Article by Idelle Kursman
GLVWG member, Idelle Kursman, introduced Charise Crowe, January 27 on the GLVWG WordPress Blog. As a follow-up, Idelle took some time to ask a few questions of Charise, who will be co-presenting with her husband, Ben Wolf, at the Write Stuff Conference™ March 21 through 23.
Idelle: If I were to meet you at a conference, what is something you would tell me about yourself that would be intriguing? Please do not use anything from your bio.
If we met a conference, you would probably start the conversation. I’m notoriously shy when left to my own devices, but I do love meeting and talking with other writers. If you asked about my hobbies, I would say that I crochet, I love to cook, and I’m trying to learn the ukulele–with mixed results. If we talked about politics I would say that everything swings on a pendulum, and remember to be kind, and that I have very well formed thoughts about our inevitable AI. overlords. If we chatted about life, I’d encourage you to take more time for yourself, focus on joy, and spend time in the sun.
Idelle: Who are your favorite authors? Why were they favorites?
I’m a Hogwarts kid, so of course I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. My current favorite authors are Neal Shusterman (Scythe and Thunderhead are particular standouts), Lev Grossman (The Magicians Trilogy, with a TV series that really does the books justice), Scott Westerfeld (The Leviathon Trilogy was fantastic), and Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psycopath Test) Shusterman, Grossman, and Westerfeld are all YA/New Adult authors who put their characters in imaginative far-flung worlds while keeping their character’s feet on the ground. Ronson is just a personal favorite. I love his style of Gonzo journalism and the ridiculous situations he gets himself into. He’s described himself as being high-anxiety and so his bravery in insane situations is something that I’m a bit envious of.
Idelle: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Vanity publishers. If someone is asking you for thousands of dollars to publish your work and you’ve 1) never heard of them, 2) never heard of their authors, 3) can’t find any of their books for sale/they won’t put you in touch with any of their authors…. Run. Run far, far away. Having a “tribe” of writers with varying levels of experience and expertise is crucial for avoiding pitfalls in publishing.
Idelle: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Do you have any plans for them?
I think the first book I wrote is doomed to sit and collect dust forever. And that’s okay. I have a YA Steampunk manuscript that needs a solid edit. I might look into doing something with that one towards the end of 2019. We’ll see. Currently in my head I have an idea for a remake of Brave New World and an idea for medieval series that focuses more on the common folk than the wealthy ruling class.
Idelle: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do tons of research. Usually weeks/months before even starting a project. And once I start the research just continues. When I write fantasy, I like to base my people groups and cultures off of a real world example. I also like to focus on characters that have some sort of disability, so there’s a ton of ever-evolving research I do for that as well. I’m kind of a spreadsheet nerd. I keep an Excel file as my “Story Bible”. My current W.I.P. Excel file has… 14 tabs. I need it to keep everything straight!
Idelle: What is one thing you would give up to become a better writer?
I’m actually in a season of reevaluating this. I’m tweaking some lazy habits to devote more time to writing and trying to be more mindful of my time management. I practically hibernate in winter, and we live in Iowa. Can I give up Iowa? I’d love a warmer climate. I would definitely get more work done.
Idelle: If you wrote a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
I would definitely fill it with spoilers. “Don’t do this!” and “You’re gonna regret that!”
But mostly I would tell myself that, really, I am good enough. I am strong. I’d tell myself to not pretend to be someone I’m not just to make others happy. Because doesn’t that mean the other person doesn’t *actually* like me? Who needs that? What a silly waste of time. I’d tell myself to keep going, to work harder, and to always, always act with love.
Oh, and to invest in Bitcoin. Really missed the easy meal ticket on that one.
Idelle: How would you counsel a writer who is having trouble making sales?
That’s a tough one. Sometimes a beautiful book can earn very few sales while a seemingly dumpster-fire becomes a global best seller.
Books that sell really well have a host of similar qualities, but the biggest one (in my opinion) is this: they meet a need. They meet a huge need.
If your book isn’t selling well, have you set it up correctly? Is there an audience for what you wrote? Are there other books in your genre? Do you have a title and a cover that fit the idea of that genre? Is your back cover copy engaging, does it make a reader ask enough questions that they must open it to page 1? Do you have the right social media presence? Are you partnered with other authors in the same genre?
There’s a lot of ways a book can “fail”. You wouldn’t ride a bicycle on the Autobahn, and you wouldn’t try to climb Everest on a motorcycle. Are you on the right road and are you approaching it the right way? Have you given yourself the right tools to find success? I’ll be teaching a class on a lot of this–so if you’re unsure then I hope to see you there!
Idelle: If someone wanted to find a job in the writing field or with a publisher, what advice would you give that person?
Marry someone established in the field! (haha, just kidding!)
Make yourself available. Join critique groups and offer to beta read. Attend as many conferences as you can. Give constructive feedback. Offer to bring that super-awesome professional a bottle of water or a cup of coffee. Offer favors with no expectation of repayment. Be a friend. Ask yourself, “If I was in their shoes, what would I need?”
I met one of my absolutely favorite people at a writer’s conference. (Well, several, actually. Hi, Ben!) She was working in an entirely different stratosphere from little, lowly me. It took time to develop that friendship–she was used to people having interest in her job but not really in her as a person. During one conference, we were in a group and she got saddled with someone who wouldn’t take a “no, thank you” for his manuscript and just kept pitching. And she just couldn’t pull herself away. I glanced at my watch and said “[Friend], weren’t you supposed to have a call 20 minutes ago?” And we politely excused ourselves. At the next conference we were at, I hadn’t seen her all day. She came up to me after dinner and demanded to know where I had been–she’d been getting cornered all day and needed a friend to help rescue her from those situations.
I saw a need I could help fill. That’s 99.99% of making industry connections.
If you get a no or a yes, accept it with grace. Recognize that these people are people. They are there to help you, but if a publisher/editor/agent says no, don’t keep hounding them. That’s won’t make their answer any better!
Article Written by Idelle Kursman
Idelle Kursman was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Boston College and her Master’s from William Paterson University. She has a loved one with autism and after watching the movie Taken five years ago, she felt compelled to write a novel about human trafficking. Since she loves thrillers, especially if it is a book she cannot put down, she sought to give readers this experience in her debut novel. At the same time, Idelle seeks to raise awareness for autism and the international human trafficking crisis. She lives with her family in New Jersey.
You can find Idelle on her website: https://idellekursman.com/, and social media links.