Interview with SM Blooding: 'This book was the hardest one I've written'

SM Blooding lives in Colorado with her pet rock, Rockie, and Ms. Jack, who’s a real bird. She’s still learning to play the piano and guitar, which is going marginally better, and for those of you looking for an Arabic update, she has successfully learned one word, “Yalla, people yalla!”

She’s dated vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, weapons smugglers and US Government assassins. Yes. She has stories.

Her latest book is the YA steampunk, The Hands of Tarot.


Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I’d just killed the main characters for another series. We’d made it through books 1-3 and were half way through 4. I love these characters, and we ended up failing because I didn’t push them hard enough. I was fed up, frustrated, weeping huge alligator tears. Two years worth of writing, gone!

But I couldn’t quit. I came up with a game plan for that series and decided to write something else. I needed a break. It was a little like splitting up with a long-time boyfriend, only these kids/characters were my best friends. I needed something totally different to write.

So I thought and thought.

Different. Hmm. How different? A different planet? Sure. I mean, I had several solar systems growing in my head, and I had this one that was ready for a book. What else? How about a male main character? All my main characters before were female. Mmm! That could be neat! Aahhh-ha-ha! What about the villain? I could have a supremely psychotic, vicious villain! YES!

This was going to be an adventure story of fantasmic proportions. *cue hero music* It was going to be epic. There were going to be fantastical discoveries, and Nikola Tesla was going to be the heroic inventor that he always should have been. I was excited! This was going to be the best book EVER!

Now, that’s all great, grand and glorious, but it’s nowhere near a plot, a character arc, or a setting. Not only that, but Sactuary was thinking the exact same thing and made Tesla, not only a hero, but a vampire. I just can’t compete with a vampiric genius hero. I had to find something else.

I set this to churn-mode, letting it run in the background. I made a solar system out of Styrofoam, hung it from my ceiling and watched it turn for long…well, minutes because I really can’t sit and do nothing for hours. I slowly built this world in my mind. I watched how my little planet coexisted with its solar system, and imagined the seasons.

Then, I bought a tarot deck. Why? Because I needed an eighth deck, obviously. I was kicking myself for buying it as I thumbed through the cards, getting familiar with the deck.

My brain exploded with ideas! I saw my villain. All of a sudden, there was a plot! I’d been working on this setting for so long, wondering if I was ever going to have a book to go with it, and boom! There it was with the Queen of Wands, The Devil, 3 of Wands, 10 of Swords and the Knight of Cups.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

This book was the hardest one I’ve written yet. There was so much world building I had to do before I wrote a single word.

World-building isn’t just something that you should wing. You should do your research well in advance so that you understand how your world affects your characters and your plot.

In The Hands of Tarot, for instance, we have seasons that last years. We have almost a full year of complete daylight. However, the biggest impact is the three to five year winter. We’re about to embark on a war. Queen Nix has decided she wants to dominate the world, and in order to do that, she’s going to decimate the Seven Tribal Families.

That’s all great and wonderful, but we can’t really fight in winter; not in the kind of winter we have on Ilona (the planet). We literally have an Ice Age that hits the planet for three to five years once every turn. So, whatever Nix is going to do, she has to move quickly. The Families could lie in hiding and regroup, re-build their technologies, and come out stronger.

If I hadn’t invested so much time in building my world, I would never have realized this. Also, the setting wouldn’t be as clear as it is. The world just is. It’s just there. The characters interact with it, and there aren’t copious paragraphs and pages to describe it. I wasn’t discovering it as I was writing. I was able to keep a lot of my surprise and awe off the page.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published this book.

I have another series contracted with a publisher. After going through some of the stumbling blocks of trying to get a book off the floor with them, I decided to try it on my own.

It’s been a learning experience. I’ve made a couple of mistakes. I looked like quite the newbie more than once. I’m sure it’ll happen again as I try new things, but I’m having a ton of fun with it! It is scary though. Wow! With a publisher, there’s at least that sense of comfort, like having a favorite blanket or sweatshirt. When you self-publish it is all you!

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

I had a ton of them! I had thought it was all about writing and editing a book. It’s so much more than that! There’s formatting, designing the cover, setting up a website, Tweeting – but not too much Tweeting. There’s Facebooking, and interviewing, and guest blogging, and…

I think the thing that surprised me the most was that there’s so little time spent in writing!

Q: Can you describe the feeling you had when you saw your published book for the first time?

Oh my word! I was so happy and excited! I couldn’t stop giggling. There’re just so many possibilities. It felt like my dreams were finally becoming reality.

Holding my book in my hands for the first time was breathtaking. Literally. It was a little like holding my daughters for the first time. It seems silly, but it’s true. Each book feels the same way. I get so giddy knowing my book is about to arrive. Then it does and I can’t breathe right for about an hour.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Right now, I’m working on book 2 of the Dreamland Stories, The Nightmare. I’m having so much fun with it! It should be ready to share with everyone around Christmas.

Then I’ll be working on book2 of The Hands of Tarot, The Knight of Wands. I’m really excited to start it. There’s so much research and I’m having so much fun with it! This book is screaming at me to write. It should be ready to launch to the public next year.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

This book is about finding courage. I want to challenge my readers to be better than who they were yesterday, to be different, to change our world. I want my readers to find the courage to exist. Make our world a better place. You matter. Dare to make a difference.
  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I had so much fun writing this book! I really hope you enjoy reading it! I love hearing what my readers have to say, even when they don’t like it. Please feel free to contact me on Facebook or on Twitter. My site is very comment friendly as well. I try to respond to everyone.

Thank you so much for having me!


Visit SM Blooding on the web at  www.smblooding.com.

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