*gush alert!!* -grin- The following is an informal conversation about the importance of friends in the industry between me and the woman who shoved my foot into the door of this crazy business . Faith can be found at her own blog www.faithhunter.net and https://www.facebook.com/faith.hunter#!/official.faith.hunter Her latest, DEATH’S RIVAL has just come out this week and is jumping off the shelves.
Most days I still feel like a newbie when I sit down at my desk. The painfully introverted woman who picked up that pen seventeen years ago isn’t very far away, the person you see on the stage or behind the signing table really a much-practiced endeavor that I can only maintain for a few hours before collapsing. The tools in my tool box are admittedly more numerous and I reach for them with more surety. My heart no longer pounds when I get a call from my agent, apart from when he’s getting me a new contract. But as we all strive to make this job easier, there is one place we have to work to keep everything the same, and that is the friends we make along the way.
My first few years honing my writing were spent alone, and that was okay seeing as I had a steep learning curve. Still, I hit a ceiling, one that I broke by joining a dedicated writers’ critique group. Going to that first meeting was one of the hardest things I’d ever forced myself to do. It was also where I met Gwen Hunter, also known as Faith Hunter. Now, when I first met Faith, she was a PUBLISHED AUTHOR and a New York Times bestseller. She’d been touring off the US, and she had what I wanted: the knowhow to effectively tell a story. I was hungry for it, and she was willing to dish it out. And boy, I have found over the years that she can dish it out. -grin-
With that said, I’d like to bring Faith in on this conversation. Faith, do you even remember what we were individually working on when we first met? I think I read a short story. In fact, I think it was Tempson Estates, (Scheduled to be released 10/9 in INTO THE WOODS.)
Faith: I don’t remember the first thing you read aloud, though it was the beginning of a story, (something about pumpkins?) :-) but I do remember your voice. Not just your reading voice which was always lovely, (though was very shaky at first with nerves) but your authorial voice. This was not the voice of a newbie, this was the voice of a dedicated writer and future star. The words were rich and intense and immediate, your world was fully realized. And so was your character. Not the usual first reading.
Kim: Okay, now I’m blushing, but yes, I was terrified to read my work aloud, and my voice shook like a leaf. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done.
Faith: We had a big group at that time and I put you on my “pay attention” list, which was my internal list for writers who stood the best chances of making it in the business. If I remember right, it was sometime after your third meeting when I asked if you were writing a short story or a novel. And it was a novel. I was ecstatic.
Kim: First Truth. Yep. I think I was on my fifth revision, and it needed help.
Faith: Right! I remember now! Much later, after we had gotten to know one another, I suggested that we meet outside the group. Do you remember the place we met for lunch? I’ll nudge you. Burger King. And you brought your youngest son, who was into everything and kept you feeling frazzled. Thing Two was clearly already creative, like his mom, BTW. I had carefully prepared what I wanted to say. I told you that I believed that you would be the next Anne McCaffrey. I watched your eyes as you absorbed that. And I realized that you already knew that you would be a star. You were quietly . . . knowing is a good word. You believed in your talent and your gift. You were ready for it. And I so wanted to help you get there!
Kim: OMGosh, I sort of remember Burger King now. Wow. It was the only place I could think of that would keep Thing Two occupied for a few minutes. And I was a little freaked when you brought up Anne McCaffrey because those are very large slippers to try to fit into, but yes, I wanted it that badly. I had a lot of determination and a very thick head. Skill, not so much. It was a big learning curve for me. But that’s what a good writer’s critique group does: brings you up to speed and points you in the right direction. I still look on those few years as being sort of my Camelot—a unique combination of sundry talents where the perfect ideal was celebrated. I miss it, especially when I’m thumping my still thick head against a literary wall. Our occasional “writer sanity” meetings did a lot to fill that gap. It’s not just the chance to bounce ideas around, but the rare opportunity to talk to someone who recognizes the spark of a good idea when it flashes across your face, and then tells you to pursue it. I can’t say that Jane Yellowrock was born between sips of coffee at Starbucks, but I remember you bringing her up at one of our writer sanity meetings. You had some ideas for a new series, and I saw you light up when you talked about her. I knew then that Jane had legs, as they say in the biz. She was going to make it. (And because Faith is to shy to mention it, book five, Death’s Rival, just hit the shelf. Go forth and read!)
