SARA Café Welcomes Curtis Copley!

CurtisCC: In August of 2012, I had a first draft of a story, but it wasn’t professional quality, and I figured the only way to learn how to raise it to that level was to hang out with professionals. The first SARA meeting I attended people had just gotten back from the RWA National Conference, and were talking about industry business. SARA was a much smaller group that day. There were only a dozen members present at that August 2012 meeting.  Patricia W. Fischer, Teri Wilson, Willa Blair, Sasha Summers, Tara West, and Jolene Navarro were all in various stages of getting a book published. Teri Wilson announced she had just gotten a three book deal. And Gina Maxwell’s Seducing Cinderella had just hit the New York Times bestseller list. It was terrifying for me, being both a complete rookie as a writer, and the only guy at the meeting, but the ladies welcomed me into the group.

SC: What sub-genre of romance stories do you write?

CC: I’m working on a Young Adult/Urban Fantasy story. While I enjoy Hunger Games, Pixar movies are much more my usual style.

SC: Do you consider yourself a romantic?

CC: I had to look the word up. Synonyms: dreamer, visionary. Check, check. Urban Dictionary says a hopeless romantic is “in love with love. They believe in fairy tales and love.” Antonyms: realist. What? Why is that an antonym? The dictionary must have been written by a cynic. A fairy tale ending is my mission statement for life. Yes, I’m a romantic.

SC: What are your ultimate goals as a writer?

CC: To finish the damn book. Beyond that, I can only hope that it would lead kids to work and make fairy tales come true.

SC: Great goals both. What is the best book you’ve ever read about the craft of writing?

CC: Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. It’s a solid introduction. Lately I’ve been reading Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.

SC: What would you consider some of the best advice you’ve heard about writing?

Best advice: Andrew Stanton said, “Make me care.” He went on to say, “When you’re telling a story, have you constructed anticipation? In the short term, have you made me want to know what will happen next? But more importantly, have you made me want to know how it will all conclude in the long-term?”

SC: Do you have a writing routine? What does it involve?

CC: My most productive writing times have been when I’m trying to make a deadline for either SARA’s online or in-person critique session (or in this case, preparing my SARA Café answers just before the deadline). If I get stuck on a scene, the best thing for it has been driving to or from Oklahoma City, giving me hours of time with no other distractions.

SC: Hmmm. Maybe I need to drive to Oklahoma! Do you have any writing superstitions?

CC: No superstitions, just the knowledge that if I ask myself, “Will my critique partners let me get away with writing the scene this way?” the answer is always, “No.”

SC: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

CC: When the story takes a turn that I never saw coming. As much as I’ve tried to plot things out in advance, once I sit down to write, everything that happens is seat-of-the-pants.

SC: I love moments like that, too! What would happen if you didn’t write?

CC: A day may come when the imaginations of writers fail, when we forsake our word processors and break bonds of fellowship with other authors. But it is not this day. An hour of editorial red ink and shredded pages when our aged laptop crashes down! But it is not this day! This day we write! (With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien).

SC: No apologies needed here! I think he would be flattered. Name one of the challenges you had writing or as an author and how you met that challenge.

CC: A popular writer’s magazine says: “There are no rules.” That isn’t true, but neither could I find any stone tablets brought down by Moses giving a list of commandments for writers, let alone a Greatest Commandment. I felt lost without a Prime Directive to guide me. After a great deal of study that strayed into neuroscience, I came up with this definition for good writing: The reader cares so much about what’s going on that they need to see what’s on the next page of the book more than they need to sleep. That probably sounds obvious as stated, but it was significant to me. It means storytelling is not about relating events. It’s about raising questions that won’t be answered until the next page, or maybe the one after that, or…

SC: I love how you put it, Curtis. We should all have this definition hanging by our computers! Thank you so much for sharing and best of luck with your writing!

Article submitted by Mary Brand