Q&A with author Renee April
Give us the tl:dr of your life in 50 words or less.
Grew up in South Australia, lived in a bus for two years, came home, finished school, moved to Adelaide, broke a heart, left Adelaide, moved to Brisbane. Met cool people, made bad choices, ditched some people, made better choices — currently living a good life with my amazing friends and boyfriend.
Do you have a day job, other than being a writer?
I do! I’m lucky enough to work in a library department at one of the universities. I have a background in libraries and this is my first non-public job, so it’s been a new experience for me!
Which famous author’s work would you say your writing style resembles the most?
I’d say Tamora Pierce. I grew up on her work and it definitely comes through. I remember reading Alanna: The First Adventure at fourteen years old and it changed my entire life. I binged all of her work and started writing my own. However, after rounds and rounds of editing, my writing has, thankfully, taken on a voice of its own.
How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
Not even two years ago I was just writing freely, with no thought of theme or structure or character arc. People did things and made things happen, some had a base personality — otherwise it was an action movie put into a novel. There was absolutely no depth to my writing.
I picked up The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein (the copy I’ve now lost due to aforementioned bad choices) and it changed the way I approach my stories. In the last 24 months alone, due to this new mindset and working with my incredible editors, my writing style has changed significantly for the better.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Starting. I outline and plan and structure a book before I begin, and then I write the first chapter and it’s nothing like I envisioned. It’s pretty disheartening if you’re not expecting it. Pushing through that, and finding the voice and the pace of the novel, is when things start to get easier. For me, that doesn’t usually happen until I’ve written 15,000 words.
Is there a genre or style of writing you can’t stand?
I don’t know if it’s an actual genre, but high literary?
Why don’t you like it?
I struggle with classics, though I did read Little Women religiously while growing up. I can’t really handle high concept stuff — it just goes way over my head. Subtlety has never been my strongest suit, and I tend to miss a lot in novels that rely on it.
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest complete book is Her Crown of Fire, being published by Write Plan in November. It’s a young-adult fantasy involving fire magic, blood oaths, and life bonds. Pre-orders are currently open!
What did you edit out of Her Crown of Fire?
A massive cliché plot line. I was loathe to get rid of it at first, but now I’m so glad we made the change. Sometimes pushing yourself harder to rework storylines comes up with something you’d never considered. For me, that’s really exciting.
What are common traps or mistakes for aspiring writers in your genre?
Lack of world-building and voice. Fantasy casts a wide net these days, and I’m LOVING all the different genres of fantasy coming out, but I think everyone has a fantasy WIP that starts out in a medieval setting, with characters who have apostrophes throughout their names. I’m not going to pretend I’m the exception; on the tin, Her Crown of Fire is a generic fantasy with magic and swords. I think writers need to focus on their voice and what makes their story stand out.
Do you feel it’s most important to have strong characters, mind-blowing plot twists, or epic settings?
Nothing’s original, but character voice makes you stick around. It’s what we all discuss on Twitter, it’s what we all take away from movies. Character voice is the most important aspect of any storytelling medium, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Very. My WIP right now is an Australian historical and I have been up to my elbows in research. Even with Her Crown of Fire, I was fact-checking everything that could be fact-checked. Even though there are only two scenes with swords, I joined a local longsword club for almost a year to make sure my portrayal of combat was as close to accurate as possible. Also I can use a longsword now, which is pretty neato.
Do you want each of your books or stories to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each project?
Definitely stand on their own. I want to work across genres, so it’s crucial that the books have their own legs to stand on.
What’s the main thing you want readers to take away from Her Crown of Fire?
A good time. I want people to escape life for a few hours. It’s what Tamora Pierce’s books did for me, and I’d like to pass on the favor.
Katherine Luck is the author of the novels The Cure for Summer Boredom and In Retrospect. Her latest book, False Memoir, combines the high stakes of a gritty psychological thriller with the guilty pleasure of a sensational true crime tell-all. You can read more of her work, including the “Dead Writers and Candy” series, at the-delve.com.