Gwenda Bond writes YA and children’s fiction. Her novels include the Lois Lane series, which bring the iconic comic book character front and center in her own YA novels, and the Cirque American series, about daredevil heroines who discover magic and mystery lurking under the big top. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and their unruly pets. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy, and she might have a journalism degree because of her childhood love of Lois Lane.
Craft Tip: When you’re starting a scene, ground the audience in the scene, where the character is and what they’re doing, rather than in the character’s head.
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Rachael: Welcome to “How Do You Write.” I’m your host Rachael Herron. On this podcast, I talk to authors about how they write, what their process is, and how their lives fit together. I’ll keep each episode short so you can get back to writing.
Hello, writers. Welcome to episode number 31. Today, we have a real treat for you.
We’re talking to Gwenda Bond who is fantastic and funny and fun.
And if she lived in my town I would insist that she’d be my friend which is super obnoxious and stalkery. So it’s actually good that we don’t live in the same town, but I can still be friends with her on places like Twitter and things like that. I’m sure you will love listening to her. She is just a doll.
A little catch-up before we get into the interview. It has been a good week. I am approaching time in a new way. I talked about this last week, and I talked about it in my writer email that went out over the weekend. I am approaching it with a plan, and I am accepting that everything that I have to do for my business is work. In my head, it’s been a hard…I’ve had a hard time differentiating between the time that I’m writing and revising, and the time that I’m doing all the other crap, including things like banking and Twitter and newsletters. All of that is work, and I’m starting to track it, and it feels really good to track all that. So that has been fun. I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but I’m using Top Tracker which is free for life, and I’m enjoying it. It’s really kind of turned my brain around. And right now, I’m tracking this time under podcast, “How Do You Write.” The other broadcast that I started with J. Thorn called “The Petal to the Metal” is hilarious and fun and you should go check it out. It’s also very short and sweet, and we have a raucous time.
So, I finished those copyedits I was complaining so bitterly about last week. They went fine. They just took days, days. I never see that coming, so, those are done, and the third “Darling Songbirds” is off my plate, off to Australia to Random House. I will personally get it Americanized and copyedit it for the rest of the world, because I hold the self-publishing rights everywhere that is not Australia and New Zealand as you have heard time and again.
So that’s what I’m working on, and also, because I’m recording this on January 17th, it’s my book birthday.
Yay! Everybody gets balloons and glitter, lots of glitter. “Build it Strong” came out today. I wrote that book so fast, and I really like it. It’s yet more proof to myself that the more I write, the better I get. The faster I write, the better I get which is so strange. It doesn’t make intuitive sense, but I think just the more words coming from your mind to the paper, to the computer, the better. And I’m hearing that from readers, some who got it at midnight and finished it in this morning, the same day. They’re really, really liking it, and that just makes me feel wonderful. Because I do believe in that little book, and I’m so proud of it. So book birthday is always fantastic reason to celebrate. I’m still on this Goddamn elimination diet, though, so there is no celebrating in Rachael-land.
Yeah, but you know, weirdly, if you don’t eat anything, trying to avoid allergens for three weeks, you lose weight. I’ve already lost 10 pounds, and I feel like I’m eating all the time, because I’m constantly terrified that I’m going to starve to death eating this much brown rice and chicken and spices. Sorry, dogs are squeaking toys as they do. So, yes, book birthdays are important and special, and they should be celebrated.
But dude, I have had kind of a lot of books now, and I hate to say this, but the day does get less special.
The very first day that “How to Knit a Love Song” came out, it was my first book. It was HarperCollins. It was everything. I wish I could attribute this, but I can never attribute anything because of this brain of mine. But somebody said that the day that their book came out they walked to the front door and opened it and went out to get the newspaper. And they saw the world going by. Everybody doing the same things that they always did, and they were astonished that the world had not changed that day.
And that is what I felt on the day that “How to Knit a Love Song” came out. I don’t think I got a migraine, but I probably almost did just because of the excitement in my brain. I had so many well-wishers on Twitter and Facebook.
