I’m Ana Spoke and you can see what I’ve been up to on my blog (http://anaspoke.com/) or Twitter (@spokeana). I’m one of the few people in the world that does not maintain a Facebook account – I think there’s one, but I have not logged onto it in years. I don’t have an Instagram or any other social media accounts – the blog and twitter are almost a full-time job!
- Other than writing, what is your favorite hobby or thing you enjoy for fun?
I’ve had lots of other hobbies, but they tend to come and go – I’ve obsessed over orchids, raised tropical fish, and sculpted miniature portraits. For now, I just like to work out with my fiancé and take my dog for beach walks. Of course, I also read – currently half-way through “The 100-year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.”
- How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I’ve been trying to write a novel for no less than a decade – my laptop’s harddrive is full of first chapters! So far I’ve finished only one novel – Shizzle, Inc.
- What genres do you like writing the most? And why? Is this genre the same as the one you prefer to read?
I love comedy in any format – books, movies, stand up, or a brouhaha with friends. It sort of explains why the only genre that comes naturally to me is comedy. I’ve tried to write one dystopian YA, but even that one had a lot of comedic moments. I’ve tried to write poems, but they all came out sarcastic.
I can almost pinpoint the moment when I became a comedian – I was 12, my family just moved to another city, our house burned down, and so I showed up for the first day of class in donated clothes, with a free haircut (awful!) and badly scraped knees. I had to hurry up and make fun of myself before anyone else got a chance! It continued from there – I was almost famous in highschool for writing funny poems about teachers and serial notes about my adventures in space, as a captain of a space ship.
I am already working on the second instalment of Isa Maxwell’s escapades. Without giving too much away, the novel will be set mostly in India. I’ve never been there and hope to go, otherwise I will have to imagine what it would be like for a naïve 20-year old to suddenly be transported to a different world.
- How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
All the previous projects that did not get finished started with a jump straight into the first chapter. Shizzle, Inc started much in the same way, except I was emailing scenes to my sister one at a time, and she kept laughing and asking for more. That kept me going for a while, but the collection of scenes was not shaping up as a novel until I got serious. I had to learn all the basics about plotting, characterisation, conflict, prose, you name it! I wrote character profiles and developed a chapter outline. I worked and reworked the plot with sticky notes on a living room wall. I edited and re-edited until it made me sick to read another word.
With my flighty personality, it was hard to concentrate on just one. I’ve had other ideas over the last couple of years, of course. In fact, I like to play a game with my fiancé, where he names a character, an object, and a place – and I weave a story including all three. Some of those I liked enough to think “hey, there could be another novel in there”, but I had to discipline myself and put them down into a separate file of future ideas.
- What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
I think my biggest strength is my sense of humor. I love nothing more than to crack people up – I keep my sister and fiancé in stitches. I hope to do the same with my writing.
My biggest weakness is the fact that I’m Russian-born, and even after two decades of speaking only English, I could construct awkward phrases. I’ve hired editors to help me clean those up, and I’ve learned a lot from the editing experiences. In some ways, not being a native speaker has helped my comedy – I love to play with words and one of my favourite techniques is to use a wrong word, which just happens to be perfectly funny in a particular situation.
Another weakness is my impatience – I rarely take time to describe a setting or slow down a pace. Shizzle, Inc reads more like an action flick than a typical literary novel. This, of course, could be considered strength, too – that would depend entirely on a reader.
- After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
I’ve just started the marketing phase and I invite anyone who’s interested to join me on the journey – I will be blogging about every step on anaspoke.com. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and have been compiling a long list of tricks to try. So far Twitter and blog have been amazing – I have a combined total of about 23 thousand followers. Through the blog, I feel like I got to know some of them – I now have a peer support group of fans that keep cheering me on. This, of course, is good for marketing, but it’s even better to keep me going.
- What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Read Stephen King’s “On writing” – the King himself was terrible at some point. Be fearless, post or publish what you write, get feedback, and get better. Don’t think of any one piece of work you produce as your best – leave it behind and go forward. Your best work has not been written yet.