I found Maria Hammarblad when I went looking for science fiction authors to read. Her books popped up everywhere. So I approached her for an interview and she immediately said yes, but then she pulled a fast one on me and asked me if I would do an interview for her blog.
Maria has the honour of being the first blogger to ask me for an author interview. Mind you, it took me many weeks to get the answers back to her. In fact, knowing I was publishing her interview today made me go back to her questions and actually get it done.
So, here’s her interview!
What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?
I normally write science fiction, but at times I venture into stories set on Earth in present time. I’ve never written a fantasy, and that would probably be fun. There’s something appealing about characters going on a quest, encountering mythological creatures…
Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?
I get many ideas when I dream, and wake up with a need to write. Others come in the most mundane situations, like in the car. I sometimes have to pull over and start scribbling on my cell phone. Most of the time I only get the beginning of something, maybe the end, and the rest reveals itself as I’m writing.
When you start a new story, do you have a title for it? Does that trigger the story?
Names don’t come easy to me. I struggle with names for both characters and stories, and these are often the last pieces to fall into place. I’ve written entire books with the characters named X and Y until the very last minute. When it comes to the stories I usually have to brainstorm. I sit down with pen and paper and start writing random words that describe the story. Then, I try synonyms until I find something acceptable.
When I named my novel Kidnapped, I started thinking, “What is it about? She gets abducted. Abducted, that sounds like little green men doing unmentionable stuff… She’s abducted… taken… kidnapped… Kidnapped, that’s a good word!”
Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright? If so, which authors are driving it?
Yes, I do. I think it’s popular both as books and movies. People like to read about other worlds, and to use their imagination. I think established authors set a general tone for a market, because they reach many people, and many writers imitate something they like. Not to say there aren’t many original writers, but I do think there are trends in literature just as in everything else.
What themes are being overused?
In my opinion, ancient vampires pining for teenage girls. They’re everywhere. Also, I moved from Sweden to America a few years ago, and I’m surprised at the amount of religion in books here. It’s plastered on pretty thick, and I think of them as “Hallelujah” books. No offence to Christians who love them, but I’m disappointed when I read an exciting science fiction story and the hero decides – out of the blue in the last few pages – to leave whatever cause he’s been fighting for and become a priest. Or, when you think you read a fantasy, the heroine is transported to another world, there’s an epic battle, and all the inhabitants start babbling about God and the Bible at great length. I’m sure there’s a market for it since there are so many books like this, but a little warning in the blurb would be nice.
Are movies of books ruining the book?
Yes and No… Some movie adaptations are great, but usually a novel has to be so condensed to fit into a two-hour movie format that it’s hard to recognize it.
Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?
I definitely think ebooks are changing the publishing world. Will they replace printed books completely? Not likely.
Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?
Lately, I have been reading many books by indie and small press authors. I meet people online, start talking to someone, and want to read their book. There are some real gems amongst the debut authors.
What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
Other worlds, epic quests, adventures, what’s there not to like? J
Can I get an autographed book? (lol)
Absolutely. My 2012 e-book releases will be available as paperbacks next year, I’d be happy to send one to you.
Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?
I am fortunate enough to know the talented Christy Elkins (author of Parallel, Lilac Hill, and Unchanged). When I’m writing on something, she’s usually the first to see it, and her feedback is invaluable.
I started out as self-published, and didn’t quite realize how important a content editor is. I thought editing meant making sure I spelled the words right, put the commas in the right places, and so on. Now, when I think I’m done with a book, I send it to my publisher. (Desert Breeze Publishing.) The editor in chief reads through the material, and if she’s interested in the story, she normally sends back a number of ideas for initial changes. From that, I make a first re-write.
After the re-write, an editor reads the book and sends it back with suggestions for edits. In my case, being Swedish, I struggle with some cultural differences, and they often have to tell me to take things out. (I tend to write about stuff that won’t work for an American audience.) Sometimes the editor advices to add sections, take characters out, re-write in someone else’s point of view, and so on. It takes several rounds of editing before it’s done. The main story stays the same, but the end result is something much more appealing to readers than I could do on my own.
Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?
No. I write until I think I’m done, and then I usually have around 70,000 words. If it’s less I’ve usually omitted something and need to add sections, and if it’s more I’ve usually babbled and some chapters should be removed.
Do you have a target each day?
No… I’m sure setting a word target can be a good idea to get into a writing routine, but to be honest, I’m more interested in finding the right words than a large amount of them.
Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?
When I write, I write like mad for weeks, or even months. It’s the only thing I want to do, and anything real life becomes annoying intrusions. When I’m done, my brain powers down completely, and I’m barely able to scribble something for my blog. I still think about books and characters, but it all takes place in my head. It can be a little frustrating – I feel I should be writing – but I don’t really want to, and I need the downtime.
Do you have characters running around your head? Do they dictate events and their histories to you?
Oh yes, my head is filled with imaginary friends. They sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night demanding I write about them. Patricia from Kidnapped was particularly bad about that, she often had me writing at 2 AM.
After so many books, how do you keep them unique?
When I’ve written about something I’m done with it, and I don’t want to see it again. The characters played out their part and they’re neatly archived in a drawer in my brain, together with their environments. I do tend to fall into a pattern, letting the same chain of events affect people, and I sometimes have to stop myself. “No, Maria, you’ve already done that.” I’m sure people who read my books will see recurring themes though – all writers do it to some extent.
What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?
Facebook, Twitter, Facebook. It’s amazing how much time one can spend online without even noticing!
Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?
Online, yes, and it was pretty sweet! I still haven’t seen one of my books in an actual bookstore, but I’m looking forward to it.
Do you read other people’s writing?
Reading is sort of a prerequisite to being a writer. I don’t read as much now as I used to do, but I still read. Some of my favorite indie authors are Christy Elkins, Linda Ann Rentschler, and Chris J. Randolph.
Would you read mine?
Yes, it is on my TBR list. I just haven’t gotten to it yet. J
You can find Maria on the web everywhere! Here are just a few of them.
Website: http://www.hammarblad.com/ (It’s well worth the look).