~ Interview by Melina Kantor
It’s an honor to have author Mindy Klasky, author of numerous books across multiple genres, visiting the blog today. She’s here to tell us about her path to writing, explain her take on writing in more than one genre, and share some valuable writing tips.
Q. After college, you considered becoming a professional stage manager or a rabbi. Instead, you were a lawyer and then a librarian in a law library. How have your multiple careers and interests influenced your writing?
A. As a lawyer, I learned a lot about writing – how to draft documents and revise them multiple times, without a great amount of “pride of authorship” locking me into that first draft. As a librarian, I learned a lot about organizing information – structuring component parts of complicated wholes – and communicating effectively with a variety of people. (I also learned about doing the right amount of research – enough to get a correct answer, but not so much that I got bogged down in projects.) All of those skills are hugely useful every day that I pursue my writing career.
Q. What was your path to becoming a full-time writer?
A. I started pursuing writing seriously while I was in law school (specifically, in the World’s Most Boring Evidence Law class!) For the seven years that I practiced law, I worked hard to sandwich in writing time. Often, I worked 80-hour weeks, including weekends, so creating writing time took determination. I typically completed Writing Marathons, where I would take a one-week vacation from practicing law and try to write 30,000 words during that week. I also fit writing into pre-office hours (writing from 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.)
Ultimately, I decided to change careers (to law librarianship), in part so that I’d have more time to write. As a law librarian, I still did Writing Marathons, but I was more likely to have evening and weekend time to myself. I sold my first novel while I was a law librarian.
I progressed through the law library field, becoming a manager of a law firm library, where I supervised library staff in 14 domestic and international libraries. In that job, I traveled two weeks out of every month, a requirement that became unworkable. When I realized I needed to find a new job, I decided to take the leap into full-time writing. It’s been six years now, and I’ve never regretted the change!
Q. Before meeting your husband, you once had 28 first dates over the course of one year. Now you write romance. Coincidence? What did all those first dates teach you about romance?
A. My husband and I met on Match.com; we dated for ten months before he proposed, and we got married seven months after that. We were both in our mid-thirties, and we both believe that we never would have fallen in love with the younger versions of ourselves. By the time we met, we both knew what worked for us in a partner, and what would never work – we’d made a lot of mistakes, but we learned from all of them!
On a more literal basis, many of those first dates got translated into antics for Melissa White, the best friend of witch Jane Madison, in my Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft series.
Q. Though many of your books have paranormal elements, they read like contemporary romance. You also write young adult fantasy. How do you cross genres so easily?
A. Each genre has different conventions – some include a great deal of dialog; others include substantial description. Some start with a bang, and some have more leisurely beginnings. I have always read extensively in every genre that I want to work in. By reading the successful books, I can analyze what works (and I get some entertainment too!)
Q. Teel, the genie in your As You Wish series, changes gender, career and appearance with the tug of an ear. And yet, he / she is a well-formed, consistent character over the course of three books. What is your process for creating characters?
A. Generally, I know my characters before I know anything else about the story – plot, setting, etc. I try to define my characters goals and motivations, but I also focus on the ways that they’re not perfect people. Flaws make characters much more interesting! (I don’t use any formal system, answering specific questions or completing specific spreadsheets about characters’ lives.)
Q. The As You Wish series takes place in a very convincing theater world. What kind of research goes into your world building, particularly when creating a series?
A. Drawing on my life as a librarian, I tend not to do extensive research when I’m creating a series. I may read one or two background books, to get an idea of a new time period, or a new mythology system. For the most part, though, I do “spot research”, reaching out to the Internet to get the specific facts I need.
For example, in the Jane Madison series, Jane works magic involving runes. When I need to include rune magic, I go to a couple of different websites, identifying the runes that typically carry meaning for the plot I’m writing. I don’t spend months mastering the traditions of rune magic, though!
Q. In November, many of your books became available as audio books. Were you involved in the process? What is it like to hear your books read aloud?
A. Alas, I was not very involved in the process. For example, I was not able to choose the narrators. It’s always interesting to hear other people reading my work. I have different voices in my own head, and I pronounce some of the names differently. But I’m thrilled to have another way for readers to discover my work!
Q. Do you have any advice for writers just starting out or hoping to be published?
A. My primary advice for writers is the simplest: Writers write. It’s great to have ideas, and to conduct research, and to construct plots and character assessments and detailed setting descriptions. But in the end, if you’re going to publish a book, you have to get words on the page (or screen!) And you have to write more words, until you finish. And then you have to edit those words and move on to the next project.
It’s far too easy to get lost in the mundane details of everyday life. Writing needs to be a priority – it’s difficult to do, and it won’t just fall into place without writers making the commitment to work on their stories. So, write!
Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice.
Mindy’s travels took her through multiple careers – from litigator to librarian to full-time writer. Mindy’s travels have also taken her through various literary genres for readers of all ages – from traditional fantasy to paranormal chick-lit to category romance, from middle-grade to young adult to adult.
In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her endless to-be-read shelf. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes.