I've had the privilege of interviewing several friends from the writing community this month as they trek down the writer-to-author path. It can be a difficult one, and sadly, many writers give up. To add another challenge, none of these writers (or myself) write full-time! But these past few weeks have been such a great reminder of what it takes, and how anyone who wishes to learn can be successful at this.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tauri Cox this week. We met through the vast universe that is Twitter, finding cozy pockets of writers who give great advice and support. Tauri actually published a review for my debut novel, False River, and it's always a joy getting to chat with her.
Meet Tauri Cox
Do you write under a different name?
What's your full-time job?
I run North American public relations for a cybersecurity company based out of France. I am extremely lucky in that I get to use my skill of writing on a daily basis. And I get to work from home a few days a week! I also do all the digital marketing and social media for my family company.
Whoa, that sounds like important work! What was your major in college?
I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English, plus minors in Psychology and Rhetoric. The English degree is sort of a given, but I was surprised how much I loved my psych class and how much it impacted my writing. Being able to understand how people’s minds work was a huge benefit for character development. And rhetoric gives a more persuasive air to my writing - personal and professional!
I was a psych major myself, and it has definitely influenced by writing career. What other hats do you wear?
I'm not married or a mom, but I have a giant German Shepherd mix who is basically a small child. In addition to my full time job and life as an author, I’m a blogger, discussing the wonderful world of books and lessons I’ve learned throughout the writing process. I’m also an intern for Entangled publishing!
SO many hats! And yet as a writer, you still find time to read and get inspired. What's the latest book you read?
I just finished Honeymoon by James Patterson, which I read for his Master Class. I am currently reading The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. YA Fantasy is my JAM!
No way! I'm also taking that same Master Class, I have Honeymoon sitting on my desk and picked up The Cruel Prince from the library today. But I know our WIPs are different in really cool ways. Talk about your latest work-in-progress:
So I just recently finished revising my second novel - 700 Main - which is about my family’s experience with a haunted house in small-town Texas. Now I am working on a YA/NA urban fantasy novel set in New Orleans and revolving around black magic and voodoo.
My process generally begins as any author’s does. I get an idea, and it becomes an obsession. With this new WIP, I was lucky enough to get to travel to New Orleans for research. Next comes characters. Lots of writers like to start with plot, but I like to at least have an idea about who I am working with. Then I can craft a plot revolving around both their strengths and personality PLUS what would torture them most.
My first novel took two years to write the first draft, and my second took six weeks. For me, it totally depends on the idea and the amount of research/outlining involved. I am excited to see where this one takes me!
Six weeks?! You must have a kickass writing routine. What's that like?
My space is SMALL - a tiny corner of my bedroom - but I am hoping to move into something bigger soon. I am a huge planner so I need plenty of room to outline with note cards, corkboards and binders.
At this stage, I try to spend an hour each day on planning, research, etc. But when I start drafting, I try to write 1,250 words each day. The key word being “try”. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Sometimes it’s nothing! But the key for me is ending one day when I know what is coming next. It seems to help avoid writer’s block.
Have you sent out any query letters? What are your thoughts on that?
Oh querying… What a process. For my first novel, I queried close to 100 agents and was astounded to get fifteen full requests. That’s pretty rare! Of course, they all ended up as rejections which was maddening.
I had a very similar experience with my second, although this time I queried about fifty. I’ve had about eleven full requests, and some are still out there under consideration. Crossing my fingers, toes and eyes!
That's amazing! Congrats! Sending out queries and fulls can feel like a full-time job in itself. How do you find time to pursue something you aren't financially benefiting from?
I am not going to lie to you and say it’s easy. Some days, the last thing I want to do is write. But when I go too long, I start to lose it a little bit. My brain feels like it’s rotting, I become listless and unsatisfied. The second I start working on something again, I am simply happy and more fulfilled. So while the end goal is to be published, I try to continually remind myself that I am really doing this for me. Because quite frankly, I can’t imagine not writing.
How do you handle rejection from agents or publishers?
With a bottle of wine, a crying phone call to my mom and critique partner, and a Papa John’s pizza. It sucks, and it’s totally okay to mourn and be said. But you can’t let it discourage you to the point of giving up.
I wrote an incredibly honest blog post last year with some real rejections I’ve received. The first thing I felt was obviously the crushing disappointment, and I wallowed in that for a while. But then I forced myself to go back, soak in the glowing praise AND the actionable revision ideas that also typically include revision. That’s where the real gold is.
Such great advice for new and seasoned writers. Rejections hurt no matter what, but I like your plan: pizza and wine ;) What advice to you have for other writers?
So there are some really obvious pieces of advice like “don’t give up” and “keep writing.” I am not going to reiterate those, true as they may be. For me, it’s reminding myself the WHY of writing. Sure, the end goal is to publish and be a bestseller. But WHY do I want that? Because I want to change lives. I want someone to read my book and feel empowered to leave an abusive marriage, to say I love you, to seize the day and go skydiving. Thinking about that why is ten times more likely to get me out of bed and to the computer than just thinking about the end result of being a published author.
Also, one of the biggest pieces of feedback I’ve received from agents is that my stories aren’t big enough, that I am holding myself. Putting your best effort out on the line is terrifying. But you won’t get anywhere if you don’t. So my goal for this new WIP is to write BIG and BRAVE and to unleash my talent and imagination. Here’s hoping it works!
Lastly, (and stealing this one from Hemingway): Write drunk, edit sober.
Ah! There's a poster of that saying hanging over my writing desk. Mostly as a reminder to not edit drunk, haha. Anything else you want us to know about you as a writer?
Hmm let’s see. Favorite writing beverage is tea (wine if it’s at night). Gotta have a candle burning and fuzzy socks on. Pandora’s “Classical Music for Studying” is great for editing, but music full of emotion is great for writing. Hogwarts house is Ravenclaw, MBTI is INFJ.
I'm prettyyyy sure we're the same person. It's been such a pleasure taking a peek behind the curtain. As a fellow INFJ, thanks for sharing with us and good luck in your writing career!
**If you're a writer on the path to publication, I'd love to hear from you! Contact me to be a part of the Writer's Desk blog series**