Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Jennifer Povey

Today's author interview is with Jennifer R. Povey, who writes in the science fiction and fantasy genre.

Thanks so much Jennifer for talking with us today, and welcome to Creativity@Work.

1.           When did you first start writing?
I started writing poetry in grade school - in fact, I was determined to be a poet all through into college. Then for some reason I switched to prose. I occasionally write a poem - very occasionally.

2.           What are your books about? Are you self / traditionally published or hybrid?
I write a variety of science fiction and fantasy - my first book was space opera, my second near future sci-fi/horror with non-traditional zombies. I'd call myself hybrid - I was with a publisher, but they went out of business and now I'm self publishing. I'd go with a publisher again if they had something to offer me. I also write short fiction and am always submitting to magazines and anthologies.

3.           What led to your love for literature? Any favorite books / teachers / writing mentors?
I've been a voracious reader since I could read. I got hooked on science fiction when my dad gave me a copy of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. (I wish I knew what happened to that book - it was bound in blue and gold. Yes, I was the kind of kid you could give nice books to and know they'd survive). And Tolkein. The Hobbit. That's when I decided I wanted to write that some day.

4.           What's your writing process like? Do you outline? Do you write by hand / type / dictate?
Outline? What's that? I only outline if I'm writing some kind of freelance assignment that requires it. RPG books need an outline. For novels? I let the story take me where it wants to go. I write on a computer because even I can't read my handwriting.

5.           What's your editing process?
I do one quick read through for obvious stuff. Then I go through line by line, carefully, to look for real mistakes. Then my beloved husband proofreads it. Then it goes to a publisher or my editor. If I'm self publishing, it gets another thorough edit after the editor's done with it, and then proofread again. I don't like my books going out with mistakes. I often read things out loud when editing - it's a great way to spot mistakes.

6.           What did you find most / least useful in learning to write?
Least useful: Books about writing. You'd think a writer would learn well from books - not this one. Most useful: My writer friends, definitely. And lots and lots of practice. The only real way to learn to write well is to write and keep writing.

7.           Do you have a writing routine / schedule? Any specific rituals?
I don't have rituals. I know some people do. I tend to write a chapter, take a break, write a chapter. I'll devote a big chunk of time to a project and normally have two or three going on at once so I don't get bored/sour. But no "rituals" or specific schedule. I generally try to be done with freelance work and fiction by about 6pm, but it doesn't always work out that way.

8.           Where do you feel most inspired to write?
I'm the anti-coffee shop writer. I feel most inspired in my home office or somewhere quiet. I have to tuck myself away in a corner.

9.           Describe your desk / writing corner / favorite writing spot.
Oh man. Messy. I'm not a neat person in general and I get worse when I'm busy. We're talking stacks of books, plushies, stress balls (none of which are actually balls), photos. Clutter everywhere.

10.       Do you listen to music while you write? What kind of music?
Absolutely. I find it hard to write without music. I'm also the only person I know who can write to music that has lyrics. As for what's mostly soft rock, but I've also developed a recent fondness for Abney Park. Big fan of Queen. But it varies a lot. I've got some jazz, some electronic. I don't do playlists either. I'm weird in that the music doesn't have to "match" or be anything specific.

11.       Do you ever get writers' block? What are some ways you get around it?
Writer's block? I remember writer's block. I pretty much don't get it any more. I say the way around writer's block is to sit down and write. Use a prompt if you have to. Sometimes I'll spend a lot of time pacing before starting a short story and it might look like I'm blocked, but it's more "shaking an idea loose." I know that's not very helpful. But putting one word in front of another is the way to go, in my mind.

12.       Do you now, or did you ever have any day jobs? Did they add to or detract from your writing?
I've had a ton of day jobs. Right now I freelance. Every day job has detracted from my writing because, to be honest, I've never managed to find a job I actually liked. If I did, then I think things would be different, but I don't handle retail well and I find sitting in an office kind of draining. It's different for a lot of people. I make sure to get away from my desk and recharge, though.

13.       How do you make the time to write?
That's not an issue so much as juggling client work and fiction and RPG work. Trying to find the right balance between the two so I'm making money and still having the energy to do the fun stuff. I plan my week so I'm working on different things...I have a weekly schedule that pretty much assigns projects to time blocks.

14.       How much research do you do? What kind?
Depends. I do most of my research on the internet these days, but some stories don't take much research. On the other hand, I wrote a hard science fiction short last year where I spent more time on the internet tracking down a virtual orrery and messing around with it until I got the planets in the right location for what I wanted to do than I spent writing the story. I also make use of the local library. If I'm doing hard science fiction or historical fantasy then, yeah, lots of research. Secondary world fantasy it's all worldbuilding, which is a different thing.

I also take every opportunity I can to do something weird - I've done trapeze school, gone dog mushing, all kinds of things. And as I live outside DC I also have access to the Smithsonian, which has come in handy.

15.        How much marketing do you do? Which platforms are you most active on? 
I probably don't do enough marketing. I'm most active on Tumblr, trying to get more active on Twitter, but I find I get "lost" or engrossed in Twitter if I hang out there.

16.       What's the most fun aspect of marketing? The most challenging?
Oh, I'm the writer who hates marketing. Going to conventions is the only part of it that's fun - for somebody who's normally introverted I have a bizarre enjoyment of meeting new people and speaking in public. Doing social media stuff isn't as fun for me. I find it hard not to have it feel forced. I'd rather have my best advertisement be my next book.

17.       What project are you working on now?
I'm working on two things right now. The first is Making Fate,, which is a web series based on Norse mythology (not always accurate, it's fictionalized, but). Then I'm doing final edits on Shadowwalkers, which is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance with not a single vampire in it. Sparkly or otherwise.

18.       What books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I mostly read science fiction and fantasy, occasionally horror and sometimes I'll pick up some interesting non-fiction. I'm re-reading Peter F. Hamilton's Void trilogy right now. Pretty good book, although the fact that he constantly uses download when it should be upload annoys me as much as it did the first time. Sorry, Peter.


Jennifer R. Povey is in her early forties, and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband. She writes a variety of speculative fiction, whilst following current affairs and occasionally indulging in horse riding and role playing games. She has sold fiction to a number of markets including Analog, and written RPG supplements for several companies. Her most recent release is the apocalyptic science fiction novella trilogy The Silent Years. She is working on an ongoing urban fantasy serial that can be found at

The Silent Years

Dorothy Mayling thought her worst problem was an ongoing family feud - then the Silence came and assaulted her family, the people she was determined to keep safe.

Helen Locke fought to hold together a bastion of civilization against the zombie-like Silents and those who would rather be savages alike.

And young Becky was a survivor, raised in the aftermath, and only wanting to live her life - when the true horror of the plague was revealed.

These three novellas, originally published separately as Mother, Crone, and Maiden are now available in one combined edition.

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