Morgen: Hello Arial. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Arial: As you hear most writers say, I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. However, I didn’t start getting serious about my writing until my twenties. That’s when I discovered historical romance novels and I penned MIDNIGHT CONQUEST. Twenty years later, I finally have it published, but don’t let that scare people into thinking it takes twenty years to write a book. Life has a way of distracting you from your dreams. The good news—it’s never too late to chase your dreams!
Morgen: As I found out in my late 30s. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Arial: I like to say that I write fantasy and paranormal. Primarily, I’m writing paranormal romance at this time. My debut novel MIDNIGHT CONQUEST is a vampire romance set in the early 1500s of Scotland. It’s the first in a six-book series called BONDED BY BLOOD. I also published a children’s book last fall (Sep 2010) called WHERE ART THOU UNICORN, which is a counting book of sorts as children count how many unicorns are on each page. I published an erotic short story HERE’S BLOOD IN YOUR EYE, which you just finished reading.
Morgen: I did, I really enjoyed it.
Arial: I also have plans for a YA series. The common thread in all of these is fantasy / paranormal. I love vampires, werewolves, unicorns, dragons, faeries….WOOT! 😉
Morgen: A very popular genre. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Arial: Yes. Arial Burnz is my adult fiction name. Christine Davies is what I write my children’s and YA books under. Although I used Kami Cummings as my erotic pen name, I’m considering dropping that and just using Arial Burnz, since my romance novels have pretty hot, erotic sex in them anyway. But it’s important to keep the children’s / YA name separate from the erotic romance. I don’t want some young person picking up a book written by Arial Burnz, thinking they’re going to get a YA experience, and they suddenly lose their innocence in a literary sense!
Morgen: 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Arial: No, I do not have an agent, and yes, I think they are important IF you’re dealing with some hefty contracts. I have some people looking at my novel MIDNIGHT CONQUEST for possible movie adaptations and I do NOT want to get shafted on the contract, so I’ll be consulting an agent for that. Most small presses and ePublishers have very standard contracts that they are not willing to budge on. However, the larger houses (often referred to as the Big Six) have contracts that are more negotiable and it’s important to have an agent for those dealings. Getting an agent is the problem. They typically don’t take you on unless you REALLY wow them with your writing, or you have a following of readers and books under your belt, or you have an offer from a large publishing house – the last two are the more likely reasons an agent will take you on. As such, I would highly recommend going to the smaller ePublishers and presses to get some experience being published before trying to look for an agent.
Morgen: That’s fantastic news Arial, do let me know how it all goes. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Arial: My adult fiction is in eBook format. My children’s unicorn book is only in paperback / hard copy. I’m looking to adapt it for eBooks, however, once the technology becomes available to smaller venues. As for my experience, eBooks are AWESOME! They save the trees and they’re a HECK of a lot cheaper to distribute and reproduce. I have two eReaders – a Kindle and Color Nook – and I love them both. My favourite part about having an eReader is the volume of books I can carry at once. Saves room in the house, too. Incidentally, when requested, I can sign my eBooks for my fans and a new service called KindleGraph lets me sign Kindle versions of my novel through the Internet. It’s great!
Morgen: I’ve just started to hear about that – I love technology. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Arial: At present, I am writing Book 2 for BONDED BY BLOOD: MIDNIGHT CAPTIVE. Book 1 is about Broderick falling in love with Davina and she has an eight-month-old daughter, Cailin. Book 2 is seventeen years later and it’s Cailin’s love story. Broderick and Davina are back characters and you get to learn more about the origin of my vampire lore as well as see the deep foundations of Broderick and Davina’s relationship and how they’ve grown so much closer over their seventeen years of marriage. This is a crucial set-up for the rest of the series.
Morgen: It doesn’t sound like you suffer from it but what is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Arial: As a Certified Hypnotherapist, I’ve come to understand that writer’s block is your conscious critical mind getting in the way of your subconscious creative mind. I have step-by-step instructions on my blog to show people how they can do this meditation at home whenever they have a problem. I also highly recommend a book by Alan Watt called “The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the story within”. With exercises, he gets you to create a GREAT novel from the heart.
