Writer Life & Lessons

Q and A with S. M. Boyce – The Full Interview

Cheyenne Trumbo and I would like to welcome S. M. Boyce, author of the young adult fantasy series, the Grimoire Saga.

How did this come about?

~ April 2013: Cheyenne invited me to help her come up with questions. She then invited me to ask my questions myself – so with her permission, we joint interviewed S. M. Boyce

~ April – August: I transcribed and Cheyenne edited the videos. We had 4,000 words, and 30 minutes, so we agreed to split the interview into four parts.

August 2013: The four parts went up. However, there were some delays and I’m aware we lost a few people in the gaps between each part.

Therefore I present to you the interview itself, with links to all four parts in order, complete with video playlist – so you can listen to all four parts as you read, or just enjoy the shorter answers without too much chatter.

It’s also pretty long, just to warn you.

For those of your that want to hear and read each word spoken, here are the links!

Part I – Transcript and Video – Video –

Part II – Transcript and Video – Video –

Part III – Transcript and Video – Video –

Part IV – Transcript and Video – Video –

Want all four videos together? Click here.


The Interview

 What was the first spark of an idea that eventually became the Grimoire Saga?

I have been working on this series since 2006. I had this book that taught you how to make wands out of clay. And I ignored the book and just kind of made my own thing. And I was like “hmm, well what would the people be like who use these special spell-casters that I created?” Of course over time I completely got rid of the spell-casters. But that’s what happens with a series. It always evolves and it always changes.

Lichgates (Grimoire Saga #1)

Is there anything that, you would change about the series in hindsight – anything you would add or wouldn’t have put in?

Yes, particularly in Lichgates when Cara is going through the trials and she has to get all the map pieces, I think sometimes she found the pieces too easy.

I just didn’t have an editor at the time who pointed that out to me. My editors were all like “its great!”

 How much planning or research did you do before ever starting work on Lichgates?

A lot! I’m an obsessive planner, plotter, outliner. I have to have a very thorough outline before I start. The thing is with Oureya the world is so big, I could actually write a book about the world every year for the rest of my life and I would never run out of material. Because the world is so big it requires so much preparation and a lot of inspiration from earth and cultures on earth… so that took a lot of research.

When you began the first book, did you already know all the stuff that will happen in the third and forth books?

That’s a great question. I thought I did, but then it changed. I had this beautiful outline. It was a, b, and c, and then suddenly – this character changed, this person became someone else, I got rid of that character, decided to add another kingdom. Over time it just became completely different from what I originally wanted.

Actually I’m writing Heritage, number three right now, and I was going to kill off an entire kingdom in Heritage and decided that was a bad idea. Even though that was in the original outline. My husband talked me out of it, so you can thank him for that one. The author doesn’t always know best, really. Sometimes you have to have an editor like Jeff who is not afraid to say “that’s wrong. I know this is your book but that’s not right.

The Writing Process

What is your best or most productive time of the day for writing?

Two in the morning. I am a night owl. I hate getting up early. I actually used to have a job that made me get up at 4:30 in the morning and I was miserable. I hated it. I am better when I can stay up late, sleep in until one.

What kind of conditions would you say you need in order to write, like I always need to have a cup of tea with me.

I like that one a lot. Actually that’s one of them. I don’t like hot drinks but I have iced tea. I need quiet and I need a room with a door. I have to be able to shut everyone out. I tend to go A.D.D sometimes so I’m easy to distract and when you have a door it’s just easier to shut everyone out and say don’t open this door unless the house is burning.

Treason (Grimoire Saga #2)

Do you have any other books or series planned after Grimoire?

Oh yeah. I actually have the next three series planned out.

1) I’m going to write the Oureyan chronicles which is actually just the back story that I’ve built for some of the characters I like the best. You’ll see Stone’s story, or at least the origin story for him. He has a thousand years under his belt so that would be an outrageous series of his own. You’ll get Deidre’s story and you’ll get the first vagabond Cedric, you’ll get his story. And I have a couple others I’m toying around with, I’m not sure if I’m going to do that or not. But that will be the Oureyan chronicles.

2) There’s also going to be an urban fairytale fantasy called Wisp Vine and that one is really going to play on the fairytale but bring it into the modern era. And I know that a lot of people have been doing fairytales but I think this will be different enough to interest people.

3) I’ve also been toying with paranormal horror, because I love ghosts. I actually have a series planned that keeps me up at night sometimes, so I’m hoping it’ll scare the living daylights out of people. We’ll see! That’s one’s called To Each His Ghost.

