SIX MINUTES WITH URSULA VERNON:
Joining LitPick today for Six Minutes with an Author is Ursula Vernon. Ursula is an award-winning author and an illustrator. Ursula is the author of many books, including the Hamster Princess series, the Dragonbreath series, Nurk, and Digger.
How did you get started writing?
You know, I don't really remember! I was always writing. I must have started at some point, but I don't really remember it. I wanted to type, though--I've never liked writing longhand--and so I remember when I was about seven years old, typing very intently on our computer. So...at least that long ago! (I also remember visiting my grandmother and not having a computer, but she dragged out this monstrous old typewriter and I laboriously hunt-and-pecked a page at a time out on it. I liked the CLUNK of the keys and the chiming rattling sounds, but editing was a real problem.)
Who influenced you?
Everyone and everything. We're a collection of influences. The first work that I remember wanting very much to write a book just like that was Watership Down. After that, an eclectic mix—Forgotten Realms fantasy novels and Louis L'amour (a peculiar choice for a teenage girl, I think) and Mercedes Lackey, and basically anything I read. For a long time I was a sponge and I'd produce fairly awful imitations of anything I was reading. Which is fairly normal, really...
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I really like to do fairy-tale retellings. I like having a framework to
keep the book to. Total freedom is almost too much for me to work with--I start getting very twitchy because I could do literally
anything, and that paralyzes me. Having a frame to hang the story on works much better.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Just start writing. That's all there is to it. You can't fix what isn't
written down. Polishing stuff in your head feels good--it feels like
you're accomplishing things!--but it doesn't actually get anything done.
That's the other important bit--getting things done. Finish something. It doesn't have to be good, but finish it. I didn't really get good at anything when I was starting endless manuscripts, until I started finishing them.
Where is your favorite place to write?
There's a coffee shop in town where I have written...lord, a lot of books now. The barista knows me entirely too well. When I begin bemoaning how I am a hack and this book is awful and people will throw rocks at me, she says "Ah, 2/3rds of the way through, are we?"
She's seen it happen so many times that she knows where I start to get insecure. They had to close once for remodeling and my word count plummeted for a month.
What else would you like to tell us?
Oh heavens. See above about how when I can do literally anything, I get paralyzed! I suppose the most important thing is finishing. A bad finished book is worth more than a beautiful first chapter hanging in splendid isolation. Work to the end!
_______________Ursula, thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes. We like your advice, which seems to boil down to, “Just finish it!”