Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Author Interview: Lena Hoppe

Good morning people!

First of all, I would like to apologize for my epic failure yesterday when I misspelled Mia’s last name. True, it was that way in her email, but I should have checked her blog to be sure. AND the link to her blog didn’t show up the way I wanted it to. I have now fixed everything, and apologize for the mistakes.

If you would like me to interview you about your writing career or job, please email me at writer (dot) elizabethpoole (at) gmail (dot) com.

In the meantime, we have another great interview! Lena has been my friend since NaNo two years back, and she’s been invaluable to my growth as a writer. She writes wonderful stuff, too. Go check out her blog!

She posts helpful advice and writing prompts! So, after you’re done with the interview, go check her out!

Writer Interview: Lena Hoppe

First, introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, what genre you write in, and what stage of the writer journey you’re currently mucking about in.

I'm a bilingual writer living in Germany. I write character-driven fantasy, sometimes YA and sometimes not. I am unpublished but I plan to start querying agents soon. Right now I'm in the middle of editing my NaNoWriMo novel from 2009.

You can find me at The Writing Desk.

1. Why did you decide to become a writer?

I didn't decide to become a writer. In a way I have always been one. I have been making stories up all my life, and I started writing them down in my early teens. I did decide to pursue writing as a profession and the reason for that is very simple: I'm not much use at most other things. Writing is the only thing I *want* to do, so I think I should try as hard as I can to make it my profession.

2. What is your writing environment like now?

I share an apartment with my boyfriend, and I have a desk in a corner of our bedroom. A picture of my writing space can be found on my blog!

3. What is your ideal writing environment like?

When, instead of actually writing, I sit at my desk and daydream, I envision a kind of cross between an office, a library and an art studio. I'd need at least two desks, one for the computer and another one large enough to draw huge maps on. I'd love to have all my non-fiction and reference books in my writing space with me, instead of spread throughout the apartment as they are now. I have a collection of dictionaries that just *belongs* in a proper office/study/library. My ideal writing environment would also be quiet (which my current one is) and have a nice view (which it doesn't).

4. Do you write with music? Why or why not?

Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I love writing with music, but it has to be exactly the right music for whatever I'm writing. And sometimes I don't know what that is, so I write without. But when I have the right music, it helps me drive the plot and character emotions and focus on the story.

5. How do you find time to write in between the other demands on your time—kids, family, job, etc?

Right now I am lucky enough to be able to spend most of my time writing.

6. What are your comfort books? Those books you can read again and again, that foster and rekindle your desire to write?

The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce - I read those books as a kid and they still give me that cosy, coming-home feeling every time I open one. Various children's books - for the same reason. And, if I'm in the right mood, any of several Richard Jury mysteries by Martha Grimes - for the delightful characters that never really change.

7. What authors do you find influential?

I think I've been influenced in some way by every author I've ever read. But some that stick out, for various reasons, are Astrid Lindgren, Tamora Pierce, J.D. Salinger, Tom Robbins, Tonke Dragt, Madeleine L'Engle, Philip Pullman, Douglas Adams, and Federica de Cesco.

8. Do you belong to a critique group? Writing organization? Why or why not?

I don't belong to a critique group because there are none where I live (at least not English-speaking ones). I do have a number of writer friends, though, that I discuss all kinds of writing issues with.

9. Have you ever been to a writing conference? Why or why not? If so, what was your experience like?

I haven't. Wrong continent again. But I would be too shy to talk to anyone anyway.

10. Are you querying? If so, what’s keeping you sane?

I have not started querying but plan to do so as soon as I have polished my current WiP. No idea what the process will do to my sanity, but I guess that my support network of extraordinarily lovely people will help to keep me sane.

11. What are your favorite kinds of characters to write about?

I have a soft spot for insecure characters and slightly sarcastic or dry voices, though I make sure that my narrators don't whine too much. I also like writing three-dimensional, realistic characters with physical disabilities - because there are too few of those out there.

12. What are you favorite kinds of characters to read about?
Same as above, but I can enjoy any well-written character as long as I can relate to them on some level.

13. Are you an outliner or a seat of the pants writer? Why?

I am a bit of both. I do need an outline, but my outlines are never extremely detailed. As I progress through a first draft, I often outline the next few scenes in more detail, but I could never write with an outline that tells me everything that will be in the book. I'd be bored to death. I need the story to still surprise me a little as I'm writing it - but a bit of structure and planning ahead is also necessary. I need to know what I'm writing about and where I'm going with it.

14. Would you like to be a bestseller or have a smaller, more manageable following?

Of course I would like to be successful and make some money with my books. But since I am shy, hate being the center of attention and am generally scared of strangers, I think I would be much happier with a smaller, friendly following than anything resembling literary rockstardom.

15. Do you have a writing "process?" What is it, if so?

First, I have an idea (Hah! I bet you didn't see that one coming!). Ideas usually come to me in the shape of characters. I develop the characters, setting and plot for a while. I put most work into the characters. I need to see them as clearly as if they were real people. I may jot down lines, but I don't write entire scenes until I actually start writing. When I write, I write linearly. Jumping around in a book doesn't work for me.

16. What is the single best writing advice you have ever received/come across?

To not hold back. I used to feel that what interested me most about a story would be dull for others, so I restrained myself and compromised and wrote half-heartedly. BAD idea. None other than the host of this lovely interview encouraged me to not only write what I cared about but to not hold back one little bit while I was doing so. And I have been writing so much better since than. (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

17. Any fears about becoming published?

Plenty. But that's just who I am. I worry too much about everything. I manage to be equally terrified of rejection and success. But I just keep going anyway.

18. Where do you get your ideas from? (*grin* sorry guys, I had to include that)

From everywhere. Books, movies, music, sunsets, sunrises, snow, rain, carpet patterns, castles, exhibitions, friends, walks, meals, overheard conversations, people's online status messages, paintings, photographs, dreams, anything.

19. What is your biggest pet peeve in your genre?

In fantasy, it's poorly developed characters and settings receiving more attention than the plot. Also, magic as a deus ex machina. In YA, I don't have any particular pet peeves that are specific to the genre. I guess I have been lucky in the YA I've read.

20. What is your biggest pet peeve in books in general?

Unrealistic or flat characters who don't act believably. Also, disabled characters who are either bitter villains or helpless victims. Or die.

21. Do you like books about writing? If so, which books would you recommend and why?

I enjoy books about writing if they are well-written, entertaining and not too preachy. But I don't always follow their advice.

22. And lastly, if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be?

It's tempting to go for something with a high page-count, but I guess if it's just the one book for, hopefully, decades to come, even a 1000-page monster of a book might become boring. So I'd pick something that I love for the beauty of its words and could read over and over again. Still not an easy choice, but I'd probably go for "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf, "Island Magic" by Elizabeth Goudge, or "Franny and Zooey" by J.D. Salinger.

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