A fellow Albertan!! I discovered Denise through a tweet about her new novel. I was intrigued, and read through it that week. Needless to say it was GREAT!
You need to check it out if you love thrillers, suspense or just good old fashion supernatural elements. If thrillers aren't your thing, she just released an incredible poetry collection about Sobriety. It's raw, emotional, and beautiful.
Let's dive in!!
1. What inspired you to write your debut novel, Cedar Valley?
The initial idea for Cedar Valley came from a late night campfire conversation (there may have been beer involved) where my friend came out of nowhere with, ‘What if at a certain age, you had to kill your parents?’ Little did he know, he had just gifted me a prime dystopian premise. Since I was a young adult, I’ve been drawn to the genre. My first ever attempt at a novel in High School was dystopian. It’s everywhere… from The Hunger Games to Divergent to The Maze Runner, all of which have one big thing in common: the antagonist.
The bad guy is nearly always a big brother government that oppresses the masses in one way or another. Though my novel has a bit of that, I wanted something different for Cedar Valley. I wanted to make it fresh and unique, so what better than to have just a random citizen as the antagonist? And my protagonist isn’t a ‘chosen one’ type either, he’s just as random as the bad guy. Cedar Valley is just as much dystopian as it is a serial killer thriller.
2. Why did you choose the path of Self-Publishing?
If I’m being perfectly honest, it was the faster option. I couldn’t wait to publish and share my work with the world. Though, there are a lot of perks other than expediency, like keeping creative control. The biggest part of that was my cover art. My best friend and fabulous designer, Lydia Stewart, designed my book cover and that could never have happened if I went the traditional route.
3. Do you have any advice for other writers looking to pursue Self-Publishing?
Be thorough and don’t publish shit. I say that knowing that I am sure some people think my work is shit. But seriously, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to produce a good product. Use beta readers, use an editor, have a professional cover. Take pride in your work! You have to convince people to buy your book, no one is going to want to buy something that looks like you made it in paint or had a 12 year old format it. If you want to be taken seriously as an indie author, take the craft seriously.
4. What inspired you to become an author & has it always been your dream?
When I was in elementary school, our teacher had us write short stories that she then bound into real live books. For little Denise, that was the coolest thing ever—to hold her written words in her hands (a feeling us adult authors know intimately). My story went on to be published in the neighbourhood newsletter and since then, writing has always been a passion. Yet, it wasn’t until I was 13 or so that I realized writing a novel needed to be on my bucket list.
5. Where’s your favorite space to write?
I like being around people, in an open space. Like my living room while my boyfriend watches sports beside me. Or on my bed when there’s lots of sunlight. I wouldn’t do well in a closed in office, not that I am claustrophobic or anything, it just feels easier to think. Recently I’ve started going to Remedy Cafe to write (a local chain known for their chai lattes/delicious Indian and Pakistani food).
6. What are your top 5 must haves for a writing space?
My laptop, Spotify, comfy clothes, caffeine, a good or bad attitude depending on the project.
7. How many hours a day do you write?
This is a hard question for me. I do a lot of my writing at work (12 hour shifts) so it can be none or intermittently for 12 hrs. I would like to get more writing done on my days off.
8. Are you a Plotter, a Pantser or a Plantser?
I’ve never heard of a Planster before! Assuming it’s a combo between Plotter and Pantser, I’d say that’s most likely what I’d label myself as. I tend to make a rough outline and fill in the details as I go… Hoping genius will strike me along the way. However, this last draft I did during NaNoWriMo (Nov 2016) is kind of a mess and I think it’s from a lack of planning. I may have to go full-out plotter from now on to avoid such headaches.
9. Because I have a pretty Type-A personality, I’m always curious about other people’s scheduling methods. Do you use a schedule to plan out your life / writing & if so, do you use paper or electronic planning?
I am a super Type-B personality. My schedule is ever changing due to my fulltime job of shift work. I work a combination of day and night shifts and the constant change makes it impossible to have a consistent writing routine. During NaNoWriMo, I write anywhere between 1000-3000 words/day, following a word count calendar to reach that 50k. Outside of that, my schedule is a direct reflection on how much motivation I have at that given time.
10. What is your favorite part about the writing process?
My favourite part is writing the scenes that, as the author, are exciting. The ones you build up in your head and anxiously work towards, the ones that trigger our emotions on a level that’s separate from what the reader experiences. It’s those scenes that drive us to write the whole thing. The scenes that make all the grueling hours worth it.
11. What is your least favorite part about the writing process?
The most cringeworthy time for me is the first readthrough of the first draft. It’s ugly and raw and sometimes it makes me feel like a terrible writer. It’s an important hump to get over, but once I do, things usually start to fall into place.
12. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
1st draft is done in 30 days. Cedar Valley is my only published work so I don’t really have an ‘average’ but it took me about 10 months to get the final product.
13. What’s your biggest internal obstacle in getting your writing done?
Self-doubt / writers anxiety. It’s impossible not to compare myself to others. I read a good book and I feel inadequate, but how else am I to learn? Sometimes that lack of confidence sets in for months at a time. Good new is, it always goes away.
14. What’s your biggest external obstacle in getting your writing done?
My work schedule. I bet if I worked 9-5, Mon-Fri, it would be easier to keep to a routine and have more dedicated writing time. That is something I need to learn to overcome as there’s no way I’m quitting my day job (because I love it).
15. Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I don’t believe in writer’s block, I believe in lack of direction. Everytime I get stuck, it’s because I don’t know where my story is going. The best way to combat this is to outline as much as possible, but if I’m in a more acute bind, I throw something at my characters. I give them an obstacle that makes them react a certain way. It can be the tourniquet before the story can make it to surgery.
16. Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
I’d have to say both. Getting some words in makes me feel accomplished and that makes me want to accomplish more things, however, just like after a long day of errands—bed sure looks inviting.
17. Best piece of advice for other writers?
Find what works for you. There are mountains of advice out there, a lot of which isn’t necessarily professional advice or even correct. There are no hard and fast rules. A lot of people say that you should ‘write for you’ which is definitely good to strive for, but don’t feel bad if your goal is to earn money too. I’m not saying you have to give up your vision but keep in mind, if you want your books to sell, you have to write what people want to read. And if it’s not what people want to read, at least make it compelling. I don’t give a crap about knitting but if you care about knitting, MAKE me care by writing the best darn book about knitting there is. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a tiny rock in the mountains of writing advice.
18. What is your Favorite quote about writing?
“You own everything that happened to you. Write your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”
19. Which authors are your biggest inspirations?
David Morrell, who introduced me to my first good thriller. Gillian Flynn who is a master at timing. Beverly Lee, one of our own indie authors, her debut The Making of Gideon Grey is stunning. I really wish I could write that well. One day, right?
20. What are you currently working on now?
I am working on an older manuscript called Brother. It is very personal to me, and is greatly based on true events from my life. It’s about a sketchy situation I was in and what could have happened if things had escalated. I even contemplated writing it under a pseudonym to keep my identity protected but I’ve decided that I’m going to keep my chin up on this one (refer to my favourite writing quote). Anyways, It’s YA thriller (is that a genre?) and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.
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