Sunday, July 8, 2012

Help From My Friends - J.S. Chancellor

While I know I'm a few weeks behind, and apologize for it, this weeks guest is J.S. Chancellor. I originally met her through Suspense Magazine, as well as another blog, and we've been connected through Facebook ever since. She is quite talented, a seemingly tireless worker, and class act. I hope you welcome her!

What one lesson was hardest for you to swallow in the industry?

*That every common sense thing I’d ever been told about the reading public was indeed true: You can’t please everyone, you will have some readers who love your stuff and some who hate it, some people will be rude to you just to be rude, and getting published is really really really hard work because publishers and agents are, in truth, a huge part of the reading public.

What one question do you wish you would have asked your favorite novelist? If that question was asked of you right now, what would your answer be?

*I have had this question in quite a few interviews, and honestly, I don’t have an answer for it. I guess it’s telling that I don’t want to ask my favorite novelist anything. There’s something mysterious about not knowing all of the dirty secrets of the trade. A good author is like a magician—revealing all the inner workings would ruin it for me. I have my private ways, and I know that they have theirs. Knowing theirs wouldn’t necessarily make my ways any better or worse, so it becomes merely a matter of curiosity. Do I care enough about the author to want to know those idiosyncrasies?  

How do you fight the worry of being a failure?

*I don’t. I feel it up, buy it a drink, and embrace it. No but seriously, I don’t recommend focusing on it long enough to fight it. At the end of the day, to someone, somewhere, you will be a failure and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about someone else’s perception. Think about it, someone has the balls to think Stephen King is a failure. It’s all relative. Define what you consider to be realistic success and work toward that. Everything else is a waste of time that could be spent writing. 
P.S. A fetal position at the bottom of a closet, with a bottle of American Honey is also quite helpful. 

Was there an obstacle that helped you become the success you are today?

*This will be a great question to answer in about two years. I’m kind of in the middle of that huge obstacle right now—this past year (since last August) has been the most difficult and the most wonderful year of my life. I’ve lost and gained, fought and won, said goodbye and hello. My world was uprooted, causing me to move twice. Three books were released. I went back to school full time because of major financial changes. We’ll see where this all takes me in the coming months. It’s up to me to pull myself together and make a come back, regardless of the complications and emotions. 

What is the most common pitfall writers should steer-clear of?

*Not listening to their guts. The online community has made it too easy to rely on crit groups and FB friends for input on revisions and editing, and that’s not always a good thing. As a whole, writers need to learn to trust themselves. 

When does writing a good book become an obsession?

*When it stops you from appreciating the real life going on around you. Don’t ignore those closest to you. Don’t let those relationships fall apart because you refuse to make the time necessary to cultivate them. A richly lived life will only add to the depth of your writing, not take away from it. I have noticed quite a few beginning authors who have bought into the reclusive writer mentality, and I’m telling you, that leads to misery.

While there are many answers to this, and maybe no clear-cut winner, what is the best way to become a better writer and accomplished author?

*Read. Read, read, and read some more when you’re done with that. Study grammar and increase your vocabulary. As far as becoming accomplished, that’ll handle itself if you focus on the writing part. If you’re good enough, and it’s meant to happen, then it will. Don’t shut yourself off from the reading public, but don’t become so embroiled with the online community that your production level decreases. Your job is to write, period. Yes, marketing is important, but at the end of the day, five sales as opposed to two won’t make you famous or successful. Excellent writing, however, very much will. 

Would you advise getting an agent before trying to sell your book to a publisher?

*At least try to. It doesn’t hurt anyone to get the experience of sending out query letters and getting a few rejections. If all else fails, try hitting up the small and mid-sized publishers. 

How do you get ready to be creative?

*Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Candles (evergreen is a favored scent of mine). 

What was the most humbling moment of your career?

*Reading a review in which a reader stated that I made them cry. To know that my words could have that intense an impact on another human being was more than humbling. 

When you feel overwhelmed, what do you do to regain focus to meet deadlines, appearances, etc?

