25 March 2015

MARCH Featured Author: Michelle Jo Quinn

One of the first (and probably the only book club) I’ve (really) participated on Wattpad was organized by Michelle Jo Quinn. She’s a fabulous person who does a really great job with the Filipino Romance WritersBook Club. But she did an even better job with her novel, Confessions of aWedding Planner, which is in turns hilarious, introspective, and steamy. 

Did I say it was steamy? It’s smoking hot! :-)

Here’s our interview with Michelle:

CPS: You've been working on quite a few stories, but Confessions of a Wedding Planner by far has the most reads. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

MJQ: Confessions of a Wedding Planner is about making a choice between love and duty.  It focuses on Veronica who agrees to plan her ex-boyfriend, Jake's, wedding.  It sounds nuts and not many would do it, but she is a constant people-pleaser, who unfortunately still has feelings for her ex-bf.

Throughout the planning, she goes through a myriad of emotions and challenges, with the help of her best friend, Chase, and the Player of the Century, best man of the wedding, Levi, who seems to have a different motive altogether.  

If you like rom-coms this is certainly a story you could bite into.  It also has cake.

Follow Michelle on Twitter at @MishlRodriguez

CPS: Where did the idea for the story come from? Perchance you're one too? :-)

MJQ: I didn't start planning weddings until after I wrote CoaWP.  Where did the idea for the story come from?  Gee, I started composing it three years ago, so it's hard to remember.  I can barely recall what I did yesterday!

CPS: One thing I noticed about your books is that your guys are always so hunky! Who's your favorite fictional boyfriend right now and why?

MJQ: They are all hot men!  One day I will write about a man with a bald spot and a pot belly, and make everyone swoon.

My favourite is Levi, because he is a huge surprise.  First he comes off as an arrogant player, then you get to know him.  You find out that he reads poetry and loves art, is rather intelligent, and he offers to give piggy-back rides.  He is aloof and honest, and he cooks!

Wattpad page of CoaWP

CPS: And who's your favorite heroine of the moment? Why?

MJQ: Asking me that is like asking which one of my kids do I favor most.  I like each and every one of them for various reasons.  They all go through challenges, pain, sorrows and heartaches with their heads up high.  In a way, they are all the same, but different.  It would be irresponsible of me to choose one of them.  But at the moment, I'd say Chase, because of her sass.  Just don't tell the others.

CPS: Tell us a little bit about your writing process. How long does it usually take you? How do you manage multiple stories at once?

MJQ: Writing process?!  I've heard of that...

I'm a mother of two, I have a business and I have all sorts of hobbies.  I write on a whim.  A few of my stories have been plotted somewhat, but most of my ideas begin as daydreams.  The shortest time it had taken me to write a proper novel was ten days, two weeks if you count the daydreaming/plotting.  Ultimately, if I ask myself tons of "what ifs" and I can answer them, I start writing.  It's not the best way, but right now, it works for me.  Hopefully, one day I will be disciplined enough to plot properly.

CPS: As a writer, what kind of pitfalls have you encountered? How did you get over them?

MJQ: My emotions get the best of me, and when you're a romance writer, it's hard not to be emotionally-invested in your stories.  After I wrote "Winter Eternal" (shameless plug), I suffered depression.  I walked around like a zombie, and my family didn't understand why.  That was when I started posting CoaWP on Wattpad, because it's a fun story.  I needed that balance.

English is not my first language, therefore, I find myself editing, and struggling, as I write.  I don't shy away from critiques either.  There is no such thing as a perfect writer, so one must always be learning.  I also suffer quite horribly of Writer's Block when beginning a new story.  I suppose if I plotted properly, I won't have to go through that all the time.

Michelle's Wattpad page

CPS: What kind of things inspire you to write?

MJQ: People, places, things.  I'm a visual person, so I'm often found pinning on Pinterest for my storyboards.  I used photos to inspire CoaWP, love quotes and poetries for the sequel (the MC loves poetry), and now words and facts for the third book (my MC is sort of a know-it-all).

I have a couple of stories inspired by fairy tales.  They're my modern recounting of those long-loved tales, for example, Little Red Riding Hood is now a tattoo artist with fiery red hair, and the Wolf is a cunning business man who is after more than just her attention.

Winter Eternal was inspired by a house with a red roof, located along the edges of a national park, and for the mystery I'm trying out, my inspiration is a one-hundred year old Victorian home.

