Interview: Jessica Walsh and Briana Lawrence

Please give a warm welcome Jessica Walsh and Briana Lawrence, authors of Seeking the Storyteller, to the blog today as they talk a little about themselves and their work. Welcome and happy reading!

How did you come up with Seeking the Storyteller?
Jessica: We met on the internet back in college and spent every night chatting online. We would roleplay with our favorite characters from different shows and create our own plots. Eventually they all earned their own personalities and storylines and it basically evolved into this story over many years.

Briana: At one point, our apartment was broken into. In that break-in, one of the things taken were our laptops, which had all of our roleplay files on them. That meant we had to start over. Somehow, through that restart, we came up with the idea of the Storyteller: a creature who could make anything happen by writing it in a book. We roleplayed some ideas with this creature, and one day, Jessica sent me ten pages of the roleplay files turned into a readable story. The rest, as they say, is history.

Do you have the whole series planned out?
Jessica: We have vague outlines. We know where the story is headed with some of the details, other details are made up on the spot as we write each story.

Briana: I know the second story strayed from its outline quite a bit after we wrote the first book, because there were ideas that just didn’t work anymore. We’re in that situation with the third book right now, especially since we have to make it all flow well in the sense of the entire series. We do have notes for things we want to happen and have mostly stuck with them, its just that the details in between have changed overtime.

What is it like writing together? How did you start?
Jessica: We originally wrote fanfiction together and met through writing. So writing a novel series together just made sense. Plus, our styles now seem to compliment each other and fill in gaps where one of us might not be as strong. Even with our own solo stories we have each other read and edit them, so we’re always writing together in some form.

Briana: What usually happens is that Jessica will write the first draft, then when she’s done I’ll go in and read it over, or add/take out anything I feel doesn’t fit. That’s the beauty of programs like “track changes” in Microsoft Word, because I can make notes as to why I’m doing what I’m doing. The one solid rule we have is that when someone is writing/editing, the other person can’t read it until it’s done, so we don’t confuse each other.

Both having dreamt of being a writer and sharing your stories, how does it feel to be successful?
Jessica: It’s strange. I’m still getting used to being recognized at conventions as someone that people attend to meet. I know this is going to keep happening more and it’s a lot of fun. I would have to say the best part is someone coming back the day after buying the book and saying that they stayed up all night reading it by accident.

Briana: I think we still have a long way to go, though, and that thought really keeps us going. I think we’re on the right track and sometimes it’s hard to believe that we’re actually making this work. It’s amazing that people enjoy our work and look forward to getting more of it. It’s this odd feeling where you’ve been saying what you want for a long time, and now... you’re actually in the process of getting it.

How do you balance your family and writing life? How do your families like your book?
Jessica: There’s a balance? Just kidding. Since we’ve been together for so long the writing sneaks into our everyday lives and I think we’re just used to it being there. We both have specific places and times we like to write and we work around those. Writing dates are the best, where we go out for pancakes in the morning and just sit in the restaurant typing until everyone else wakes up - since we’re insanely early rises.

Briana: We also have date nights, now, where we take a break and do something that doesn’t relate to writing, or trying to make things for our shop. This usually involves video games, or maybe going out to dinner, or seeing a movie. As for how our families, I think they’re pretty supportive. My mom is a huge fan of my writing, she always has been, she even came to a convention once to see us in action. Jessica’s parents are also pretty supportive, her dad is always trying to come up with some way to add to our shop, probably because he can’t sit still and always has to be working on something.

What gets you in the mind set to write? Do you just sit and crank out the words, or do you get some music going, or shut out any noise and distractions?
Jessica: I like to write super early in the morning, when I’m usually the only one or very few people are awake and the world is just quieter. If I write later in the day, I need to have headphones and music with no words, so I can tune everything else out and just go.

Briana: I feel like I’m the same way, but occasionally, the urge hits at night while I’m in bed. That’s what the phone is for, because I’ll make notes then look them over in the morning. I usually arm myself with coffee or hot chocolate, put on headphones, and go.

What do you think is the most important thing for first time authors to know and keep in mind?
Jessica: Just write. Don’t worry about the publishing or how good you are or anything else, just write the story first. Because first drafts can always be improved and edited. But if you worry about everything else first, you’ll never get to writing it.

Briana: Agreed. Publishing is an entirely other beast to deal with, but before you even get into that, you’re going to have to have that story finished. So just write it out. When you’re done, go in and read over it, and be sure you have someone who will read it over as well, someone who will be honest with you. It’s nice getting praise and encouragement, but you need someone who isn’t going to have a problem calling out any errors in your work. Also, outlines are really great to have. Make an outline for your story. You may stray away from it from time to time, but you’ll at least know what you had in mind.