And this is where I admit to you, I may have admitted it before, but I don’t remember, that I think everyone, when their first book comes out, they…it’s funny now. I laugh now, but they hope that somehow it will rocket up the charts, and they will land on the New York Times list by the next Wednesday. The list comes out on Wednesday to be published on Friday.
And yes, it’s stupid, and no, it never happens unless you’re already a big name or have a huge platform. But I think every writer has so much grandiose hope.
I think we have to hold that grandiose hope in order to be a writer, which is a very difficult thing to do, that we hope that everybody falls in love with our book and that everybody rushes out to buy it and buys copies for all their friends.
And bigger than that, outside that, your first book coming out is the first time the inside of your brain has really been turned inside out. That’s gross, but you know what I mean. And everybody gets to see what’s in your brain, see those thoughts that have been floating around, see those characters that really mean something to you, that are so important. And it’s terrifying. It’s absolutely terrifying.
I remember, somebody who had been reading my blog a long time read my first book at midnight, you know, was done by 7:00 AM. And I remember thinking, this is the first person who wanted to read my book that wasn’t in the profession, that wasn’t my editor or a copy editor, proofreader or a friend. You know, this is just somebody who wanted to read my book and enjoyed it. And it’s always, always the best feeling.
And even today, as I launch my…it’s either 17th or 18th book, it’s so exciting that these characters, whose names are Aidan and Tuesday, because I really fell in love with Tuesday as a name, are out there. And their love story is making people happy, and jeez, I love that.
Okay, well, that is enough of an update. My dogs continue to chew things in here, so I am going to stop recording this and launch you right into the interview with Gwenda Bond. Please enjoy and happy writing to you my friends. Talk soon.
Hey, you’re a writer. Did you know that I send out a free weekly email of writing encouragement? Go sign up for it at rachaelherron.com/write. And you’ll also get my “Stop Stalling and Write” pdf with helpful tips you can use today to get some of your own writing done. Okay, now onto the interview. Well, I am so pleased to welcome Gwenda Bond to the show today. Hi, Gwenda.
Gwenda: Hey, thanks for having me on.
Rachael: Of course, just a little introduction for you. Gwenda bond writes YA and children’s fiction. Her novels include the “Lois Lane” series, which brings the iconic comic book character front and center in her own YA novels, and the “Cirque American” series about daredevil heroines who discover magic and mystery lurking under the big top. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus, The LA Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a 100-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and their unruly pets. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy, which I would believe, and she might have a journalism degree because of her childhood love of Lois Lane. Welcome, Gwenda. I can guess as to the answer, but what did you love most about Lois Lane when you were a kid?
Gwenda: I think just that she was a take-no-prisoners, no-nonsense working woman like my mom. You know, she was, like, the first character that I ever saw in fiction that reminded me of all the women that I grew up around.
Rachael: That is pretty awesome. I think for a lot of us, she reminded us of somebody we didn’t know, but you knew women like that. That’s really, really cool.
Gwenda: Yes. I grew up in a very small town with a very feminist mom.
Rachael: That’s so fantastic, and for listeners who watch on the audio, I’m looking into your living room there. And I swear to God, it looks like our living room. We have that fireplace. We have that color wall.
Gwenda: This is excellent. Actually, the wall behind you is the same as our other rooms. We clearly…
Rachael: If we ever need to do a house swap we’ll just do it.
Gwenda: Yeah, we’re on the same wavelength. We’ve read all the same books about what colors are good for creativity and calming.
Rachael: Exactly, exactly, and we both have blue hair. Although, yours is much bluer than mine is right now. Okay, let’s just jump right in. What is the best time of day for you to write, and where do you write?
Gwenda: You know, I usually write here at my desk. I have experimented with other things. I also like to write outside when it’s nice. But yeah, my longtime dream is to have like an outdoor, actually, writing kind of room. And we got plans for it, but it was tpp expensive to build, so I continued to write inside. But mostly mornings have always been really good for me. I now sometimes will procrastinate and write in the afternoon, but, you know, it really is not so much the time of day. It’s just when I have an uninterrupted space of time works best for me.
