(Bio and photo courtesy of her publisher, Canonbridge.)
Today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing a good friend of mine, fellow inkslinger and wonderful fantasy novelist, MJ Heiser.
BIO: MJ Heiser was born in the Philippines to an American Navy Mormon and a Filipina Catholic. She came to the United States as a baby, started reading at the age of three and began to write at the age of 12. Educated in San Antonio, Texas, MJ is an avid student of religion, politics, anthropology and technological gadgetry. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and their menagerie of pets and electronic devices. Apart from writing, she spends her time walking, plotting, being silly, eating sushi and trying to not trip over something. Her first book in the Chronicles of Jaenrye series is Corona, published first in eReader format in February 2010 by Canonbridge LLC.
JS: First of all, thank you for joining me today. What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a writer?
MH: The most rewarding thing for me is the realization that I could be good at something, even if I was born with an atrocious singing voice. That's a traumatic thing to realize as a little kid born into a family of musicians.
JS: The most challenging?
MH: I have a fragile ego, so being told my work isn't good enough for anyone is brutal. Fortunately, I've also learned to take it as much-needed guidance and a refreshing breath of honesty; after all, your friends are conditioned to tell you what you want to hear, right?
JS: What would you say are the most important qualities one needs to possess in order to make a living as a writer?
MH: Stubbornness, and the ability to hear the small voice of your story calling to you .
JS: Why do you write?
MH: Because it makes me feel good . . .it puts me in touch with something that I imagine is outside of myself, a river of creative thought and urge that runs through each of us. Every now and then I dip my ladle into that stream and pull out a sip of Wonder.
JS: What's a typical day like for you?
MH: Long. Frustrating. I have a full-time job as a claims examiner, then I come home to run a house full of dogs and cats. --No, they're not charity cases, but I'm childless, and they're my little Surrogates. All I want to do is plot my stories and write them, but real life has a habit of delaying gratification.
JS: Do you ever experience writer's block? If so, how do you work through it?
MH: Unlike most writers, I don't really hate writer's block. I think there are times it comes up for practical reasons -- like, maybe you need a reminder of how much you love to write, and only by depriving you of the ability can you fully appreciate it. Sometimes also it's used to divert you from a bad story idea, or a good story idea executed badly. Most of the time, writer's block is specific to one story, and can be overcome by stepping away from that story for a bit and working on an intriguing new one. When you finally return to the blocked story, you can probably see why you got blocked in the first place. ;)
JS: How long does it generally take to write one of your novels?
MH: Oh, there are no generalities when it comes to what I write. My first (and worst) novel took 10 years. (See what I mean about listening to the writer's block?) CORONA took 5.5 weeks for the first draft. CANTICLE, the prequel, is almost a year in progress. Seriously, it's just all over the place.
JS: What's your favorite quotation?
MH: Sadly, it's from an anonymous source: "Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music." A lot of people attribute it to George Carlin, but sadly, it's not his.
JS: What are you working on now?
MH: CANTICLE, the 2nd (or 1st, depending on how you look at it) in the Chronicles of Jaenrye (pronounced "JANE-RYE"). Sheesh, she's a true labor of love. CORONA was a blast to write, but CANTICLE is, I think, maybe just that much outside my skill set. I'm learning as I go.
JS: What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions aspiring novelists have of the writer's life?
MH: That it has to be lonely. I know I thought all writers were forced to write alone and figure it out alone, but in this day and age, with Twitter and Facebook and WEbook, there is simply no need to be alone anymore. Besides, writers are my favorite kind of people; they're just like me! :)
JS: What advice would you impart to these aspiring novelists?
MH: Don't suffer; there's no need. Don't hide your babies; that's not the point of writing. Get out there, make your work available to review, and push, push, push. This dream doesn't come true on its own.
JS: Where did the inspiration for CORONA come from?
MH: Some of the aspects of CORONA (the Travellers, for instance) have been in my head since I was a kid. The story itself started with Father Rey, who was inspired by Father Oliver O'Grady, a pedophile priest who was shuffled by the church from one small California town to another when his abuses were discovered. I sucked this guy into Jaenrye to find a way to make him pay for what he did. Then, since I was controlling the story anyway, I made the control a little more…transparent.
JS: What do you hope your readers take away after they’re done reading?
MH: Never, EVER give up on your opportunity to make it right with yourself. If you ever feel a tinge of regret or failure, address it head on; become the hero you promised yourself you'd be when you grew up. It's never too late.
JS: Tell me a little about CORONA.
MH: CORONA is my one breathless moment, the story that made me laugh and cry as I wrote it, the one I made my truest writer's promise to. I promised I would not abandon it and let it be forgotten. That story truly took my breath away, and she deserved my full attention.
JS: Thanks for doing this interview with me MJ, it’s been a real pleasure having known you and reading CORONA. I can’t wait for its sequel(prequel) to be released. Now I have just one last question. If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?
MH: From what I can tell -- yes. :)
Thanks again for joining me folks for my very first author interview! Next week I'll be interviewing S.S. Michaels AKA @slushpilehero for all you twitter followers.
If you are interested in doing an interview with me, please email me at J.Souders (@) jasouders (.) com.