And I have a short story written that’s the origin of that series so I’ll probably publish that in the next couple of months.

With so many things planned, how do you keep track of it all? In terms of your progress, do you have word counts, or number of scenes, or number of pages?

That’s a really good question. It kind of differs depending which series I’m working on. What I like to do is have a journal of idea and whenever I need to write through a problem in a book I just basically rewrite until it makes sense in these journals.

So if you were to read the Grimoire Saga journal from front to back you would be like who are these people? Because I use all the old names, I reference people who don’t exist any more. I found that as soon as I write it out it makes more sense so those journals are probably the best way for me to organise everything.

Do you remember if there was a moment that you knew “I want to be a writer”?

My mom knew it before me. She called it when I was a sophomore in high school. I was just toying around with short stories back then. But it wasn’t until I got to college, and I pretty much failed out of the theatre program,

So it was when I was kind of sitting back in the lounge at the university dorm one day and thought What do I want to do? What am I good at?

And really writing was the only answer I had. So I started exploring that more and just really fell in love with it all over again.

My first book I wrote when I was five. It was terrible, it was really, really bad. A lonely pickle and the last pickle in the jar in the fridge looking for friends. In hindsight, that’s insanely morbid, but I like to think I’ve improved a little bit since then.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your writing?

I’ve learned a lot of lessons. But I think the biggest would be to have patience with your dream. I’m one of those people who tracks success by checking off lists and you can’t do that with your life dream. You really can’t. You have to be patient because things don’t always happen the way you plan and that’s something I’m facing right now actually… with this move and actually I wanted to have Heritage done in march, and here it is almost may and its half way done.

But just learning to have patience and keep perspective and be flexible. Stick with it.

Do you work better in silence, with ambient sound or music?

I listen to cinematic music when I write, because it makes me feel epic and epic is a good feeling when you’re writing.

I just can’t have people distractions. If it’s you know, cinematic music with drums and harmonies that’s fine. Actually E S Posthumous… I really, really love their music but they’re not making any more music unfortunately but they’re who I listen to the most. Them and Two Steps From Hell.

Heritage (Grimoire Saga #3)You’ve spoken about editing a little bit, but how does the editing process work for you, or how do you edit?

Editing, that ones hard because everyone does things differently and it changes over time.

With Lichgates it was go through once, write everything don’t stop. And then go through five zillion times trying to make it right. So that didn’t work for me.

Treason was: I wrote my first draft, edited that about 2 or 3 times, just going through in line after I’d finished and then giving it editors and doing the back and forth there.

But with Heritage I think this is my groove. Usually I don’t like it when anyone reads my first draft because it doesn’t matter who you are, your first draft is going to suck.

But Jeff, my husband, insisted this time that he read it, chapter by chapter. He knows the entire plot of the entire series so he knows what I’m trying to do. And so he’s been reading it as he goes through and he keeps catching plot holes to where if I had continued to write, it would have created the massive re-write for me later and he caught it before it was a problem.

So, if you have that one person who you write for, who can actually go through and edit it as you are writing the book, I think it’s really helpful because they can help you catch errors before it becomes a problem. So that’s become my new system and I think I’m going to keep it; I really like it.

The Journey to Publication

Can you tell us a bit about your current status in terms of being published?

I’m indie. I was originally indie and then I went traditional with Immortal Ink publishing, and through a series of very strange events that everyone’s okay with them, I’m now published under Caffeinated Books publishing.

How many different places did you submit to before you finally got here?

Actually, I did not apply anywhere. I’m probably one of the only authors who didn’t go through a series of rejections before giving up and going indie. I really think self-publishing is a gift to writers. I think that it gives you control over your work, it empowers you to feel like you actually know what you’re doing, and it lets you make a living off of your writing. Which is not a common thing.

But, you know, it’s hard. You become the manager of everything; you’re the business manager, you’re the accountant, you’re the marketer, you’re the PR specialist, you’re the designer. You better never be your own editor. You always have to have an editor.

And it’s luckily becoming easier for indie’s, because you have independent publishers who are now giving you half of your rights if you want to go that way, and still give you leeway to have input into your cover. Or if you do go by yourself, there are a lot of vendors who make it easier. So there are cover artists who can do a cover for two hundred bucks. That kind of thing. And they’re good quality. So it’s definitely becoming easier to go indie.