Rachael: Yeah, for going into that deep work. Now, when you write outside how do you manage looking at the computer?
Gwenda: So, I don’t use the computer when I’m writing outside.
Rachael: That was my next question. Is that an AlphaSmart?
Gwenda: I actually use this AlphaSmart NEO which has a very small screen, and it’s just a keyboard, and it doesn’t reflect. And those things are magic. Like, if I’m stuck, you know, because there’s no internet. It’s nothing but a three line screen. You just sit there and type. They are really something else.
Rachael: I have always meant to get one, and maybe I will eventually do that. And they’re sturdy, right?
Gwenda: Yeah, they’re so sturdy. I’ve had that one for like 10 years, and I’ve only change the AA batteries once.
Rachael: Oh my gosh. Okay, maybe that’ll be my Christmas present to myself.
Gwenda: Yeah, they’re so cheap. Just go on eBay, because they don’t make them anymore. You have to get used ones.
Rachael: Right, that’s amazing. Okay, so, you write on that, and when you’re at your computer or in the house do start off longhand? Or do you go straight on to the computer?
Gwenda: I go straight onto the computer. I have terrible…my brain doesn’t work that way on longhand. To me, that’s a journalism, like, take shorthand notes, so I’m, like, too… For me, like, the act of writing longhand is an act of remembering something. And so I cannot turn off, like, that, sort of, that part of my brain, because I was involved in interviews and stuff for so long.
Rachael: Oh, that’s so interesting.
Gwenda: It’s just much more automatic. Plus, I have terrible handwriting, and so I feel like if I wrote longhand I would be like, “What the fuck is this?”
Rachael: What program do you write in?
Gwenda: I write either in the Scrivener or Word, pretty equally. Yeah, I kind of go back and forth between the two.
Rachael: I feel like there’s almost time for, like, Scrivener to be supplanted. We’re ready for the next awesome thing.
Gwenda: Yeah, there’s a lot I still don’t use about…there’s a lot I still don’t use. It’s very useful for me at the beginning when I can dump a lot of notes and stuff in the bottom. But I tend to, once I have handle on the projects, switch over to Word, so I can see better how long I have to be done.
Rachael: Good point, good point, and how do you go about refilling the creative well?
Gwenda: I’m very much like a consumer of other media. I very much like new music if I need to start a new project. I love binge watching TV, reading. Like, after I finish a project I usually will go to the library and get, you know, like 10 books, and even if I’m trying to go back to work will just read.
Rachel: Oh, I get that.
Gwenda: It’s just easier now that I’m a full-time writer. I find that it took me, like, six months to get over the burn-out of having juggled both. Now, like, I find that, because I can take walk and refresh more during the day, I don’t get as exhausted mentally as I used to, so…
Rachael: Listeners, we were just talking before we came on the air that we both worked the same number of years at our day job and balanced the two jobs for a long time. And we both quit around the same time. And I have to agree with you that I just used to spend so much of my days off trying to pump my energy up to the point it needed to be in order to do more of my writing work. And now it is so much easier.
Gwenda: Yes, it is. It’s just like this is what having a life is like.
Rachael: I’m saying yes to people inviting me places. They’re like, “We haven’t seen you for 17 years.”
Gwenda: I know. I mean, really, honestly, it is hard to over-state what a big transition it is.
Rachael: It’s so awesome. What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Gwenda: Oh, probably…I had a class, and, actually, I’m friendly with this writer now, so I’d never say who it was. She’s a local person who’s… But I had a class, and I was very much like, what I would call, the southern, I remember, mama kind of, like [inaudible: 00:14:24] of people. And it was the first time I ever took a creative writing class at a local place. And I, of course, wrote something, and it was terrible, I’m sure, about like vampires or whatever. And she was like, “Write about the leaves on the driveway.”
Rachael: So she was a write what you know.
Gwenda: And I was just like, “No, I will not.” I never went back, but, you know, I mean, it was good bad advice. Because I was like, “No, I’m not gonna do that.” But I’m sure what she meant was, “This is terrible, so write something that’s terrible in the way that I’m used to teaching.”
