Monday, August 12, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series #5: Chelsea Beam

Hello everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  Before we get to our lovely interview today, I wanted to update you guys on some things, some personal, some not.  In terms of writing, I'm on Chapter 6 Awaken 2, which is an Andie chapter.  I hope to finish it in the next 2 months in order to release it before the end of the year.  (Fingers crossed, we'll see.)  I'm also editing 2 books (1 novel, 1 novella) I hope to send to Renee (my publisher) once I've finished with that.  Renee is also reviewing 2 books (again, 1 novel, 1 novella) and she should give me her decision by Wednesday in regards to possibly publishing them or not.  Once I get that information, I'll be able to tell you what 2 stories they are. 

On a personal level, again, I can't say much.  I promise I'll let you know once everything's official.  However, everything is confirmed and set to go.  I'm excited and nervous, so there's that.  But it'll be the start of one amazing adventure.

And now, let's get to the interview!

Please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, for starters, my name is Chelsea. :)
I'm a Stanford graduate ('12) who majored in English with a Creative Writing emphasis. I'm currently applying to grad school while working on edits for (what I hope to be) my first novel, GENESIS. I'm from Southern California and would really, really like to get away from the heat (hopefully Oregon... maybe England?). But, my family still lives here, so I'm back at home with them while I figure out my life. :)
Like most other authors, I love reading and writing... but that becomes a bit hard since I do most of this in my room (where my bed is five feet away) and my favorite mode of procrastination is sleeping, soo... XD

What type of books do you like to read? What type of books do you like to write?
I love fantasy and sci-fi (mostly of the YA variety but not always) which pretty much explains why most of my writing falls into one of those two categories, haha. :)
However, genre fiction is somewhat frowned upon in graduate programs so I've been trying my hand at more literary fiction/slice of life pieces/character introspections/real world scenarios. It's hard but somewhat rewarding (even if I somewhat feel like I'm cheating on my first genre loves.)

What are your top 3 books? What are your top 3 authors?
-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
-Fault in Our Stars by John Green
-Harry Potter by JK Rowling (Okay, so I'm stretching it a bit here considering there are seven books in this series...)
-Robin McKinley
-Meg Cabot
-Tamora Pierce
What inspires you to write?
You know, I'm not entirely sure, actually.
I think it can be pretty much anything - a song, a scene, a statement/quote... I've been inspired by all sorts of things, really.
I've never tried to pinpoint it so I don't have a very definitive answer to this question.
Sorry. ^^;

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
It depends - I've tried both.
If I had to choose, though I'm probably a plotter. Even in those stories where I start off as a pantser, I inevitably reach a point where I get stuck and need to start plotting things out.
It probably ends up this way because I tend to write very vocal, stubborn characters who enjoy running away and taking my stories into unwanted directions. Without some idea of where the whole ordeal is going to end, things get pretty chaotic and crazy (and I just curl up in a corner, cry, and wonder where it all went wrong).

What time of day do you write?
Late at night. I can't do mornings to save my life. :)
What tool do you normally write with? (A pen, computer, phone, etc.)
Both, depending on what it is that I'm writing.
Because I tend to be able to type faster than I think, a lot of the stuff I type ends up being really horrible streams-of-consciousness writing that should never see the light of day (think first draft NaNoWriMo status). So, for stuff that I don't want to go back and (immediately) edit extensively, I handwrite.
(For example, I handwrote GENESIS and the sequel. (~170k. It was a somewhat painful endeavor. ))

As for phones, I can't stand writing on them. At all, haha.
Have you ever dealt with writer's block? If so, how did you combat it?
I've definitely encountered writer's block! It's the worst. :)
My methods for getting past it are... probably not the best ones, haha. With writer's block, I tend to do one of two things: (1) force myself to keep writing through it so that I have something on the page to go back and destroy later or (2) work on other things (although this doesn't always work for me because I incessantly think about how to get around the initial bit of writer's block I've encountered).

Please tell us a little bit about your work.
I unfortunately don't have anything published but I'm currently working on GENESIS, the start of a trilogy.
Basically...Kali Ravelin wants nothing more than to become a soldier like her father - even if his desire to protect innocent people caused him to save his subordinate at the cost of his own life. However, to become a soldier, she must join the army and the army has a very strict rule in place: for their own protection, women aren't allowed to enlist. Not letting this stop her, Kali decides to cross-dress and sneak her way into the ranks. For awhile, things look like they're going to work out for the best... until she discovers that someone is trying to assassinate her superior officer, Leiden Fontaine - the same man who her father died to keep alive. Refusing to allow her father's final action go to waste, she takes it upon herself to keep Leiden alive. However, she has to do so from the shadows, lest her true gender be revealed - because if she gets kicked out of the army, there's no way that Leiden will manage to survive.
I've worked on a few other pieces over the year as well, but GENESIS is the one I'm most proud of (currently). :)
Where did you get your idea for this story?
I've always loved the idea of time travel or going back in time to fix one's mistakes/save a loved one/etc.
But, considering that time travel is rather hard to write just off the cuff, I pretty much took what aspects of time travel stories I liked and then nixed the idea of someone going back in time.
Thus, there are the "wanting to save a loved one" and "having to keep secrets," tropes to start. And then from there, the idea just sort of... fully fleshed itself out. It was pretty awesome, actually. :)

What challenges have you faced with writing this story?
I know nothing about the army. At all.Doing all the research for that was a lot less exciting than I was expecting it to be so it took a lot longer than I thought it would. Also, because I wasn't enjoying it, I got to the point where I just... stopped researching and started guessing at things just so that I could keep writing.
Going back to change all of that has been somewhat of a pain.

