LitU’s resident interview guy, Steven Novak recently sat down with author Nina Perez to discuss the release of her novel The Twin Prophecies: Rebirth. Not surprisingly the conversation turned to True Blood, Twilight, poo-filled trash cans, big girl panties.
This is one you don’t want to miss.
LITU: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is it exactly that makes Nina Perez tick?
NINA PEREZ: I’m a wife, mother, writer, blogger, and professional TV watcher. I don’t like leaving the house and for the most part, people annoy me. Well, real people. Fictional folk and I get along juuust fine.
LITU: All fictional characters? Even Lucy Wagner (For those of you unaware that’s Britney Spears’ character from Crossroads.)
NINA PEREZ: You know what really disturbs me about that question? You didn’t even Google that. I bet you knew her character’s name all along. Frightening. Very frightening.
LIT U: Don’t judge me. Don’t you dare judge me. Back to the topic at hand. How did you get started with writing?
NINA PEREZ: I think I’m a late bloomer. I hear a lot of writers say they’ve been writing since they came out the womb. I started in my teens. The first time I thought I might actually have some writing talent was when I was about 17 and my Dad found the first two pages of a story I’d written about a serial killer. I’d accidentally left it in his car. I remember he told me how confused he was because he wondered why I was walking around with the first few pages of a book typed out on printer paper. He didn’t realize I’d written it until I told him, and I was so proud of how impressed he looked.
After that, life got in the way. I’d start so many projects, but never finish them. Writing took a backseat to working, school, marriage and motherhood. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I decided to pursue it seriously and make it my business to finish what I started.
LITU: Where did the idea for The Twin Prophecies come from?
NINA PEREZ: I’d had this crazy dream that led me to an idea about a journalist who discovers she intimately knows a serial killer. I started doing all of this research and began writing an outline for that novel when my daughter (Kali, 11) asked, “How come you never write anything I can read?” So I asked, “What would you like to read?” She gave me the scene that later closes the first chapter of Rebirth. But from that one scene, I kept thinking, “What if…” The ideas just kept coming.
I’d be sitting on the sofa playing Halo with my husband, Donny, and I’d stop to write notes and ideas for this book. I couldn’t stop! Pretty soon I realized that I had too much material for one book and that it would probably be a series.
LITU: How did you get hooked up with the fine people over at LitU?
NINA PEREZ: As raggedy as that place is now, I have to give Myspace credit for putting some awesome people in my life. Because of the popularity my blog enjoyed there, I made great friends who were both readers and fellow bloggers. That’s how I met you, (Steven Novak) dork. When I saw what you were doing with the LitU on Facebook, I was hoping to be asked to participate, but my book was nowhere near being finished or good enough.
LITU: Shut up. You knew we’d come calling. Self-publishing, is it pretty much a big pain in the patoot, right? What has the process been like so far?
NINA PEREZ: It’s hard, but I get off on stuff like this. If I say I’m going to do something on Monday morning, by Monday night I have lists and spreadsheets on the project and I’ve already sent out two dozen emails trying to make it happen. Once I gave up the idea that querying literary agents and getting rejected made me a legitimate writer, and actually listened to what some of my friends who were independent authors had to say about the process, I knew it was the right move for me.
The world is changing and the way people receive their information and entertainment is a huge part of that. I like having the control over how this book is conceived, born, and shared. Of course, this means that I’m completely responsible for EVERYTHING including marketing, but I’m okay with that. Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but I love that this book’s success or failure is in my hands.
A lot of people turn up their noses at independent publishing, but I think the assumption is that the product will be crap. I think there are a lot of us out there taking great care and effort to ensure the books are the best they can be before release. We’re taking the time to make sure they’re edited and formatted properly. We’re collaborating with talented artists – like you – to ensure the covers are quality.
The hardest part is also the most fun (so far): figuring out the best way to get the book in as many hands as possible. I find I’m up late almost every night thinking of how much time and money it’s going to take to market this book. I believe in the book and the series so I’m willing to do whatever it takes. Independent publishing works for me because I don’t know anyone that will work as hard on my behalf as me.
LITU: What advice do you have for aspiring writers out there?
1. Keep writing – I wasted a lot of years not writing. I don’t regret the things I did instead (raising a family, going to school, marrying my amazing husband, etc.), but I wish I knew then that I could truly have and do it all. I’d be an even better writer if I had just consistently put in the time.
2. Learn to take feedback – This was a big issue for me. You have to be able to take a step back and see where criticism may improve your story. Also, you have to learn to trust your own style/voice and defend it. It’s a tough balance. I got a lot of feedback from trusted authors/editors (more on that in a bit) as Rebirth was being polished and though I think I took a bit of advice from each of them, I didn’t immediately take every suggestion by every one of them.
3. Read – I devour books. I’m always on the lookout for new books and I pay attention to what others are reading on sites like Goodreads.com. Reading helps you see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll find good examples of how to create tension, pace dialogue, etc. Then, hopefully, you’ll be able to duplicate that in your own style, telling your own stories.
4. Surround yourself with other talent – I have a super network of writers, editors, and artists. I think that is extremely helpful, but especially so if you’re going the independent route. Having trusted professionals that can help you with edits and feedback for free or at a discount is awesome.
LITU: Earning what I like to call your criticism callus can take time. Was there something specific that hardened you up?
NINA PEREZ: I think it was finally having pieces of work that I thought deserved better than my ego getting in the way. Also, like you said, time. After ten years, you realize that not everyone is going to love everything you write, the way you write it. I think as long as the criticism is coming from a good place and a place of authority (fellow writers who know the ropes and avid readers that know what they like and what works), then you’d be a fool not to just put on your big girl panties and find the value in what they say. Again, you also have to know when their advice is subjective and not right for your particular story. It’s tricky.
Also, I really hope you don’t have big girl panties.
LITU: Once again I’m going to have to ask you not to judge me. They’re comfortable. Enough said.
Dexter or True Blood?
NINA PEREZ: Dexter all the way. The Sookie Stackhouse books are on my list of books to read this year (I’ve pledged to read 60 in 2011), and I’ve been avoiding them because I didn’t want to spoil the show. While I enjoy True Blood, Dexter is smarter programming. It delves into questions that are deeper than, “Bill or Eric?” Besides, Sookie is so damn annoying.
LITU: Twilight or a roundhouse to the baby maker?
Twilight. Hey, don’t judge me! I liked those books. I found them after all four books had already been published and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I try not to judge other authors too harshly. I have a lot of respect for anyone that has an idea, nurtures it, and delivers a finished product. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s okay. As a mother who had to force herself to get up every day at 5am just to MAKE the time to write Rebirth, I’m not gonna knock Stephenie Meyer for doing it while taking care of three little ones. I don’t begrudge her the success. The main people complaining about books like Twilight or Harry Potter aren’t the intended audience. But you know what they say: haters gotta hate.
LITU: You stumble onto a garbage can in a vacant lot filled with month old pudding that the local hobos have also been using as a toilet. At the bottom of it is a million bucks and a tag that says “If found, return to Scott Jorgenson.” It also has Scott’s address – which is across the street. Are you going to keep the million bucks? Are you even going to fish it out of the pudding-poo/pee?
NINA PEREZ: *sucks teeth* I’m going to fish that money out and use it to buy new hands. Forget Scott Jorgenson. I got kids to feed.
LITU: Take us out with something magical. Make us remember the name Nina Perez.
NINA PEREZ: Magical? I’m so pretty, I fart fairy dust. Does that count?
LITU: It’s a little gross, but magical. I guess. If nothing else it no doubt leaves your big girl underpants really sparkly. Nicely played.