Games · Why I'm a Ridiculous Person · Writing

A Great Big Fat Overview of What I Write and Why

I would like, first and foremost, to say this is all @LMBryski’s fault. She is the one who tagged me in the game.

What game? The game where there is a big list of questions and we answer them on our blogs!

Okay, it’s sort of a lame-sounding game, but we’re writers and writing the answers to big long lists of questions about not only us, but our WRITING, is what we do best.

The wonderful thing about writers, is writers are wonderful things…

Ahem. And so, without ado, here is a little Q and A session with yours truly which gives a Great Big Fat Overview of What I Write and Why.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to?

A lot of people have a lovely story about going to their mom and saying they wanted to make stories just like the ones they read in kindy. I don’t. Writing was, for a very long time, something I did because someone told me to. Write a story for class, okay, what about, about this, got it, here’s your story, can I do something fun now?

And at a certain point, I realized I was good at writing. That point was in fifth grade, when a lady from some community project came in and had us all write poetry. I hated poetry at the time. Absolutely resented every moment we were forced to listen to that lady talk about it and decided I wasn’t going to do the infantile assignment of writing a poem about the picture of the rose she held up. Instead, I wrote a poem about a soldier returning home from the American Civil War, and turned that in at the end of the day.

The lady loved it, my teacher loved it, my classmates even loved it. Huh.

The next year, I wrote a story for an assignment where we were supposed to use five adjectives. The rest of the class wrote about… I don’t even remember. Things they thought would use adjectives. Going to the mall and car crashes, that’s all I can recall.

Not me. I laid on my aunt’s floor over Thanksgiving break and wrote a story about a town torn apart by the re-discovery of a race-lynching that occurred fifty years before. Fairly, uh, above and beyond.

But it never occurred to me to write as a hobby, or that I could be an author. Books were big things, and adults wrote them. I wasn’t an adult, and anyway, it seemed like a lot of work. Writing stories when I had to was fine, but I’d rather read than write.

That was my attitude all the way until I hit middle school and discovered Harry Potter fan fiction. The first fic I wrote was awful and terrible and one page long. The plot made no sense. My brother accidentally erased it a week later. It didn’t matter.  If I could publish my fan fiction online and have other people read it, the world was the mollusk of my choice.

The next year, when my English teacher tapped me for a writing competition, I signed up without any hesitation, and that was that. I was a writer.

What genre do you write?

For children, I write action-adventure humor about kids who have to rely on themselves. There are no Wise Adults, or Deep and True Morals. Instead, I present the murkiness of everyday choices, pierced by the shining lights of friendship and creativity. The protagonists are dogged by the terrifying realization that the world is a bigger place than anything we can imagine and that adults don’t have all the answers—and why that’s a good thing.

For adults, I write contemporary psychological literary-suspense. Basically, books where you dive into a character’s head and the plot is not what they do, but what they think and why they think it and how those thoughts change who they are. The narrators keep secrets from you, and from themselves. You hope they will survive. They might not. They sometimes don’t.

I also write erotica. Can’t choose your talents.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?

The overarching project is a trilogy that needs a name, and doesn’t have one yet. Must get on that. It’s been going since I first started writing A Better Man (book 1) back in fall 2011. The Mercy of Men (book 2) happened last March in a month-long whirl of clicking keys, shortly followed by What We Deserve* in May (book 1.5).

Currently, I’m working on the newly-dubbed What About the Girls, which is the third and final book in the series. There’s a couple side books, but this rounds out the character arc of “Saint” Simon Flaherty.

We meet Simon at age sixteen when he accidentally kills his opponent in a backstreet fight. In a town that’s first thought upon hearing the news wasn’t “call the cops,” but “tell the cartels,” no one except Simon seems to care what he’s done. That doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed, though. The local crime boss is looking to expand, and prizefighter who can kill sounds like the perfect addition. Whether or not Simon wants to join, he might have already sealed his fate.

Lots of twists, turns, angst, organized crime, etc. Existential questions. Second novel’s set six years after the first, third is eight years after that. I’m tagging it Appalachian grit, and so far that description seems to fit.

No, it’s not YA. Trust me.

*I just realized this title is perilously close to book 3’s title, so it will probably change. Sigh.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

It was a story about a jellyfish and a dolphin. They were friends, but one day, the dolphin hid from the jellyfish and the jellyfish was sad. The dolphin came out and said it was sorry, but the jellyfish didn’t want to be friends anymore. Thus, the two sea creatures learned about the fragility of trust between two individuals. Or something like that. I was really into coral reefs at the time.

I was six or so, and this was long enough ago that my mother typed it for me on her typewriter. I illustrated it with colored pencils, because the story was literally about two paragraphs long.

What’s the best part about writing?

The first rule of write club is: you don’t talk about write club.

What’s the worst part about writing?

People’s suggestions for how and what I should write and how I should run my career. I’ve started responding to those people by asking what their job is and then making equally crap suggestions to them. No one’s caught onto the irony yet.

What’s the name of your favourite character and why?

Favorite character I write, favorite character to write, or favorite character, period?

