Tuesday, 2 April 2013

#OBSpringFling - Author Interview - Zoe Cannon

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When did you first know you could be a writer? I’ve said this before elsewhere, but it honestly never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be a writer. I’ve always loved books, and writing them was a natural extension of reading them. I’m lucky in that I’ve always known what I wanted to do with my life, and even luckier that I’m here now living out my childhood dreams.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? Honestly, I think the most challenging part of writing is just sitting down and doing it. It’s easy to come up with story ideas and play around with them in my head. But getting myself to sit down and write when I’m not feeling good, when I’m stuck on a plothole, when I’d rather be reading a book... that’s the hard part. I think this is true for a lot of writers – that’s why so many people who start writing a novel never finish.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? It’s hard to answer this question about myself! But I’d say my greatest strength is putting my characters through hell and making them thoroughly miserable. (cue evil laugh) Why is this a strength? Because happy characters don’t make for an interesting story. We don’t want to read about someone who has everything they want and couldn’t be happier; we want to read about characters overcoming situations we’d never want to live through ourselves.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing? My parents were always very supportive of my writing. I’m always surprised when I hear people’s horror stories of families who disapprove of their writing endeavors, because that couldn’t be further from my own experience. I’m sure the early support they gave me helped me grow as a writer. I was also homeschooled from sixth grade on, which had a huge impact on my writing. Not only did it give me more time and opportunity to follow my passion and improve my skill, it also got me used to forging my own path in life. I chose to pursue a career as a writer despite everything I heard about the impossibility of getting a book published, let alone making a living at writing; later, I chose to self-publish even though that meant taking all the responsibility for my career into my own hands. Homeschooling accustomed me to taking the initiative for directing my education and my life, and to doing what’s right for me even if that mean turning away from the most common path. Without it, I doubt I would have been as prepared for the life of an indie author.

What are your goals as a writer? I want to share the stories in my head with as many people as possible. I want my books to become a part of people’s minds and lives the way all the books I’ve read in my life have become a part of mine. And I want each book I write to be better than the last.

How did you develop the plot and characters for this novel? This book started its life as a one-page writing exercise. I was flipping through a book of writing exercises and came across one that involved writing a first-person narrator while avoiding the word “I.” I thought, What would make this person uncomfortable with thinking about herself?, and I ended up writing from the perspective of a mother who, working for some dystopian regime, had executed her daughter’s best friend’s parents the year before. I was intrigued enough by the characters and the concept to write a series of vignettes featuring the same people, and at some point I realized there was enough potential for a story there to for it to become an actual novel.

How did you come up with the title? It wasn’t easy. My original title, which came to me almost at the same time as the initial inspiration for the book, was Answer Me, and I still love it. But the book has changed a lot since then, and the old title just didn’t fit the new book. I wish I could say how I finally came up with The Torturer’s Daughter, but in truth it was one of those situations where after weeks of beating your head against a particular brick wall, the right answer appears out of nowhere all of a sudden and you wonder how you could ever have missed it.

Who designed the cover? I actually designed it myself. For a lot of authors, cover design is a necessary evil, something they’re happy to outsource to somebody else so they can focus on writing. But I genuinely enjoy it. Fiddling around with possible cover images gives me something to do when I need a break from the book but also feel like doing something writing-related. It took a long time to find a design I liked for this cover – I played around with a lot of different images, but I couldn’t find something that expressed the tone of the book the way a good cover should. I have my husband to thank for the final design; he’s the one who suggested the concept, and once I found the right image, it all fell into place.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? It’s very rare for real-life experiences and people to make their way into my novels in any recognizable form. But my stories are a product of my mind, and a lot of what’s in my mind is there because of the people and experiences I’ve encountered in my life, so there’s bound to be some influence. For example, although the character of Heather isn’t based on anyone in real life, parts of her relationship with Becca were inspired by my relationship with my childhood best friend. But Becca’s life and friends aren’t the same as mine; they belong to her alone.

How important do you think villains are in a story? Conflict is important. Having something for a character to struggle against, something that gets in the way of them getting what they want, is important. Otherwise there’s no story. But I don’t think a personified villain is necessary. Think about romance novels – a lot of them don’t have a villain, as such, but that doesn’t mean there’s no conflict. Some people will disagree with me on this, but in the end I think it comes down to personal preference. Some people don’t feel satisfied with a story if there’s no villain to hate, no one for the hero to confront at the end. But that doesn’t mean these are the only valid stories; it just means no story suits everyone’s tastes, which I’m pretty sure we all already knew.

