At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?
I chose to answer this question because I struggled with it when I published my first book. I felt like a hypocrite to call myself an author when so many established authors had published tons of books, and I only had one. But when my second book won first place in a book contest, I no longer hesitated to say I was an author. I think the answer to the question would depend on the person. Anyone who has published a book can legitimately call themselves a writer. Also, a blog requires writing skills, so by the same token, an active blogger can call himself a writer.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Yes! The best way to get better at any craft is to practice, practice, practice. I chose to take some creative writing classes, attended conferences and writing workshops, and then wrote a lot. It’s just like learning to play an instrument. Sometimes you need an instructor (thus the classes), and sometimes, you learn to play by ear (reading other authors’ work). I have a hard time reading the work of an author who openly says they don’t read books. Really? It’s a great way to learn from the masters!
Do you like to create books for adults?
I enjoy writing adult books for lots of reasons, but mainly because I am fascinated by relationships between adults, whether male or female. I love getting into the psyche of the characters and figuring out what makes them tick, what pushes their buttons, and what turns them on. Love scenes are the hardest for me to write because I don’t write erotica. So, for those scenes, I focus on the emotions of the two rather than the act itself.
Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?
I am a huge lover of music. That being said, I cannot write with music playing, even instrumental music. I find myself drifting to the song rather than the words I need to write. However, I’ve discovered ambient sounds work great for setting a mood and keeping me focused. Several websites feature different ambient sounds, and of course, there’s always YouTube.
Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
I am an avid reader and have been since my childhood days when I first learned to decipher words. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than holding a printed book. I love the feel, the smell, and the formatting of a print book. However, I live in an apartment and don’t have much space, so I mostly read eBooks on my Kindle. So far this year, I have read over seventy books.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?
Both. Nothing matches the adrenaline rush I get when a fresh story idea comes. I can’t wait to start writing it. I’ve had to learn patience, though. If I am in the process of working on a manuscript, when the idea for a new one comes, I don’t stop and jump over to it. I make some outline notes, maybe write the first chapter, then put it away until its turn comes up. I also have a whiteboard which I use to jot down random notes, titles, and character names.
The exhausting part comes when I’m determined to write another chapter, and ten other things demand my attention. I would like to say I’m a disciplined writer, but I’m not. Before I start writing, I try to clear out my email, blog comments, and other commitments. So, often it’s after lunch before I open my WIP.
Have you ever traveled as research for your book?
Yes. Saddled Hearts is set on a horse ranch. I’ve never had any experience with horses or ranching, so I drove an hour away from where I live and spent the day with a friend and her husband who have a working horse ranch. I learned so much in those hours with them and loved all the little details they shared. Also, the book I’m currently working on is set in Missouri in 1947. I’m not familiar with the landscape or the people there, so I traveled to the area and spent time with some locals and in the library going through microfiche from 1947. The things I learned are helping to make the story deeper and more realistic.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I write character-driven books, so most often, the characters come first, then the plot. Also, I’m not great at writing a detailed outline. So many times, the plot will take a completely different and surprising twist as I’m writing. I let the characters lead me. For example, in my first book in the White Rune Series, the identity of my character’s father was a huge surprise. I love it when things like that happen.
How do you use social media as an author?
I use social media to engage with potential readers and folks who are dedicated readers of my work. I have learned that what helps sell my stories is to be open and honest with the readers. They want to know me. So, I use social media to share tidbits of personal experiences and engage, promote, and widen my circles.
What are your favorite blogs or websites for writers?
I have several go-to blogs for writers. Number one on my list is the Story Empire blog. It is a group of twelve authors who share a motherlode of information, from crafting the story to marketing it. Next is the Writers Helping Writers site, which Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, the authors of the Emotion Thesaurus and other reference books, manage. The information shared is always professional, top-notch, and invaluable. And third is Kristen Lamb’s blog. Kristen is an author and editor, and what she shares is always honest in-your-face information. I highly recommend all three of these for helping writers grow in their craft.
SHORT BIO JAN SIKES:
Award-winning Author, Jan Sikes has been called a wordsmith by her peers and is best known for writing stories from her heart to yours.
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