September 27, 2020

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Redemption Or Brutal Ending For A Main Character? Joanna Ruth Meyer Discusses Character Arcs And More With Today’s Release Of Beyond The Shadowed Earth

Beyond The Shadowed Earth author Joanna Ruth Meyer discusses evoking emotion and meaning through the cadence of writing structure, along with character arcs, setting non-sequels in the same world and highly anticipated releases in a new interview.

Brutalize Or Not To Brutalize- That Is The Question

Their characters. Readers? That isn’t even a question. Authors always brutalize us. We pay them to, beg them to, even. If they don then we complain that they aren’t doing a good job when writing their books. Whether they provide a redemption arc or a brutal end to a hated character? AH! Now. That is a whole other question! On the release date of Beyond the Shadowed Earth, author Joanna Ruth Meyer discusses this along with inferring emotive meanings and anticipated releases.


1) I’ve read that you often write sentences that you feel strike a rhythm or cadence, even if they don’t have an exact meaning, that can be felt if not directly understood- I think I get what you are saying. An equivalent might be Oasis’ Champagne Supernova I always felt like outside of the chorus the song didn’t made sense lyrically, not literally. The music and how the words flowed gave it sense, you just felt what it meant. Not that Oasis are the masterminds of the world by any long shot- just the first song that comes to mind. I was hoping you might expand more on what your thoughts are around this idea. 

Music has always been a big part of my life, and to me, language can be a type of music. I love lyrical writing, and aspire for mine to have a cadence, a rhythm, a flow. Hopefully that doesn’t translate to nonsensical sentences, but I am all about impressions and emotions over grammatical correctness, if the need arises. I definitely find myself writing phrases that make perfect sense in my mind that my copy editors flag as not being a real word/phrase, and I have to take a step back and ponder whether I’m conveying what I mean to be conveying or not. 😀 But yes, I want my readers to feel things when they read my books, and the cadence of the language is a big part of that.


2) This is the second time (the first being Empire of Sand/Realm of Ash) and then there is a third coming (Dark Shores/Dark Skies) I’ve read a book that isn’t a sequel but standalone with characters from the first book and the same world. I haven’t had the chance to talk to an author about this process yet. When you wrote Beneath the Haunting Sea did you know that this is the route you were going to take? Can you discuss why and/or how that came about and what that process is like?

I first wrote BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA for National Novel Writing Month waaaaaaaay back in 2006. I never imagined a direct sequel, but a few years later I wrote the first draft of a companion novel set in the same world that took place three hundred years before the events of SEA. It was long an unwieldy, but truth be told it still has a soft spot in my heart! I pitched a version of this companion novel to my publisher as an option, and although they were interested in the idea of a companion book, they wanted something more directly tied to SEA—possibly a story about Eda. I was initially reluctant, because I hated Eda quite a lot and didn’t think she had much of a story to tell, but a few pages of brainstorming notes later, I realized I was wrong! I thought about borrowing the plot from that first companion novel, but I wanted Eda to have a story wholly her own, so I went in a different direction. (Incidentally, the events in that first companion novel are still absolutely canon in my head, and there are references to it in both SEA and EARTH.) Ultimately, I wanted to give Eda a redemption arc, and at the same time explore a different branch of the world’s mythology than I did in SEA. So EARTH was born.


3) How did you ensure that it can be both a stand-alone novel and a novel that fans of the first will be excited for?

As for ensuring that EARTH would simultaneously be a successful standalone and also something fans of SEA could be excited for—time will tell if I succeeded! 😀 But seriously, I tried to focus on EARTH being a complete story in and of itself, and ended up cutting some of the more indulgent SEA references. It was definitely a balancing act. I’m so proud of how EARTH came out, and I do think the two books complement each other.


4) In Beneath the Haunting Sea, Eda is not a sympathetic character, obviously. And it is known that she traded the soul of her best friend to a God in exchange for the crown- that just adds to the despicable factor. I don’t want to spoil anything and obviously for you to spoil anything- but what was your goal with Eda as a character and her arc in this story. Those who know what she did in Beneath the Haunting Sea already go in with a bias and even those who don’t will start out with quite the disdain for her, but she is the main character.

