Shayla Raquel – Author Interview

What compelled you to tell the story/stories in your most recent book? (And specifically, why this genre?)

The 10 Commandments of Author Branding is an authorship reference book, according to Amazon categories, but I like to call it a self-help book for writers. Reference sounds so dry, doesn’t it?

It was NaNoWriMo 2018, and I needed a book idea. I was a few days late coming up with something, and I had just published my debut novel, The Suicide Tree. While I was at a coffee shop with my writers’ group (we do Saturday NaNoWriMo write-ins during November), it struck me to start compiling all of my articles, email newsletters, Facebook posts, and more into a Word doc. 

It just kept growing and growing. I knew then: This is my book. I need to help authors learn about branding, marketing, and authenticity. And so I did.   

What obstacles—either inner or outer—did you encounter while writing the book?

The Suicide Tree took me three and a half years to write. I was constantly battling with perfectionism. Thankfully, I learned my lesson (to some degree) with Commandments. In fact, that book was written, edited, and published in under a year.

I did, however, encounter quite the setback when I realized an entire chapter (Commandment IX: Thou Shalt Not Bear a Boring Book Launch) had to be completely rewritten in two days before going to the editor. Originally, that chapter taught authors about Facebook launch groups. I knew, though, that they didn’t work anymore. 

That meant sitting down in my recliner and writing an entire chapter from scratch. Funny thing is, that chapter gets the most compliments! 

How has writing your most recent book changed or added value to your life?

I’m currently finishing up a book of poetry entitled All the Things I Should’ve Told You. Out of everything I’ve written, this has been the most important to me. It’s me bearing my soul and talking about grief, love, loss, resilience, and anger. Almost every poem was written in the moment—in the moment of grieving the loss of a loved one, in the moment of falling in love, in the moment of dusting myself off and trying again.

These poems helped me get through some dark times, and they’ve also shown me the light. It’s my hope that these poems will guide others out of the darkness and into a brighter world.

Did you self-publish or did you go the traditional route? Why did you choose the route you chose, and what was that process like?

Oh, self-publish all the way! I’m too much of a control freak to hand my books over to anyone else. Plus, the waiting game is unbearable. I have a hard enough time waiting on a microwave minute, let alone two years after getting a deal. 

I’m a self-publishing mentor and have been working with indie authors for years. It’s a blast for me, and I wouldn’t want to go any other route. 

The process for someone who has done it for years isn’t tough. But for those who are new to it, it’s seriously like taking on a full-time job. There are so many learning curves! I’ve been blessed with a team who helps me publish high-quality books, so that certainly takes a load off. 

I also have the Pre-Publishing Checklist: A To-Do List for Indie Authors because so many of my clients needed a road map for the process. 

Are you friends with other writers? If so, how do they influence your writing? (No need to mention names unless you and they are comfortable with that. We’re more curious about what your writing life looks like and who/what influences/supports you.)

Absolutely! I’m the organizer for the Yukon Writers’ Society in Yukon, Oklahoma. In fact, the majority of my friends are writers. We organize workshops and conferences together; we attend conferences in Texas (road trip!); we go to coffee shops to write; we send each other writerly memes and quotes. I’ve said it before in previous interviews, but there is no doubt in my mind that my books wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for writer friends.

I think, yes, accountability is a part of success, but it’s this loyal support I get unlike any other from them. If I talk about a new book I’m working on, or if I tell my friends about ideas for workshops, they immediately cheer me on. And I do the same for them.

Find your people, my author friends. It will change you.

Do you maintain a regular writing practice? If so, what does it look like? If not, how do you stay engaged in your writing projects?

No one has ever accused me of sticking to a routine. Ha! I’m kind of all over the place with my writing. The weekends and week nights (after 8 o’clock) are a lot easier for me. I get my coffee, a snack, my Bose headphones, and I get to work. I love setting a timer too, because it’s fun to see what I can accomplish in an hour. Or on the days when time is so limited, just 15 minutes of writing is better than none.

