Hello, my name is Cassandra Sky West I have been creating worlds and telling stories since I was 12 years old and now I get paid for it. I have had the privilege of joining a fine group of authors who are published by Kindle Press (which is where I met my host Jim Jackson). [Ed. Note: Cassandra answered more than 10 questions, but what the heck, today’s her book’s birthday, so let’s all help her celebrate!]
You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?
Boy did you ask the right person! If the Enterprise beamed me up with three friends and said, “We’ll take you anywhere you want.” The place I would most want to go would be the Enterprise! I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. Why would I? The three people I would take with me would be my spouse and our two children.
What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?
I have this process with music and it is two part. First, every protagonist has a theme song. Almost like if they were in a TV show. For Alexi, it is Tear in my Heart by 21 Pilots. I listen to it first thing before I start writing. I listen with my eyes closed and I try to think about the character and why I like them. The rest of the morning it is instrumental. Some Piano Guys, Star Trek movie soundtracks (told you I’m a Trekkie), and anything by Hans Zimmer. I would listen to him if he conducted a recorder! I don’t really have separate playlists for different kinds of scenes. I’m a pantser, which means there could be a fight scene or a really dramatic moment at any given time. It would take to much and break my rhythm if I tabbed out of Scriv to change tracks.
What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?
I don’t normally read novella’s but I stumbled across one called The Ember Isle by Ashley Capes. It is part of a series called The Book of Never. Which is an awesome name for a protagonist. I wish I had thought of it! It is tons of fun.
Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?
I’m definitely a pantser. That’s not to say that I don’t plot, I think everybody does to some degree. For me, I think about what I want the book to feel like and what I want the main characters to be like. Once I have it down I start writing. After a couple of thousand words, I’ll know if I’m going in the right way. I go for a walk every morning and I think about what I want to write. Once I get back I’ve got a great idea of what to do.
When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?
I don’t think I have ever not finished a book in my life. I can’t imagine putting a book down.
Name three not-well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.
Ashley Capes. He’s fantastic. His worlds are really unique. I feel like he’s Brandon Sanderson ten years ago. If the universe is fair, he’s going to be huge.
Colleen Vanderlinden. She was writing fantasy then switched to superheroes and I love her series Strikeforce. Her hero is totally my kind of bad-ass. She’s smart and creative and she worked hard to be where she is.
Debbie Cassidy. This one is kind of cheating. She’s a fellow Kindle Press author and I only discovered her work because we share a publisher. I read her book, Forest of Demons and fell in love. Her fantasy comes from a Hindi background and I feel like it is a breath of fresh air.
Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?
Yes. I shouldn’t because the first one star is going to have me in the fetal position. However, there are thousands (hopefully) of readers. They will spot problems and threads I might miss. I have to read them.
When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?
More, way more. I usually add five to ten thousand to the draft. Usually, I find scenes I didn’t describe enough or interactions which need more dialogue.
How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?
I read allot. I am also a massive movie buff. Sometimes I will see something really cool, then imagine it going off in another direction. Alexi started with the idea of a vampire who didn’t want to be one. What would that person be like? What would they do? How would they live?
What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?
I make my share of mistakes so I try to be forgiving. Having said that, if you ax me a question I am liable to hit you with an ax.
Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.
It’s hard to narrow it down to just three because I feel like I’ve gotten inspiration from every author I’ve ever read. However, the three I think that our most crucial to my idea of what urban fantasy is would start with Patricia Briggs. She writes the Mercy Thompson Series which is awesome and her character is awesome and even though she writes first person (I write third) I still think that I’m drawing heavily from her influence. She is so unique and new in urban fantasy with the whole skinwalker stuff it really made me feel like I could write anything.
I don’t think you can write urban fantasy without reading Laura K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. It’s a fantastic series with a terrific protagonist. While I did leave the series after book four, it wasn’t because it was poorly written. I was just disappointed with the choices her main character started to make. The world she created for Anita is amazing and really helped me with the idea of supernatural creatures in the modern world.
Finally, Harry Harrison. I know what you’re saying, he writes humorous science fiction. Slippery Jim Degriz is my favorite protagonist of all time, hands down. The Stainless Steel Rat is why I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life.
What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?
There are so many talented writers in the world who give advice I feel a little under qualified. Having said that, here is my advice. You have to write every day seven days a week. Sit down and write. Nothing ever happened from wishing it was so. If you can’t sit down and write every day, then this will never be anything more than a hobby.
Writing With the Dawn has been an incredible journey. There were times I thought I would never get here. I still can’t believe I have. You can read more about me and my process at www.cassandraskywest.com, follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/cassandraskywest or email me at (you guessed it) firstname.lastname@example.org. If you sign up for my mailing list you will receive a free story called, By Silver Light. With the Dawn is available at Amazon.com today!
Here’s a quick blurb for With the Dawn:
Alexi Creed needs to know who murdered her, and why. When she wakes up with no memory of her previous life, the only clue she has is a sudden, undeniable thirst for human blood. She finds allies in a mysterious witch with an enigmatic warning of the future and a brooding werewolf in search of redemption. Together they must fight malevolent vampires, agents of the Arcanum, and the forces of darkness if she is going to uncover her past and save the world from a night that will never end.