Q&A with indie author Makayla Love
Give us the tl;dr of your life in 50 words or less.
Makayla Love writes to tell tales which appear to her in her crystal ball. Suffering from an incurable tea habit and a fondness for her many friends, ranging from the magical to the disembodied to the simply undead, Love now resides in a Gothic cottage in the middle of a blossoming city of art.
Which famous author’s work would you say your writing style resembles the most?
If I had to pick someone, I’d probably say Anne Rice. She and I both have a tendency to really delve into the small details of a setting or situation. Also, I think I would say I have a peppering of a little George R.R. Martin in my style because I always have these big, grand ideas. Which might be why I have so many series going at once. Even when I write my one-shot stand-alone novels, I feel such a … well, an inflation of ideas that make it feel like it’s this huge, epic thing in my head when I’m working on it.
If you could have done something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would it have been?
If I could’ve done something differently, it would have been to realize I probably wouldn’t become a world-famous author at 16 or 17. I had it in my head that I would be this magnificent success as a sophomore, and while other kids were working on their junior projects or thinking about who they would take to Holly Ball, I would be jetting across the world to talk about my books. I mean, it was a cute dream, but I feel like I put a lot of incredibly unnecessary pressure on myself.
I think I tried publishing for the first time in the summer between my sophomore and junior years, and I think it was the first iteration of what is now on my Barnes and Noble/Amazon list as Bad Blood. I remember pitching it to agent after agent that entire summer, and only getting one response that wasn’t an outright rejection — but that ultimately turned out to be a rejection. In hindsight, yes, it was cute to try; and yes, there are some authors who get published at that age or younger, but I wasn’t one of them and I still had so much more left to learn.
But, because I did that, I remember trying so hard to follow trends and publish within them even if I wasn’t really that interested in the genre. I remember freaking out because I “would never be famous and no one would ever read my books and why do I even try?” But, you know, when it’s something you love to do you find a way to grow past that kind of mentality. I’m still working on reversing that kind of thinking I did when I was younger, but I think I’m doing leagues better than I ever did back then. I sometimes wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her that it’s all going to be okay, that she’s freaking out for no reason, and to just keep plugging away and have fun with it because it’ll all work out.
How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
Over the years I feel like my style has gone through many changes, the most notable being it has found more definition. When I was younger and writing, it kind of felt like I was all over the place. I’ve learned how to give structure to what used to be a miasma of “I’m going to do this and this and this and this and see if it works out,” and, honestly, it never did. My fantasy worlds never felt cohesive and my horror, thrillers, and romances were none of that. I had no concept of how, you know, people are for some reason and was much more willing to gloss over things being realistic responses to situations because it didn’t let me do what I wanted.
Now, however, I will sit and think, “Well, I want this to happen, but why would the characters do this? What motivations do they have? What about them makes this a realistic next step for them?” And that’s helped my writing a lot, I feel, because most of my stories are character-driven at their core. The plot helps them move along (and the plots have become more reasonable as well) but ultimately it’s the characters, their development, and trying to make them feel as real and relatable as possible.
What, for you, is the hardest thing about writing?
To me, the hardest part about writing is the editing phase. If I could just sit down and write and publish it hot off the presses, I’d probably publish a lot more and a lot faster. Unfortunately, that would be a hot mess and nobody would want to read it, so the editing part is absolutely necessary. I always see it as the least fun part, though it’s necessary and once I get started doing it it’s not really as bad as I built up in my head. But it’s all analytical. “Does this sound right? Does this work?” And though there is some creativity in it, I already know what’s going to happen so my attention wanders much easier.
What’s the easiest?
The act of creation. Of brainstorming and putting it down on paper, especially if I’m able to turn my brain off and just do it. I love being able to just disappear into another world with these new friends I’ve made and see what’s happened to them, or to put myself in their shoes and pretend I’m someone else for a while.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been?
That’s a tough one, because there are so many novels I love and wish I would have had a hand in. But I think if I could have been the original author of any book, it would have been Novala Takemoto’s Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari for its Japanese audience). I absolutely love Novala Takemoto, and I like to think if we ever met in real life we would get along famously.