I find writers must always have their eyes and ears open, even a scent can trigger a story line, as well as touch and taste.  Oh, and watching movies on Netflix is also a good way to be inspired, I believe.

CPS: What are you reading right now? How are you liking them?

MJQ: I read the same way I write.  I have multiple books on the go, traditionally and self-published, and on Wattpad.  I read all genres, except horror.  I'm too much of a wuss for those.  My introduction to English literature was "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", so I love mystery, but I'm a hopeless romantic, therefore, I always read romance.  A mixture of the two is a definite favorite.

CPS: Most of your work is romance, do you see yourself doing any other genre in the future?

MJQ: Yes.  As I've mentioned, a mystery/psychological thriller is in the works.  It's a lot more difficult to write because of the technical details-- police procedurals, evidence gathering etc.  A whole bunch of research has to go into it.  It's a good way for me to practice that lack of plotting discipline.  The title for it is "The Girl in the Snow".

CPS: How do you reward yourself after you've finished a story?

MJQ: I read.  LOL.  If I finish a chapter, I buy myself a new book, or I continue reading whatever is on my pile. Then I eat chocolates and drink wine (Not all at the same time).  Then, I sleep or go on Twitter.

CPS: Can you tell us a bit about your ongoing / future projects? 

MJQ: Oh gee, how much time have you got?  

I am working on book 3 of my Bliss Series: “Chasing the Runaway Bride”. During Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I will be working on my first NA, entitled “Sugar”.  Also, I have to finish my other stand-alones, "Harley" (Rockstar and female bodyguard) and "The Love Story of Hunter and Blanche" (inspired by Snow White and the Huntsman).

Some time this year, I'm hoping to get Confessions of a Wedding Planner published.  Toes and fingers crossed.

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Thanks again for the interview Michelle :-) We can’t wait to see Nica and Levi in print!

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On another note, people are gearing up for the #SparkNA class with Mina V. Esguerra. Action starts in April. Wheeee!

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Oh, and I've decided to join the wonderful world of Twitter. Hahaha! Follow me @arkiCpsanti

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Super duper thanks to Claire of Coffee Book Mom for her awesome review of Be Careful What You Wish For! It was a lovely surprise to learn she was one of the book's original beta readers back in 2009-2010. Hugs, Claire!

13 March 2015

Writing spaces

Where do you write? :-)

When we moved into our apartment last year, I made sure I had space to work. I repurposed our old dining table into a desk. I was really excited because it meant I had a large place to write, draw, and create. What I had failed to take into consideration is that it's really hard to work when you've a toddler who insists on climbing on your lap and wreaking havoc on whatever you're doing. So although I still draw at my desk at times when my little elves are kind enough to take naps, I've decided to move my laptop somewhere I can actually write. Thus it now sits on top of my bread maker in the small hallway between the kitchen and dining room. This way, I manage to get a few words down while preparing food or while surreptitiously supervising the kids' play in the living room. And because of its rather precarious position, I am forced to write standing up and I find I can concentrate better instead of procrastinating on FaceBook, etc. It's actually perfect for word sprints :-) I'm thinking of repositioning the pin board I have over my desk here so it'll officially be a 'work area,' but I rather enjoy the temporal quality of the space. 

What about you, where do you write? :-)

02 March 2015

#BuqoYA: Done!

Yay! February was truly a fruitful month---I managed to finish another story :-) *does a happy dance*

Late last year, I decided to sign up for the #BuqoYA online writing class organized and mentored by author Mina V.Esguerra and sponsored by Filipino online bookstore Buqo. It was a month-long class with the goal of writing 5,000 words of young adult fun. It totally rocked!

Seriously. Be Careful What You Wish For took me ages to finish. So I am over-the-moon-kilig that I was able to finish a novella in a month!

Just to share (and also, so I don’t forget), here’s how I did it:

1.    Prep up
Although the class ran for a month, Mina had us reading and watching books and movies of the genre to get us in the mood. This part was really fun! Most of the movies she assigned were old favorites (Freddie Prinze, Jr.! Ethan Hawke! Dingdong Dantes!). And though most of the readings she assigned were new to me, they were really fun reads!

