This week on Author on the Couch,
I conduct a session with
Asa is giving away a $10.00 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to a person who leaves a comment!
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Asa: I used to be very shy and preferred to be on the periphery of any social gathering, blending into the background. When I came to the US as a high school exchange student, I realized I would have a miserable friendless year unless I learned to engage in conversation with people who took the first step to speak with me. It was hard, but I learned to creep out of my protective shell and actually talk to people—in a foreign language. That forever changed how I interact socially and although I still need long periods of alone time and silence to recharge, I now love meeting and interacting with people.
Me: That’s so typical of an introvert! I’m the same way. I have to force myself to be social at conferences and need lots of alone time to re-charge.
What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Asa: I can get hyper-focused, almost obsessed with a project. I’ll write in large chunks of time and get tons of words on the page. When I have to step away from the computer, my brain is still engaged in the book and I can’t wait to get back and write some more. It’s a super productive state to be in.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Asa: That same ability to hyper-focus makes it very hard for me to switch between tasks. Now that I’m writing on contract, I have to be able to work on one book while editing another and doing promotion for a third. My brain isn’t quite wired to do that—yet, but I’m learning. I want to stay on one task and complete it before moving on to the next, but I don’t have that luxury if I want to finish my projects on time. I have to work on multiple story threads at the same time. It’s super hard for me.
Me: I think a lot of writers are like that–at least I am.
What was your high point as a writer—a time when you were happiest, on cloud nine, flying high? What happened?
Asa: It took me a long time to sell. I had sent out queries and pitched at conferences for close to seven years before I finally got a contract. On my second novel, I started getting specific feedback from agents and editors. It was my third book that sold, but although it was a finalist in some prestigious contest, it still took a long time to get that contract. I was shopping a paranormal romance right when the market was filled with great paranormal authors and editors weren’t signing debut authors in the genre out of fear of saturation. So, when Cat Clyne at Sourcebooks picked me out of the slush pile and sent an invitation to rewrite and resubmit, I was giddy with excitement. And then things happened super quickly. Thinking back, the sequence of events leading up to my sale are blurry. The Golden Heart finalists were announced, and I was one of them. Another publisher offered a rewrite and resubmit. And then all of a sudden I was interviewing multiple agents who were interested in representing me. And then I had offers from two different publishers. I would have been happy working with either of them, but only the Sourcebooks offer included print. As much as ebooks are driving the market right now, it had always been my dream to see my book on the shelf of a book store. That’s what I wanted to for my debut.
I was in Washington DC when Cat called me about the final contract. My husband and I had just left the Museum of Natural History and were walking toward the Washington Monument. I went completely berserk with happiness. Somewhere out there, there are some traumatized school children who still remember the crazy lady telling everyone in line to the monument about her “fantastic book deal.”
Me: I love that story! And I bet those kids aren’t traumatized at all. I bet they were inspired!
What was your low point as a writer? How did you get over it?
Asa: The year before I sold, I almost gave up on writing. My dad was diagnosed with a fast onset dementia called Lewy Body Dementia and in his case, it also involved major physical problems. My brother and I tried to explain to my mom that nobody can care for another person 24/7, even when they are physically healthy. Mom disagreed. So did dad. There were arguments, tears, guilt, and shame. And then Mom’s breast cancer that had spread to bone cancer a few years before lashed out again. A tumor in her armpit aggressively grew and threatened her lymphatic system. The doctors wanted to operate immediately. Afterward, she would not be allowed to use her arm for several weeks.
I jumped on a plane and flew home to help with dad. I’d seen both of my parents five months earlier. The change in dad shocked me. My funny quick-witted dad was now slow-moving and confused. He still had moments of clarity, but could no longer read an article in the newspaper, or follow a conversation. He’d aged physically several years. I learned how to help him up from a chair, how to bathe him, how to help him to the toilet and how to wipe him after.
I made more trips home to Sweden over the year. Eventually mom recovered from her surgery and my parents settled into a routine. But my family dealt with the whiplash of these major changes. I barely kept it together enough to deliver coherent lessons for my teaching job. I struggled to remember students’ names. Luckily, I’m a control freak when it comes to planning and could rely on detailed lesson plans from years past. My job didn’t suffer (too much), but the effort to make sure it didn’t was huge.
I didn’t notice being preoccupied. My brain wasn’t filled with thoughts of mom and dad when I needed to think about work. I just couldn’t focus. Couldn’t figure out what needed to be done next in a list of tasks. Couldn’t remember related events or details.
And forget writing. Character names escaped me. Plot lines fluttered away, going nowhere. At first I thought maybe only new content was too much of an effort. I tried to edit previous work instead. After turning a page, I couldn’t remember what had been on the previous. I stressed. I panicked. I freaked out.
