Lyrical Pens is happy to have Michelle Ladner back with us today. Michelle is a wonderful writer who lives in Ocean Springs, MS, with her husband, Bryan, and a lapful of purr-fect cats.
My husband is an incredible support and inspiration. Not only have I gotten to watch him work at a job he loves, which has taught me the importance of doing something in life that you enjoy, but he’s incredibly supportive: financially, emotionally, and motivationally. I’m lucky that way. Writing can feel very selfish at times, especially when you aren’t pulling in a paycheck or you can’t cull together a list of “respectable” writing credentials when someone asks the dreaded, “what do you do” question. The pursuit of traditional publishing is brimming with opportunities for rejection. That can take a toll on confidence and self-esteem. Having someone in my life that understands the scope of the highs and lows is invaluable.
When you’re creating novels, are you a pantser, plotter, or the newest descriptive, pathfinder (a hybrid who creates a very loose outline then ad libs the plot from that)?
I used to think I was a pantser. That process hasn’t generated a lot of completed first drafts for me, certainly not any marketable ones. My draft shelf is littered with first drafts that are missing good structure. That said, I’m not a meticulous outliner. I think the best way to surprise the reader with unexpected turns and twists is to surprise myself while writing. I lose that ability when the outlining is too detailed—I begin to feel married to my plotting decisions once they are fully formed on paper. Pathfinding is the way I’m finding success. I think now that I’ve discovered that I can do both—plot and write organically—I’m finding my feet in the long form. Pathfinding is instilling more confidence in my ability to tell a good story. I hate that I came so late to the hybrid game, but that’s why I never stop being a student of writing. What you hear and the way you hear it can shake something loose in your process that you need to lose or develop.
What has been your biggest writing challenge?
My biggest challenge has always been (and continues to be) getting too far ahead of myself. All the not-actually-sitting-my-butt–in-the-chair-to-write things are many and ever-changing. I tend to worry about the business and the marketability and the agent and the publisher and the eBook and everything else before I finish the story. My focus on that multitude can, and has, paralyzed my ability to write. I have to force myself to remember that it has to be about the writing. The thing that counts the most is to write the best story I can. If I focus on that, the rest will follow.
Do you have a favorite genre? Do you write in more than one and why/why not? What do you read for pleasure?
I like to read a good fiction story. I do read memoir, biographies, poetry, and short fiction, but I tend toward speculative fiction novels. That said, good writing is good writing. And good fiction is good fiction. So I do venture outside the fantasy sub-genres while reading and writing. I love coming of age stories, and YA is a market I tend toward. I like the pacing and structure of a thriller. I like the big ideas and themes in listed and awarded literary fiction. I get a lot of enjoyment reading a racy romance. JANE EYRE is my favorite book. When I write I tend to weave together all the sub-genre elements that inform me. The largest percentage of what I’ve written to date is urban or alternate reality fantasy. I guess that makes me a fantasy writer at heart. I’ve always had an affinity for the fantastical. I was a kid with a lot of imaginary friends, none of which were human—always talking animals or mystical creatures. The human imagination is a wondrous thing. I love that we have the ability to formulate images and ideas that do not exist in our world or personal experience and put it on the page to tell compelling stories. I like to wallow in that experience.
If you were to host a dinner for your favorite authors, who are the six writers you would include? They don’t have to be living.
Charlotte Bronte, Brent Weeks, Rebecca Cantrell, Neil Gaiman, Neal Shusterman, and J K Rowling—and I’d probably insist that we have Thai food.
Thai food could certainly warm up the evening. What’s next for you and where can readers find out more about you and your work?
What’s next? More manuscripts, more rewrites, and more queries and pitches. I hope to get back into the conference circuit in 2015 after buckling down and doing good strong work on a promising rewrite and a couple first draft projects. It’s become important to me that I only solicit them when I am confident they are written well. I do have a published personal essay up on my website so it’s easy to locate. You can find me at: www.michelleladner.com, www.courtstreetliterary.com and www.ninjapeas.blogspot.comThank you so much, Michelle, for visiting Lyrical Pens. Best wishes from our pens to yours for great writing successes in the future.