was still awed by my finesse, I’d land a killing blow. If life were an action movie I would have been able to execute it flawlessly- probably in Matrix style slow motion. Real life rarely comes with slow-mo though and so this is how it really happened:

I ran at him and leaped, all according to plan. When I planted my foot in his chest, however, he grabbed it and gave it a vicious little twist. I landed face down in the dirt and breathing was suddenly a skill that needed relearning in a hurry. The only blessing was that the hilarity of the crowd watching us was somewhat muffled by my gasping.

Shep gave me a hand up and pulled off my blindfold. I still couldn’t take a full breath so he waited patiently while I stood there, squinty eyed and wheezing.

Finally he said, “You shouldn’t showboat. You could have finished me, I was hurting and you had the edge.”

“You- are a- really- bad winner.”

The friendly backrub eased my wounded pride a little. As he worked the knots from my tense shoulders I took a moment to check out the people who’d just watched my humiliating defeat. I could only hope that there weren’t any cute boys around to witness my literal fall from grace. Lucky for me, it seemed that the only people at the Sunnydale Motor Court on a weekday afternoon in the fall were all either elderly or families with young children. So unless I was willing to date a man who needed regular diaper changes, I didn’t have to worry about having blown my chances with the potential love of my life.

“Come on, I think Ramona wanted to leave as soon as we were done here. You know how she is about having plenty of time to check into a hotel before a book signing. If she doesn’t have enough time to get beautiful she’ll cancel the signing and then her publicist is going to give her sh- crap.”

“And crap rolls downhill. I get it.” I gave Shep an affectionate punch in the arm and started back to the RV without argument. I wanted to grab a quick shower at the facilities here before we hit the road and I knew he wasn’t kidding about my grandmother’s desire to greet her public looking fantastic.

Every life hinges on a series of days that change everything. The thing about days like that is that you never see them coming. Looking back, that shower marked the last time that everything in my life was normal. If I knew then what was in store for me, I think I might have just kept walking past the showers and down the road. I guess that’s why change takes you by surprise. I doubt anyone would seek out life altering transformations willingly.

But I didn’t know and so it was with visions of cute boys and clean hair dancing in my head that I went from my old life and headlong into the insanity.

Thanks, Wren, for sharing your thoughts and an excerpt of your book. If anybody wants to read more, you can pick up I Wish... on Amazon.com or on Barnes&Noble.com.


  1. Awesome interview. I'll have to check out I Wish. . . I love the name Thistle Nettlebottom!

  2. Very nice interview :) And it's so true - butt in chair is the only way a book, or books will happen.

    I wish you much success Wren.

  3. Thanks for having me, Ben! I always enjoy my time on your blog.

    Thanks so much Madeline and Carolyn. I really love your feedback. /hug!

  4. Great interview! Wren, we are writing soul mates! I always outline and my characters have never spoken to me. I love that you call your kids minions - wish I had thought of that.

    Good luck with your move and the publication of book 2 in the series! I look forward to it.

  5. Awww, I'm always glad to meet a fellow plotter. I feel like I'm surrounded by people who make it up as they go along. I'd go crazy long before I ever finished writing anything.

    It was so nice to meet you!

  6. Nice interview! I always love seeing how different people write. :-)

  7. I liked the excerpts...cool way of giving us a "feel" for the book!