Rachael: Poor lady, she just doesn’t know what to do with you.
Gwenda: No. She’s like, “Why are you in this class with all these older [inaudible: 00:15:08] who wanna write about their childhood memories?”
Rachael: Yep, yep. That’s hilarious. At least, you didn’t take it. At least you didn’t take the advice. What secret writing tip of awesomeness did you discover the hard way?
Gwenda: Oh, gosh. Almost everything I’ve learned I’ve learned the hard way. You know, actually, this was something I both discovered the hard way and had someone tell me, but I couldn’t really internalize it, which was that the most important thing that every writer learns is their own process. Yeah, one of my first writing mentors at MFA school told me that. And also, another one would be, “Don’t go get an MFA, because you end up with tons of MFA debt.”
Rachael: Seriously, that’s huge, yeah.
Gwenda: I have learned that one the hard way.
Rachael: Yeah, me too. I just paid it off last year, and I graduated, like, 18 years ago with my MFA.
Gwenda: I will never pay it off, I will be paying it off for the rest of my life. I mean, great experience but no. Yeah, that was not the… I always joke and say, “When you decide you wanna be a writer the first thing you shouldn’t do is go get a bunch of student loan debt.”
Rachael: I regret doing it. I honestly…
Gwenda: Me too, [inaudible: 00:16:19] wouldn’t have had to. Like, there were a lot of good things that I can say I took out of it. But still, if I had it to do over again, I probably would not do it.
Rachael: Me too, I learned so much more just being in the writing world. That’s where you learn.
Gwenda: I agree, I agree.
Rachael: So, interesting, okay, and can you give us a quick craft tip of any sort?
Gwenda: Okay, craft tip. So, I would say when you’re starting a scene one thing we have a tendency to do is start in the reader’s head instead of grounding the audience in a scene. Where the character actually is and what they’re doing, and that is something I often have to go back in drafts and do. Because it just kind of leaves the reader feeling untethered, but it’s a very, very common.
Rachael: I just finished revisions on a book about an hour ago, and there were three scenes in that last thing that I was doing today that exactly that. Just absolutely a head in space, no idea where they are, but it’s so easy to forget.
Gwenda: It is. It is, and it’s so easy to fix once you learn how to recognize it.
Rachael: Yeah, it takes a minute of one more sentence.
Gwenda: For even like them moving, like, you know, “I was in the room.”
Rachael: It’s in there, just down too low. Excellent. On really bad days, if you could not do this job, what would you do?
Gwenda: International spy or…
Rachael: Yeah, I can’t believe no one’s ever said that before.
Gwenda: I mean, go big, right?
Rachael: What country would you spy in?
Gwenda: That’s a great…something…an island. Like, something that actually had very little political intrigue going on. Like, maybe like Rome, where I can just be…like, its mostly just gonna be skulking around, like…
Rachael: And drinking excellent coffee.
Gwenda: Yes. Drinking excellent coffee.
Rachael: That’s my kind of spying. I like you. I’ve always known that.
Gwenda: The other thing I always say is that I would be a lady of leisure, right. Like a wealthy heiress would be a good job.
Rachael: How does one go about getting that? I need someone to…I need to know somebody rich. And if you were starting over as a new writer now what advice would you give baby Gwenda?
Gwenda: I would just…baby Gwenda was okay. She was a little too focused on getting published at the beginning. I would just say, like, make sure, you know, make friends. Like, be interested in other people, like, and don’t play the envy game, you know, is what I always say to people. Like, keep your eyes on your own paper and support other people, because you will need them. This is a hard job.
Rachael: It is not for sissies.
Gwenda: It is not.
Rachael: Did you see that author earnings report earlier this year that showed a direct correlation between the more you network the more you make money?
Gwenda: I did not, but I’m…
Rachael: It’s actually direct correlation. It makes perfect sense.
Gwenda: It does. It absolutely does. I mean, it’s not the knowing people necessarily. It’s the being someone that people wanna work with, right?
Rachael: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, but it’s also coming to mind when people think of other things. And well, I guess it’s even bigger than that. Like, I know when I have a problem in the industry, I have so many people just reach out and ask for advice.