Who is your favorite author and why? What’s your favorite book and why?
Jessica: It’s really hard to choose a favorite. I’d have to say the Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I love the rich worlds that were created, along with all of the characters and the twist at the end tied it all together perfectly. I would love to be able to craft such an in depth world and story.

Briana: I used to read a lot of Toni Morrison back in college, and I used to really love the way she wrote. I’m a big fan of creative descriptions that can put the image in your mind. I also remember reading “Rubyfruit Jungle,” which came into my life at just the right time, since it was so unapologetically lesbian. It also had such a clear portrayal of its characters, like I could hear them in my head perfectly.

Can you share a few random facts about you that readers may not already know?
Jessica: Aside from writing, I’m also a hobby seamstress and I love designing and making costumes based on different fandoms. We also have three cats between us and most plot points are discussed during midnight trips to the Dairy Queen two cities over, just so we can enjoy the drive.

Briana: I enjoy woodburning and designing costumes for Jessica to make for me/us. I also love playing video games -- when there’s time -- and the both of us are really into anime and comic book movies. I also am very fond of stuffed animals, I have a pretty decent collection here, but have even more at my dad’s house that he kept.

What can you share about your next book? What can readers look forward to?
Jessica: Our next book is Beneath the Chapter, the sequel to Seeking the Storyteller, which will be out in April this year!

Briana: This next book goes more into the relationship between the characters as they deal with the events from the first book and new, upcoming events in this book. It also sets the stage for things that are going to happen in future books. I hope everyone is excited for it!

Briana Lawrence:
At the age of nine, like most kids, Briana Lawrence had a dream. She wanted to be the best “WRITTER” in the whole wide world. Her fourth grade class laughed and wondered how one hoped to become a “writer” if they couldn’t even spell the word. Back then her stories were created with crayons and construction paper. As she grew older they progressed into notebooks and colored ink pens of pink, blue, and purple. When she lost her older brother, Glenn Berry, in a car accident, she stopped writing.

Dreams, however, have a funny way of coming back.

Before she realized it she was grabbing her notebook and pens again. She would write stories that ranged from high school romance to her imagination running wild with the likes of Goku, Vegeta, and the other characters of Dragonball Z. This continued throughout college where she would always end up writing about the space exploits of the pilots of Gundam Wing and other works of fan fiction. Soon she realized that she wanted to do more than that. Her head was full of ideas, full of original characters and worlds that she wanted to share with others.

Thus, she stepped into an English Major with some Women’s Studies on the side.

She graduated Iowa State University in 2006 and moved to Minneapolis with her partner. Here, she tried to get into graduate school, but things didn’t pan out the way she wanted. She ended up working retail, her dream becoming buried by Black Fridays and other busy times of year. Once again, however, that dream returned. She went from immersing herself in geeky fan fiction to actually writing about the geeky things she loved for several anime and video game review sites. However, it was her discovery of National Novel Writing Month that made her go back to creating her own characters and plots.

Now, here she is, an author in the writing world.

Jessica Walsh:
Jessica Walsh knows there’s this feeling, when you read a good book, that the world around you melts away to reveal new universes that stretch beyond your imagination. For a good portion of her life, Jessica has chased that feeling by reading books and delving into fantastic worlds that were always so far away.

But that wasn’t enough.

Experiencing those fantasy worlds could only work for so long and soon there was the urge to bring it here, to the real world, so others could feel the magic she felt with each turn of the page. She does this in her writing by bringing a feeling of realism to her stories. By combining monsters, magic, and mythical creatures with the world we all live in, it’s not too hard to consider a bookstore owner with the power to change the words on a page, or a performer who can make flowers grow in his hand. However normal the story may start, there’s always something lurking in the background, ready to hint at something more.

Now she’s on a journey to share her creations with everyone. She travels to various conventions and presents her written escapes to the people around her, expressing her creativity with her words, her crafts, and her sewing. She’s combined the favorite aspects of her life to show the wonderful fantasies that exist in our everyday lives.

Find the authors:

Seeking the Storyteller Available Now!

I know of the Storyteller, it whispers into the man’s ear, I’ve met him. If you promise not to kill me, I’ll take you to him.

Alix Andre DeBenit and Randall Fagan are Hunters, part of a hidden network of humans who track and kill the monsters lurking in our world so everyone else can pretend they don’t exist. But when a living shadow mentions someone called the Storyteller, Alix hesitantly decides to learn more.

They say the Storyteller lives in a massive library full of books that tell every being’s life story. He can read these books, rewrite them and change anything he wants, even if it’s already happened. That’s the power Alix wants, the power to bring his murdered family back and he’s determined to make the Storyteller do it. He just has to decide if working with the very creatures he’s supposed to kill is worth it.