One thing that helps me stay engaged—and this is an odd answer—is ensuring my mental health is up to par. If I’m not exercising, eating healthy, staying in my devotions, and spending time with wonderful people, my mental health will deteriorate. And if my mental health is meh, then my writing is meh

How many other books or stories do you have in progress right now?

As I said, the book of poetry! But I am wildly excited about my first psychological thriller. It isn’t named yet, but I’ve been in research mode most of the year. This one . . . well, let’s just say it’s my magnum opus. 

For NaNoWriMo this year, I’m using this time to outline my entire novel using the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel method as my guide.

Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?

As a born-again Christian, I know God gave me the gift of writing, and I never want to let a talent grow stagnant. So I’m very grateful for that. When I’m writing, I do think there’s a spiritual aspect to it, because I am genuinely bearing my soul to the world. I don’t care what genre I’m writing in; there is a piece of my heart in my writing. 

You need to take that writing time seriously. Turn your phone on silent or leave it in another room. Turn on some rain sounds (I like And for the love of Pete, leave your blasted social media alone.

What would your life look like if you didn’t write?

I wouldn’t call it much of a life at all. Honestly. My whole life is centered on books. I think I would feel empty. I would always know something was missing in my life. A void.

Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. 

Shayla Raquel is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, “The Rotting” (in Shivers in the Night), The Suicide Tree, andThe 10 Commandments of Author Branding. In her not-so-free time, she acts as organizer for the Yukon Writers’ Society, volunteers at the Oklahoma County Jail, and obsesses over squirrels. She lives in Oklahoma with her dogs, Chanel, Wednesday, and Baker.

Sarah Sutton – YA Romance Author Interview

Image used with permission

What compelled you to tell the story/stories in your most recent book? (And specifically, why this genre?)

I’ve always loved the YA level of writing for the beauty of firsts. First loves, first kisses—first experiences are just so fun to write. Capturing the depth of a teenage mindset is so fun, because teens feel things so deeply. Everything is the end of the world or it’s the best day ever, and I love writing those moments. I’ve always been such a big fan of contemporary romance, either in books or fun rom-com movies, so whenever an idea pops into my head, I have to write it. It makes my heart truly happy.

What obstacles—either inner or outer—did you encounter while writing the book?

As far as inner obstacles, it was hard to nail the personality of my main character for this book. I couldn’t figure out how to blend her bitterness together with more positive traits to make a well-rounded character at first. This was also my first holiday romance, so that was also daunting. With holiday romances comes a shorter promotional period—no one’s going to want to read a Halloween romance in January, so knowing that this had a small promotional life was a bit scary too. But that didn’t stop my desire to get this baby out there—I just had to tell this story!

How has writing your most recent book changed or added value to your life?

It’s taught me that writing from my heart is the most important thing for me. Like I mentioned above, holiday romances do have a short promotional life. Like a vintage convertible, you wouldn’t drive it in the winter. But it’s something that brings you joy, right? This book is like my convertible. I’ll have it out for a few months and pull it out again next year. And that’s great. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the marketing and numbers of it all, the “Will this sell, will I make a huge profit, is it even worth it” kind of mindset. But publishing IF THE BROOM FITS has reminded me that this is about the writing and the passion in the writing. It’s made me so much more excited for the stories to come.

Did you self-publish or did you go the traditional route? Why did you choose the route you chose, and what was that process like?

Initially, I’d chosen to traditional publish. Or, I had plans to traditionally publish. After a year and no offers, I felt discouraged. I give HUGE props to authors who can keep chugging along—I’m rooting for them from the sidelines! However, once I realized that I didn’t want to continue the query process, that only left one decision, right? Self-publishing. I remember freaking out. “I can’t self-publish,” I’d thought to myself. “I wouldn’t do it well.” And at the time, I was right. I knew nothing about self-publishing. So, to do it justice and to do it right, I threw myself into research about marketing and promotions and all things indie publishing. Honestly, looking back, I know absolutely that this was the route intended for me. All of the creative control, all of the freedom of deadlines—I love every single bit of it.

