Aria Glazki is a familiar name ’round these here dragonlands: she served as a judge in Year Two alongside legends Betsy Streeter, Craig Anderson, Margaret Locke, and Phil Coltrane. And if that weren’t pedigree enough, she’s also a THREE-TIME winner here, twice in Flash! Friday’s very first year and another in Year Two. She’s published poetry, she’s published a novel, she keeps winning NaNoWriMo, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Tuesday than by celebrating Aria’s newest accolade: today’s launch of her latest novel, Mortal Musings.
BE SURE TO LEAVE A COMMENT! Aria is giving away a free print copy of Mortal Musings to a randomly selected commenter. (Because what’s a party without presents?!) Drawing is Wednesday at noon, Wash DC time.
Welcome to the Spotlight mic, Aria! Please start by telling us about your writing journey!
You know those info-graphics that show the straight-line path people would like to think life takes, and then the convoluted path with a bunch of wrong turns? My writing journey has definitely been the latter. I was first published in middle school, after an English teacher insisted I submit a class assignment to a national anthology for young poets—and I’m so grateful he did! In high school, I ran our literary magazine and took creative writing as an elective. And I actually have a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing (among other majors).
That sounds relatively straightforward, but that Creative Writing degree actually ended up discouraging me from writing. I didn’t write the way they wanted me to, and I certainly didn’t look down on genre fiction the way our instructors did. After graduating, I didn’t write for a long time, doing other things with my life. In 2012, an idea for a story grabbed hold and didn’t let go; around the same time I was reminded about the phenomenon that is NaNoWriMo. That year I participated for the first time. That book became Mending Heartstrings, and suddenly I was diving into the new world of authorship, with a new blog and Twitter account—which fairly quickly actually led me to Flash! Friday. 🙂
Why romance? I believe romance as a genre allows us to genuinely delve into people’s psyches and personalities; we can get to know people from all walks of life, in all sorts of situations, who nevertheless all experience that fundamental human desire of finding love—and then we get to see them do that! Terrifying, heartbreaking, suspenseful, or comedic—whatever the person’s situation, we get to see them through the tough times and to an uplifting point in their story, which I love.
Please introduce us to Mortal Musings! Tell us about this world and the key players in it. The Muse themselves are ancient characters, of course: how did you freshen them up and put your own twist on them?
Mortal Musings is a paranormal romance, technically, though I think of it as a contemporary romance with a paranormal twist: one of the characters is a muse. She’s frustrated by the lack of appreciation of humans, and her latest charge (a blocked writer) is frustrated by the supposed absence of muses in general. Mix their irritation with a bit of magic, and suddenly she’s trapped in the mortal word with him! Now suddenly they both have to figure out how to deal with each other, and in the muse’s case, she also has to learn what it means to be human.
Next: I’m eager to know about MM’s journey!
Well, remember what I said about that info-graphic? 😉 My senior year of high school, I took an independent study creative writing course. The idea was that I’d write a novel that year. A ways in, I had to turn something in, and I had nothing written, so I was sitting in the school library staring at the blinking cursor, and my mind started wandering to the idea of muses and inspiration, so I decided to have my main character wonder the same thing. All I knew at that point was that it’d be a romance (I’d been reading them for something like 4 years at that point, and I already loved the genre)—no idea where I was going, no plan, nothing. My poor teacher suffered through reading that mostly unedited draft, but I never got past about sixty pages. At university, my instructors hated this story, so it got shelved.
