Breaking the Rules with Anne Wheeler
This is our third interview with AfterWords and I've really enjoyed getting to meet all these authors. This week, we get a fun AfterWord from Anne Wheeler. Anne Wheeler grew up with her nose in a book but earned two degrees in aviation before it occurred to her she was allowed to write her own. Fascinated with space travel from an early age, science fiction was a natural fit. When not working, moving, or writing her next novel, she can be found planning her next escape to the desert. A military spouse, she lives in Georgia with her husband, son, and herd of cats. Asrian Skies is her first novel.
What inspires you and/or why do you write?
Because I have stories to tell and a God-given desire to share them with others. It sounds simplistic, but that’s the best explanation I have. I hope one day they’ll touch someone’s heart, but if they don’t, I’ll settle for entertaining readers.
Tell me about Asrian Skies!
Asrian Skies was a happy accident. I’d never written fiction, had never even considered writing fiction, but one day I had the random idea to write a book…so I sat down and wrote one. It took 15 months of revising, learning about self-publishing, and dealing with my self-confidence issues (I had NO idea how scary it would be to put my words out there), but eventually, I had a finished book that I loved—and hoped others would, too.
And I was hooked. When I started, it was meant to be a standalone novel, but a year and a half after I wrote the first word of Asrian Skies, I have a completed sequel (awaiting editing), a published short story, and two more short stories waiting on the right time to release. It’s been an absolute blast, and I can’t wait to see where my characters take me next.
Where'd the inspiration for Asrian Skies come from?
I read a lot of spy novels as a kid (don’t ask me why), so Asrian Skies is kind of a weird combination of Cold War espionage and the space opera I’ve loved since I saw Star Wars for the first time. It began with just an idea—a princess becomes a spy—and I discovered the story from there.
Describe your process as best you can:
I just sit down and write. Once I get a quick first draft done (and those are usually pretty short—around 50K words), I go back and add worldbuilding and character details, make sure the plot points are there and check that the overall plot makes sense. I spend a few months on a first draft and about a year revising. In short, my writing process is pretty much backward.
What is your favorite tool or resource? (Like Scrivener, Grammarly, a blog, etc?)
The Emotion Thesaurus and its companion books. Love them.
Biggest challenge for you, and how have you overcome it? (Or how are you working to overcome it!)
Self-confidence! It’s hard being a new writer who writes in a niche genre. I’ll be honest…I’m still working to overcome it. It takes a supportive critique partner and lots of nice comments from readers.
Any other advice for authors, based on your unique experience?
Don’t listen to the rules. Read all the advice, yes, then take what works for you and ignore the rest (99% doesn’t work for the way I live and write).
I love that advice! I feel like it's pretty common in contemporary circles to hold to certain dogmas about writing. A blog post will go viral or a new eBook and suddenly everyone is constantly saying "This is the way you have to do it." Classics and even great works from a couple decades ago broke rules all the time–and were better for it. What are some of your favorite rules to break?
Adverbs! I love them, both in my writing and in the books I like to read. Done properly, they don’t draw attention to themselves—they just make your prose more concise. Same with show vs. tell. I don’t want to read an entire book where the writer shows us every little detail. It bogs down the story! Both showing and telling are great ways to vary pacing and keep the reader engaged. And narrative distance—I like to vary it, too. Typically I write in fairly close third person, but that’s pretty boring and can veer into melodrama if the entire book’s written that way. It’s totally ok to draw back and have the narrator speak a little more distantly when necessary. At one point in Asrian Skies, I actually break the third person POV completely for effect. Basically, it’s ok to break most any writing rule if you do it deliberately and know why you’re doing it.
I loved this interview. Anne and I are kindred spirits in rule-breaking. I feel like they're more suggestions anyway, right? As long as you know why you're doing it and you aren't just flippantly discarding the rules, they can be a lot of fun to break.
Asrian Skies is available on Amazon in print and eBook formats. Check out Anne's author page on Amazon for more works by clicking here.