A writer friend sat me down for a long talk. She gave me permission to not be productive. She told me it was okay to write just for the sake of writing and throw it away when it was no good. She told me it was okay not to write. I researched mental exhaustion and learned about burnout and how it can reduce productivity, remove creativity. I realized that grief comes in many shapes and is not always associated with death. I forgave my brain for needing time to process overwhelming changes. I forgave myself.
It was December before I wrote again. I took an online class. I wrote a short story. The words didn’t flow, they trickled. It was painful, but no longer impossible. Eventually, that love of writing came back and my characters talked to me again.
Me: Any writer who’s gone through tough times while trying to get words on the page or editing understands exactly what you were going through! I love what you said, “I forgave my brain for needing time to process overwhelming changes. I forgave myself.” So often we beat ourselves up and blame ourselves and that just makes things worse. I’m glad you found your path!
What causes stress in your writing life? Why?
Asa: My first instinct is to answer this question with “finding time to write,” but that’s not what causes stress. I can find large chunks of time for writing. What causes stress is saying “no” to friends and family in order to use that time to write. It’s easy to say no to TV and write instead. It’s much harder to say no to a night out with my husband or a friend’s birthday party.
Me: That’s a balance so many writers struggle to maintain.
What’s the most painful rejection or review you’ve ever received? How did you get over it?
Asa: At my very first writing conference at my very first pitch appointment—before I’d even queried a publishing professional—the editor of a big 5 publisher told me to quit writing because nobody would want to read the kind of stories I wrote. I went back to my hotel room and cried for a long time. The next day I decided to get a second opinion and signed up to pitch to a different editor. That editor told me to send in fifty pages of my work. He ultimately said no to the book, but his form rejection was kind and supportive. I didn’t know enough at the time to recognize it as a form rejection, so I took it as encouragement.
Me: Why are people so cruel? You could’ve given up! I’m so glad you didn’t! Because look over and see that AWESOME book cover that’s all yours! People DO want to read the kind of stories you write! Take that Big-5-Editor-Meanie!
What’s the secret to your success?
Asa: Stubbornness and a supportive network of friends and family who think I can do this writing thing and tell me so often.
Me: So tell me about your novel VIKING WARRIOR RISING
Immortal Vikings are among us.
Leif Skarsganger and his elite band of immortal warriors have been charged to protect humanity from the evil Norse god Loki.
Under attack from Loki’s minions, Leif is shocked to encounter a dark-haired beauty who fights like a warrior herself. Wounded and feverish, the Viking kisses her, inadvertently triggering an ancient Norse bond. But when Naya Brisbane breaks away and disappears before the bond is completed, Leif’s warrior spirit goes berserk. If Leif doesn’t find her fast, he’s going to lose himself to permanent battle fury.
But Naya doesn’t want to be found…and he’ll do anything to track her down. Because they’re both running out of time.
Me: I can’t wait to read this! My copy hit my Kindle on Tuesday!
Share with us a favorite paragraph or two fromVIKING WARRIOR RISING
Asa: I’d never written a fight scene before I wrote VIKING WARRIOR RISING and I worked really hard on figuring out how to describe the choreography. The scene below is when my heroine Naya first fights Loki’s creatures. It’s special because it took so much effort to make it seem effortless, but also because it shows some of Naya’s kick-ass attitude.
Crouching down, she kept her arms loose but ready.
The men’s eyes had no pupils or irises. They were just eerie black orbs. A little freaked out, Naya kept an eye on their hands. They held them loosely in front of their bodies. Slowly, their nails elongated into vicious claws.
Well, that’s new. Shit!
Naya silently berated herself for getting involved. The guys had looked normal. Now they were freaky monsters with jet-black eyes.
“Want to play, little girl?” one of them growled, clicking his claws.
“You’re not much bigger than me.” She tilted her head, keeping an eye on the one who hadn’t spoken. He inched to the side and toward her, but she wasn’t worried yet. Her enhanced strength was always superior in any human fight.
Key word: human.
She swallowed and willed her pounding heart to slow down. Steady.
The two freaks rushed her and she concentrated on not getting impaled. Even with her ultrafast reaction time, she had to work hard to avoid their slashing.
The guy on the left executed a vicious overhand swipe with his claws. She parried and found herself in the perfect position for a reverse roundhouse.
Her boot made contact right in the sweet spot. The creature whimpered, hands instantly pressed to his balls—lucky for her, he was human enough to have a set of those. He hunched over and slowly sank toward the ground face-first.
She quickly gripped his neck and forehead and twisted in opposite directions. Movement out of the corner of her eye made her lurch to the side. She was too late to completely avoid the creature’s right hook.
Claws pierced her waist, puncturing her skin but thankfully missing her liver. The searing pain was almost worth it when she heard the first guy’s spine snap in her grip.
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Abbie Roads writes dark emotional novels featuring damaged characters, but always gives her hero and heroine a happy ending…after torturing them for three hundred pages.
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