Gwen Mitchell is the Author of the the Skydancer series of books, amongst others!
What is your favourite character of another author?
My favorite heroine is Claire Fraser from the Outlander books. I think she’s the perfect amount of courage, stubbornness, humor, and heart.
If you could cast your book for a film, who would play the parts?
I can see Bryce Dallas Howard as Briana, and I think Steven McQueen could play Keane. I recently became obsessed with Max Minghella and I see him as Ryder in my head (book 2 character). Not an actor, but David Gandy is who I picture as Lucas.
How do you feel when you start a book, in the middle, and when you finish?
The beginning is always a rush of invigoration and creativity. Somewhere around the middle, the doubt creeps in, and I usually feel lost and like I will never finish. By the time I do finish, it’s usually just a relief that I made it out alive, lol.
What was the first thing you learnt as an indie author that has never failed you?
I think the most important thing is that there is no one formula that will work to connect you with readers. You have to find your own way, and it involves a lot of trial and error. The lesson is that this is a game of persistence and if you don’t give up, you’ve won.
Do you think a big ego is a hindrance or a help?
I think it’s important as a writer to have a healthy ego. Doubt can be crippling to the process at every turn. You have to believe in yourself first and trust that you have a story worth telling and the skill to tell it, before anyone else has even glimpsed a word. But you can’t be so blinded by ego that you think what you write is perfect, because it never, ever is. Anything can be rewritten to be better.
Do you try more to be original or pander to readers’ wants?
I have to write a book that I would want to read, so I don’t write to market trends. Of course I’m inspired by the books and movies I love, but I try to be original, or else I will get bored with it and never finish.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I’m definitely building an interconnected universe. I see it as at least ten books. The stand-alone Zyne romances are set in the same universe, and many of the characters in them will cross over into the Skydancer series.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
It caught me completely by surprise! I was an undergrad studying biology and I was reading a lot to escape. I fell in love with a series of vampire books and started writing fan fiction. My fics became very popular, and I found myself surrounded with other writers encouraging me to write my own stories. It was a complete shock to me that I fell so in love with the process of creating my own worlds and characters. Even more surprising that twelve years later, I still love it just as much.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I would say it was investing in good professional covers. But as far as craft, it would be a tie between two workshops, a plotting one with Mary Buckham and Deep Editing with Margie Lawson, both attended through the Emerald City Writers’ Conference.
Do you soundtrack your own novels?
Yes! I have soundtracks for all my books as well as mood/writing playlists here: https://open.spotify.com/user/gwen_mitchell?si=bz_Zj2zsRGSCemSYs1rB0w
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I would love a taskmaster Raven companion (like Smoke from TTAW) who would keep me on track and share my snacks.
Do you always give books not your own a chance right up until the end, or are you quick to DNF?
I’m very quick to DNF. Life is too short to read a boring book.
What does literary success look like to you?
I love this question, and this is an ongoing discussion I have with my best writer friend. I don’t really want to be travelling all over the country on book tours or having meetings with big NY publishers. Success to me is being able to write full-time, and to commute from my bedroom to my office, in my pajamas. And I think the biggest landmark of success for me will be when fans make are or write fanfic of my stories. I will feel like I have made it then.
Do you have any secret marketing advice?
It is not a secret, but I know the key to marketing is to be consistent and consistently on-brand. The market is always flooded with the next big thing, so it’s important to come up with interesting content (extras, etc.) to keep people engaged in between releases. You can’t just run the same ad forever or recycle the same old tweets ad nauseum. It’s something I’m still working on, but I think Elizabeth Hunter does a wonderful job at staying connected with her readers.
Do you do a lot of research and why, or if not, why not?
I detest research! I do the bare minimum required to set up my story/character/scene, and I usually keep things intentionally vague so that the research nuts won’t come after me with pitchforks. Most of my historical references are not from actual history but rather a “well, that could have happened--no one said it didn’t” scenario.
How do you select the names of your characters?
A lot of times they just pop into my head. But when trying to come up with one, I usually start at behindthename.com . It makes me feel clever to choose names that have hidden meanings linked to the character’s origin or traits.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Maybe ;) As my series develops, there will definitely be references to happenings and characters in other books that will seem innocuous unless you’ve read them all.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The hardest part is writing when you don’t feel inspired and the creative juices aren’t flowing. When you feel like everything you’re putting down is complete junk and you’re just going to end up tossing it. But you have to keep writing through those parts. You can’t edit a blank page.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
With my current commitments, it takes me a year give-or-take. But usually that includes many months of not writing at all. If I were to buckle down, it would take me 2-3 months.
Do you think writer’s block exists?
Definitely, though not writer’s block per se. I call it creative block. In my experience, it comes from three places. One is doubt. If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t have the courage to write, and this becomes a big hurdle for people. They expect their idea to translate from their imagination to the page perfectly on the first try, and it just doesn’t work that way. The second is being blocked emotionally because of other stresses in your life. It’s impossible to be creative in a time of crisis; so self-care is paramount, and boundaries--protecting your creative space and energies. The third is a lack of inspiration because your well is tapped out. For that I recommend a break to refill the well, a focus on joy, and consumption of all the books/movies/music/art that inspires you until something sparks.