One of the reasons I love doing this series is because sometimes a writer will answer a question with such a brave response that I’m both taken aback and excited to share. This happened in today’s W.O.W. with Charlie Holmberg. When I asked what she would say to a writer who wanted to give up, her answer was simple yet accurate – “go back and remember why you wanted to write in the first place.” I think many times we get so caught up in the machine of querying and subbing, we forget why we started writing – for the pure and simple joy of it.
Many thanks to Charlie for sharing her journey today and reminding me why I’m in this crazy and exhilarating business…for the stories!
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Charlie: When I was thirteen. That’s when I decided I wanted to make my own stories, my own adventures. (I’m not going to lie, watching The Vision of Escaflowne pretty much spurred that desire. #nerdconfession)
Amy: I love the premise behind THE PAPER MAGICIAN. Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
Charlie: Thank you! And I honestly don’t remember. I always thought it’d be cool to have a side character who could manipulate paper—where that thought came from, I don’t know. Maybe from folding origami in church. 😉 Later I decided that character could be the central focus of the book, and the rest stemmed from there.
Amy: Did you have critique partners for THE PAPER MAGICIAN? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?
Charlie: Oh yes. I have about ten to twelve of them at any given time! I have alpha readers—other writers—who read my rough draft, and beta readers—non-writers—who read a more polished draft. They are essential. They point out my big-picture flaws and my awkward grammatical errors. I couldn’t get by without them.
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE PAPER MAGICIAN? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?
Charlie: You know, not very many. I think I may have been close to a dozen when I signed with Marlene. Some got back to me immediately (Marlene asked for my full an HOUR after I queried her), some I didn’t hear from or I had to withdraw my manuscript from. (That is a poorly-worded sentence. Oh well.)
Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Marlene Stringer? How did you know she was a good fit for you?
Charlie: Oh man, I was so nervous for that! It went really well. Marlene was upfront about everything and explained everything I would need to know. She answered all my questions with all the right answers. We talked for about an hour, me scribbling down her every word on a note pad and being very reserved and shy (which I very much am not, but intimidation, yo. I was so nervous!) And she said she liked me and wanted to represent me and I pretty much cried, ha! I knew she was a good fit from her answers, her confidence, and because Marlene doesn’t operate off a real contract. She makes it easy for me to end the partnership if I want to (not that I want to), so there was no pressure. I really admired that. Marlene’s now-15 years of experience really helped, too. I had agents on my favorite list who were still new to the field quitting left and right. I was terrified of being left by the roadside if I signed with a less-experienced agent.
Amy: From reading your bio, I know THE PAPER MAGICIAN was your ninth novel.Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Charlie: Nope. Next question.
Ha ha. But seriously, I never considered giving up. Even if I never got published, I’d still write books for my friends and family because I love doing it. And I always knew that, with enough work, I could get published. (I’m a real believer in the American dream.)
Amy: If you met a struggling writer at a book signing and they told you they were on the verge of giving up, what would you say to them?
Charlie: Honestly, if someone is really willing to give it up, maybe writing isn’t for them. It can be grueling, especially with the abundance of rejection. But there will always be rejection. Rejection from agents, from readers, from editors, from publishers.
I would tell them to go back and remember why they wanted to write in the first place. I would ask them if they’re really ready to stick a knife to all the ideas and aspirations in their head. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break when the going gets tough, but I really believe it’s better to tough it out.
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined — animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner — a practitioner of dark, flesh magic — invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
Homegrown in Salt Lake City, Charlie was raised a Trekkie with three sisters who also have boy names. She writes fantasy novels and does freelance editing on the side. She’s a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, and owns too many pairs of glasses. For more on Charlie, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter or Goodreads.