I think every author gets asked a lot of questions about writing in general, and their work in specific. This FAQ contains my answers to the questions I've received so far, and will doubtless expand as time goes on. A lot of my more detailed thoughts on writing can be found on the Fifty Thoughts On Writing page, which also includes links to more detailed essays.
Questions about arranging interviews or appearances are addressed in the General FAQ, as they are not a part of the writing process. Questions about the Toby books are addressed in the October Daye FAQ.
On to the questions!
1.1. How do you find time to write as much as you do?
1.2. What do you write with and/or on?
1.3. How long do you usually spend on a book?
1.4. What influences what you write?
1.5. Do you have any recommendations for a beginning writer?
A: There are some really fascinating theories about this, most involving my theft of sleep from clones in parallel dimensions. I find this notion awesome, but the fact is that I'm one of those people who quite literally can't sit still. I'm always working on something, and I enjoy setting little deadlines and word count goals for myself. It keeps me moving at a decent clip, and I always feel like I've accomplished something.
A: I'm primarily a word processor girl—aren't we all these days?—but I take notes longhand, and have been known to free-associate to figure out where I'm going next. This occasionally results in my writing entire chapters in tiny little portable notebooks. This would please me more if I didn't have to transcribe afterward.
A: This is hugely dependent on what I'm doing. A Toby novel, for example, requires a lot of checking of my own continuity, but I've already done the bulk of the research—I sat down and worked out all the rules by which that universe works, and I'm sticking with them. Other books may require more research, and hence require longer to prepare for, much less write. I've finished books in as little as six weeks, and taken as long as two years. That's just the writing and revision process, mind you; sale is a very individual thing, and a little too big to generalize.
A: Everything! I started reading voraciously at a very early age, and you can make a case for my being inspired by everything from Bradbury and Baum to Kipling and King. I'm very influenced by classical mythology, folklore from around the world, and classic horror movies. I love old horror comics and the way they compressed the essence of horror into four or five lushly illustrated pages. And I'm constantly listening to the people around me, following trends in conversation and natural dialog, looking for the way that people talk.
A: Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, and learn where you personally draw the lines of "good" and "bad." One man's classic really is another man's catastrophe, and learning where you fall will do so much for you. Write. Sit down every day and write. Even if it's just a few lines, it'll keep you in practice.
I think every author has their favorite books on the craft, but really, I recommend Stephen King's On Writing as an excellent place to start. You may also want to take a look at my series of essays on writing—there will eventually be fifty in total, and they range through all aspects of the writer's existence.
A: Yes, and yes. I was very fortunate in that I managed to find an agent who appreciates the fact that I am marginally crazy in that "happily does twenty things at once, all the time" sort of a way.
A: I am represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary.
A: I'm sorry, but no. If I don't know you personally and know your work, I'm not going to refer you to my agent. (Basically, it's a matter of "if you need to ask me, the answer is not gonna be yes.") You can definitely check her agency information to see whether she might be the right agent for you, however.
A: Again, I'm sorry, but no. From a legal standpoint, it's a bad, bad thing because there's always the chance that you and I might be working on similar ideas—there are a lot of zombie novels in the world, for example, and only so many ways to shamble. So just to keep the waters from getting muddy, it's really not a good idea.
Also, while I may be stealing sleep from my parallel-dimension clones, I still only get so many hours in the day, and if I read everything I was asked to read, well, the phrase "never get anything done" would come into play. Fast. And that would be bad. My editor would kill me with my own machete.
A: No more than anybody else. I submitted to a lot of houses before I sold my first book, and to a lot of agencies before I found the right agent. Getting published isn't a matter of knowing who to talk sweet to; it's a matter of working hard, learning to have a thick skin, and being prepared to take it on the chin a time or twenty. If you can do that, you'll get there.
A: While her origins remain shrouded in mystery, a few facts about Miss Mira "you probably don't want to stick your hand in there" Grant have come to light (unlike the authoress herself, who shuns the stuff). She claims no current fixed abode. She possesses some shadowy connection to a group of carnival owners traveling the West Coast of the United States. She has an unholy fondness for reptiles, the accouterments of Halloween, epidemiology, and zombies of all types. She has seen the movie Slither well over three hundred times. She is likely to cause physical harm to anyone who calls her "Mimi." She doesn't exist.
More seriously, Mira Grant is my open pseudonym: I use her name when writing the Mason books, published by Orbit and Orbit UK. For more information about Mira Grant and her connection to the dark forces that command our universe, visit her website, at MiraGrant.com.
A: I wanted a pseudonym for my science fiction because I wanted to create some "distance" between it and my urban fantasy work. Mostly, I wanted people to judge the Mira Grant books on their own merits, not based on how much they read like something they'd expect me to write. I believe this was the right decision, and I've been very happy with my life as Mira Grant.
A: Yes, absolutely. I've enjoyed her too much to let her go! There will be at least two more books written under the Mira Grant byline, and there's always the possibility of more to come after that. Watch the Bibliography page for updates and details.
A: Lots of things, and I'm not shy about discussing them! It's best to check my blog for news, since it gets updated much more frequently than these FAQs. Once a project has been confirmed with a publication date, it will appear on my Bibliography page.
I also write a lot of short fiction, some of which has been published here. For short fiction posted on my website, please see the Online Fiction page. For a guide to my short fiction published elsewhere, please see the Bibliography page.
A: The Velveteen stories started as something I write purely for my own amusement, and have turned into something much bigger. They're being posted here as they're finished. There is definitely an overall story, and I really love my screwed-up little superhero universe. All currently finished Velveteen stories are available to be read free of charge.
For more information about Velveteen, check the "Velveteen vs." landing page. This provides links to all available stories, as well as some background on the world. The first collected volume, Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots, is available now from ISFiC Press. A second volume, Velveteen vs. The Multiverse, will follow in 2013.
A: You can see a regularly updated list of my available short fiction at the Bibliography page. This includes all anthology and magazine publications, and also lists my short fiction work as Mira Grant.