Morgen: And that’s what we all want… sounds good, thank you for that. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Arial: I am a Plotter! I am NOT a Pantster! I usually brainstorm the entire story with my husband, building my stories with many layers and levels that all contribute to the overall story, which is especially important with a series. In BONDED BY BLOOD, there are things in Book 1 and 2 that will not come into play until Book 6, so I always try to plan everything out from the beginning and you can’t fly by the seat of your pants when you’re doing that. Alan Watt’s book helps me flush out what really matters and makes each story compelling in its own right.
Morgen: I love the work ‘pantster’ – I’ve heard it a few times now. 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Arial: I think the editing I’m doing now is different because though I’ve progressed as a writer, there are new things I’m making mistakes on!
Morgen: Oh dear.
Arial: Also no matter how well you write, you will always need to have someone on the outside looking in. You just get too close to your stories to see where the errors are. No one writes a final novel on the first draft. Well, ask my Mom, and she’ll tell I DO. LOL
Morgen: That’s families for you – my editor is also a friend but I can always tell when she sends my stuff back which hat she’s wearing. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Arial: I’ve done all three! First person (e.g., I did this, then I did that) is not one I enjoy using for longer stories, like novels. I think those serve short stories very well, but that’s just my personal opinion. And what I don’t like about first person is it spoils the story from page one. Reason being…the character is telling the story, so I know they’re going to live by the end of the book! LOL. Third person (e.g., he did this and she did that) is my favourite because of the flexibility it affords to tell the story through various viewpoints, so I can reveal as much or as little information as I want to AND I can skew the information because of how that particular character interprets the data.
Morgen: I’ve had agents tell me (because I wrote a 105K one) that first person has been done too much and that third person is always the most popular viewpoint so I think you’re doing the right thing.
Arial: Second person is great for the choose-your-own-adventure stories: “You approach a doorway. Will you open the door, or go back to the junction and choose a different direction?” Yes, I’ve tried that when I wrote some small programs for book adaptations, but that was years ago! However, it’s not an easy format to use for a novel and I don’t recommend it.
Morgen: It isn’t but I love it for flash fiction and slightly longer short stories (and will be eBooking a collection of some of them). Although it’s my favourite to write I don’t think I’d write a novel in it – few people have done. I have Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City and it’s very heavy-going. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Arial: Two primary bits of advice, and the first one is beaten into every writer (or should be) – LEARN YOUR CRAFT! Learn what it means when they say SHOW versus TELL. Learn grammar and punctuation, spelling, point of view switches (keep to a MINIMUM). KNOW your craft and know what you write. Editors are not there to rewrite your manuscript. They’re there to make sure it’s correct. An editor who can afford the time AND believes in you as a writer will help you become a better writer by nurse-maiding you through those lessons in your career, but those editors are hard to find. You’re pretty much on your own.
The second piece of advice I can offer is a little pricey up front, but SOOOOO worth it: PAY a freelance editor to edit one of your stories. A short story would be a good candidate for this because freelance editors usually charge about $1 per page, so it can be fairly affordable. Keep in mind, in a real editing experience with a publisher, you’ll take 2-3 passes on your manuscript, depending on how much editing is needed.
Freelance editors may have a minimum, though, so budget yourself accordingly and maximize those dollars. The reason I recommend this: There is NOTHING like going through the editing process with a real editor. That is the most valuable experience a writer can receive in finally seeing what it means to have your book edited and what the process is like. Most writers won’t get to that stage because you need to get a contract first, and what you learn from being edited is probably what’s keeping you from getting a contract. There’s that “catch twenty-two”.
The money you would pay for an unpublished piece gives you two advantages and is worth its weight in gold: 1) You’ll get a polished manuscript you can submit for publication OR you can self-publish; and 2) just the experience will be a lesson in itself and make you a better writer. Once you see a real line-by-line dissection of your writing, you’ll learn so much about the writing process, crutch words you have, what it really means to show versus tell, etc.
Morgen: Couldn’t agree more – it goes back to what you said earlier about a writer being too close to their own work. What do you like to read?