2.    Craft your characters
Mina advised us to do this before the class started. I’m a Gen X-er, so I use slambooks to get to know my characters better. Yes, I even write down their mottoJust Always Pray At Nightkidding! But seriously, I like to make a sheet per character (including likes, dislikes, family, friends, and pegs for physical appearance etc.) then I print them out and refer to them while I’m writing. And if something additional comes up, I just make a note of it on their file. That way I don't have to constantly open and close files on the computer while I’m writing.

3.    End it!
Once the class started, we were divided into groups and asked to tackle specific tropes. So, although I had several storylines running through my head (as I wasn't sure which group I’d be in), I had to nail my story down and write a synopsis that included the ending.
Planning the ending was probably the best advice I’ve ever received. Seriously.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo more years than I care to count, but I’ve only ever finished one novel. Why? Because although NaNo encourages you to write (50k words in a month!), it doesn't require you to finish (editing is reserved for another month). Having a goal made things easier for me, because at least I knew what I was writing towards. It helped me plan my chapters and further craft my characters. And it helped me finish!

4.    Plan, plan, plan
Since I already had an ending in mind, it was easier to plan the chapters logically. When I started, only the last two chapters (and fragments of the first one) were clear in my mind. I made an outline of the chapters and wrote in bullet points what I wanted to achieve within each one. Of the original ten chapters I planned for, only seven went as planned, the other three I had to move around and expand, and I had to add an epilogue. But it’s easier to flesh the story out once the outline is done.
Also, throughout the class, Mina sends us really helpful (and timely) tips and articles, and they *really* help and inspire :-)

5.    Write first, edit later
This is one of the good habits I got from NaNo. I know that I’m an overly verbose writer (my Eng101A prof actually told me that) and that I would not be contented with 5k, so I planned for at least 10k. Once my synopsis was approved, I formulated a rough writing schedule. I allotted ten days for pure writing, with 1.5k as my daily word count goal. The chapter outlines helped a lot. I’m not the type of writer who finishes one chapter before proceeding to the next. I write what I feel like writing at that particular moment. So one day I’ll be writing chapter nine, and the next day I’ll be fleshing out chapter five or adding tidbits to chapter three and seven.
Managing two kids and the household chores takes an amazing amount of time, so I try to squeeze in a few minutes of writing when I can. That’s why I love writing sprintsjust typing whatever comes to mind, without checking for errors or grammar. The idea here is to get as much of my thoughts into actual written words. I’ve found that it’s easier to edit / rewrite when you have enough material. Plus, I’ve found that a lot of characters ‘come to life’ during these times. When I review what I’ve written after a sprint, I’m often surprised and delighted.

6.    Make writing a daily habit
Whether on your laptop, notebook, or even on your smartphone, try to type in a few words or phrases every time an idea pops up. Ideas pop up at the most inconvenient of times, so be ready. I personally love the Notes app on the iPhone, I just mail everything to myself afterwards. Similar to my NaNo experience, I wasn't able to religiously follow my daily word count goal (some days I’d have a measly 300, and on others I’d average 2k), but I made it a point to write each day.

7.    Set deadlines within deadlines
Learn to embrace the pressure of deadlines. I personally think that Mina gave us enough time to work on our submissions. She had mentioned early on that she’d ask us to submit whatever we had sometime in the middle of the class, so after the tenth day, I started editing the first few chapters in preparation. This also gave me time to assess what chapters I needed to work on and if the story was going in the general direction I wanted it to.

8.    Have a ready circle of beta readers
Although I had a circle of beta readers, they were mostly my ageand let’s just say that we’re a few years older than the young adult genre I’m trying to write. So when I had the manuscript read by . . . um, younger people . . . their opinions and views were really eye-opening. So I guess it pays to have your story read by your target audience before the final edit :-)

9.    Edit!
It is true what they sayyour work says a lot about you. So if you’re getting cross-eyed trying to catch errors, have a friend look at it or have it professionally edited after.

10. Eat cake
Seriously. The day I sent the story to Mina, I made brownies. Hahaha! 
But even if I still have to do the final edits, I cannot help but feel a sense of achievement that I finished something . . . in a month! Yatta! I seriously want to go to the eat-all-you-can dessert place in Shibuya. Anyone want to come with me? Iku iku, go, go! :-)

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Now I’m signed up for the #SparkNA writing class that will run from April-June, which will also be hosted by Mina. This one is sponsored by Spark Books / Anvil Publishing. Hihihi! Nakaka-addict pala! For more info, visit Mina's FaceBook page.

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Please watch out for my new book, When Cocoy Became Kikay :-)