Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Hello, I’m Stacy Bender, author of several science fiction books, one fantasy, and two cozy mysteries written under my middle name, Catherine. The list is as follows.
I Like Alice
Man on the Stair
Boxers & Briefs: Book of Shorts
The Sav’ine Series:
Hands of Onyx
Sons of Amethyst
Pearl of Sorrow
(M Falcon Mysteries written under Catherine Bender)
Body in the Boot
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Most people find the story behind Ursa Kane the most interesting because I often refer to it as divorce therapy. An old friend of mine finally managed to convince me to write my stories down. Ursa Kane is the only one to survive this period in my life. Written in first person, Daniel Kane, recounts her story of washing up on an island hidden in the Bermuda Triangle. Spanish Conquistadors, Pirates, Aztecs, and WWII personnel, none of them are ready for a modern woman.
Strangely enough, this story also helped me find my soul mate. Reid said after reading it, he wanted to know more about me, the author.
I have to admit that none of these books would have been written or published without Emerald Tears. It was one of those stories that pound on your brain begging to get out. I had the draft written within a month in two note books. After tossing it onto a shelf and almost throwing it out, I typed it into the computer. Emerald Tears wasn’t supposed to be the start of a series, but the concept behind the characters were too interesting.
While Emerald Tears is not the oldest story, it was the first published.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can be a movie, a song, a place, a speakers ill-timed words, or a friend’s comment.
How do you deal with creative block?
The trick with writer’s block is to not let the gas tank run dry or put too much pressure on yourself. A person needs to enjoy what they’re doing. I learned this lesson after my original publisher went out of business. Luckily there was a great clause in my contract, and I got the rights back on my books. Halfway through my series, I spent a year getting everything back up and running and another year completing everything else I was working on. Once exhaustion kicked in, binge watching movies and reading books was the only thing left. I wasn’t sure if I would ever write again, but I am. My husband and I wrote our first story together and it has since found its way into the hands of a small publishing company. We’re in the process of writing two more.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
The first thing to say here, is that a person’s first book will always be full of mistakes. That’s why it’s always suggested that a writer find other people to read their manuscripts besides family. One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is over writing. While the writer needs to know their character inside and out, the reader does not. It’s also unnecessary to use every word in the dictionary.
If the subject matter doesn’t move the story forward or isn’t pertinent, cut it. The term, less is more, is true in so many ways. The same can be said about too many words. Filler words bog down a good story. Words like, then, than, just, and most ly words are some of the biggest culprits. Many times, sentences read better and stronger without them.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
The thing to keep in mind here is that cover art differs from typography. This is where you need to accept your weaknesses. The cover can make or break the sale of a book. We’ve all seen it. Bad cut-and-paste jobs often with copy written artwork, unreadable titles or author names, and cluttered messes which include the kitchen sink.
Having no knack for graphic artwork, I will always suggest professional help on covers. I would also suggest a writer keep in mind that artists dislike covering their work with titles and people’s names. Many don’t even know that certain fonts are copy written.
Other than legalities getting a writer in trouble, do keep in mind that with so many books on the market today, your cover has seconds to catch someone’s attention.
As for your books title, make it catchy while keeping it true to the content. Do a web search on your choices to see what pops up. You might be surprised at what you find and decide on something else. There is a lot of competition out there. Titles like Dummies Guide to Fighting Dragons: How to stay alive long enough to be a minor nuisance or The Unabridged Compendium of the Dwarven Comma might not role off the tongue but they might catch a person’s attention.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I used to get upset when someone said something negative about a story. But I realized I can’t please everyone, nor do I want to. While I write for myself and husband first, it always gives me joy when someone else likes my books. But I’m not going to dilute myself with attempting to please everyone. Besides, a negative review on a book can legitimize all the other positive ones you have.
One of the best negative reviews I received, I wish was in a written format. A friend told me her father read Ursa Kane and hated it. She then explained he was a, women should be in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, type of man, and said he finished the entire book. We both had a good laugh after that.
How has your creation process improved over time?
Anything you keep doing you get better at. No one but that rare genius ever writes perfect the first time. It’s taken me years to improve my writing skills and learn about the publishing side of writing. I’m still learning.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
Every author has a horror story. My first publisher was mine. Being new to the publishing world I had no idea what to look for, good or bad. After dealing for five years with at least one person who I suspect was off their meds, an editor who preferred to delete and change key points in the manuscript without telling me, disappearing edits, published draft copies, and other nefarious things, I was glad to take my rights and go home. Was it all bad? No. I learned a lot from the company, mostly on what not to do. I also met a lot of very helpful people I would not have otherwise had the pleasure of meeting. These wonderful people have help me with everything from cover art, computer programs, marketing, new reading material, and creative support.
The road to your goals\happiness\success is not a straight shot. There are many curves and a lot of detours. The trick is to keep your eyes open and catch hold of the opportunities you find along the way. No matter how small and insignificant they may seem at the time. And don’t ever let the potholes keep you from continuing your journey.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
The thing to keep in mind when writing is that not everyone will like your work, but for those who do, make sure you tell a good story.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Emotions have a lot to do with everything. A writer needs to put themselves in the shoes of their creation and be able to run without falling on their face. And yes, you can have a very unbelievable situation if you can’t do this. The thing to remember here is that everyone has a different perspective on every issue, large or small. Can a person who has never experienced abuse write a story where the character is abused? Yes, but it would be difficult. That’s why most writers stick to what they know.
I’ve teared up writing certain scenes and laughed at others. I’ve even berated myself in creating a situation that forces me to kill off my favorite creation. Without emotion a writer cannot capture the heart of a reader.
The act of writing can also be near impossible if your heart isn’t in the story.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
I wouldn’t call them tricks. Use what you know, draw from your own life and experiences. Think of that one quirk in a person you know and expand it for a character. Readers love a flawed character. Fact can be stranger than fiction. Use history as a template and run from there.
Remember, first drafts are supposed to be messy. Turn off the editor in your brain and write everything down. Whatever you do, don’t obsess in getting the first chapter correct. That’s a trap too many beginners fall into. By the time you get to the end, you’ll have a better handle on what’s needed in the beginning.
What are your plans for future books?
Right now, I’m working on a few short stories, and my husband and I are in the middle of two novels. One is a sequel to our first cowritten novel, and the second is something totally new.
As long as the ideas keep coming and we’re having fun, we will keep writing.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
My husband once stated that it must be scary inside my head. You see, it’s full of strange random facts that when voiced don’t always compute with the modern person. I think I scared my entire English class when, after an essay, one of my classmates commented on how stupid the soldiers were during the Crimean War and what he would have done differently. I went in to lecture mode and explained the difference between the modern cased ammunition and black powder along with the resulting cloud of gunpowder that would cut visibility. After ending with the appropriate use of a cannon and the different ammunition used, he sat at the far side of the room for the rest of the class.
I’ve had other incidents of random weirdness, but my curiosity never stays in one place very long.