Surly Questions: Cara Michaels

Today’s Surly Questions interview is courtesy of Cara Michaels, #MenageMonday magnate and author of Gaea’s Chosen. Thanks, Cara!

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I discovered a talent for writing in the middle grades or so, but I didn’t really start to consider a writing career until high school and college. Then I waited another 5-10 years for the idea to settle in and grow… not unlike a parasite. At some point in my mid 20’s, I realized I couldn’t not write.

3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

I gave five chapters to an editing friend. He told me quite calmly that the story had potential but it was boring. Then he did me the greatest favor ever and told me WHY it was boring. Passive writing kills the pace of a story. It may seem simple, but we rely very heavily on passive words in everyday conversation, and that carries over into writing. Once I got through the stages of denial and grieving, I picked up the manuscript and realized he’d done nothing but tell me the truth.

4. Who are the most influential authors when it comes to your writing?

Hmm… I don’t actually know. I actually try to avoid reading authors that write in similar genres because I don’t want to end up cloning their work. I’m a big fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, though.

5. You list yourself as an author of fantasy, horror and science fiction. What brought Gaea’s Chosen to the top of the heap?

Divine providence? LOL. The original run of the story was a full on horror tale titled ‘Prayer for the Dawn.’ I didn’t plan on anyone making it through to the end. The story popped into my head, more or less fully formed, like Athena in Zeus’ skull. All I had to do was sit down and write. As I wrote, I more or less fell in love with the characters and knew I wanted to do more with them, so I completely rewrote the majority of it.

6. You have a daily presence on Twitter, you run the #MenageMonday flash fiction contest, and participate in a lot of other contests. What has been the most rewarding thing about connecting with other writers through social media and contests?

To be perfectly honest, the writers I’ve met through Twitter revitalized me and my writing. Daily contact with folks going through the same day-to-day struggles of managing real life and the imaginary lives we thrive on really boosted my drive to succeed. Add all the little challenges to that, and I find myself writing every day and absolutely loving it. Even when I just want to go to bed, I still steal a few minutes to write.

7. What advice would you give to other writers looking to build a community and a platform for themselves?

This would really depend on what a writer is wanting to accomplish. I see a lot of writers hiding behind anonymous blogger names and Twitter handles. I think for any writer looking to build a platform it’s important to embrace the name and/or concept you want to market.

8. What is “defiantly literate”? Who or what are you defying?

Hahaha. I love the name of my blog. As a proud geek girl, I’ve spent my fair share of time on boards. ‘Defiantly’ is my favorite chronic misspelling of ‘Definitely.’ I laugh every time I see, ‘Oh, I defiantly want to try that!’ or ‘I’m defiantly going there!’ I picture all of these interwebs people saying to hell with convention and marching proudly into the corner store or picking up the latest bestseller.

9. Can you tell us a little about the world of Gaea’s Chosen: The Mayday Directive and the upcoming Event Horizon?

The Gaea’s Chosen series is set a bit over 19K years from now. That gives me a lot of flexibility as far as creating technology, but I do a lot of research to make things believable. No, mankind has not discovered countless alien races. Instead, they’ve evolved due to life in space and scattered across different planets. Since the Gaea crew leaves Earth a little over 200 years from now, much of their tech, specifically the arc blades, travel speed, and potential destinations expands on current devices and knowledge, hopefully just enough to be believable yet still exciting.

The Mayday Directive tells the initial story of the ship Gaea’s Ark and her crew, dubbed by the media of their time as ‘Gaea’s Chosen.’ Essentially the crew wakes from 19K years in stasis to discover a whole lot has gone wrong while they were sleeping, including crewmembers being jettisoned and the ship landing on an already inhabited planet. Event Horizon picks up six months after the ending of Mayday. In this tale, the Gaea crew finds out what happened to at least one of their missing crewmembers. They also discover they’re not alone in their little corner of the universe.

10. You seem to have a lot of projects in what you call the “Red Pen Death Trials.” How merciless are these trials, and what are we going to see from Cara Michaels in the future?

No word is sacred. Except maybe sacred. 😉 I’m ruthless when it comes to editing and do not hesitate to cull the word herd. My 2012 schedule is packed with stories to write, edit, and publish, including a couple of ancestor stories (tentative titles Safer Waters and If a Tree Falls) for Gaea’s commander, Gemma Bryant.

11. How do you feel about the success of #WIP500 since its inception? What, if anything, has it taught you?

Yeah, I totally did not see #WIP500 taking off like it did. When I started it, I hoped to get 15 or 20 people wrangled into my brand of madness. Now there are over 80 people working hard to, if not make the goal, at least keep writing regularly. I think the network building is important to a lot of folks. Some writers are solitary, but I think a fair number of us are pretty damn social. Having companions on the same journey makes it seem less arduous, I think.

12. What inspires you?

Music. Overheard conversations. Storystorming with my offspring (though that inevitably ends up with killer robots or boy wizards… sometimes both). Mostly music, though. The right music and lyrics can help evoke a specific emotion for me, which is great.