About Joy Liu:
I was born in Philadelphia, and lived in places ranging from San Diego, Houston and Gainesville, Florida. Whenever my family moved, I saw it as an adventure, and relished the sense of discovery and newness that each move brought. I was always thinking about how places compared to where I had been before. I also had no trouble imagining elves behind the walls, tigers in the woods, and spirits in the water.
I’m a doctor (in training) by day, and a writer the rest of the time. I live in Boston, and miss Rhode Island. I write fantasy-based stories about topics that I think are important, like intergenerational trauma, addiction, and cultural identity.
What inspires you to write?
I have been lucky to be surrounded by the beauty of nature: clear, gurgling brooks and quiet woods, cliffs overlooking Southern California sunsets, the swampy springs of North Central Florida, the rocky New England coastline whether snowy or blazing hot. Nature is a huge inspiration for me, and I love traveling to experience new natural wonders.
My work as a doctor also makes a huge impact. Every one of my patients has a story, and figuring out what that story is allows me to take better care of them. I have the privilege of learning about someone’s hopes and fears, how they experience pain and disease, and what has made them the way they are. Writing and doctoring is a symbiotic relationship. Inevitably, doctors and disease creep into my stories, if only because it’s so personal to me.
Tell us about your writing process.
I use Scrivener to organize my research and world-building. I’ve learned from experience it’s important to do your research BEFORE you even start outlining. Then, I try to build an outline, but I know the final story will always be different than what I plan it to be.
When I am drafting, I like to spend the first hour of the morning writing. I spill words on the page. Is it elegant? Does it make sense? It doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to advance the plot, every day. Sometimes, I just write, “X happens” and keep going on to the next chapter. NaNoWriMo was a huge kick in the pants that really advanced my word count and got me to the point where I could start editing.
When the rough draft is done, I survey the wreckage and start writing “draft 1.5’s.” When I get to a point where I realize I have to go back and change the beginning in order to set up the story I *actually* want, I go back to the beginning and rewrite it until it works. Usually I only write 2-3 rough drafts of my end chapters–but 20-plus drafts of my beginning and middle chapters.
I don’t solicit feedback during the writing process. If I, the author, don’t enjoy reading the story, who else will? Especially because I am a self-published author, I have to be my own toughest editor. It is hard to destroy subplots and rewrite characters, but when it has to be done, it has to be done.
The last part of the writing process is going outside, feeling the sunshine on my face, and a trip to the movies.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I do brief sketches of my characters before I start drafting–getting the Paper 53 app and stylus has made it easier to keep all those sketches in one place. I attach adjectives to those sketches to remind myself, how would X react differently from Y in this situation?
Some of my characters do “talk back” while I really struggle to tease out reactions from others. I like making specific playlists to meditate on how they’re feeling and their internal conflicts.
What advice would you give other writers?
The best writers are those who read! It’s important to familiarize yourself with different styles, different time periods and language, and characters so that you can figure out what you like and don’t like.
Tell other people about your writing commitments. That way, you are accountable during the writing process.
Try to meet other authors, ideally, in person. There’s a ton of great ways to connect with people over the Internet, and lots of helpful blogs and websites with writing advice and information about publishing, but there’s something to be said for in-person connection. See if there’s a convention in your area where you can browse and go to a talk or two. Join a NaNoWriMo write-in for a day. Go to author talks at bookstores if you’re interested in their book.
Use a professional book cover designer. My designer, Charis Loke, made a cover that is probably the best part of the whole damn book. Especially in the world of online publishing, people often do judge books by their cover.
Lastly, use your own voice, and don’t be tempted to imitate someone just because you admire them. If I have learned anything from medicine and life, it is that no two people tell a story the same way. You DO have something to share with us.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I thought hard about whether to go the traditional “find an agent and press” route or self-publish. Because of my work schedule, it was much more convenient to self-publish an e-book.
Self-publishing and e-books worked for me because I have long work days and could not commit to a second job of working with a publisher and agent. I have a good source of income, so was not relying on writing to pay my bills. And I also enjoyed retaining control–for better and worse–over the content, title, and characters.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I worry, in general, about how much we as a society read for pleasure. I think that print books will become an enjoyable luxury and e-books are maintaining a steady presence (but don’t signal the end of the print industry). I wonder if serial novels, especially those released online, will make a resurgence. The future of book publishing depends on convincing more people that full-length novels are just as good an investment of time as news feeds and social media sites.
What do you use?: Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Fantasy, speculative fiction, magical realism
What formats are your books in?: eBook
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.