Are you friends with other writers? If so, how do they influence your writing?

I’m friends with other writers online, but none in my physical life. Those writing friends online have been absolute lifesavers, though. I host writing sprints on my YouTube channel every Sunday and Thursday, and my writing friends show up and we support each other, encourage each other. I have a few friends online as well who I go to with questions and they help me brainstorm. They help me push forward, cheer me on. I even have a few friends who help me proofread and beta read when those times come. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them!  

Do you maintain a regular writing practice? If so, what does it look like? If not, how do you stay engaged in your writing projects?

Yes and no. As I mentioned, I host writing sprints on my YouTube channel, so there I’m typically writing. I really get most of my best writing done at night, so I try to tune into my work-in-progress every night and get some done. I’m a single girl in my twenties, though. No kids, no other commitments, so I have a lot of free time on my hands, so I’m fortunate enough to choose when I write. I can write at night, in the morning, after lunch—whenever. So it’s not always a “regular writing practice” really. I suppose my regular practice would just be to write every day.

How many other books or stories do you have in progress right now?

I have two projects in the works at the moment—one is the beginning of the drafting stage and one is off with my copy editor. I don’t always work on multiple projects at the same time, but I’m liking the busyness of that practice. It keeps my mind constantly engaged!

Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?

Honestly, I never have before! To me, it’s like kicking back and unwinding. It’s like turning on your favorite movie and snuggling under a bundle of covers. It’s something that makes my soul just feel so happy. 🙂

What would your life look like if you didn’t write?

Oh, gosh, I don’t know! I’ve thought about that a time or two, what might my life be like without writing. Where would I be now? What career path would I have chosen for myself? And honestly, I have no clue. I’m not sure if I’d be in college pursuing a degree or jumping straight into the work force. I think because I’ve been a writer since a very young age—elementary school young!—that it’s so engrained in who I am. I can’t even imagine doing anything different!

Why do you write?

To be honest, I’ve been staring at this question for longer than I should’ve been haha! I suppose I write to liberate my mind. To spill forth the thoughts and murmurings that gather in my head and to see the story come to life on paper (or on Word doc). Because I see these characters, these stories, so clearly and vividly in my head that it’s almost like I’m watching a movie myself. To write them down is fun, but to edit the manuscript and watch the story evolve further is such a rush of joy. And to look at that finished product, to hold it in my hands? There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like looking at an idea that broke free from your imagination. But I suppose I don’t write dreaming of the end product. I suppose I write because to not write is to surrender to insanity, and though I may be on the cusp of it sometimes—like when a deadline looms and I’m rushing to finish, or when I’ve got so many ideas in my head that it feels like my brain is about to burst—but I’m not quite ready to give into it fully yet. 😉 

Sarah Sutton is a self-published YA Contemporary Romance author from a tiny town in Michigan. She spends her days writing stories about teens falling in love with her two adorable puppies by her side being cheerleaders (and major distractions) or she’s probably taking a nap.

Author Interview – Valerie J. Brooks

What compelled you to tell the story/stories in your most recent book?
I had no idea that I would write noir. I loved film noir and had taken a college course to study the form. But on a 2015 trip to Paris with my husband, during Christmas and New Years, the area around the 15th arrondissement caught my imagination. It was a month after the Bataclan terrorist attacks, and ten thousand soldiers were on Paris streets. Some of the soldiers were so young, they had pimples. Homeless Muslim women prostrated themselves on the cold cement of the Champs-Elysées, holding out begging bowls, while the avenue’s trees twinkled with tiny clear lights. The juxtapositions were everywhere. As I do on most of trips, I kept receipts, brochures, menus. I took photos of every place I went, especially of small details. I wrote in a journal. Back home in Oregon, I dug up a story I’d written many years before about an anniversary weekend Dan and I spent in Portland, Oregon. I’d fictionalized it a bit to create a noir story for a travel magazine that was never published. I guess in my personal zeitgeist, I was drawn to the dark. Hell, I’d grown up in New England with ghosts, the gothic, and secrets. Everyone hid behind a veil of perception.

