literary_equine (literary_equine) wrote,

Seven Questions From the Horse - Anne Elisabeth Stengl

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! I am Anne Elisabeth, the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, a series of fantasy adventure novels written in the classic Fairy Tale style. I grew up in England with a passel of brothers, to whom I give credit for a highly developed sense of adventure to this day! A few years ago, I decided to take fencing lessons as a means of researching for my first novel, Heartless, and there met a dashing, witty, clever, handsome hero-type who--after dueling with sabers--asked me out and married me seven months later. It was all very swashbuckler!

My husband and I live in beautiful North Carolina where we rescue and rehabilitate wild kittens, fight a losing battle against an encroaching bamboo hedge, and regularly go jazz dancing downtown. Otherwise, I'm writing. If I'm not writing, I’m thinking about writing. If I'm not thinking about writing, I've probably stopped thinking altogether and should be served tea and sent to bed.

2) How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first "novel" at age 8. It was a three page epic about a magnificent wild stallion who roamed the magnificent plains of the old west. And I think he (magnificently) won the Kentucky Derby. How that works, I couldn't tell you, but fiction is a beautiful (if often convoluted) thing!

After that, I continued to write stories off and on until high school, when I began to write more seriously. I went to college to study English Literature, figuring that the Great Writers had figured out everything a long time ago, and the best thing I could do for my creative future would be to discover what they knew. I loved that course of study, I won't lie!

I wrote my debut novel, Heartless, the summer after I finished college, sold it a year later, and became a professional novelist. Since then, I have been working steadily since then on my Tales of Goldstone Wood series. Keeps me busy!

3) What authors or books have inspired your work?

I have a whole list of great novelists who are always my inspiration! Topping the charts would be names of children's and YA fantasy novelists such as C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Edith Nesbit, and more. I love how they recognized the truth that writing for young people did not mean writing down to young people. Children's and YA fiction has the potential to be among the most beautiful and most profound in all literature! Lewis never forgot his childhood; he never lost the little boy hidden within the grown man. And by virtue of remembering that child, he was a more mature man. After all, doesn't the Bible say that it takes faith like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 18:3) I believe it is equally true that it takes faith like a child to begin to grasp the great and fantastic mysteries of the world. To look upon the rational and see the fantastic. To look upon the irrational and know it for truth.

This attitude, this link to the inner child, inspires me as I write. I try to remember the sense of wonder I felt when I was younger and able to revel in the wondrous. And I admire tremendously those great authors who did the same!

4) What advice would you give to new writers?

Write, write, write. Oh, and read, read, read. Don't limit yourself to what is "comfortable" either in your reading or your writing. Don't just write what you know . . . expand what you know! If you're a fiction writer, don't neglect to read the great poets of older ages. Don't forget to study histories of ancient times. Don't turn away from those theological and philosophical tomes just because you write historical romance, or speculative fiction, or whatever genre is your preference. If you want to be a good writer, you need to be a student. And that is for always! There will never come a time when you "know enough."

Study, experience, live. You'll have a lot more to write about! And if you don't have the experience to write the story that it is pressing on your heart right now, don't worry. Live a couple more years, and you might be surprised to find that suddenly you know just how to tell it. I take comfort in the fact that I am currently only 26 . . . I have a LOT of experiences ahead of me still! And a LOT of study! I can't even imagine how much my work will (Lord willing!) improve.

5) How long does it take you to write a book?

Oh, it varies! In the case of my second book, Veiled Rose, two months. Normally, something around five months gets me to a relatively polished draft (though with several rounds of rewrites yet to go!). When I began to write my upcoming novel, Starflower, I told myself I'd do the whole thing in about three months. Eight months later, after the longest, hardest slog I'd yet experienced, I typed: The End.

And then started on the revisions.

As I said above, every book is its own journey. It will take you down completely new paths and on unexpected detours. But this makes the writing life interesting! I write pretty fast compared some; compared to others, I trudge along at a snail's pace. This is neither good nor bad. Ultimately, the important thing is to write at a pace that is right for you. As long as you are finishing projects, does it matter if it takes you two months or two years? (Okay, it does if you have a deadline, but you get my point!)

6) What's a normal daily word count look like for you?

I go for an average of 4,000-words a day. On a really good day, I write up to 8,000. However, there are also those incredibly long and difficult work days when my end result is 5 words. Or none at all. Yet I still feel as though I've run a marathon!

Ultimately, the writing life isn't about word count. It's about what's going on in your head. I often feel as though my novels are like a complicated mathematical equation. There is a right solution to this equation. Plug in the right formula, and I'll solve for X in no time! Problem is, I don't know what that formula is. Or I haven't invented it yet. And I might need to try half a dozen (half million?) wrong formulas before I find the right one.

Those are the days when 5 words are a victory. But take heart! We all have days like that. It's part of what it means to be a writer. I like how this gentleman puts it:

"There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I'm greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed."--John Kenneth Galbraith

7) So, are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

Both, absolutely! I like to have a decent outline to work from. But within the framework of that outline, everything is spontaneous. Each scene can be written innumerable ways from innumerable perspectives. But the outline keeps me gently controlled so that I remain pointed in a specific direction. No rabbit-trailing allowed!

I think, whether you are an outliner or seat-of-the-pantser, it is wise to have a beginning, middle, and end in mind before you get started. Always have something to work toward. Working as I do under pretty tight deadlines, keeping my beginning, middle, and end-goals in sight forces me to stay focused!

But you don't want to get too crazy with your outline either. Be sure to leave plenty of room for that dramatic inspiration of the moment! Much of my best writing happens in completely unplanned plot-twists.

Thanks for the interview, Alan! This was a lot of fun. Be sure to watch for my upcoming novel, Starflower, releasing this November!



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