How have you found working with professionals like publisher and agents?

Wonderful. Everyone seems to really have a cool, level head. You know I think the biggest blessing with that, actually, is that there seems to be two different perspectives at least with authors, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re traditional or indie.

There are some people who expect you to do a favour for a favour. For instance, if they review your book, they expect you to review their book almost instantly. Almost immediately after they do yours.

And I’m not of that camp. I’m very much of “if I like you, I’m going to support you no matter what; whether you review my stuff or not. And when there’s a miscommunication between those two camps, it can actually blow up in your face.

That happened to me once, I lost a pretty good friend from just a big miscommunication.

So I guess for that, just always make sure you communicate your expectations very clearly. No matter if its indie or traditional. Make sure that you’re not assuming anything.

General Life

What did you do for a day job, to pay the bills before you finally got here?”

I have to preface this with my degree. I have a creative writing and marketing double-major, BSc, and somehow I ended up software testing. I don’t even know how. I broke software for a living. It was the only job I could find in Tallahassee when I lived down in Florida.

What were your favourite books and series that as a child?

The Hobbit. Definitely. That’s such an awesome, wonderful book. And not really anything like Lord of the Rings, but still – I like The Hobbit better.

I’ve read pretty much everything by Dr. Suess. It helps keep myself silly.

And The Anybodies by N. E. Bode. I still have my childhood copy. It’s a middle grade book about a girl who was swapped at birth with someone else. She doesn’t fit into her very prim and proper family, and it’s because her real family lives in this magical version of the world. It spirals out of control really quickly but it’s really fun.

Is there any fandom that you would say you’re a part of?

I’m a Potter geek. I really like Harry Potter. I grew up with him; he was a month older than me. So, I read pretty much every book as soon as it came out. For some reason though, I really was not into the seventh book. I didn’t like it as much. It peaked at six for me. So it’s kind of hard to say I’m a true Harry Potter fan when I didn’t like the seventh book.

And I’m a Tolkienite. I don’t necessarily know everything about him, and everything about his world or how to speak Elvish but I do really like the series.

What kind of books are you reading at the moment? Is there a particular genre that you tend to go for, or do you just read anything?

Usually I read about anything, except for historical fiction. I just can’t get into that for some reason. But right now I’m on a paranormal fantasy kick, and a paranormal romance kick. So, I’m pretty much devouring everything by Nicky Jefford. She’s an indie writer and I love her. She’s also in Caffeinated Books with me. And she just released the end to the Spellbound trilogy. It was amazing. I’m on the paranormal romance genre right now.

Illusion (Grimoire Saga #4)If you can, without spoilers, can you tell us something about books three and four?

There is an even bigger twist in number three than there was in number two. And I think fans are really going to freak out about it. I hope so. That’s the hope.

And the end of number four, the very end of the saga; there’s going to be a little bit of a tease. But I will wrap everything up for you, I promise. You’ll just get a little snippet into letting your mind wander with where it could go next… without giving too much. It’s not a cliff-hanger, it’s a cool riddle, kind of thing.

Deidre really plays a massive part in three and four. And you see more of the inner workings of her mind, and how she’s pretty much run the show the entire time.

I’ll leave you with that.

We ended the interview with “Any tips for aspiring writers?”

#1 – Develop thick skin:

– Writing is art and with any art you’re going to have people who hate it and people who love it.

– You’re going to have people who hate you because you’re living your dream and they haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

– It’s very hard to separate you from your art, because your art doesn’t necessarily define you. Remember that no matter what anyone says it’s about what’s going on in their life, not about you personally.

#2 Kick Ass Editor:

– I don’t who care you are, or how talented you are, make sure you have a kick-ass editor. A content editor who can go through and tell you when you suck along with a copy editor even before you send it off to your agent or a traditional publisher or especially if you’re going indie.

#3 Patience:

– It takes a long time to write full time. Keeping patience through that and having some means to survive.

– Most writers have a full time job along with their published work, and just learning how to balance that life with usually your spouse or your boyfriend or your girlfriend is hard and you have to really learn what your limits are and how to say no… and just know that it’s okay to say no.

#4 Have Fun:

And have fun! Of course, have fun! There’s no point doing this if you don’t like it… Don’t want to end that on a sombre note or anything!


And that’s the interview! Thank you so much Cheyenne Trumbo for inviting me to take part and of course to S. M. Boyce for letting us chat to her and for giving us so much to think about!

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