Interview with C.L. Schneider
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started writing?
How did I get started writing? You can blame books on that one. I was a huge reader and an early reader. But, honestly, it feels like I have always been writing. I can remember being very young and rewriting the scripts for my favorite TV shows because I didn’t like how the story was evolving or what the writers were doing with the characters. Sometime I would write commercials or fake news reports and make my poor family sit down and pretend to be my audience. I wrote poems and started more short stories than I can count. It was rare when I read a book I couldn’t finish, but at sixteen, I had a streak where I picked up and put down several book in a row that weren’t cutting it. I thought I could write a book at least that good, so that’s what I did. I spent the rest of that summer on the draft of my first full length novel; a post-apocalyptic monstrosity entitled A Twist of Fate. Looking back now, I’m fairly certain it was no better than those books I couldn’t finish. But, was the start of something. Twist of Fate set me on my path, and one of these days I’m going to pull that monster out of the box in my closet and give it the shine it deserves.
What do I do when I’m not writing?
That’s an easy one. I’m always writing! If it isn’t on my laptop, or on paper, it’s in my head. Occasionally, it’s on a napkin in a restaurant. The rest of my day is spent letting the dog and cat in and out, and ignoring the laundry.
What is the one thing that would surprise us?
I’m not sure if it’s surprising, but it’s something not many people know.
There was a time in high school when I seriously considered a career in special effects make-up. Since I was a young child I’ve been fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes in a theatrical production. As part of the drama club in school, I worked on the stage crew, building the scenery, creating props, putting together the costumes. I even choreographed a musical once. But what truly fascinated me were the creatures and characters created for fantasy, sci-fi, and horror movies. I wanted badly to be a part of that world and to create my own fantastical creatures. For several years I read everything I could find on the subject. I looked into schools and even narrowed down my choices. But, life had other plans for me. Now, I create my creatures with words—and binge watch Face-Off every chance I get.
Is this your first book?
I have a closet full of unpublished works (some completed, some not), but The Crown of Stones: Magic-Price was my first published novel. The second book in the trilogy, Magic-Scars released earlier this year.
What genre is it and what is it about?
The Crown of Stones trilogy is adult, epic fantasy. It follows the trial of Ian Troy, a man born with a crippling addiction to magic. As Ian struggles with his addiction, he faces enemies, old and new, in an attempt to unravel the secrets of The Crown of Stones and unite the realms.
What inspired you to write this book?
The Crown of Stones trilogy was mostly inspired by the character of Ian Troy. I believe the most interesting characters are flawed. The more flawed, the more real they feel to me. Super Heroes are great. Yet, I’m more interested in what’s behind the mask. How much muck were they dragged through before they became super? When I created Ian I did a very lengthy profile. I wanted my story to revolve around magic, so I made magic (what should be his greatest strength) his greatest flaw. I added in a few traits inspired by some of my favorite books from childhood, and the story evolved from there.
How did you come up with the title?
I had this gorgeous piece of amethyst sitting on my bookshelf for years. I always wanted to work it into a story. So when I created the character of Ian and his magic, the original title of the book was The Amethyst Crown. But as my magic system evolved, so did the crown and the title.
Tell us a little bit about the cover art?
The covers for both Crown of Stones books were done by Alan Dingman. Alan is a personal friend of mine as well as an incredibly talented local artist. When I decided to self-publish I looked first at the covers CreateSpace was offering. They were all well done, but none of them could live up to the image in my head. The cover of Magic Price has been bouncing around in there for a long time. I couldn’t compromise. Working at Simon & Schuster as well as having his own portrait business; I knew Alan was a busy man. I approached him about taking on the work as a side job and, thankfully, he jumped at the chance. The way he can pull an image out of my head, and enhance it with his own flair, amazes me.
I believe if a cover I done right, an author can convey so much to potential readers. With both Magic-Price and Magic-Scar, I wanted to convey the tone of the book as well as provide a glimpse into a pivotal moment in the main character’s life. I’m very picky. Every detail has to be just right. Alan is very patient. Though I wouldn’t doubt he’s sick of me by the time the project is done!
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
People ask me that all the time, and I find it such a hard question. The characters are all so unique to me. I find it hard to squeeze them into the mold of someone else’s body and features. It is fun, though to see my characters through other people’s imagination. Some readers have come up with great suggestion for actors to play in a Crown of Stones movie. Have a look: The Imagine Film List | Magic-Price (The Crown of Stones Series)
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Different writers have inspired me at different times in my life. Some whose titles I have devoured over the years (in no particular order) are: H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Margaret Mitchell, Emily Bronte, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jennifer Roberson, C. J. Cherryh, Stephen King, Andre Norton, Ray Bradbury, Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, and Mary Shelley.
