I’d like to introduce you to the forty-ninth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Stevie Mikayne.
Hi, Stevie! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
Sometimes I forget I’m a writer, because I spend so much time editing! Writing was my first love, though, and I started my first novel when I was thirteen. By the time I got to Evolved, I’d written eight or nine books, and basically shoved them under the bed. Several years ago, I took a graduate degree in creative writing, and started to take it a lot more seriously. A year later, Jellicle Girl was published.
Your literary novel, Weight of Earth, a book about family loyalty entwining with personal secrecy, was published by Evolved Publishing in May, 2013. Can you tell us a bit about your book? What inspired you to write it?
I’m always inspired by real life. All my work incorporates an element of reality, merged with strands of fantasy and imagination. This book was no different. Before I became a writer and editor, I worked with kids with special needs like my character William—and my experiences definitely impacted my writing choices.
Weight of Earth is about a family with a lot of secrets. In it, there are elements of old magic, a bitter history between sisters, and a love story between two exceptionally gifted people. A little steam as well… which is why it’s classified as “New Adult.”
Your literary novel, Jellicle Girl, a book about identity, secrets, love—and ultimately, redemption, was published by Evolved Publishing in August, 2012. Can you tell us a bit about your book? What inspired you to write it?
Jellicle Girl was such a long process. It went through many different versions and the inspiration for each draft was different. Ultimately, though, I wanted to write a book that let readers inside the head of a girl who was struggling with where she fit in the world. With LGBT issues so in-focus today, it was a really good opportunity to show all the grey areas that surround being a young lesbian with a lifetime of secrets.
What has your experience with your publisher been like? Is it everything you’d hoped for?
I went through quite a journey before settling with Evolved—even turning down a more traditional publisher to get on board with this new company. Since I didn’t know anything about the industry, I can’t say I had many expectations, so I’m not sure whether or not they’ve been fulfilled. In the past year, I’ve met a lot of people, and learned a great deal about publishing. The response from readers has been amazing! They love my books, and I love to hear from them.
You are also an editor with Evolved Publishing. Can you tell us a bit about the author/editor relationship? What do you like best about editing other authors’ work?
I have a special bond with my authors—even when they sneak in “tittered” and “unfettered” as often as possible throughout their manuscripts, just because they know those words tick me off! I learn from each manuscript I edit.
I don’t see my role as coming down on someone’s work with my giant red pen. Rather, it’s more like a partnership in which I act like a mirror, reflecting back each line to the author so she can determine if that’s the best she can do. Usually I write comments like “suggest more tension in this scene” or something, and let the author do the rewriting. It’s her work after all. Unless I see the problems listed below—in those cases, the red pen comes out!
How do you feel about the “rules” of contemporary writing: no adverbs, limited dialogue tags, show don’t tell, no head-hopping, etc.? In your opinion, how important are they to writing? Are there any that you particularly adhere to?
All of the above stylistic “errors” drive me crazy, especially when an author interferes with his character’s point of view to butt in and tell the story. Lengthy dialogue tags and flowery adverbs are like giant dandelions on a nice clean lawn, and I weed out most of these problems pretty thoroughly—with one caveat: I think that the pendulum can swing too far the other way, and you can end up with stark, wooden writing, which is worse, in some ways.
I also think that the modern emphasis on constant active voice favours the writing style of men more than women. Women tend to be more cautious in dialogue and in prose, emphasizing emotions and description, which I take into account when editing.
What is your favorite or least favorite part of writing or editing?
My favourite part of writing is getting lost in a scene, then re-reading it days later and still liking it. My least favourite is when I get stuck on something and can’t find a way out for weeks, or months. That happened with the book I’m working on now, UnCatholic Conduct. I got stuck on a plot line that took me two years to find my way back to.
In editing, there are times when I receive manuscripts that need so much work I don’t even know where to start—that’s discouraging, because I have to tell the author I won’t take on their project, and I don’t like to disappoint people when they have dreams of writing.
I love getting manuscripts from my Evolved authors, because they know exactly what they’re doing.
You have also taught creative writing classes. Do you still teach them?
I do occasionally teach classes. Next year, I’ll be teaching a course on erotic writing. I think I may have to enlist the help of some of my romance-writer friends for that one…
What is the most important advice you can give new authors?
Read! And pay attention to what you’re reading. Read style books too, even though they’re dry and boring. Ask for honest criticism from qualified beta readers who will tell you your work needs work (instead of your mom, who will tell you it’s fabulous). And then, when you think your manuscript is perfect… hire an editor.
If you could meet any book character, who would it be, and what would you do with them?
I’d have a party for about a hundred book characters—far too numerous to list—and I’d serve good wine and food and keep everyone up all night chatting.
What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
I went to a school that was very keen on literary fiction, so I think I was influenced a lot by the classics as well as the “best of” the modern age. Sometimes I wonder if I might have had a little more fun reading some genre fiction… but I didn’t have time! Many great Canadian authors were on the reading list, from both Margarets to Timothy Findlay to Rohinton Mistry (whose wife was my English teacher in grade 12). Every book I’ve ever read has influenced me in some way. I keep as many as I can!
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!