I wanted to write a redemption story. I was honestly surprised how quickly Eda won me over as a character, how quickly I began to sympathize with her. When I first started brainstorming this book, I hated her guts and plotted an absolutely horrible ending—but the more I dug into her backstory, the more I came to realize what a lost sad scared girl she was. In a lot of ways, Eda’s journey is the inverse of Talia’s: Talia is coming from a place of disbelief in the gods, Eda is coming from a place of almost obsessive devotion. If Eda and Talia could have gotten over their predetermined ideas about each other, I really think they would have been the best of friends. Hopefully, readers will sympathize with Eda, and come to root for her along her journey, just as I did.

 

Joanna Ruth Meyer Interview


5) Who was more — I don’t want to say fun– maybe interesting or complex for you to write– Talia or Eda?

I’m going to say Eda, actually! She was a lot different than many of my main characters, and it was a great challenge writing my fierce-angry-lonely-passionate girl. I empathized with her so much, and I hope readers do, too.


6) I’ve seen a very consistent message for writers to find a process that works for them and stick to it. If they are having a hard time finding a process- and need an idea on how to go about trial and error- how did you find your process- or get started with different ones before finding the one that worked for you?

 

JM: By nature, I like lots of options, and generally prefer things to be open ended. In other words, I would LOVE to be a pantser, but in reality, if I don’t outline extensively, I write myself into a corner and then stop writing! Over the years, I’ve adopted a variation of the Snowflake Method of outlining into my writing process—this method helps you grow your ideas in an organic-feeling way, and it really helps me make a plan for my books before I dig into writing them. I end up briefly outlining every single scene, so that I always know what’s coming next. But being an impulsive person, I’m not so strict about my outlines that I force myself to stick to the plan if it’s not working by the time I get there. So there still ends up being some surprises along the way.

I’m also in the get-the-first-draft-down-as-fast-as-possible camp. It really does feel great to have a version of the story committed to paper, even if it doesn’t match the version that’s in your head yet! I’ve come to appreciate the revision process more and more—taking something less than stellar and shaping it into what it was meant to be is difficult, but so satisfying.


7) I’ve seen a very consistent message for writers to find a process that works for them and stick to it. If they are having a hard time finding a process- and need an idea on how to go about trial and error- how did you find your process- or get started with different ones before finding the one that worked for you?

By nature, I like lots of options, and generally prefer things to be open ended. In other words, I would LOVE to be a pantser, but in reality, if I don’t outline extensively, I write myself into a corner and then stop writing! Over the years, I’ve adopted a variation of the Snowflake Method of outlining into my writing process—this method helps you grow your ideas in an organic-feeling way, and it really helps me make a plan for my books before I dig into writing them. I end up briefly outlining every single scene, so that I always know what’s coming next. But being an impulsive person, I’m not so strict about my outlines that I force myself to stick to the plan if it’s not working by the time I get there. So there still ends up being some surprises along the way.

I’m also in the get-the-first-draft-down-as-fast-as-possible camp. It really does feel great to have a version of the story committed to paper, even if it doesn’t match the version that’s in your head yet! I’ve come to appreciate the revision process more and more—taking something less than stellar and shaping it into what it was meant to be is difficult, but so satisfying.


8) What books are you most looking forward to this year and/or were your favorites from last year?

I am losing-my-mind excited about RETURN OF THE THIEF, the final installment in Megan Whalen Turner’s phenomenal QUEEN’S THIEF series. Anyone who has ever talked to me about books for more than a minute knows I’m obsessed with this series!! Some faves from last year include Joan He’s DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE, Anna Bright’s THE BEHOLDER, Laura Weymouth’s TREASON OF THORNS, and Margaret Rogerson’s SORCERY OF THORNS. I also had the privilege of reading an ARC of Addie Thorley’s amazing NIGHT SPINNER, which releases in February—you don’t want to miss it!


Joanna Ruth Meyer Biography

Joanna Ruth Meyer is the author of Beneath the Haunting Sea, which Kirkus described as “epic, musical, and tender,” and Echo North, which received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Joanna hails from Mesa, Arizona, where she lives with her dear husband and son, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano named Prince Imrahil. She currently splits her time between toddler wrangling, teaching piano lessons, and writing, and her greatest obsessions are loose-leaf tea and rainstorms. One day, she aspires to own an old Victorian house with creaky wooden floors and a tower (for writing in, of course!).

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