What obstacles did you encounter while writing the book?
I don’t remember encountering any obstacles. I’m sure I did, but I loved writing the stories. Maybe that was my obstacle—writing a novel as three separate stories that were linked. After publishing them in succession as e-books, I had to market them individually, too, and that was so much work! I don’t regret doing it this way. When the three were complete, I laced them together, and voila! A noir novel.

How has writing your most recent book changed or added value to your life?
I found my voice. Noir comes naturally to me. Noir also reflects the dark times we live in, and I was able to slip in some of my politics. In fact, I’ve renamed this generation of noir. In the 40-50s it was called simply noir. In the 60s-90s, neo-noir. This new noir I call femmes noir. In the older noir, women were either hungry, man-eating females or needy victims. I turned that trope on its head—without making the woman psychotic or sociopathic. I want my women to be like the women I know—strong, gutsy, intelligent, and playing on the right side, although they have lots of baggage caused from bad choices and societal influences. That sends them down the noir sink hole. The women also do things I’d never do. Like murder. It’s fiction. What can I say? They are badasses, and I cheer for them.

Did you self-publish or did you go the traditional route? What was that process like?
I’ve been the traditional publishing route for over twenty years. Three literary novels, three fabulous, hard-working NYC agents. Nada. I came damn close, one time being told they already had a novel like mine, which of course they didn’t. I know the one they were comparing my novel to, and I laughed. But after that long time of schlepping the manuscript, sometimes not even getting the decency of a form letter, I said, “Not this time.” So I researched the indie publishing route. It’s not easy. Steep learning curves, lots of time spent comparing, making mistakes, begging for help. But I knew I could do it. Now for the first time, I have a paperback novel, and I’m so proud of it.

Are you friends with other writers? If so, how do they influence your writing?
Oh, gads, yes! I can’t tell you how many of my friends are writers—or artists, musicians, creative folk. I’m totally in my element. My best friend, Jan Eliot, is a cartoonist. I’ve been on the board of Eugene Ballet and Oregon Writers Colony. I co-founded the Willamette Writers Speakers Series. I was an advisor for Artists in Schools. I market a poet. I’ve taught workshops on writing and the writing life. I have a writing group that’s met for almost twenty years. I’ve been to five artists residencies where I’ve made writer friends. Other writers are the only people who truly understand us, and we raise each other up. I’m rich with writer friends.

Do you maintain a regular writing practice? If so, what does it look like?
No. It’s the most irregular thing I do. I’ve tried, but sometimes, I’m just floating around, taking in the world, listening to radio, like a squirrel stashing nuts; it’s all there for consuming when I need it. When I do write, I write like crazy.

How many other books or stories do you have in progress right now?
I have the second femmes-noir in the Angeline Porter Series in the works, tentatively titled Tainted 2 Times, plus I’ve been working on a memoir about my early years in the wild rural west of Oregon titled Vida Flats.

Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?
Both writing and dancing are spiritual practices for me. I can’t explain it, but I find both for me are like meditation. When I write at Colonyhouse in Rockaway Beach for a week (Oregon Writers Colony’s members’ residency), I dance on the beach, I immerse in my writing, each a way to reach a different plane, a higher level of awareness and soul-searching.

What would your life look like if you didn’t write?
I have no idea. I can’t imagine my life without writing or creating art or finding a passion in some creative outlet. My mom kept a scrap of paper of when I was four or five where I did a crayon drawing of the neighbor’s house. When I was ten or eleven, I set up my brother’s plastic cowboys and Indians in the backyard with teepees I made. I had a story in my head then got down on the ground and took photographs of the tableau. In high school, I sold paintings in a gallery show, performed in the school’s theater productions, was art editor of the yearbook, and wrote for the school newspaper. In college I was art editor then editor of the literary arts magazine. After I arrived in Oregon, I sold work at the Saturday Market and did art for the local newspaper. I can’t imagine my life without some form of creativity. It just wouldn’t happen.