Is there anything you would have changed?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything I would have changed about the novel. I bought the translated version for myself at the beginning of May 2019, I think, and as of September 2019 I have read it three times all the way through. I was obsessed with the movie when I was a teenager (and still am as an adult!) and I feel like it’s always going to be something I’m in love with.
Is there a genre or style of writing that you can’t stand?
This is kind of funny, but the kind of genre or style of writing I can’t stand is actually contemporary young adult. It’s funny because in the past I’ve tried writing contemporary young adult, but just can’t stick with it.
Why don’t you like it?
I’m not really positive why I don’t like it. I just know that there are very rare occasions when I enjoy it. I don’t know if I just think it’s boring, or shallow, or limiting, or what, but I do know for sure that the only ones I enjoy are the Pretty Little Liars series and Lois Duncan books. Even then, neither of those really counts because those are young adult mysteries with contemporary settings. But books like what John Green writes — though I think he, as a writer, has talent — are just not my cup of tea.
Do you feel it’s most important to have strong characters, mind-blowing plot twists, or epic settings?
I feel it’s most important to have strong characters, though if you could manage mind-blowing plot twists and epic settings as well then you get bonus points! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book with good plot twists and beautiful settings, but still put it down because the characters felt hollow to me — and vice versa, how often I’ve kept reading a book even though there were very few twists and the settings were hardly described at all, but the characters were so realistic it felt like I was reading about real people. Even the villains.
When I write, I focus a lot on the characters. Who are they? What makes them tick? What do they like, dislike, and fear? Back when I was still learning my writing chops, I had a lot of people tell me they loved my characters and that I’ve got a real knack for making them feel realistic. Now, I feel like I latch onto characterizations and just letting them tell me the story. Otherwise, I feel like I’m pushing them upstream against a current. It’s super hard, and often leads me frustrated. So I just get to know these people, sit back, and go wherever they take me.
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is titled Amaranthine and is a paranormal romance novel featuring vampires in modern day Los Angeles. Here’s the description: “Plagued by writer’s block and desperate to break it, Layla Van Helsing crosses paths with a vampire known only as Silas. Entering into a lascivious Blood Bond, Layla suddenly finds her writer’s block broken—but at what price? The girl had appeared on Silas’s front door as if given as a gift. When he finds out she is of the ancient Van Helsing line of vampire hunters, the idea of making her his Thrall through a complete Blood Bond is too delicious. But how long can he deny his ever-growing feelings for the stubborn young writer while vampires are dying all over Los Angeles?”
If you could pick one author, living or dead, to review Amaranthine, who would it be?
Anne Rice. She’s my favorite vampire-centric author, aside from being one of my favorite authors in general, and I would hope she would notice the personality and motivations of Silas, the book’s anti-hero. If the leading vampire author were to tell me she loved my vampire anti-hero, my entire life would just be made.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from Amaranthine?
The main thing I want readers to take away from my latest book is, more than anything, being entertained. Very few, if any, of my projects ever carry a “message” per se. At the end of the day, I want to give someone a piece of what Stephen King once described as “portable magic.” Whenever I read, I do so to either take a break from my real life or have a place to escape to, and I’ve always wanted to contribute to that. Someday I hope someone picks up one of my books and it helps by just giving them something else to think about for even a little while.
What else have you written?
I have also written a number of other novels. I wrote a vampire-centered mystery/thriller series (Bad Blood), I’ve written a cyberpunk series (Lost Angels), a steampunk post-apocalyptic series (“The Titanomachy Series“), and a sci-fi romance stand-alone novel (The A&E Experiment).
If someone is brand-new to your work, what book do you think they should start with?
If someone is brand new to my work, I suggest they start with The Gilded Cage, Book 1 in the “Titanomachy” series. The second book, Sanctuary, has received so many accolades since its release in 2017 that I feel like it’s one of my strongest works to date.
Thanks so much for participating in this Q&A!
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.