We start off our Local Authors Extravaganza by inviting S. Usher Evans, author of the Raiza series among others, into the kitchen for a talk. There’s no need for further preamble, so let’s crack into it, shall we?
Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
Hi There! I’m S. Usher Evans, author, blogger, and witty banter aficionado. I write books about space pirates, anxiety dragons, and angsty lovers.
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
I do not! I’m a full-time writer and sometimes freelance editor. My life is a combination of writing, editing, walking my dogs, knitting, and sleeping. And during 10 months out of the year, going to the beach.
What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?
My latest release is called The Island, and it’s an angsty little ditty about a prince and a pilot from warring nations who crash on an island and must work together to survive. Basically, Romeo and Juliet meet Lost, but without the smoke monster.
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
I went through a quarter life crisis about two years ago where I decided I hated everything about my life. To do something for myself, I published Double Life, my first novel. Then I realized I could actually do this as a career.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
My first series was sci-fi, but I actually don’t like that genre, reading-wise. My preference in both writing and reading is fantasy.
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
The interesting thing about my writing is that each book has it’s own style and flavor. Razia‘s got a certain easy-going nature to it, Empath is a lot more introspective, the Madion War Trilogy is dark and bitter. But they all have my odd sense of humor, I think.
Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
From ages 11-20, the only thing I read was Harry Potter, so Our Lady of Scotland is one of my top literary heroes.
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?
When I day-dream a book, I rarely make a “decision” about POV or style or any of that. The book comes to me how the book comes to me.
Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?
I’ve never really considered it, to be honest. In my view, a book is a good book because it’s a good book, not because of an expertly placed adjective or a great combination of words on page 45. I think writers, especially new writers, get caught up in the whole “must do X and mustn’t do Y” that they forget to actually write the story.
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
A conflict must have adequate resolution to the build-up. So if you’ve spent 100 pages telling us that the guy’s gonna die, then resolve it in a sentence, it’s a cheap ending.
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
That’s like asking which is more important to a PB&J sandwich, the PB or the J. You can have great characters and a terrible plot, and a gripping plot and terrible characters, and the book still won’t be as good as it could be. You must make your characters interesting (that is, people will want to root for them or want them to fail, depending on your desires) and the plot must be tempting enough to continue.
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
Depends on the book (are you sensing a theme to my answers here? #writingissubjective). Double Life starts off with a prologue that sets the stage for the whole series. Empath is a one-liner that sets the mood for the opening scene, and the general idea for Lauren’s frustration. The Island (Madion Trilogy) starts with a day-in-the-life of Theo, to show the dark and nihilistic world she lives in.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
First, lose the “aspiring.” If you write, you’re a writer. Own it. Second, learn to love your voice. It’s the only one you have and if you spend your whole life trying to “improve” it, you’ll never publish anything.