Please join me in welcoming fellow LSB author, Tara Quan. Let’s leap right into it shall we? So Tara, how long have you been writing?
In seventh grade, I had an English teacher who decided to veer off my Catholic school’s stringent curriculum. She made her classes Writer’s Workshops, where students were able to read or write whatever they pleased. The three months I spent in that workshop made me realize that, as long as I wasn’t writing essays or research papers, I actually enjoyed writing. Unfortunately for my teacher, her unorthodox teaching methods resulted in her having to leave the school mid-semester.
By the time I was in high school, I was churning out Harry Potter fanfiction. Then college admission season hit, and I stopped writing cold turkey. Being an overly sensible teenager, I decided I was going to be “a doctor, lawyer or engineer.” I was petrified of not having money and was certain becoming a writer was the path to starvation.
Three years after graduating from college my husband’s career brought me to a crossroads. By then, I was self-aware enough to realize that I didn’t want to have a traditional career. I didn’t want to write legal briefs or science papers; I didn’t want to type up memos and correspondence. I also didn’t want to write the next great American novel. I wanted to write romances.
That was just under three years ago, and I’ve been writing ever since.
Q: What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both? Do you use mood music, candles, no noise, when you write?
I outline, but in my head. My husband can attest to periods where I seem to just go away. It is in this quasi-trance state that the building blocks of my story fall into place. Only once the entire story has been figured out do I sit down and start typing. I prefer absolute silence during this phase, but since I share a small apartment with a certain someone, that is usually not achieved.
Q: How do you make time to write?
I have no children and a very low-maintenance husband who still owes me brownie points (his dream job requires relocation every 1-3 years, usually to rather odd corners of the world). Although I do have a full-time day-job, I usually can squeeze in multiple writing sessions during the week. My husband’s work also limits our ability to go out and about (let the brownie points rain), which means that all my weekends are pretty much free. I’ve bartered my brownie points for cooking services, which leaves me with plenty of time to write. I certainly got the better end of that deal.
Q: When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?
My characters do whatever they want to do. I just tell their story.
Q: How did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
Badly. I mope around for hours, sighing and feeling sorry for myself. Once I get over the disappointment, I do a thorough revision before looking for other places where I can submit. As a new author, rejections are a huge blow, so I am guilty of “trunking” manuscripts quickly and moving on to the next project. Now that I’ve managed to get one contract, I might go back and resuscitate one or two.
Q: Tell us about when you received your first contract?
Tower in the Woods was written in answer to a very specific submission call. When that yielded a form rejection, I had very little hope it would get published. After all, who else would want a post-apocalyptic zombie romance? I revised, sent it out again, and got another form rejection. At that point, I was ready trunk it. (Gasp! After only two rejections? – What can I say? I’m a new author more inclined to believing that my writing is just not quite there yet.)
Liquid Silver Books kept on coming up in the research I was doing while fending off a bad case of writer’s block. I had a gut feeling Tower in the Woods had the potential to be a good fit for their catalogue. I just had to amp up the heat level a bit, which would be good practice even if it didn’t work out.
I did another round of revisions with this in mind, and I sent it over to their submissions email. My hopes were so low that I did not do the “obsessive refreshing of email” dance. If they answer, I thought, it won’t be for a while and it would most likely be another form rejection.
Less than two weeks later, I got an acceptance email. I literally shrieked and called my husband, who was doing some work in another city. His answer was: “Seriously? The zombie one?”
Q: You’re currently writing an Undead Fairy Tales Series, what’s your inspiration for this series and can you tell us a little bit about that world?
As I mentioned, Tower in the Woods was a response to a submission call for a Zombie Fairy Tale. A very wise editor came up with the awesome idea, not me. But the world as well as the story itself is my baby:
Sixty years before the novella starts, the human race was besieged by the Undead Reanimation Virus. At the advent of the outbreak, the Federal Government made the executive decision to isolate Washington, D.C. and cut off all contact with the outside world. Thirty years later, scientists discover a vaccine for URV (which has various cool side-effects: elimination of disease, increased strength, and who knows what else we’ll discover as the series progresses).
It takes close to another decade for New America’s leadership to consider the possibility of opening up its doors to what is left of the outside world. To assess that situation, they send out agents (one of whom is my hero) to gather intelligence about what has happened since they closed their borders all those years ago. One remaining enclave of humans is the Women’s Independent Territories Church (WITCH)—a feminist cult located in what was once Fort Belvoir.
I spent a great deal of time on word building, and most of that did not make it into the novella. If anyone’s interested in the nitty-gritty of it all, I detailed it a blog post: http://taraquan.com/2012/12/09/the-end-of-the-world-undead-fairy-tales-style/
Q: What is on tap for the rest of 2013?
I’m writing the second book in the Undead Fairy Tales series. I’m about a third of the way through the first draft, and it is tentatively titled Cottage in the Woods. It’s set a few months after the end of Tower in the Woods, and the heroine’s name is Scarlet Riding (which should give away the fairy tale it’s based on).
Closer on the horizon is Warlock’s Pawn, a dark fantasy novella inspired by The Arabian Nights. It has been accepted by LSB for publication, and it is currently going through the editing stage. I had a great deal of fun creating a fantasy world replete with magic and fey-like creatures, as well as aiming for a higher heat level
Q: Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
My website/blog is http://www.taraquan.com/. I tweet as @LaylaTarar (https://twitter.com/LaylaTarar) and I do have a very nascent author page on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/taraquanauthor). I am a GoodReads member, and I will be turning my user account into an author account as soon as Tower in the Woods goes live.