Why do you write?
Because I have to.

You can read more about Val’s new novel Revenge in 3 Parts and her blog at Order it on all platforms and buy in indie stores. 

Read this recent article about Val in the Register-Guard.


Author Interview – Jeff Stookey

What compelled you to tell the story/stories in your most recent book?

“Compelled” is an interesting word. Its roots mean “to drive together.” For me the word “urge” feels more accurate in describing how I began.

I have long loved word origins. It has always struck me that the English word “poet” derives from a Greek work for “maker.” Merriam-Webster adds that it is akin to a Sanskrit word for “he gathers, heaps up.” Again, “to drive together.” And the English word “art” derives from Latin “art-” and “ars” and is related to “armen” meaning arms, weapons, tools; akin to Latin ars (art, skill, craft, power), Greek harmos joint, arariskein to fit. Hence our word “articulate” or join together. Art joins things together.

As a child, I became captivated by anything to do with art. My grandmother had a lot of art books with images of old paintings that fascinated me, and I liked drawing pictures. Later in school when I learned to read and we were assigned to write stories for class, I was intrigued by making up narratives and by the way you could make characters talk on the page by putting quotation marks around their words. Movies and television, of course, entranced me and aroused my interest in, not so much storytelling, as creating feelings and moods. I loved the scary, the creepy, the mysterious, and The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Thriller were favorite shows. Later I grew interested in works that evoked tears, pathos, sympathy, longing, compassion.

I became obsessed with movies and filmmaking for many years, and I did make a few short films. But the process of making films was too cumbersome. Then in the 1980s I read The Color Purple, which I loved, but the movie was a tremendous disappointment. This turned me in the direction of books and writing. It seemed to me that one could do much more and go much deeper in a book than in a movie.

When I turned 50 in 1998, I still wanted to do some kind of creative work (the urge), and I had it in my head that I had survived long enough to have something to say in writing about this life and this world we live in. I sat down to write about my father and about my friend, Steven “Jesse” Bernstein, a Seattle writer who committed suicide in 1991.

But this image came into my mind: two men necking in a 1920s automobile in a rural setting. The image haunted me and I began examining it and wondering who these two fellows were, what their background was, how did they meet, what was their relationship, what happened to them? The more I delved into these questions, and the more I wrote, the more curious I became. As the story unfolded I was driven on by the opportunity to use this story to portray the pain of growing up gay and the struggle to come to terms with that reality in a sexually repressive society dominated by heterosexuality. As I learned more and more about gay history, the history of Portland and Oregon, the history of the Ku Klux Klan, the eugenics movement, etc., I felt compelled to share this history with readers. This led to the three novels that make up my Medicine for the Blues trilogy. And with the rise of Donald Trump, I felt that it was important to publish and get this story out to the public with hopes of encouraging compassion and understanding for those who are different.

What obstacles did you encounter while writing the book?

I saw that I had to better understand history, in particular, what it was like to be gay in the 1920s. This was a major obstacle. First I ran across John Loughery’s book The Other Side of Silence, men’s lives and gay identities: a twentieth-century history. Eventually, I encountered the writings of Jonathan Ned Katz, and others: George Chauncey, Peter Boag, George Painter, and many more. The deeper I dug, the more I found and the more that came out in publication after I started writing. This created another obstacle, which was trying to keep up with all the literature on gay history and theory that was becoming available.

How has writing your most recent book changed or added value to your life?

All this reading in LGBT history opened up a whole new world for me. It was not just Socrates, the Greeks, Michelangelo, Walt Whitman, and Oscar Wilde, who were examples of what it meant to be gay, but there were many men, known and unknown, who over the years had experimented with, experienced, and thought about making gay lives for themselves and others like them. There were legions of people validating and supporting my identity as a gay man.

Did you self-publish or did you go the traditional route? What was that process like?

