Section #3: The Creative Process
BRoP: Where do you get your story ideas?
HCV: I almost always think, "I've never seen _____ before in fantasy prose. It's a great idea/angle, why isn't it being explored? I bet I could do something cool with that."
BRoP: How do you deal with writer’s block?
HCV: I don't think writer's block is an actual problem: it's more like a symptom. Writer's block is the consequence of not knowing what to write, or feeling reluctant to write. If I'm not writing, it's because I'm tired or distracted. So I'll either put the writing aside until I'm mentally fresh, or I write some wandering, experimental scenes (and don't beat myself up if they're not the best thing I've ever written).
BRoP: How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
HCV: No formula here! I figure out a basic scenario of characters and outcomes, and I develop the characters one event at a time.
BRoP: Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?
HCV: Both, really. I write an outline, and I feel free to ignore it if I get a better idea in the heat of writing. Then I go over the draft, make notes about what to change, and I impulsively throw some of those out the window, too. I can't write confidently unless I have some goal in mind, but some of my best ideas are the ones I've tripped over.
BRoP: Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?
HCV: I tried a lot of critique partners and beta readers with my first book, Remedy, just to get a broad sample of how people react to my story and why. I think I learned a lot from that. For the novelette Ravel and now for Render, I've been digesting my findings and going mostly with my gut. Analysis can be valuable, but too much can be crippling.
I had a few beta readers give feedback on Render's first half, mostly to check that information was introduced at an appropriate pace. I did all the copy editing myself — with lots of continuity notes and multiple editing passes, including one where I read the entire novel out loud. Typos always seem like flashing neon signs when I'm reading text out loud.
BRoP: How much time do you spend on research? What type of research do you do?
HCV: I spend a lot of time reading articles online and wandering around on Wikipedia. Learning little bits of random trivia is something I've always enjoyed. And I often research specific things while I'm writing. Biochemistry, metallurgy, the growing conditions a certain plant need — the kind of details that might jar the reader if I get them wrong. I don't want to be one of those fantasy authors who "just makes up" things I'm too lazy to learn about.
BRoP: Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?
HCV: I dislike children, personally, so I find it challenging to write characters who want little versions of themselves. My aemet race values large families and passing on the family name, so they often prompt me to stretch as a writer.