21 Questions with an Aspiring Author

Mallory Snow is an aspiring author from Arizona and the face behind StorieStorm.com. She’s written two novels and looks forward to having them published. This interview was conducted via instant message on March 26th 2011.

When and why did you begin writing?

That’s a tough one. I think for most writers it’s hard to really pinpoint a particular time or reason. It’s sort of one of those things that starts with a school project that sparks something we never expected. For me, I remember a writing contest when I was in middle school about the “Sounds of Mars.” I always tried to do something different so I translated those sounds to colors. I didn’t win, of course, but I think that was my first taste of what it felt like to think outside the box.

On your website you categorize yourself as a general fiction/women’s fiction writer. Why are you drawn to those genres?

It’s funny you should ask me that because I change that so frequently! Categorizing yourself is contradictory to being a writer because by definition, writers like to color outside the lines, so to speak. But we’re told over and over to decide where our books will be placed on the shelves of the local bookstore. I often write for women because I feel particularly drawn to the female spirit and things women accomplish in their lives from battling typical female roles to bearing children to being the center of the home but also an individual. I also really appreciate the way women connect with the world and the ones they love.

I noticed in your posts that you mention having a baby. How do you work around the hectic schedule of being a mother? Do you have any tips for other busy writers?

For me, it’s all about being on a schedule. Which, as any mother can tell you, is difficult. There are many days when things don’t work out in my favor but on the days that it does, I take full advantage of nap time. All the things I can do while the baby is awake, I do first. And then, when she’s finally in her crib, I drop everything and run to the computer. I also have a wonderful husband who knows how important my writing is to me and I’m forever thankful for that. So that’s my advice to other mommy writers: plan your writing schedule around your baby’s schedule and ask for help, whether it’s from your significant other, your mother or a friend.

You list Gowan Cabin as your first novel. What inspired you to write Gowan Cabin?

Actually, I was inspired to write Gowan Cabin by none other than the show The Bachelorette. I’d been watching the show for a few seasons by that time and I began to notice a pattern. The three men (or women on the The Bachelor) were always different from each other yet they fit the same mold every time. There was the “good” choice. The sweet, loving one that’s good with her mom. There’s the “bad” guy that is usually the most controversial one in the house yet makes The Bachelorette feel so special, she tries so hard to believe it might work. And then, the fun guy. The one that isn’t quite right but he makes her feel like herself and makes her laugh. My premise for Gowan Cabin was that women have to go through certain types of men before they can appreciate the good guy as I’ve known to be true from my own experiences and those of my friends.

Did you learn anything from writing your first novel and what was it?

I did. I learned a lot from writing my first novel. First, and most importantly, that I could write a novel. There’s such a huge leap from writing short stories that are anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 words to jumping into a 100,000 word project. It’s a huge commitment and if you haven’t done it before, it can be like climbing Mount Everest. Sure, many people have done it before you but until you do it yourself, it’s hard to believe it’s possible. I also learned a lot about character development. In short stories, there’s only so many sides of a character you have time to show. In a novel, the characters become real to the writer and the reader so we all become so much more invested in them.

What was the hardest part of writing your novels?

I think most people would expect me to say making the commitment. Finding the time. But it was so important to me to finish them, I made the time whether I had it or not. I finished my first one in five months and my second in four. The hardest part for me, really, was learning to trust myself. It’s easy to doubt myself along the way–whether what I’m trying to say is clear, whether that was the right word choice, whether the story is going in the right direction–but at some point (the point where I kept getting stuck) I just had to let go and trust that I knew my story well enough to tell it. When I finally did that, it all became so much easier. And fun!

How are you like the main character in your latest novel?

In some ways we’re nothing alike but in some ways, it’s only inevitable that parts of me will creep in. Avery and I share many similar views on marriage. We both value marriage and can be somewhat idealistic about it. I think by the end of the novel she begins to understand that successful marriages come in all shapes and sizes and the struggles she faces doesn’t make her marriage any less real nor her love for her husband any less deep.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Yes! Of course! I don’t think it’s possible to write for as long as I have and not experience it now and then. It usually comes on when I’m too much in my own head and I forget to let my heart tell the story.