If a story does have a villain, though, it’s important for the villain to be as fully realized as the hero. I’ve read too many stories with cardboard-cutout villains who do bad things for no other reason than that they’re just bad people. A villain who looks like a real person, and who has genuinely good reasons for what he’s doing, is much more believable and, ultimately, much scarier than a cardboard cutout monologuing about world domination.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? A lot of writers like to say that writer’s block doesn’t exist, and that a writer who claims to be blocked is really just too lazy to sit down and write. I think this is complete nonsense. I’m sure there are some writers out there who never get stuck on a story, but I’m also sure they’re few and far between. Sometimes the way to get past being stuck is to put your butt in the chair and write until the words start flowing again – but sometimes the way to get past it is to take a break and let your brain rest for a while. I’m pretty good at listening to my mind’s cues and figuring out whether I need to push through the difficult parts or take a step back. Of course, knowing what I need to do and acting on it are two different things. I actually have a harder time stepping back than pushing through – when something is wrong in a story, it eats at me until I figure out what the problem is. But whatever I do to try to get the writing flowing again, I try not to guilt myself for being blocked, and I don’t think other writers should either. Guilt is not conducive to creativity.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Reading is at the top of the list, of course. I wouldn’t have any business being a writer if I didn’t love to read. Like I say in my author bio, I spend too much time on the internet, mainly lurking on forums related to whatever subjects I’m fascinated with at the moment. I also love certain computer games, especially games that let me create a story or explore a world, like The Sims or Skyrim or Minecraft. And, of course, there’s nothing more relaxing than curling up in the living room with my husband and my dog.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I’m currently rereading the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, an urban fantasy series that my husband (then boyfriend) introduced me to seven years ago and that has since become one of my favorite long-running series. I’ve been wanting to reread them for a while – I started reading the series so long ago that it’s hard to keep track of all the details of the previous books – and since a new book in the series came out a couple of months ago I figured this was as good a time as any. There are fourteen books in the series currently, and it’s fascinating to watch the series – and the author – evolve as the books go on. It makes me wonder how I’ll grow as an author as I continue writing, and how different my later books will be from the ones I’m publishing now.

What’s your favorite place in the entire world? Nothing compares to the beach for me. It doesn’t even matter what beach, as long as it’s someplace warm enough for me to go in the water. (And I’m willing to swim in pretty much any water that isn’t frozen solid.) There’s something about floating in the ocean, bobbing up and down with the rhythm of the waves, that’s simultaneously soothing and energizing in a way I haven’t been able to capture anywhere else.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? I stumbled across this quote from Cecil Day Lewis in an old issue of Writer’s Digest a few years ago: “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” I had never looked at it in quite that way before, but that’s exactly what writing does for me. It lets me explore different facets of the world, of ideas, of human nature, and with every book I write I understand life a bit better than I did before.

What contributes to making a writer successful? Talent, charisma, and a willingness to sweat. Pick any two – and add a heaping portion of luck.

Do you have any advice for writers? Stop scrutinizing what’s popular. Stop worrying about what will sell. Stop trying to figure out what the next trend is going to be. Figure out what you love to write, and write that. Even if you think nobody will ever want to read it. Not only will you have a lot more fun writing what you love, your writing will be a lot stronger if it’s driven by your love of the story rather than a desire to sell lots of books. And who knows, that strange genre that doesn’t even have a name might suddenly take off one day. I remember thinking that I was going to be writing unmarketable stories forever... because I was writing dystopian YA.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Sitting in front of my computer, typing out another chapter. That’s what being a writer is about, no matter whether you’re a New York Times bestseller or only selling copies to your family. And I’ll be a writer five years from now, ten years from now, and, if I live long enough, fifty years from now.

What are your current writing projects now? I’m currently working on revising Necessary Sacrifices, the sequel to The Torturer’s Daughter.Necessary Sacrifices takes place a year and a half after The Torturer’s Daughter, with Becca working undercover for the resistance to bring down a dangerous new government program... even if her plan puts everyone she loves at risk.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? Of course! I’m in revision mode right now, so there’s no guarantee that anything in this draft will make it into the final version of the novel, but here’s a snippet from my current project:

They were going to find her out eventually if she kept this up. There was no question of that. Micah had been right - although dissidents were discovered inside Internal on a regular basis, it was rare for one to avoid discovery for more than a few years, rarer still for two at once to go undetected for that long. She had known from the beginning that the odds were against her. But now, with the likelihood that Internal would start looking harder for people like her, and with the extra scrutiny she was already under, any slim chance she’d had of lasting even five or ten years inside Internal was all but gone.

And what was she doing for the resistance, really? Giving them useless names, waiting for something useful to come along, waiting for them to start trusting her. She might be waiting for longer than she had left.

But what was she supposed to do if she walked away? Just go off and lead a normal life and try to forget? She couldn’t do that now any more than she could have when the temptation had first presented itself to her, when her mom had offered to send her across the country - away from 117, away from all the reminders of what had happened, and, although her mom didn’t know this part, away from the resistance - to live with her dad. She couldn’t live with herself if she turned her back on everything Internal had done - if, for the rest of her life, every time she saw the Enforcers take someone away, she averted her eyes and told herself it wasn’t her problem.

So walking away wasn’t an option. The whispers of temptation faded from her mind and fluttered away. She fought the impulse to call them back.

The only thing she could do, then, was make sure she did some good before they came for her.

No more waiting. No more letting Jameson tell her what was and wasn’t worth the risk. No risk was too high when you were already doomed, and if her life was going to end in one of those little rooms underneath 117, she was going to make it matter first.

Buy at Amazon
Genre – YA Dystopian
Connect with Zoe Cannon on Facebook & Twitter


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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom



Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife


My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo



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Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun


Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

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Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max

Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry


My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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