I was lucky enough to hear PJ Vernon do some panel discussions at the "When Worlds Collide" Writers conference in Calgary this last summer. The event is incredible... the presenters make well it worth the incredible value of the tickets.
So, when I asked PJ if he would like to take part in the "Meet The Author" interview series... and he said "Yes".... Well, I was over the moon, and ready to dive into his answers. Take a read and get to know this debut author - his debut novel " When You Find Me" - out October 9th, 2018.
1. What inspired you to write your debut novel, “When You Find Me"?
Unfair, I know, but I can’t answer this without spoiling the story. Sorry!
2. Why did you choose the path of traditional publishing?
I wanted to see my book in brick-and-mortar bookstores. I spend more time perusing bookstore shelves than almost anything else, and the notion I could join those ranks was far too appealing to let go.
3. Do you have any advice for other writers looking to pursue traditional publishing?
Be stubborn AF.
Talent’s learnable. There’s nothing special about me or anyone else who makes it to traditional publication. Nothing sets us apart from those that do not—except one thing: tenacity. I opened almost 200 rejections. The key was to keep going. That often meant a fresh manuscript, but again, you only fail when you quit.
4. What inspired you to become an author & has it always been your dream?
Always, but I didn’t take that dream seriously for years. It seemed eccentric, unachievable, and eye roll ready. One day, something clicked in my brain. People do get published. The proof is on the bookstore shelves. So why can’t I? Turns out, I could. Take your dreams seriously. Give them room to run, and you’ll be surprised by how far they’ll travel.
5. Where’s your favorite space to write?
We have a small nook of an office upstairs. Interesting roof angles, a lovely window, shelves of books—it holds a cozy vibe that gets the words flowing.
6. What are your top 5 must haves for a writing space?
1. Coffee with sweetened condensed milk.
3. One of two dogs. I have an English Bulldog named Chauncey and Husky/German Shepard rescue named Mikko. Dog snores and the occasional fart (Chauncey) are exempt from #2.
4. A computer mouse is a must. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s a control thing. It’s usually a control thing, isn’t it?
5. My phone, face down. Circling back to control things, I panic when I don’t have my phone, but I also don’t need to see what’s coming through in real-time.
7. How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t write everyday. Different writing models work for different people. Authors should experiment their way to what works for them. In my case, that means weekends. I’m always burning the candle at both ends, so it’s difficult to carve out time during the week.
My burn out point lies somewhere between four and five hours. Writing takes so much from us. We’re experiencing the scenes through all five senses and from our characters’ POV. Given how dark my writing can skew, I can’t tolerate more than that.
8. In terms of Outlining are you Plotter, a Pantser or a Plantser?
Planster. I start with a high-concept premise—of which the ending is baked in—and I work my way to it. I often set way-points—inflection moments, key scenes or set pieces—but how I get from one to the next is flexible.
9. Because I have a pretty Type-A personality, I’m always curious about other peoples scheduling methods. Do you use a schedule to plan out your life / writing & if so, do you use paper or electronic planning?
I have ADHD so structure is essential. Not because scheduling everything out is fun, but because I absolutely must do it or risk getting distracted. Without Google calendar, I’d be a constant no-show.
10. What is your favorite part about the writing process?
Em dashes (see #8).
11. What is your least favorite part about the writing process?
Reading an Edit Letter. When You Find Me snagged six single-spaced pages, and the compliments stopped after sentence two. Utterly necessary and unexpectedly painful.
12. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’m a speedy writer. Back to ADHD—hyper-focus is how my brain works. I write compulsively and feverishly. I can bang out a draft in 2-3 months.
Is the draft ready for my agent or editor? Hell no. That hot mess needs careful developmental and line editing and feedback from my fabulous critique partners.
13. What’s your biggest internal obstacle in getting your writing done?
The urge to re-read enormous swathes of what I’ve written prior.
14. What’s your biggest external obstacle in getting your writing done?
Life’s interminable parade of adult obligations.
15. Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Re-evaluating the plot in a cold and clinical manner. Am I telling the story from the right character’s POV (i.e. the most interesting person with the most at stake)? Is the narrative forced rather than naturally transpiring from what came before? Did I start in the wrong place?
16. Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
Writing’s like wine. Delicious, exhilarating, and the more you do, the more brutal the hangover.
17. Best piece of advice for other writers?
Be fucking tenacious. See #3.
18. What is your favorite quote about writing?
“Write or die.”
Simple. Succinct. And fresh from the wickedly talented mind of Amina Akhtar, author of the deliciously warped #FashionVictim and all-around wonderful human being. If you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely must.
19. Which authors are your biggest inspirations?
Gillian Flynn - Sharp Objects is an all-time favorite, and Dark Places contains the most viscerally sharp opening line ever. A. S. A. Harrison's The Silent Wife stoked my appetite for slow-burn unravelings. Paula Hawkins, S. J. Watson, and B. A. Paris deliver high-concept narratives that always stick the landing.
Toxic relationships and characters behaving badly are my jam. I have something to learn from just about any author delivering in that space.
20. What are you currently working on now?
My next manuscript – comp’d as S. J. Watson’s Second Life with gays and Grindr – is complete and with my agent. Here’s a teaser for my current work-in-progress:
Amelia’s marriage is a foregone conclusion.
She’s laying the groundwork to strike out on her own.
Saving money. Getting fit. Going out.
But Amelia isn’t certain where boundaries lie.
Her husband isn’t certain their relationship is over.
Her lover isn’t certain she’s telling the truth.
And now a man is dead, and Amelia isn’t certain who killed him.
But she is certain she knows why.
21. What is your Favourite Season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)? Does the season impact your writing life / creativity?
Fall. All three days of it in Calgary. Interestingly enough, every book I’ve written unfolds within the season it was drafted. So, yes?
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