What are your writing current projects?

I’m currently finishing up a fictional blog called The Stretch Mark Club about the struggles of three women as they navigate new motherhood. I’ll be posting them on my website in April.

Tell us more about The Stretch Mark Club.

The Stretch Mark Club was, of course, inspired by becoming a mother myself. There’s such a huge shift in a woman when she gives birth to a child and I think many of us struggle to find the balance between giving up so much of ourselves for our child but also keeping some of ourselves for us. And it all starts with the changes in our body! Any woman who makes it out of pregnancy without a single stretch mark is a very lucky woman! I wasn’t so lucky and it was difficult to accept that I would never have a younger woman’s body again but as I began to understand how much worth there was in my sacrifices, I wanted to reach out to other mothers to share that experience. Shea, Riley and Jasmine all deal with the common struggles of early motherhood–lack of sleep, nursing woes, returning to work–but they learn to laugh about it.

What books have influenced your life most?

I’ve said this many times before but I can’t answer this question without mentioning The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The writing is so inspiring to me. Not only did the author come up with such a unique way to portray the power of true love, she wrote it so eloquently. And the honesty of her writing has inspired me over and over again. I also recently finished Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and never have I felt so creative while reading a book. I think I spent as much time writing down ideas as I did reading!

What book are you reading now?

Emma by Jane Austen. A lot of people don’t know this about me but I collect Jane Austen books. I have about 40 now, my favorite of which, is a copy of Mansfield Park from approximately 1907. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I think all writers can learn a lot from J.K. Rowling. Her commitment to her characters, the story and her readers is what has made her such a huge success. I always say a great writer writes without words and what I mean by that is when you’ve done your job right, the reader is so lost in your story, they no longer see the words. Rowling does this. I’ve read her books over and over again and I get lost in her world each and every time. Her writing is timeless.

What do you think makes a good story?

The characters. If the characters are whole and real to the reader, they’ll follow them no matter where they go.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

You mean in my free time? What free time? Actually, like any other writer, I love to read. If I could take a week vacation I would bury myself under a pile of books and read my way out.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

It changed every other week! The one I came back to most often, though, was singing. I wanted to be the next Britney Spears.

Do you see writing as a potential career?

I envision myself being published one day but not because I want to make it a career in the typical sense, but because I love my stories so much I want to share them.

Tell us about StorieStorm.com

I started StorieStorm.com almost three years ago. The writing journey is fun but challenging at times and I found it therapeutic to share my experiences. I never expected more than my close friends to read it but when other writers began to share their struggles with me, it became so much more. Now, in addition to blogging about my writing challenges and accomplishments, I also try to share the things I learn about writing along the way. The writing community is such a loving and supportive community and I really enjoy being a part of it.

I noticed that on your website you launched a new feature called WriterDesign. Share with us what WriterDesign is all about.

I’ve been a web designer for about six years now, first just for myself and in recent years as a freelancer. It seemed to me that a lot of writers wanted to improve the look of their writing websites, especially those seeking publication, but they didn’t have the time. They’re all writing after all! With my experience, I knew I could give them some shortcuts to creating a professional looking website without all the effort. I’ve had a lot of great feedback so far.

What are your goals as your continue your journey as a writer?

In the near future, I’m focusing on becoming a better self-editor. I’ve spent a lot of time so far focusing on getting the words on the page and now I really want to learn to make those words sing. In the grand scheme of things, though, if I make one person look at something in a different way (well worded or not) I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something really incredible.

Before we let you go, do you have any advice for other writers?

If writing is what you love, make it an important part of your life. No one will ever hand you a block of time for writing nor can anyone validate your passion for you. You have to accept that writing is a part of who you are, no matter if anyone else thinks it’s important and then you have to make the time. Make your life’s passion a priority.