Many of you may already be ahead of the curve on the upcoming of Chauncey Rogers’ next book, Happily. I’ve read and really enjoyed this book (more to come on the review later), BUT Chauncey was also nice enough to answer some of my burning questions. Read on for a glimpse into the mind of this versatile and talented author. Thanks, Chauncey!
Paper and pen, typewriter, or computer?
Computer, most definitely. When I was little, I dabbled with the pen and typewriter. Now I use a pen for brainstorming only, and don’t own a typewriter at all.
Your first two books appear to be more in the thriller/chiller genres and Happily is a fairy tale re-telling. Why the switch?
I never intended to be a horror author. I’d like to write in many different genres. I thought that moving onto something different early on might be wise, before people form too strong of ideas about what I write.
What was the hardest part about writing a book so different from your first two novels?
That is a tricky question. The first thing that comes to mind is actually the cover art. I do my own cover art, because I’m an egomaniacal control freak…er…I mean, because I have fantastic art skills and an eye for design…? Maybe somewhere in between. Or because I can’t afford to pay someone to make the cover for me. Ew. Tacky. Let’s stick with the first two answers.
Honestly, though, it was tricky. Cover art for dark and horror books is not the same as for a fairy-tale retelling. I wanted the cover to be tied to the story AND be beautiful. The catch is that it also had to be made by me, which limits my options quite a bit. I feel like I succeeded with the stained-glass window design.
What was your favorite part about writing your first two books? And your favorite about your newest?
Sending them out into the world. I worked hard on each of them. I want readers to know that if my name’s on the cover, it will be a high-quality and professional book. It might not be their new favorite, but it will be good. It’s very gratifying to finally finish work on it and see that I met that goal.
What advice would you offer other authors hoping to expand into new genres?
Do it. If you know storytelling principles, then move into the new genre–they’ll still apply. BUT, make sure that you know the nuances of the new genre, as well. Know what readers will expect, what kinds of story beats they’ll be looking for, what kind of conflict or tension to create. You’re changing up the recipe a bit, but in the end it’s all the same ingredients.
What was an unanticipated challenge you faced with your newest work?
Making the whole story work. I don’t want to throw out something half-baked, or that has big plot issues. To make a story as inherently absurd as Cinderella, and to try and force it to make a bit more sense (without it coming off as feeling forced, of course) was a bit tricky. Took a LOT of brainstorming. And then I got 30,000 words into a first draft before realizing that I needed to scrap the whole thing and start again from scratch. A lot more brainstorming followed, and then I finally hit upon the story that would work. I think you’ll find it was worth the extra time. I sure hope so, at least! 😛
What was an anticipated challenge that didn’t come to pass?
The wrap-up. No spoilers here, but there was a fair amount that would occur after the climax. Nobody likes a drawn-out falling action (or maybe someone out there does, but I don’t). I was worried that things wouldn’t close up on the story very well, but then I was pleasantly surprised.
What are the most rewarding parts of being an author?
Hearing back from readers. When someone spends hours with your novel, and then contacts you to say, “Hey, you reached through the words and touched my heart and mind,” that’s one of the coolest things. I’m still on a bit of a high from the first time that happened with Home To Roost.
What about being an author do you wish you could avoid?
The insecurity. Other jobs have regular paychecks, benefits, certain guarantees. That would be nice, but writing is a dream worth chasing for me, so I don’t mind so much.
What ideas are you working on for your book after Happily?
I’m going to be returning to an old project. After Home To Roost, I wrote up a novel called Angela of the Stars, a space-fantasy of sorts. It’s my longest novel I’ve written so far, but it needed a fair amount of editing. Rather than jump into it right away, I moved on to other projects. I’m finally going to return to that, however, and hope to have it fairly cleaned up in a couple months.
Along with that, I’ll be drafting up the next novel, one I anticipate to be a bit of a mind bender. Not sure what I’ll end up calling it yet, but the project name right now is The Road from There to Here.
I’ve often heard that being in any creative field, there’s a divine unrest of loving what you do, but worrying you’re never good enough. What are your thoughts on this? Is this true for you? What advice do you offer for others experiencing this in their journey?
It’s definitely something I’ve felt–can’t speak for all artists, but you hear it often enough that it’s probably generally true. Is it still true for me? Absolutely it sort of is. My advice is to not compare yourself to the greats. If you must compare yourself to someone, then snoop around until you find someone who is successful, but who you believe is actually pretty dreadful. Then compare yourself to them. It can be very encouraging–it they can do it, so can you.
What writing process do you use? (i.e. outlines, free writing, etc)
Concept comes first, of course. Usually as a “what-if?” type question. Then create some characters on both sides of the “what-if” scenario. Flesh out their separate perspectives a bit. Decide who’s going to have the story you want to tell. Flesh out their story even more. Then write a picture-book version of the book, to make sure it works from start to finish. Then take that rough plot and fill it out, breaking the whole thing down into individual scenes. Make sure you have a couple of sentences on what happens in each scene. I personally favor scenes that are roughly 1,000-2,000 words long, so as soon as I have a 40-scene plot line written out, I know I have something long enough to make a novel. Then I just start writing from the beginning. I can delete or add scenes, or stretch some and combine others, but I generally follow the plan I already had written out.
How did your writing process change when switching genres with Happily?
It didn’t really. There was a lot more brainstorming at the beginning than there usually is, but after that it went pretty much the same.
And he was kind enough to share an excerpt as well, friends!
“Our eyes met, and I hesitated for just one second. His eyes were wide with surprise, while mine had narrowed into determined slits. But it wasn’t eyes—his or mine—that made me pause. It was a surprisingly vibrant purple birthmark stretching across the right side of his face, from the corner of his lip back into his hairline, and almost up to his right eye. It was just so purple!
Then the moment passed. Birthmark or no birthmark, I needed to make my escape.
“I’m really sorry about this,” I said. Then, before he could respond or react, I cocked my fist back and punched him square in the face.
Understandably, he let go of the cart and it immediately started down the hill.
I didn’t have time to watch Purple-Face pick himself up from the dust, or have spare attention to waste on pitying him. I spun around, facing downhill and hunkering over the cart as it rapidly picked up speed.
Luckily for me, it’s pretty much a straight shot between the two gates. Just one long, steep slope. The kind that’s long enough to give you time to wonder whether you’ve just made a very big mistake, but also the kind that’s steep enough so that you don’t have much time to do your wondering.”
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