*I had my first signing down at a conference in Daytona, FL in 2010. I met my publishers in person for the first time and spoke to a decent sized crowd. It was wonderful. That morning, however, before the whole hoopla, was another story. I woke up with my stomach in such knots that we didn’t make it half a mile down the road before having to turn around and go back to the house for me to spend another half hour in the bathroom. It sucked. I just remember taking deep breaths and having to talk myself out of losing my shit the whole way from St. Augustine (where we were staying) to the hotel in Daytona. Eventually I calmed down enough to enjoy it all, but it definitely showed me that I’m human and therefore not immune to nerves. Long story short, feeling overwhelmed is sort of normal for me. So, I have learned to take one event and one day at a time.

Balancing work and family can always be a challenge for anyone - especially if you work full-time and write - how do you make becoming a success a top priority without losing those family values we all hold near and dear?

*Ah, this goes right along with my comment earlier. You have to make time to focus on both of those things. It’s super easy to get caught up in writing and lose track of everything else. Marketing alone can take up the majority of a good day. Set aside a time to write, to do ‘housekeeping’ stuff for your career, and make sure you set enough time aside for yourself to just detox from all the juggling. Give your family, and those you love, the best part of yourself, and I promise you that your writing will only get better for it. That probably sounds counterproductive, but psychologically speaking, your foundation is provided by those who love you. Make it strong and fill in the cracks, and you’ll have a solid place to rest your writing life.

Celebrating accomplishments is important - how do you celebrate a new contract/final revisions turned in/etc?

*Well, I had started the tradition of having a small something-or-other made every time I had a novel published (engraved necklace and zippo lighter for Son of Ereubus), but that kind of fell by the wayside with the events of this last year. The last three that were released weren’t really celebrated much. So, I suppose I should get back to that. 

In being an author, what gives you the biggest satisfaction?

*Picking up a finished manuscript and just holding it in my hands. 

Are you a social media junkie? How do you stay balanced to get the necessary writing done but also connect with your readers?

*God I used to be. I was online from dawn to dusk. I went the polar opposite direction for a long while and am just now returning to the online world. The best advice I’ve ever been given about maintaining that balance is to section out a certain amount of time for marketing/online stuff, and stick to it. After that allotted time, turn of the internet and get to writing.

Have you ever wanted to try your hand at something other than the written word, like PODcasting or other transmedia venues?

*I thought about doing PODcasts for writing and for Welcome to the Asylum, but life simply took over and I didn’t have time to fool with it. 

Everyone is aware that nothing comes for free - hard work and determination are vital to success in the publishing industry. What do you have to say to the naysayers of your past and the naysayers of someone else's present?

*To the naysayers of the past, “Ha, I told you so.” To those of someone else’s present, “Watch your words, they may come back to haunt you.”

Are there any rituals you must do regularly before you start or after you stop writing for the day?

*Not really, unless you count the coffee and candle from earlier as ritual. 

If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?

*Lord, what wouldn't I change about the industry. I’d make it so that writers could actually earn a decent living. We’re in a transition period right now, with the digital age of Ebooks, etc. Until we figure all this out, writing for a living is going to be a tough endeavor. But, we love it, so it makes it all worth while. 

Many thanks to J.S. for coming by and sharing her experiences. I hope that you've gained some new knowledge from it and would love to see some great discussion from what she has said. Continued success to you, Ms. Chancellor!


J.S. Chancellor, whose personal motto is, “woe is the writer who mounts their merit on the masses,” started writing stories when she was still in grade school, and finished her first fantasy novella at the age of 14. She drafted chapter one of the Guardians of Legend trilogy when she was a freshman in high school, sitting on a stool in front of a piano bench, in her parents’ den. It wasn’t until she was 25 when a resident at the apartment complex where she worked lovingly made a casual remark about her procrastination that her passion for fantasy fiction took center stage. Since then she’s focused all of her efforts on writing, to include leaving her full time job in September 2009 and actively maintaining a blog dedicated to the art of crafting fiction. She currently resides in Georgia with her two beloved dogs.

She can be reached at jschancellor (at), and her website, as well as