I am a self-published author. I pitched my book to several agents at the Willamette Writers Conference. A number of them expressed interest but told me that my book was too long to be published as one book. Yet none of them followed up after I sent them samples of my work.

I decided that I had put too much work into this project to let it languish in a drawer, only to be found after I died—like the memoirs of my main character, Carl Holman. I asked around about editors and a friend told me about Jill Kelly, PhD. I contacted her and after some preliminary interactions, we began working on my manuscript. Jill had self-published some nonfiction and a few novels of her own, and she guided me through the process of dealing with Amazon’s Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing. She knew the ropes.

Are you friends with other writers? If so, how do they influence your writing?

I am an introvert and like to stay home most of the time, so I can’t say I know a lot of writers. I have some old, old friends that I see from time to time, who have kept writing over the years. I was in a writing group several years ago and I’ve reconnected with one of those folks recently. Since I published, I’ve met a few other local writers at various readings and other literary events, and those encounters have grown into developing friendships. Plus, I have been involved with a new writing group over the past six months and those writers, besides becoming friends, have been teaching me a great deal, not only by the example of their writing, but by pointing out some of my bad writing habits.

Do you maintain a regular writing practice? If so, what does it look like?

When I was first writing Medicine for the Blues trilogy, I was still employed and I would get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and write for an hour before I went to work. Now that I am retired, I write when I don’t have other obligations, so my writing is not so regimented. I do like the weeks and days when I don’t have other things to attend to and I can plan to spend the whole day writing. Lately, I’ve been working on revisions to Book 3 of the trilogy and I find that revisions require a lot of concentration over a period of time, because there are so many things to juggle. I sometimes spend 8 to 10 hours a day writing. Other days I can’t find any time to write.

I’ve been going to a Monday morning writing group at the Q Center where we get prompts and write whatever comes to mind over 10 to 15 minutes, then we share what we’ve come up with. It’s not only great fun but a powerful stimulant to the imagination and a laboratory for experimentation. From this experience, I’ve got lots of new material that I hope to develop in the future.

The other aspect of my writing practice is my formal writing group which meets every two weeks. That gives us all a deadline and an impetus to get something ready for the others to read before we meet. Then we gather and share our thoughts on what the others have written.

While I am writing, I like to do a lot of research, and that always stimulates my imagination for filling in scenes and scenarios and gives me ideas about how to accurately describe historical times and details. I use the dictionary and thesaurus a lot to find just the right word or the right shade of meaning. In every paragraph, I probably look up 2 to 3 words, or more.

How many other books or stories do you have in progress right now?

I have a couple of ideas that are on the back burner of my mind right now, not things I have actually written down. Besides those, there is the material from the Q Center writing group. I look forward to mining that treasure trove for further development, once the third book of the trilogy is finished. I guess I prefer to tackle one project at a time.

Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?

Yes, to some extent. Writing is a voyage of discovery. The imagination is a conduit for the universe to work through us, and the intuitions and coincidences that happen in the process of writing can be quite awe-inspiring. But there is a Buddhist scripture which refers to “the dharma of thusness” by saying, “Just to portray it in literary form is to stain it with defilement.” Much of the spiritual world is beyond words. On the other hand, Gertrude Stein once said that the only things worth doing are impossible things. Spirituality is an unfolding. Maybe writing can help it along. Compassion is certainly a spiritual practice, and putting ourselves in the shoes of others, characters different from ourselves, helps us develop understanding and sympathetic feelings.

What would your life look like if you didn’t write?

I have always felt an uneasy relationship with writing. Although I wrote when I was younger, I had lots of self-doubts restarting at 50. I felt intimidated, I wondered what gave me the right to think I was a writer. Then once I was immersed in this trilogy, I came to understand what George Orwell meant when he wrote, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” (The antidote for this viewpoint is Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic.) And now that my book is in print, I am plagued by the whole endeavor of publishing and marketing.

My life would be a lot simpler if I didn’t write. But then I would still feel that urge to create something, and digital words or marks on paper, are a lot more manageable physically than drawings and paintings—another creative outlet I sometimes contemplate pursuing.

