Asian chick lit writer of
SUSHI FOR ONE?
a Zondervan release September 2007
I want to first thank Camy for allowing me to volunteer her to be my very first author interview. The fact that she so graciously agreed to do this even after critiquing my synopsis was an added bonus.
Camy’s tagline is “Romance with a kick of wasabi” and for those who know her, the words “romance” and “Camy” are interchangeable. Not that Camy is a sinus-clearing condiment, but she is certainly a kick.
Her Asian “Sushi Series” begins with Sushi for One? and will be followed by three more books, each featuring one of four cousins: Lex, Trish, Venus, and Jennifer.
I discovered it’s best to ask what Camy doesn’t do (sleep, I think). In addition to writing novels, she writes short stories, book reviews, and provides a critique service, Story Sensei. You can find Camy at her website and blog: http://www.camytang.com.
You write, you blog, you mentor, you critique, you have a family. How do you accomplish all this? If you cloned yourself, let us know. Otherwise, do you have a “schedule”?
I’m just nuts. Period.
I do try to stick to a schedule each day. I do a variety of stuff over e-mail, which takes up a couple hours each day, but then I try to have one hour for blogging and the rest for writing. It doesn’t always work out that way, depending on what I need to take care of, but it seems to work for me. I don’t keep to a very tight schedule, but things just seem to get done.
I also firmly believe in getting enough sleep. I’m much more productive when I’ve had a full night’s sleep. If I’m tired, I just stare at the computer screen and zone out.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
First books always suck. If I could do it again, I’d spend more time learning craft, writing more manuscripts, and revising the ones I’d finished BEFORE submitting to anyone. I wasted too much emotional and mental energy with submissions of a manuscript (my first) that wasn’t near ready.
I tell new writers to spend more time learning craft. Too many writers concentrate on the detailed stuff—words, phrases, sentences—and not enough on large-scale story structure and scene structure. I didn’t sell until I’d figured out how to structure a good story.
Contests? What do you think?
When I was first starting out, they were great. For the price, you get two or three impartial judges, and sometimes you get a really detailed critique. However, writers should be aware that not all contest judges are alike. Some are very good, some are not so good. You could enter a contest and get unhelpful feedback, or you could enter a contest and get fabulous feedback.
I think contests aren’t as helpful unless you enter several of them with the same manuscript and get a variety of feedback. If you get three judges from different contests saying you need to strengthen characterization, then you can be reasonably certain it’s something you need to work on.
If you only enter one contest and the two or three judges focus on different aspects of the story, you’re never sure if their comments are valid since there’s no commonality between them.
On a side note, I’m coordinator for the ACFW Genesis contest, which is becoming one of the largest Christian fiction contests for unpublished writers in North America. You can find more info at the ACFW website: http://www.acfw.com/
An idea hits you; what then?
I’m not the type of writer with a billion ideas in my head. I was worried at first, since so many other writers lamented they didn’t have the time to write about all the story ideas they had. But then I found out that bestselling suspense author Brandilyn Collins only gets one idea at a time, just like me. So now I know I’m not strange. Or at least, not any stranger than Brandilyn. 🙂
It usually takes me anywhere from a few weeks to several months for a story idea to flesh itself out enough for me to start writing. I’m a plotter, so I’ll follow Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method of plotting (http://rsingermanson.com/html/the_snowflake.html).
If you belong to a critique group, how does it help you? Do you brainstorm plot ideas, send chapters one or more at a time? If you don’t belong to a critique group, why not?
I used to belong to critique groups, which helped me immensely when I was first learning how to write. Critiquing is one of the best ways to refine your own writing skills.
I have deadlines now, so I have critique partners instead. I’m also not a slow and steady writer—I’ll usually take several weeks to plot the story, and then write the entire manuscript in a rush. Therefore, I don’t send my manuscript a chapter at a time, but all at once.
I tell my critique partners in advance when they can expect my manuscript, so they can clear their schedules. I try to give them a month to critique my manuscript, and give myself two weeks to incorporate their critiques into my revisions before I send the manuscript to my editor.
This seems to work really well. The key for me was finding the right critique partners. It took a lot of time, a lot of trial and error. I try to encourage writers to be patient, and to prayerfully wait for the right critique partners to come along.
When should a new writer begin an agent search? Agent or editor first?
I personally feel a writer should get an agent first, even if he/she is targeting a house that accepts unagented manuscripts, like Steeple Hill or Heartsong Presents. For most people (although not all), an agent can negotiate your contract much better than yourself and know how to get a few more perks and bonuses. However, I also firmly believe that meeting editors at conferences is priceless to a writer. Networking is key in this business.
Also, there’s no harm in submitting to editors, because if they like your writing—but maybe not your story idea—they’ll be open to seeing other manuscripts from you. Any type of favorable impression is a good thing. My suggestion is to research agents thoroughly and privately. E-mail individual people about their agents (or former agents) and ask about their working relationships. Be professional at all times.
Only do what you’re comfortable doing. If you don’t like blogging, then don’t do it. If you don’t have the money to spend on promotional materials, don’t stress yourself out over it. Especially as Christians, we have to realize that our success is largely dependent on God, not our marketing efforts. I don’t support not doing ANYTHING, but I do encourage people to trust God in what He’s doing for their careers.
I do only what I’m happy doing. I love blogging and interacting with my blog readers (http://camys-loft.blogspot.com/). I budgeted for promotional items, but I’m not going overboard. I have a very specific list of what I’m willing to do or buy, and I don’t go over-budget. I’m kind of iffy right now about if I’d do a booksigning, since they tend not to be very successful.
Fill-in-the-blank: If I couldn’t write, I’d__________________.
Drive my husband crazy.
How could I not write? I probably talk all day. To anybody. I was actually quite content for a while doing biology research because I worked for a really good company, a fabulous manager, and a terrific supervisor, which makes all the difference. I’d probably still be doing that, and maybe doing music or knitting or card making as a creative outlet.
As a new writer, I sometimes (okay, often) feel discouraged, wondering if I’m EVER going to finish and/or publish. I read emails about new sales, new representations, and start to feel, well—panic—How do/did you keep going ?
I tell new writers—don’t compare yourself to anybody else. It’s completely poisonous. It’s hard not to do, but if you make an effort, then the discouragement and envy doesn’t fester inside you. Writers also have to be aware that this is also a time of spiritual trial. Not that you won’t have other trials, even after you’re published, but this twilight before being contracted is especially hard.
This is the time to cling to God. This is the time to surrender to His will, His timing, His plan for your life. That’s a strong word—surrender—but it’s what’s necessary. Our lives, our careers, our desires are not our own.
I don’t want people to be discouraged, but I do want writers to focus more on God’s will than the dream of being published. I didn’t embark on this writing journey without telling God—and really meaning it!—that I’d submit to whatever He wanted for me, whether I wrote for a publishing house or just myself and Him.
It’s a daily struggle. It’s not something I just blissfully sailed through before I became contracted. But I think God was pleased that I was at least trying to surrender completely to Him.
Thanks for the interview, Christa! I also want to encourage people to visit my website at http://www.camytang.com/. I just got my book cover!
(Note from Christa: For some reason, this blog theme’s “comment” is at the TOP under the title of this post. Go figure. So, scroll up if you want to leave a comment! Thanks for dropping by.)