Welcome back! This author interview is with Rae Camden. Rae and I met in an author chat group a few months ago. She's the one I can always count on for a pep talk. She encourages everyone to go bold and own it. I'm in awe of her writing style. Her books differ from societal norms and leave such an impact. One of my favorite things about Rae is how gracefully she handles criticism. I can only wish to be able to do that someday. Her book The Demon and The Nightingale as well as Pearl are available on the Dreame app.
How did you get into writing?
I think it started with me being a bookworm from a very young age. I read anything that had words - books, newspapers, magazines, even food labels! I also watched a lot of TV and movies (no Netflix or video streaming back then, and this was during the time when people dressed up to go to the cinema - yeah, I’m old!). I think all of these things came together to stimulate my imagination and inspire me to draw and create my own stories. I remember writing my very first poem when I was 7 or 8, I think.
What are your favorite books/authors?
Oof! This is a tough question because there are so many of them! It’s an extremely mixed-up bunch - JRR Tolkien, Yasunari Kawabata, Czeslaw Milosz, Orhan Pamuk, Edith Wharton, Laura Kinsale, Susan Krinard, Tiffany Roberts, etc. for established writers. Online writers such as Matthew Spades, Melody Tyden, Karasmara, Archeangela Santi, Mana Sol, Angela Carver, StephanieLight, etc. And of course, all the writers in our Watchers & Gateways and Brainstorming groups.
What have you learned during your writing journey so far?
It really pays to create a writing routine that works for you and can help to keep you disciplined and grounded - unfortunately, my lazy procrastinating self is delaying things, ehehe. Also, you keep on learning new things along the way. It’s really a never-ending journey, and I love that.
How do you find inspiration?
Read anything worth reading and watch anything worth watching, even if it’s something that’s not your cup of tea. Study people, get to know them and find out what makes them tick. Be open-minded. Frankly, I’m appalled by many so-called writers out there who are only influenced by anime or k-dramas. Having very few influences greatly limits a writer’s growth and imagination, and leads to very sloppy, poorly written formulaic stories.
In your opinion, what does a good book consist of?
It should have the right balance of correct grammar and command of the language and well-thought-out characters, plot, world-building, etc. And most importantly, it should capture the readers’ hearts and minds.
What do you find to be the hardest part of the writing process?
Plotting, figuring out how to put different elements together so everything becomes cohesive.
What does success mean to you?
When at least one reader feels a deep connection with a story or with a character, then I’m happy. Everything else is icing on the cake.
If writing required mascots, what would yours be?
Maybe my dearly departed furbaby Yuki - he would snuggle on my lap while I typed away, or sat beside me and give me his signature stop-that-writing-nonsense-and-feed-me-now stare
How do you balance staying true to your story while also giving the reader what they want?
I don’t really focus on what’s popular at the moment whenever I write my stories, and I try to communicate that to whoever would read them. I believe that the best kind of story to write is the story you want to write - stay true to the spirit and the message of the story you’re writing. The readers, those who are truly meant to read your stories, will come, popularity be damned.
What is your best writing tip?
Talk with your characters. Yes, it sounds weird and freaky, and it may not work for everyone, but believe me - if you can pull it off, it works! Get to know your characters on a personal level, give them time and space to have their say - you're telling their stories after all. And it’s your duty as a writer to tell their stories to the best of your ability.
How did you come up with your book titles?
I usually get it from the plot or it’s something connected to the main character(s).
What message do you hope readers take from your book?
Choose life, choose hope, choose faith, choose love.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
Research! I love history and culture, as well as mythology. These topics come in very handy when you’re writing fantasy or historical fiction. Interacting with the characters! It’s great fun, even though it exposes you to some very dark and scary places of the human psyche. But that’s part of what makes it interesting.
What is your process for beginning a new book?
I often jot down story ideas in my laptop, and let it stew around in limbo for a while. When more ideas / inspiration come in, I write down a rough draft and basic character info. I create a rough chapter outline, and then begin writing down the first chapter. But sometimes, a surprise story twist or unexpected character pops up while I’m writing so I incorporate it there. So, I’m neither a plotter nor a pantser but a bit of both.
Describe your favorite book character.
There are many of them, but for now, it’s Kai, the male lead character of “The Demon and The Nightingale”. Breathtakingly handsome, a deadly ninja, but so devoted to his beloved Aryah, and completely clueless when it comes to matters of the heart - what's not to love about him?
If you could handpick a mentor for your writing, who would you choose?
Interesting question, and I can’t pick just one. I would love to work with some of my creative writing professors from university, but I’m too embarrassed to ask. But I receive a lot of great advice from a very dear friend of mine who is also an online writer.