I look forward to spending more time gardening, once I complete this trilogy. Then I hope to have more breathing room to entertain thoughts of plunging into another big project.

Why do you write?

See Question #1.

Growing up in a small town in rural Washington State, Jeff Stookey enjoyed writing stories. He studied literature, history, and cinema at Occidental College, and then got a BFA in Theater from Fort Wright College. In his 40s he retrained in the medical field and worked for many years with pathologists, trauma surgeons, and emergency room reports.

Jeff lives in Portland, Oregon, with his longtime partner, Ken, and their unruly garden. Acquaintance is his first novel. Contact Jeff at

Author Interview – Curtis C. Chen

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Deadlines are a thing now, and I appreciate the motivation and focus they provide. Also, my process has become much more collaborative–not just with publishing professionals like my agent and various editors, but also with fellow writers and even readers. (I don’t look at any reviews unless someone has pre-screened the content for me, but having a sense of how people are responding to my stories does inform my future work.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A lot! I’ve been doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) since the early 2000’s, and because the goal is to produce 50,000 words in 30 days, I’ve accumulated several partial or unpolished first drafts. Most of those will never see the light of day, but each one has helped me work through different challenges and become a better writer.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? Why or why not?

Absolutely. I subscribe to Elizabeth Gilbert’s philosophy (as detailed in her book Big Magic) that a creative endeavor should be rewarding in itself, ars-gratia-artis style. Any subsequent “success”–fortune, fame, or even just getting published–may be a result of doing the work, but those things should not be the goal of the creative act. If you’re not enjoying the journey, maybe seek a different path.

How many hours a day do you write?

It varies, but when I sit down to write I aim for a solid block of at least two or three hours. It always takes a little while for me to get into the flow of the work, and once I’m there I want to preserve it for a good length of time so I can dig deeper into the project.

What are your favorite literary journals?

In no particular order…

What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

Finding the time to schedule writing into the rest of my life. I don’t have a day job at the moment, but I do a lot of freelance and volunteer work. It can sometimes feel selfish to schedule uninterrupted writing time when people are waiting on me to complete other tasks. It’s all about being disciplined, and I’m still working on improving my time management.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why or why not?

I don’t experience it myself, but I recognize that different people encounter different obstacles when trying to channel creative energies. Ultimately every writer has a different process, and it’s taken me many years to figure out what works for me. I would encourage trying out different tools, environments, and communities to find what really energizes you to create.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I’ve written complete first drafts (~100,000 words) in less than two months, but the revision time after that varies a lot. I’m largely a discovery writer, which means I don’t plan or outline much before diving into that first draft, and I have to go back and clean things up later. My debut novel took ten years from first draft to publication; my second took ten months; and the third one in progress has been going for about a year and a half so far. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? 

I am fortunate to live in an area with many awesome independent creators, and I’ve met and befriended a lot of writers in and around Portland, Oregon. I’ve also made connections through conventions, workshops, and online forums over the years. Please check the acknowledgments section in each of my novels to see some of those names. 😉

What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

As a speculative fiction writer, I live and die by my Locus subscription ( ). There are many ways to get information online these days–including following your favorite authors on Twitter–but two in particular that I recommend are author Jason Sanford’s Patreon ( ), where he posts a weekly “Genre Gossip” column, and the free SFWA Blog ( ), which covers a wide range of writing, publishing, and community topics. (Full disclosure: I am the current Secretary of SFWA and a former contributor to the blog.)

Once a Silicon Valley software engineer, CURTIS C. CHEN (陳致宇) now writes fiction and runs puzzle games near Portland, Oregon. His debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO is a science fiction thriller about a superpowered spy facing his toughest mission yet: vacation. The sequel, KANGAROO TOO, sends our hero to the Moon.

Curtis’ stories have appeared in Playboy Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and OREGON READS ALOUD. He is a graduate of Clarion West and Viable Paradise.

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