Arial: Paranormal romance, historical romance and fantasy. My favourite authors are Johanna Lindsey, Anne Rice, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Terry Goodkind, RA Salvatore. There are so many others I read, too, but I could go on for pages. I read a lot. You have to as a writer or you won’t know what’s out there, what’s already been done, and thereby know what you need to do differently to create unique stories.
Morgen: Almost every author I’ve spoken to (and there have been many) have said to read; same or different genre it doesn’t matter. It’s all practice – seeing how stories are constructed and work or don’t. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Arial: My website address is http://www.ArialBurnz.com. You can shop for my stories (Arial Burnz and Kami Cummings) at http://arialburnz.bigcartel.com or Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, iTunes (for the iPad/iPhone) and the Sony Reader Store.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Arial: Thank YOU for the opportunity to be a guest on your blog!!
Morgen: You’re so welcome. After reading your short story I was delighted that you wanted to take part (not that me reading it should put you off because I really enjoyed it, but you know what I mean). 🙂 Thank you Arial.
I then invited Arial to include an extract of her writing:
Snapping out of her stupor, she gawked at Broderick. “What?”
He sauntered toward the chess table and picked up a black marble pawn. “Do you play?”
“Very well, thank you.” Davina maintained a defensive posture. “And when do Gypsies find the time to play chess?”
“I have not always been a Gypsy, you know.”
“I gathered that, considering your current attire.” Davina hoped he would take the conversation further and she could learn a bit more about his past, which intrigued her. Broderick chuckled and sat at the table. She sighed with disappointment.
“Please,” Broderick pressed, motioning toward the chair across from him. “Join me in a friendly game.”
Broderick traveled his eyes down Davina’s body, sending delightful, heated tingles through to her toes. “Because I enjoy your company, and wish to engage in a battle of wits.” His eyes met hers, challenging.
She refused to take the bait. “Well, I do not, sir. Please leave.”
“Do not wish to engage in a battle of wits, or do not enjoy my company?”
Broderick’s head tipped back in laughter, a laughter that filled the parlor and her soul. She shook off the strange desire to join in, reminding herself he mocked her.
“I really must ask you to leave.”
“I am making a valiant effort to pay you a proper visit.” Shaking his head, he crossed his ankle upon his knee. “I will not leave this room until you play me a splendid game of chess.” His leveling eyes told her he meant to do just what he said. With his deep voice, he added, “If you force me to leave, I shall steal into your bedchamber in the middle of the night, and seduce myself into your dreams.”
Her stomach fluttered, and Davina cursed him under her breath as she seated before him. “You are intolerable, Gypsy.”
“Thank you, milady.”
“‘Twas not a compliment.”
Oh, how insufferable! He was too damned comely for his own good, and he knew it all too well. He charmed her to annoyance—and he seemed to know every move she made on the chessboard! In minutes he called checkmate.
“‘Tis unfair to use your seeing abilities in this game!” Davina protested.
“Madame, I did no such thing,” he returned with amusement. “Your moves are entirely too predictable.”
Davina rose from her chair. “Well, you have had your game. Now leave.”
With a slow shake to his head, he said, “Nay, milady. I said I would leave when we had a splendid match together. ‘Twas much too easy. You were not into the game at all.”
Davina started away from the table. “Well, I am not playing—”
Broderick snatched her arm and Davina tumbled back into his lap.
“Damn you, Gypsy,” she cursed as she continued to struggle against his impossible hold. “I will scream if you do not let me go!”
Broderick’s deep chuckle rumbled from his chest through her body. “Keep moving upon my lap in such a manner, and I will have to toss your skirts up right here in the parlor.”
Davina gasped so hard, she almost choked. “A pox on you, savage! Let me up or I will scream!”
“I shall enjoy the following scene, then. Your servants will come running to your rescue, no doubt your mother leading the pack, and I will have the pleasure of visiting your chamber before the sun comes up on the morrow.”
Arial Burnz has had a love of paranormal and fantasy fiction since childhood, scratching out her stories on her lined notebooks and getting in trouble in class for daydreaming.
Today, she is an author of paranormal and fantasy tales, writing for young adults, children and adults.
She lives in Southern California with her husband / romance novel hero (DeWayne), their two cats (Nicodemus and Cody) and their dog (Zeddicus Drool Zorander).
‘Drool’, I love that. 🙂
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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