After I finished Mending Heartstrings, I looked back at what I had written for this, and it was kind of a disaster! But I still liked the idea and some of the plot I’d developed in writing worked, and the characters were lovely, so I started fresh with the barebones and finally this book was drafted. So from the first word, to the finished draft, to publication now, it’s been an incredibly long journey, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Did writing Mortal Musings require any research? What was that like, and how did you go about it? Did you consult your own Muse (and did you have to request permission from the Muse Board to write this, hmmm, or have Muse Lawyers sent you Cease & Desist letters???)? 🙂
Short answer: not really. I looked at some geography to make sure my fake town near Denver made sense, and a little bit about what wait-staff actually have to do, but otherwise this world is so focused on these people, on a simple life in a small town, that there wasn’t much research required. (And if my muse has tried to communicated with me, it seems like s/he’s learned from Alexandra’s mistake, so s/he isn’t forcing the issue! 😉 )
Lots of scenes take place in a diner or in a kitchen, and you’ve got some marvelous descriptions of various meals (mmm, hollandaise…). What makes those places so central to your story? Why did you choose those places as opposed to others? Do you think there’s a connection between food and writing? (mmm, chocolate…) I’d also love you to talk about Allie’s connection with nature.
They do, don’t they? I love food, no joke, but also consider how important sharing meals is in just about every culture. It’s how we get to know each other, it’s how we grow to trust each other (or, y’know, not, if people are poisoned…), and it’s everything from welcoming to intimate. A small-town diner was a great temporary option for a muse with no work experience, which would also allow her to spend time around all those struggling artist regulars and still get to know more about life in this realm. Plus, what’s more human and mortal than needing nourishment/food?
When it comes to nature, I was really thinking about the creation of the world (chaos or planned, either way, it’s a beautiful system), and about how often we writers lock ourselves away in a tiny bedroom or office. Alexandra as a mythical being is tied intimately to that same impetus that created the world, so for her, nature and creativity and inspiration are all mixed in together. Being outside, experiencing the world, it’s not only reinvigorating but it also provides material to draw from, and therefore inspiration, so that’s something she really pushes in the book.
The Muse at one point says, “Reading brings distraction and comfort to many. It allows for a profound form of escape even without a physical parallel. For those in desperate situations, books can save lives, by providing hope, companionship, or simply an outlet. Of all forms of creativity, literature is the most transformative for and embracing of its audience.” Was the Muse borrowing your voice there? Do you think something similar might be said about writing?
I definitely agree with her in many ways, but as a musician, I may have to disagree a bit as well. Those are Alexandra’s words, not mine. 😉 I think writing, composing music, creating a sculpture, painting—the general creation of art—is very different from what she’s describing here, which is all about the audience’s experience of the finished product. While we as creators may go on an incredible journey with the creation, Alexandra is making the point that that journey remains in many ways invisible to the audience.
You quite boldly tell your story from TWO points of view, Brett’s and Alexandra’s. What was it like writing two points of view? what challenged you about it? What made you decide to go that route?
Romance is most often told in two perspectives because of the simple fact that there are two people, each going on a journey, growing, changing, and we’re interested in experiencing how each one moves from their own starting point to being ready and able to love this other person. The challenging thing is making sure that they continue to travel a distinct path from each other—so they don’t end up seeming to have one mind—while still bringing them to that same point of happiness and love.
Let’s talk about publishing. You’re no newcomer: you’ve previously released a collection of poetry as well as the 2014 novel Mending Heartstrings. MH was published by Swoon Romance; MM is indie. What made you go with Swoon Romance for MH and a different direction this time? Have you ever considered the “traditional” approach, i.e. querying agents? what has been positive about the methods you’ve chosen? what’s challenged you? How would you advise writers who are ready to think about publication?
Poetry is a different world, and it’s basically impossible to sell. I put the collection out so the pieces weren’t languishing in an old notebook, but traditional just wasn’t the right path there.
For novels, I lean instinctively to the traditional path*, and I have queried agents with no luck so far, though I often hear variations of: “This is great, but it’s just not for me to represent.” For Mending Heartstrings, while participating in an online pitch event (#AdPit), I got some bites from publishers. I wasn’t expecting it but decided to see where it led, which was publication! While in general I would love an agent and I know a good one will be an asset long-term, I also knew I could handle things like legalese and contract negotiations. And, I’ve noticed many publishers and agents seeming out-of-sync on what they want to acquire, so for better or worse I didn’t hold off on a publishing offer for lack of an agent.
