Books haven’t been bouncing into Yellow30 Sci-Fi Review like they use to do a couple decades ago. Yes, it’s been decades. It’s also been nearly seven years since we’ve done a Featured Author segment. The staff thought it was about time we did another one. We’ve had several exceptional books in the last year or so that caused us to want to know more about the author and how they do things. Our Featured Authors is where we showcase these exceptional writers and allow our fans to get to know them a little better. We are very proud to feature Annie Douglass Lima as our first Featured Author. Please sit back and enjoy our interview with this fantastic lady.
Why do you write?
Stories overflow inside me, demanding an outlet. I’ve never considered that I have any other choice but to write them down.
What editing processes do you incorporate?
After I finish drafting a scene or chapter, I let it sit for at least a day. Then I go back and re-read it, fixing any obvious errors and adjusting the word choice and sentence fluency to make it sound as good as it can. I go on to the next scene after that, and so on. When I’ve finished the whole book, I read through it at least twice, checking for inconsistencies and making sure it all flows well, before anyone else sees it. Then I usually read it aloud to my students (I teach 5th grade). Their feedback, plus the sound of my own voice reading aloud, helps me know if something doesn’t sound right, and I make further changes. After that I send it to beta readers, fix any more issues they bring to light, and then my editor goes over it.
How long does it usually take you to complete a writing project?
Two years is probably my average. I would love to crank out books faster, but my day job takes up most of my time.
Your latest work is The Student and the Slave. This is book 3 in the Krillonian Chronicles. Would you elaborate how this series came into being; i.e. what prompted the concept, etc.?
I’ve had the idea growing in my mind for the last few years. It started as just a picture of the setting and its culture: a world almost exactly like ours, but with legalized slavery. The main characters, Bensin (a teenage slave and martial artist) and Steene (his owner and coach) emerged gradually, along with the plot of the first book (Bensin’s struggle to protect and free his younger sister). At first I thought it would be a stand-alone novel, but as I neared the end of book 1, I started thinking of ideas for a sequel. When I started book 2, I thought that would be the last one, but my ideas about the ending changed before I got there, and a third book became necessary to finish up the story.
The martial art cavvara shil. Is that your own creation or a real martial art? If it is your own creation please elaborate how you came up with this concept.
Cavvara shil is my own creation. I wanted a challenging martial art that was a combination of two or three different fighting styles, involving elements of unarmed combat (mainly kicking) as well as the use of a weapon. It took a few false starts before I had a fighting style I liked. At first I just pictured using a sword, but I wanted something a little less stereotypical. The cavvarach, a sword-like weapon with a hook halfway down the top blade, ended up being just right for what I had in mind. Combatants try to snag their opponent’s hook to tug the weapon out of the other person’s hand, which is one way to win a duel. (They can also knock it away with their own cavvarach, or kick it away.) Besides disarming an opponent, you can win by knocking them over and pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.
Although this hasn’t been mentioned in either book, I picture a cavvarach as an ancient weapon of warfare thousands of years ago in that world. Warriors could fight with it much as they would with a sword, but the original purpose of the hook would have been to snag the legs of horses (when wielded by a warrior on foot) or to grab at enemy fighters and pull them off their horses or out of their chariots as they galloped past.
Designing cavvara shil (and the necessary training and practice for it, as well as tournament rules) took a LOT of research. So far, this has been one of the most challenging aspects of writing this series for me. I am actually not a martial artist myself, so it was all the more difficult to make sure my martial art was feasible and would make sense to practitioners of “real” martial arts. I spent hours researching online and in books, as well as talking to athletes I know.
What was the primary motivation for the indie-author route that you’ve taken with your writing?
Originally I pursued traditional publication for my first book, just because that was the only system I knew. I tried to get an agent, but to no avail. Finally I learned about the indie publishing system, so I switched tracks and published my own books. I’m quite content with this system, now. It’s not hard for an author to learn to do it herself, and I prefer to keep the control I have over my own books this way.
Your BLOG has a wealth of information about you, your life and writing. How key is this in getting the word out about your books?
I think it’s helpful having all my information in one place. I can direct people there, and they can explore and find out whatever they want to.
You’ve edited several volumes of student poetry. How did you get started with this avenue of creativity?
I heard the idea from a speaker at a conference, and I immediately loved it! I collect the best poem(s) that each student writes over the course of our poetry unit, and then I compile them into an anthology, which I publish on Kindle. The kids get really excited about the project every year! One of them creates the cover (whoever wants to can design one, and the class votes on their favorite). I let the students pick a charity or nonprofit organization to which we’ll donate all proceeds.
How important is a fan-base?
It’s definitely helpful in getting the word out when an author releases a new book.
What tips would you give aspiring authors about gathering a fan-base?
One that I’ve found helpful is to make a book or short story available for free to anyone who signs up for your newsletter.
Who or what things influence your writing?
Other authors have influenced it more than anything else. C.S. Lewis provided my very first literary inspiration. More recently, I’ve enjoyed the works of Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Her Tales of Goldstone Wood series is amazingly crafted. I love the way the time periods in some of the books overlap, focusing on different characters and sometimes different views of the same events. That storytelling style influenced my fantasy series, the Annals of Alasia, though not the Krillonian Chronicles as much.
What are some of your favorite books and authors?
There are too many to list them all, but some of my favorite authors include Anne Elisabeth Stengl, KM Weiland, Francine Rivers, Ted Dekker, Stephen Lawhead, and Frank Peretti.
Recommendations for those who are venturing into the world of indie publishing?
Find a good community of writers to be a part of. Online author groups have made such a difference to me! Nothing can compare to the support, encouragement, connections, and practical help that you can both receive and give through such groups.
What “one pearl of wisdom” would you pass along to aspiring writers?
Don’t try to write a scene perfectly the first time or get frustrated if it doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped. Just get your ideas on paper in whatever rough form you need to, and never mind selecting the perfect words or fixing any mistakes. Leave the scene alone for a few days, and when you come back to it, read through it and smooth out the obvious errors. Repeat several times. If possible, read it aloud to someone; that will help you hear errors or issues you may not notice otherwise. I’ve found that it usually takes lots of passes before I’m satisfied with something I’ve written. Trying to make it perfect the first time is ridiculously time-consuming, stressful, and next to impossible, at least for me.
Editor’s Note: Please check out all of Annie’s book reviews on our site as well as her BLOG which is rich in information about her life, travels and her writing.