It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. But it sure takes a lot of editing and rewriting to get that book as perfect as you’d like it to be.
Last week‘s guest was the lovely Frances Gonzalez, author of two serials and a penguin-lover to boot.
This week it’s the turn of Najela Cobb, avid reader and reviewer, as well as author of the soon to be released serial It’s All Relative.
Najela joins the growing queue of interviewees who are younger than me, which is starting to make me feel my age. Let me hobble over to get some tea and biscuits, and then we’re on to the interview.
AMH: Let’s start with your background. You’ve had a wide range of jobs, from teacher, to scientist, to telemarketer, to hospital volunteer. Have these experiences influenced and/or inspired your writing?
NC: I believe my various experiences have inspired my writing. These experiences mostly helped me in interacting with people from all different backgrounds, in different situations, and observing these interactions.
There are some characters I’ve written that resemble people I’ve come across in life and I take certain traits or use certain situations in my stories. I especially like using dialogue from real life conversations, you’d be surprised the stuff that people are willing to share with others when they know someone is listening.
AMH: Also on your website are the words: “Write like you’re the greatest writer in the world and edit like you’re the worst.” To what extent do you live by this maxim?
NC: When I write, especially It’s All Relative, I always try to think of the story’s potential and get all the thoughts and ideas on paper. However, as soon as the chapter or whatever it is that I’m writing is finished, I go back and edit.
The beginning of It’s All Relative has been written so many times in the past two years it’s a bit ridiculous, but it will be a better story. I wrote the beginning at my personal best, but the feedback I received pushed me past my personal best and hopefully that is reflected in the edited version. I think “editing like you’re the worst [writer]” shows the need to be humble, realistic, and open to all types of feedback. There’s always room for improvement, but that shouldn’t prevent you from starting at your personal best.
AMH: Speaking of It’s All Relative, the story is on hiatus. Why did you go on hiatus, and when do you expect to re-start posting?
NC: I went on hiatus to get some things in my personal life organized and get a buffer so that I’m not struggling to post the story on time. I wanted to rework the beginning and slow things down so we get to know the characters before I throw them into trouble. You can expect updates from November 1, 2009. I’m hoping to get some parodies and bonus stories written too.
AMH: I look forward to it! And you’ve been keeping yourself busy in the meanwhile; you write boatloads of reviews! Do you have a maxim for your reviews, just as you have one for writing?
NC: Thanks. I hope you enjoy it.
The maxim I have for reviews is to review the work the way I would like my work to be reviewed. I have different styles for reading. If a serial starts off good, I try to stick with it until I get enough information to write the review. If it takes a while to get started, I jump around until I find something I like and just continue from there.
If I can’t find anything I like, I typically don’t review it. I still try to treat the author and their work with respect, because there’s nothing worse than getting a rude review. If I can say something nicely, but be honest, then I accomplished my goal in helping the writer and letting the reader know whether they want to read the story.
AMH: You joined the e-Fiction Book Club as a reviewer: why? What does the eFBC offer to readers and writers that other websites do not?
NC: I’m not really sure how I found out about the e-Fiction Book Club. I like to review stories and by joining the eFBC, I’d be able to do so in more structured format.
There are many stories that I would probably never looked at had they not been in the eFBC queue. The eFBC offers readers a chance to read reviews of stories that might not get read if they were just in a directory. There were some stories that I never saw in some of the directories that I’ve been on.
The eFBC also offers writers of web serials or e-fiction to get more publicity for their work and a chance to actively discuss their work with their readers in a more critical setting. There are resources for writers and resources for readers to find the lesser known directories.
AMH: You make a good point: one of the problems of web fiction is the difficulty in sifting through content, and getting honest feedback for both writers and readers. What else do you think is missing from webfiction?
NC: I think the one thing missing from web fiction is credibility. Frances Gonzalez mentioned this in the follow-up discussion after her interview last Wednesday “The lack of respect for the medium is a hurdle all web fiction authors have to challenge and overcome.” Many people automatically assume that if it’s online, it must be crap. That notion is something that we are going to have to combat as writers, reviewers, and readers of web fiction.
As writers, we can tell the stories that no one in the mainstream has thought or the freedom to tell. As reviewers we can highlight the gems we find and advertise them. As readers, we can promote the stories that we enjoy. We’ll still have to compete against physical books, but the only thing that they have on us is readability and portability. Hopefully digital readers will be more common place and web fiction will be wide spread. It may take a while to get there, but we’ll be at the forefront of the web fiction movement and carve out the credibility for other web fiction authors that follow us.
AMH: Yet despite these shortcomings, you’ve chosen to publish online. Why?
NC: The one thing that I enjoy about web fiction is the immediate interaction between readers, writers, and the community surrounding web fiction. The instantaneous feedback is a good motivator to keep going. Writing can be such a solitary hobby or job, but going online can really make that process less lonely and more motivating.
The other thing I like about online fiction is that it teaches you to be your own advocate on behalf of your story. You not only have to write your story, but you have to network with other writers, market and advertise your story, maintain your website, and all that good stuff. These are skills I could use if I ever decide to go into traditional publishing.
The short and simple answer: I have a story to tell and this is the best way to tell it.
AMH: Let’s finish off with a reader-submitted question. Miladysa asks: “Have you ever found yourself talking to someone in the belief that you know them, only to discover you had them confused with a fictional character?
NC: Well, not exactly. This story is kind of based off of my friends and what we all came up with for their character. We kind of refer to each other with the It’s All Relative character names more often than we use our real names. My main character, Takun, was based on someone I knew, though I have to admit Takun was and still is much more interesting.
I can’t actually say that I had a conversation with someone that I had confused with a fictional character. It would be cool if I did, that would be pretty awesome. It would be like “Sorry, I had you confused with Harry Potter.” (Though we did have a guy we dubbed “Potter” in high school. We were a strange bunch).
AMH: Ha! That would be awesome. Well, that’s it from me. Was there anything else you wanted to say?
NC: Thanks for interviewing me. It’s pretty cool to have someone interviewing other than myself.
I hope everyone enjoys the It’s All Relative edits as much as I enjoyed writing them. The new episodes go online November 1, 2009, so read them and have fun. I just turned 21, so if anyone wants to buy me a virtual drink, I’m legal. ;P
Have more questions for Najela? Leave a comment below!
See you next week.