Faith: I remember that! Starbucks was a great place to meet because no one looked askance at us when we talked about elves, pixies, poisons, throwing knives, and turning into small rodent-like animals or mountain lions. Yeah, you had just turned in a book and were exhausted, and I had just finished a rewrite of one of my Rogue Mage books and was exhausted. It was one of those days where we both just happened to need to explore something new and totally creative, whether we ever used it or not. I remember what you talked about. Grace. (Can I say that here?)
Kim: Yes, she’s kind of out of the bag, though she’s working with computers instead of swords now.
Faith: And I talked about Katie’s Ladies, the Oldest Operating Whorehouse In New Orleans, with Katie being a vampire. But the main character would be this Cherokee character, female, who hunted vamps. And the name I chose for her was Jane Doe because I couldn’t think of a name at the time.
Our usual tea-time was about 90 minutes, but this one stretched out into two hours. And yeah. Jane (Doe) Yellowrock was born.
Kim: Never underestimate the power of caffeine and like-minded people, but I know we got a few looks when the conversation became too animated and turned to vampires. Maybe now not so much, but back then? -laugh- But even though it seems obvious that having friends—as in real friends, not associates you can tap for help—in the business is vital, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s easy. Writers are blessed with a job that can be done anywhere. We move a lot. Long-distance relationships are hard enough, but combine that with the perils of highly competitive women in a job where everyone knows everyone else?
Faith: Yeah. Green eyed jealousy is a hard thing to get past sometimes. I was totally green, not just my eyes, when you hit the NYT the first time. And yet totally proud and pleased and whooting it up at the same time. So very proud. I still am. Proud of you.
Kim: Okay, but remember me having to meet with you before I did my first copy-edit? I was scared to make any mark on that paper and do something wrong? I still feel that way sometimes.
Faith: You have done the writer thing with dignity and grace and poise. You have learned to speak in public, learned how to deal with it when someone out there doesn’t like what you write, (there will always be people who like to read other types of things, or who are feeling angry and take their bad day out on a book review).
Kim: The stuff they don’t tell us we need to learn how to do. All I wanted was to write.
Faith: You have also learned to become an even better writer than you were back then. Mostly, you have paid it forward, giving your stamp of approval when you read a book you like.
Kim: And who do you think taught me all that, Faith! -grin- I shudder to think what would have happened without you there to show me that grace. Being friends lets us applaud each other’s successes (after a flash of green-eyed monster). We can be proud of each other and we manage to keep balancing work and life, and lean on each other for guidance when a new tool, like FB, or blogging, show up.
Faith: Green eyed monster notwithstanding, you gave a stamp of approval to Jane Yellowrock, my main character. Thank you for that, for liking Jane. I’ve never written a character I liked more! So, yes, there’s competition, but in a good way.
Kim: Not competition for readers—because authors are like M&Ms in that you can have a favorite and still enjoy the entire bag—but for publisher promotion dollars and the like so that we can keep pushing forward with careers and with telling stories.
Faith: Exactly! So. Here’s to the future. (Sound of clinking tea mugs.) A future where you are living far away, and I may only get to see you rarely. A future where life is different, maybe harder in some ways. Definitely more lonely with you gone. And here’s to Comic Con in New York City! I am sooo looking forward to finding a Starbucks and getting caught up.
And thank you for having me here today. (Waves to Kim’s fans.) She has so many wonderful stories to tell you! And to tell me, of course. I am still her biggest fan!
Kim: I can’t wait! Life is good — With Friends Like These.
Faith can be most readily found at her blog and website. www.faithhunter.net https://www.facebook.com/faith.hunter#!/official.faith.hunter