Hey, please welcome April White as today’s feature!
April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, lived on a gold mine in the Yukon, and survived a shipwreck. She and her husband live in Southern California with their two sons, dog, various chickens, and a lifetime collection of books.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing Marking Time about two-and-a-half years before it was published, but I supported myself as a screenwriter for a decade before that. Even when I was a private investigator, my work product was a written report, so I’ve been writing a long time.
The confidence to write a book finally came with the rise of independent publishing. Knowing that I could publish the book myself if I chose to helped to make the effort and time that went into that first book worth it.
What inspired you to write the Immortal Descendants series?
My niece is a reader like I am, and for her 16th birthday I sent her a box of books. In order to justify the purchase of so many paperbacks, I read them all first – and I realized how very interesting young adult fantasy had become. Urban fantasy is my favorite – this world, but with magical elements – and young characters who experience things for the first time really appealed to me. Then it became a matter of breaking down what I like to read, finding the elements that fit together, and a story began to take shape.
The fact that Saira is a free running graffiti artist came from a script my husband and I had researched and plotted but never written, and the Immortals – Time, Fate, Nature, War, and Death – were inspired by a Piers Anthony fantasy series I read in college, where those are actually jobs that people hold. Then, when it became clear that Saira was a time traveler, the rules of time travel came from Simon Hawke’s Time Wars series, which was also a college read.
Building a world requires putting pieces of everything you’ve learned and everyone you know into it to make it authentic. My kids are in the Immortal Descendants’ world, as are several friends, my husband, my dog, and a couple of people who might have been nasty to me once in my life. There’s also mythology, politics, and a subversive feminist streak that runs through the stories, and I’ll definitely own some of Saira’s opinions on life, love, and personal responsibility.
My favorite part of building the Immortal Descendants world was finding and researching the history for each book. I started Marking Time with the mystery of Jack the Ripper’s identity, and then each subsequent book became about finding some unanswered historical question.
What’s the best thing about the series you wrote? If you could change one thing, what would it be?
The best thing about the series I wrote is that it’s done. That’s the easy answer, but not as trite as it sounds. When I started Marking Time I thought I might be writing a trilogy at best, which gives some idea how much pre-plotting I’d done. As I dug into the story I realized that with five Immortals there should be five books, and I honestly didn’t know what the over-arching story could be that needed five books to tell. I did eventually figure it out, which is why having a complete series that holds together and tells the stories I meant to tell is the best thing about it.
If I could change one thing, I’d have had the foresight to begin working with my editor at the beginning of Marking Time instead of waiting until I began writing Tempting Fate to hire her. When I was finished with book three I went back and re-edited book one, then handed it to her and her fearsome red pen, and the resulting Second Edition is 10k words less than the first one. I had become a better writer with three books under my belt, and working with my editor has been a more focused education in writing than my English Lit degree ever was.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer? What’s your least favorite thing?
My favorite thing about being a writer is two parts. The solo, personal part is that moment when a story element I put into place several chapters, or even several books ago is exactly what my character needs to do the thing I’ve just backed her into a corner to do. Most of those are unplanned, because I tend to write by broad outline (translation, I’m a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants based on knowing who my characters are, why they’re there, and where they’re going. How they get there is the pantser part) and when that happens I feel like the smartest, cleverest, most creative person alive. Never mind the fact that I was the one who write that character into a corner in the first place.
The public, community part is connecting with people through my books. I love when something I’ve written makes a difference for someone who read it, or when someone really “gets” Saira or Ringo or Archer because they are them, or they know them, or they want to be them. I love telling stories that make people feel and think, and I LOVE inspiring a reader to learn more about some of the history I’ve played with in my books.
The part of writing that I like least is the beginning of a new book, when the story is still creaking its way out of my brain, the characters are still finding their voices, and the roadmap to the world is still out of focus. That’s the time when all my insecurities come screaming into the room, and it takes an act of will to firmly close the door in the face of You Suck, and Really? so I can get some work done.
What does a good writing day look like? What helps you get over writer’s block?
A good writing day begins around 3am with strong coffee and the inspiration to get right to work. I write until it’s time to get my kids up for school, then keep writing while they’re gone. A good writing day looks like about three to four thousand words, easy motivation, and few research breaks.
I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I’m either writing or I’m not, and if I’m not I either dwell there and deal with the consequences of not writing, or I do something to shake myself out of it. Researching historical details often re-inspires me, and long dog walks with no headphones and no one to talk to does the same. I’ve found that giving myself permission not to write makes those not-writing times less stressful. And setting weekly word-count goals tends to put me back in the habit of daily writing.
What’s the one thing about writing you feel has changed your life in some way?
I’m doing the thing I always wanted to do. I’ve taken the step from “wanting to write” to “writing,” and it’s a huge feeling of accomplishment to not only do it, but realize I don’t suck at it. I get to write stories for a living. I’m a professional at making sh*& up.
What interests you, other than reading and writing?
I love to travel, especially with my family. I love to show my kids the world, and to introduce them to things they’ve only seen in books. I love to get together with friends, eat great food, drink good wine, and have deep, funny, true conversations that reveal all the ways we’re alike in this world. And I love to sit somewhere public with my husband and watch people. He’s convinced there are only 10 people in the world, and we’ve spent many long hours in cafes proving that rule.
Could you describe one person you admire and why?
Penny Reid writes wonderful, smart, funny, strange books that are on my always-recommend list to anyone who reads. Besides her huge brain and delightful sense of humor, what I most admire about Penny is her business acumen. She is a statistician, and approaches the business of writing in a very methodical, very logical way, and her marketing plans are constantly innovating in response to the reader marketplace. She’s an amazing businesswoman, and learning from her is like doing a master’s program in marketing.
Any advice for aspiring authors/writers?
My advice to aspiring authors is to write what you love – because you will read it approximately 1,562 times before it’s published. If you find yourself skimming sections, cut them. If you’re bored with anything you’ve written your readers will be too. Also, finish each day’s writing in the middle of a thing instead of at the end. It makes it much easier to jump into writing the next day.
Can we expect more books/series from you?
Absolutely! I’m writing a new series now about a character you’ve met in the Immortal Descendants books, and I look forward to revisiting Saira, Archer, and Ringo in short stories and novellas as their adventures continue.