When did it become mid-June? Oh, right, after early June and before late June.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Tara A. Lake, a new voice in dystopian sci-fi who’s making a splash! She lives in Southern Ontario, Canada, with her husband, two children and their many animals. Tara writes in such genres as: dystopian, speculative, soft sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and historical fiction. When she isn’t writing, Tara enjoys kayaking adventures and board game nights with her family, nature photography and painting.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was in my early twenties and read a lot of non-fiction/self-help books. It wasn’t until I read the Twilight series (I’ll be honest… I pick Bella’s character apart now that I’m older and maybe a tiny bit wiser) that I decided I even liked fiction. But it was The Hunger Games that really made me want to tell my own stories, specifically, dystopian stories.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure if I would call it a quirk, but I have a fairly messy writing process. I am a discovery writer and in my first novel, Age of The Almek, I used the first two drafts as a means to discover the story. I knew the essence and basic plot points, but I didn’t know what the character arcs would be, sub-plots or where the ending would take me.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I often enjoy pulling some form of reality into my writing. Age of The Almek is based on a global water crisis, and that idea was inspired by today’s world-wide water issues. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint where ideas come from because we often have subconscious influences, but I love watching TV shows and movies for inspiration and learning. Like other writers, I just have random ideas floating around in my head. I may overhear a conversation at a local coffee shop and a light bulb will turn on. Recently, I’ve been reading books on the craft of writing.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That writing a novel and self-publishing is not an easy journey. I didn’t realize how all-consuming it would be; how much of myself I would have to give to it. But, I’ve also learnt that this is something I’m supposed to be doing… and hair-pulling or not, it’s entirely worth it!
What do you think makes a good story?
I don’t like to make any hard rules, because rules are meant for breaking (Muhaha). But I enjoy reading and writing stories where the characters are distinguishable, believable, and easy to connect with. Which includes good, bad or even grey characters (I love me a good villain). I also think having multiple levels of conflict is helpful in building tension. So person VS person, person VS nature, person VS self, etc. I always find it interesting when a story has many conflicts going on at once. Also, I think mystery is a versatile tool to use in any genre. It keeps me curious and guessing, and that will keep me, and probably many readers, turning pages. I also enjoy reading and writing stories that include a variety of messages and experiences: works that offer thought-provoking content, action and a romantic sub-plot are sure to catch my attention!
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
One thing I was extremely firm on when I began writing Age of The Almek, was to not rush the process. I think many writers are eager, but also, impatient to get their work out there. With Amazon being such an accessible medium and fairly user friendly, new writers may click the publish button too early. In some ways, Amazon is a bit of a trap in itself. It’s important to do plenty of research, understand how it works, but also, know your options. Another trap is vanity publishers, where writers pay to have their books published. This is awful to see happen, but it’s another road that a new writer can find themselves going down if they’re impatient and uninformed.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think a writer has to have an ego of some sort to be able to persevere and complete a novel at all, especially that first draft. An ego can help us push forward to reach our goal and help with the self-doubt talks. But that same ego, if left unchecked, can hinder our growth too. It’s important to know that we need certain people to tell us what we haven’t done well in our work. We must be willing to change/edit/cut things in order to improve the story, but also to improve ourselves as story-tellers. So a big ego, I think, is troublesome. But ego, can be helpful. After all, what else is it that makes us think even a single reader will want to read our books?
Have you ever gotten readers block?
Yes. Firstly, I struggle to read fiction when I’m actively writing. But also, I have found that if I follow a TBR list in order, I start to lose interest and experience reader’s block. I’ve learnt that I am a mood reader and I have to lean into that!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
The short answer is: I focus on being original. The long answer is, it took me a long time to accept that I could be. It was hard to come to terms with what I truly wanted to write: adult fiction (multi-genre). I wanted to write breath-taking, gut-wrenching fight scenes. I wanted to write twisted, possibly a little gory, action and tension-filled scenes. Sex. I wanted to include sex. But not in the overly detailed sense. I wanted to write the raw experience of what I imagined being human could mean in a possible future with a lack of water and barbaric rulers. I’m cute, and sweet, and I worried that anyone reading my novel (especially people who knew me personally) would judge me and think I was a terrible person for writing what I was writing. At one time my editor suggested that if I wanted, I could remove or cut back on the gory scenes and remove the sex scenes and make it YA to tap into a wider audience, but this was the opposite of being original and of being true to myself. I didn’t want to write YA. I love reading YA, and one day I may write in that genre, but for now… writing adult is where my heart is! Once I released Age of The Almek, I was relieved and happy, and cried those joyful tears to know readers were enjoying it… even people that knew me personally. The fears were real to me at one time, I pushed past them and realized I was telling myself this story of self-doubt and rejection and I allowed it to build up in my head until the book was finally out there and all bets were off!
Ultimately, I really think there is power in writing what you want to write. That is when the story really comes alive. Readers feel that!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Hiring my editor! I had two editors for Age of The Almek, but one worked with me as a developmental editor. She gave me critical feedback early on by pointing out the character and time inconsistencies, plot holes and general things that didn’t add up. But all of that highlighted my writing flaws, and taught me so much about how to tell story (I’m still learning. I think learning will forever be a constant part of this journey). She was at times a motivator and even played the role of a writing coach. She is simply the best. I also hired a second editor (so that I had a pair of fresh eyes) who would be my final read through copy-editor to polish the grammar in the book. All of this was a lot of money, but it was extremely well spent.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Oddly enough, I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (my first Atwood book) and struggled early on. I had watched the TV series and loved it, but there was something different about the writing that I couldn’t pinpoint. There was this resistance (internally on my part) in the first couple chapters that kept me from leaning in with ease. After a couple chapters I finally adjusted and soon after, was all in! I ended up loving the book and it even had its place in offering inspiration for my own writing.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep writing. Trust yourself.
Thank you so much for dropping in!