Gwenda: Me too, and honestly, like, as I have managed to get a little more established myself, one of my big priorities is mentoring new writers, especially young women of color who are trying to break in. Because I think a lot of the advantages that I had and things that were easy are a level harder for those guys. And that has been… I mean, it’s just, you know, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without the writer friends who mentored me and helped me along the way. So yeah, I think that’s…I’m not surprised to hear that either.
Rachael: I love it. I love it, and what would you like to tell us about right now? What can you tell the listeners to go check out of your work?
Gwenda: I guess I just finished the third “Lois Lane” book which comes out in May. So I would say, go catch up on the first two because there are things that return and mysteries that are paid off in the third book this spring.
Rachael: Is that the third and final? Or is it still open?
Gwenda: Probably. I mean, in theory, it’s final, but you never know. And also, I have a graphic novel that just came out. It’s hard to believe it just came out in November called “Girl Over Paris.”
Rachael: What a gorgeous book that is too.
Gwenda: Stand-alone, oh my gosh. That was just, like, the best project. It was so great to work with…
Rachael: Who is the artist again on that?
Gwenda: Ming Doyle, who is amazing, and Kate Leth wrote the script. I did the outlines, and so…yeah. I mean, it was a great team. Even the [inaudible: 00:21:21] and colorist were great, and yeah, it was a dream team, and I learned so much about making comics, so yeah.
Rachael: Oh, that is so cool. Kate Leth is really, really, really cool.
Gwenda: She is the best. We have long… You know, she immediately picked up on, like, the genderqueer character in the book. And its like, “I wanna do more with this character.” And I’m like, “That is everyone’s favorite character, including mine. Like, yes, obviously.”
Rachael: Oh, I can’t wait to read it. I don’t have it yet, but I’m going to.
Gwenda: I’m like, “Do whatever you want with her.” Kate’s like, “Can she kiss a girl?” And I’m like, “Of course she can.”
Rachael: I’m in.
Gwenda: Like, Kate asked me about… This isn’t a spoiler. I don’t think, but, like, the last issue it was three kisses, three.
Rachael: That’s awesome. That is so awesome. Yay! And where can listeners find you? Where’s the best place?
Gwenda: They can find me on Twitter. I’m posting pictures. And I have a TinyLetter. That’s just tinyletter/gwenda, and I sent that out fairly regularly, and I have the website gwendabond.com. I’m easy to find. I’m everywhere. I’m omnipresent.
Rachael: And your name is unique too and beautiful, so it’s easy to remember.
Gwenda: Yeah, and I grab my name immediately whenever a new platform comes up, so I’m always easy to find.
Rachael: Me too, and my name Rachael is spelled little bit funny. It’s like Michael, so I generally try to grab both which is kind of weird. But like, Rachael Herron spelled the normal way still maps to my sites, you know, there’s Rachael…
Gwenda: I’m sure there’s a Rachel Herron who spells it the regular way who hates you.
Rachael: I know she exists, and, actually, there’s a young woman who can’t be more than 20, but she wants to be a writer. And her name is Rachel Herron, and I’m like, “Oh, God. I’m so sorry.”
Gwenda: Just be R. Herron. It’s too late for you.
Rachael: Yeah, exactly. Use R and your middle initial, you’re fine.
Gwenda: JK Herron.
Rachael: I like that actually. Well, Gwenda, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for talking to us, and I hope that you have very happy holidays and a better 2017 than 2016.
Gwenda: Yeah, 2017, but I don’t know.
Rachael: All right, thank you so, so, so much.
Rachael: Thanks so much for joining me on this episode of “How Do You Write.” You can reach me on Twitter Rachael Herron or at my website rachaelherron.com. You can also support me on Patreon and get essays on living your creative life for as little as a buck an easy at patreon.com/rachael, spelled R-A-C-H-A-E-L. And do sign up for my free weekly newsletter of encouragement to writers at rachaelherron.com/write. Now go to your desk and create your own process. Get to writing my friends.
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