What does your writing process look like?
Almost every book I’ve ever written has started on paper. I love a blank page. But a blank screen…not so much. My drafts are a messy vomiting of ideas, half of which don’t make it between the lines. I call it my skeleton. The story is usually coming to me fast and furious at this point so it’ also easier to carry around a notebook rather than the laptop. When I have enough down to start really working with, I head to my laptop and put the meat on the bones. I usually go back and forth a couple of times from notebook to computer. I don’t write linear at this stage. I write whatever scenes I see most clearly in my head. Later, I marry them together on the computer. Once the draft is done I start revising. After the first revision I start sending some to my beta readers. The second and third revisions are my favorite. By this time the story has really come together, and I can start adding in all the nuances and massaging sentences and paragraphs, making sure they have the proper rhythm and flow. By the time I start obsessing over a fourth revision, is when my editor steps in and pries it from my hands.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read my reviews, every single one of them. I know some authors who have sworn off reading their reviews, but in the beginning I don’t think most can probably help it. At least I couldn’t. I distinctly remember the shock at my first five star and the tears at my first one star. I thought I was prepared for the praise a much as the candor, but it takes some getting used to. Your blood is on those pages. It’s never easy to hear someone bash not only their content, but you as a writer. But, it gets easier. You learn what is really constructive and what to ignore, and if you’re lucky, the good outweigh the bad.
I read a quote once by Tibor Kalman: “When you make something no one hates, no one loves it.” Those words helped me immensely when it comes to dealing with reviews. I still say them to myself from time to time. They remind of the diversity of human taste and how you really can’t please everyone. All you can do is be true to the story that’s in you, and tell it. That being said, if enough reviews highlight the same issues or potential problems with your work, it might be time to take a look at it.
As far as responding to reviews, I may thank the reviewer on social media for reading, or for their kind comments. I think that’s only polite. But, in my opinion, engaging someone who wrote a bad review is never a good idea. People are entitled to their own views, no matter how you might not agree with them. Not to mention, there is too much emotion wrapped up in your work. You’re for more likely to answer with your heart than your head and make things worse. Read them and move on. Resistance is not futile!
What is your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
My favorite costume is when I went to a party a couple of years ago dressed as a female version of Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. I had the crossbow, the ear necklace, the red handkerchief, the knife. I even attached the angel wings to my vest. It was as much fun to put together as it was to wear.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on Magic-Borne, the final book in The Crown of Stones trilogy. It’s heading off to my editor in September so I’m scrambling to be sure it’s exactly how I want it first. I’m finding it very bittersweet. These characters have been a part of my life for so long. There is so much to wrap up and touch on, I want to make sure Ian and his friends get the proper send off.
I recently started work on my next book, which centers on the story of a half dragon woman who flees her world to seek sanctuary in ours. I have two hundred pages of a draft done. I wrote it about a year ago, but my idea has expanded quite a bit since then. I reworked the plot just last week, so I’m unsure yet how much of the draft I’m going to keep.
I’m also in the beginning stages of co-writing the first book in a Viking-themed epic fantasy trilogy with fellow author Jeremy Swiger. We have some draft finished, the first book plotted out and a loose plot for books two and three. So I have a lot to keep me busy.
What genre do you enjoy writing the most and why?
I think this one is pretty obvious. Fantasy, of course! I love fantasy in all its forms and offshoots. To me, fantasy is endless possibility. I’m not sure a writer can’t ask for much more than that.
What do you wear while writing?
Since I squeeze it in during every free moment I have, especially in the summer when the kids are home, I write with whatever I have on. But what do I prefer to write in? My PJs. Or my yoga pants. For marathon writing sessions I want anything comfortable, where I’m free to pile in the chocolate and not feel the pounds creeping on.
Do you have a pet or pets?
Yes, we have pets. Unfortunately, our Beta fish, Happy and Bro, died recently. But, we still have Skittles the cat, who spends her days trying to figure out how to sleep on my laptop while I’m writing, and her nights plotting on how best to off the dog. As you can see below, she also does a bit of zombie modeling for her immature owners.
Woodstock, (otherwise known as Woody, Woodrow, or Drop It) is our 70+ pound, 1 ½ year old lap dog. Despite repeated attempts on his life, he still believes Skittles is his best friend.
What is your favorite snack food?
Is coffee a snack food? If not, I would have to say chocolate covered pretzels (chocolate covered anything, really) or chips and salsa. Do not leave a bowl of either in front of me. It will likely be empty by the time you come back.
Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I would love to meet Amelia Earhart. She was the first woman aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic. We were born in the same small Kansas town, and I’ve always found her quotes inspiriting. Amelia Earhart was bold and gutsy, and didn’t listen to the naysayers. She believed in herself. I admire her fearlessness.