I’m going to say favorite character to write, because that’s easiest to explain. My favorite is Connor Hall, because his dialogue is basically whatever awful cutting remark will cause maximum drama. Shh, it’s fun.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

I write full-time. Seven days a week, between four and ten hours a day, I’m writing, editing, reading what I wrote, etc. The rest of the time I’m brainstorming. The best time is the time that it works.

Did you go to college for writing?

I did for one quarter, and then I switched majors because it seemed like a silly major. I tried to sign up to take a poetry course later on, but the first class was so idiotic that I switched to something else.

Instead, I majored in Global Studies with an emphasis in East Asia and a minor in Japanese Language. This has the advantage of sounding really important, with the disadvantage of being just as silly, and slightly less useful.

What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar?

Don’t be annoying on purpose; it isn’t clever.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?

I couldn’t tell you where I’ve gotten advice or what I’ve followed. Very little, knowing me.

I learned to write by reading stories. They are the best way to learn, period.

What advice would you give to another writer?

Your characters must act like real people and they must do real things. This means that if you want to have people who have gone through hardship, they must act like people who have faced hardship. They must have conversations like real people, they must do things that real people do.

Your character has a job? They have a schedule. They must eat, sleep, cook, clean, shower, work out, have a hobby, worry about money, get tired, get bored. They must make stupid mistakes and brilliant ones. Have real fallibilities like being gullible, or having variable blood sugar that makes them irritable, or no poker face.

How smart is your character? How smart does your character think they are? What does your character think will happen when they die? How does your character manage their money?

Don’t make characters who are a foible for yourself, because you will be reluctant to make them as real as they need to be.

If your people aren’t real, your story doesn’t work, period. But if your characters are real, you can do anything with them.

What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

I learned a lot about the publishing industry from AW, but they’re very focused on trade publishing and I’m not, so I don’t go there much anymore.

Author Earnings is a fantastic resource for self-publishing, and also getting a good look at the real statistics of who is earning what. I’d recommend them to anyone who wants to self-publish, or is on the fence.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I play video games a lot these days. I really enjoy Pikmin and Pokemon, and right now I’m working my way through Ni No Kuni, which is a lovely game made by Studio Ghibli. Playing it is rather like being in a Ghibli film.

Other than that, I enjoy board games, and very bad knitting. On my husband’s days off, we tend to go to the grocery store and find new foods to try. I’m also quite into trains, and manga.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Hmm. Probably The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephan Baxter. Not sure I read it this year, but I read it in the past year, so that counts. The whole concept of the series blew me away entirely. I’m not a sci-fi reader, I think spaceships are stupid, robots are annoying, and most techno stuff is boring as hell. Fantasy? Awesome. Sci-fi, no. But this managed to defy the sci-fi all-about-the-plot norm and focus on the characters, the ups and downs of infinite Earths, and I loved hearing about it.

Only gripe was that, in the year 2045, everyone was named Sally and Tom and Joe. C’mon, at least leave the 1950’s for the names.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year?

I watch more movies these days than I read books, because movies are shorter and I can get through them in one sitting and I don’t get sucked into them in the way I get sucked into books. They also don’t mess with my prose the way books do (that is an actual problem). So it might be My Neighbors the Yamadas, which was very sweet slice-of-life stuff, or it could be that new Sherlock Holmes movie with Ian McKellen, which was brilliantly paced.

What is your favourite book or series of all time? Who is your favourite author?

I’m combining these two questions because it’s easier.

I love Sarah Monette’s everything, but especially her Doctrine of Labrynths series. Definitely an underrated masterpiece. She has a way of world building that is both complete and frightening.

I love Tana French’s loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad universe. So creepy. So psychological. So… spot on. Faithful Place or Broken Harbor for favorite. The main character of In the Woods was a doppelganger of one of my exes.

I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, especially the Sam Vimes books, his characters’ interactions always make me laugh.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

I need to finish What About the Girls, which keeps getting stuck.

I’d like to complete either another side book or a children’s book by the end of the year. Or both.

A Better Man is going to the copy-editor on December 2nd, so that’s a first for me, very exciting. Looking forward to that.

I want to put The Mercy of Men through another thorough editing. I also want to have my play, Suiko and the Puzzle Box, on Amazon by the end of this month.

Beyond that, we’ll see.

Where else can we find you online?

My Twitter handle is @shunterni, I’m on AW as Shunter, and I have a Facebook page under S. Hunter Nisbet. Beyond that, I update here every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, so you can follow me or check in!


Thanks for reading this extra long post! And in the spirit of the game and making other people work hard, allow me to tag the next batch of people:

@Gracie_DeLunac

@AngDonofrio

@writerktree

@EileenTomarchio

@zengwyn

@HesterBFox

For their convenience, here is a list of all the questions:

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favourite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favourite book or series of all time?
Who is your favourite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Where else can we find you online?


Thanks for reading!

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2 thoughts on “A Great Big Fat Overview of What I Write and Why

  1. I knew about the video games, but not the board games or knitting. My husband and I play cards, mostly gin and cribbage.

    Awesome about getting your work out there!

    And the Sam Vimes books are my favorites by Terry Pratchett, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, you are the first person who’s told me Sam Vimes is their favorite. When my mom and I go on car trips, I read those books aloud, it’s great fun.

      My family’s all into cards, cribbage and euchre. My grandpa taught us poker once, but I think we’ve mostly forgotten it now.

      Like

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