Now, though, as I'm doing final edits, I'm struggling with making the world in which the story takes place a bit more vivid. I hadn't realized how difficult it was to put the image in my mind onto the paper and make it sound exactly as it exists to me.
Oh, and two of my characters might be too similar, so that's also been a bit of a bummer. ^^; Who is your favorite character to write?
It comes down to either Kali (the main character) or Drake (the becomes-her-best-friend character. For those who haven't encountered him... he's pretty close to being certifiably insane - but in a good way! Think Luna Lovegood... just with a heckuva lot more energy).
I like writing Kali because she's like... the most normal of the lot (although this is the same girl who thought that crossdressing and sneaking into the army was the most valid plan she could come up with, so that really doesn't say much about the sanity of my characters). Additionally, she's the one I feel connected to the most. :D
As for Drake... he's just so spontaneous, I can get away with so much when I'm writing in his voice. And he makes me chuckle. Assuming it's not too narcissistic of me to say, any character that makes me laugh (even if I'm the one doing the writing) is just too precious for words. :)

What type of romantic relationship do you like to read? (Hate/love, best friend, forbidden, etc.) is it the same type you like to write? Why or why not?
I like reading hate/love stories if they're done well. So many people like to just throw the "there's a fine line between love and hate" line into the story and leave it there as if that's all the MCs need to fall in love. Sorry, but I don't quite buy that - for all that they're similar, love and hate are very, very different emotions.
My favorite though is probably either the best friend one (or even best friend's brother/sibling's best friend) or the boy/girl-next-door one. I know, they're very cliche but as a kid I always wanted that kind of relationship for myself. But since it never worked out, I can content myself with stories of this nature. ;)

What draws you to a book (to read)?
Characters first, plot second. :) 
What characteristics do you look for in your ideal heroine? Your ideal hero? Are they the same characteristics you employ when you write your heroine and your hero? Why or why not?
Ooh, hard question! :)
Heroine (reading, top four):

1. Being an equal to any other MCs in the work
2. HAVING A BRAIN.  Flighty, vapid girls that are initially only interested in their looks or friends or whatever/bratty teenagers make me want to break things.
3. Strength (not necessarily physical or not necessarily only physical)
4. Compassion - Badass girls are awesome but I tend not to like girls that are almost... too cool/inhuman.
Hero (reading, top four):
1. Humor
2. NOT BEING A DICK.  I don't know where the love for this particular personality trait came from but it just makes me angry. Sure, there are men out there with hearts of gold who put up a front of being a dick for reasons I don't understand but, for every reader that finds that front to be attractive, there are an equal number of people who HATE IT. I am one of the latter.
3. Strength
4. Having large families/being a family person/being a people person

I'd like to think that some, if not all of these characteristics are parts of my cast of characters but that's [probably a bit false.
For my heroine(s), I'm pretty sure that I have #1-#3 down pat... but I struggle with giving my female MCs a believable amount of compassion. Typically, I either give them too much (and then I end up disliking them because their compassion overshadows any backbone or intelligence they might have) or I give them too little compassion (and then I think my MC is a bitch and I tend to start disliking her as well).

For heroes, it's the same thing... #1-#3 I manage. #4, not so much but only because my stories tend to have large male casts of characters and believability can only be stretched so far - it's highly unlikely that six unrelated characters are all going to have large families and all be great with children and people, in my opinion. So, I have to spice up their pasts and personality traits to add in some variety. :)
What are you currently reading?
You've actually just caught me between books, haha.
Yesterday, I finished reading "A Darkness Strange and Lovely" by Susan Dennard. (It was amazing. Go read it. :D)
My next book to read is "The Name of the Star" by Maureen Johnson.
Clearly, I'm on a historically-based fiction kick. ;) 

Finally, what are the ingredients to your favorite book? (A dose of action, a splash of romance, etc.)
At least one witty character is a must. Preferably more.
Definitely a dash of action.
SURPRISING TWISTS. (Think like when The Sixth Sense initially came out. Or Star Wars, with Darth Vadar being Luke and Leia's dad.)
Romance isn't a must but if it is in the book and I'm not reading a romance novel, than I'd rather it not take over the whole story.

Realistic - but happy - endings! (For [very specific] example, if there are two characters that are connected - like, say twins - then, if one of them dies, BOTH OF THEM SHOULD DIE.
I'm looking at you, JK Rowling.)

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