Mortal Musings went a bit differently, because I kept seeing agents comment that paranormal romance wasn’t selling and they weren’t acquiring it. So, I queried publishers and received 3 offers. Contract negotiations take ages, but they also tell you so much about the people you’ll be working with, and in all three cases there were glaring problems I was unable to overlook. One publisher became downright rude, one tried to strong-arm me (likely because I don’t have an agent, which is a disappointing approach), one flat-out refused to negotiate despite some very non-standard clauses. I did my research, I spoke to authors who worked with these publishers, and I tried to negotiate in good faith, but it just wasn’t working out. Plus, *I believe hybrid authors have it right in today’s publishing climate. So I decided to put my faith in myself and publish independently for this book.
My advice for anyone pursuing publication would be to do the research so you know what you’re getting into, and absolutely never sign a contract because of promises made that aren’t actually in the contract. The only thing that ultimately counts is what that legal document says, and hoping for the best because the person negotiating with you makes a bunch of promises or “seems nice” may end up locking you into bad situations, harming your career, and possibly leaving you financially indebted in the process. The other big tip would be never to sign a contract you don’t understand thoroughly, even if you have an agent—have the agent explain pieces you don’t understand! (And if you need some help, you can check out my Publishing Contracts series.)
Marketing is crucial, clearly, and we’re excited to be at the front of that effort with you, celebrating your launch right here at FF. What have you got in the works? How’s that going? what are your expectations? Are you excited? scared? confident? nervous? bouncing off the walls?
Thank you so much for helping me with the launch of this book!! As I mentioned before, Flash! Friday was one of the first communities I found online when I recommenced writing, and despite my recent absence, I’m so grateful to have your support!
I have many plans in the works, including a Facebook release party (Thursday, 4pm-7pm Pacific time) for which I hope you will all join me! I also put the book up on NetGalley, to get some reviews right out of the gate and hopefully build buzz. Otherwise, since I’ve already said so much here, you can check out my detailed post on everything going on this week.
I’m excited but terrified—marketing really isn’t my thing, and I’m nervous every time I hear someone new is reading my book (because what if you hate it?!?), but that’s all part of the package nowadays, whatever the publishing path.
What’s next for you?
I have another romance finished, a follow-up in the world of Mending Heartstrings, so we’ll see where that book finds its way. Otherwise, next is just writing more. My current WIP is actually not a romance, believe it or not, but I also have a few more ideas for romances kicking around. Whichever types of stories I go on to, I hope I’ll have a chance to write all these ideas and truly do them all justice.
Bonus question! Now it’s totally time to namedrop. Who are your biggest supporters? Who inspires you? Who would you like to thank for helping you get where you are? How can we as a writing community support you?
Ack! I’m terrible at namedropping! I’m so grateful to my family, some incredibly supportive friends, and to the lovely people (like Rebekah and you all!) whom I’ve met online, but in many cases there’s nowhere to link, and I’d be mortified if I forgot someone specific. So, I hope these people know who they are, and I definitely try to express my gratitude to each one every chance I get. (Thank you!)
As for advice, I think my top 3 tips would be:
- Don’t listen blindly to everyone’s advice or opinions, no matter how established they are in the industry, or how encouraging/discouraging they are.
- Absolutely never skip the editing & revising parts of the process.
- When you have a project that matters to you and in which you’re confident, don’t look at only one publishing path to the exclusion of others; research and consider them all, since each project may need to find its own way.
And my top 3 tips for supporting authors are:
- Read the book
- Spread the word (books make great gifts!)
- Leave reviews!
As for supporting me, if you’ve read this far, you’re already amazing! There are some giveaways happening via Twitter today (details here), and I’d truly love to celebrate with you at my release party on Thursday!
YOUR TURN, writers!! Have any questions for Aria? Comments? Leave a note below AND earn a chance at a free copy of Mortal Musings! Congratulations again, dear Aria. Thanks for dishing about this amazing accomplishment!