About S. A. Porcher:
S. A. Porcher is the writer and illustrator for Aviator Owl Books Inc., the company she co-founded in December 2013. AO Books is dedicated to inspiring and educating children as well as raising awareness and money for great causes. For every book sold, 50% of the profits go to the cause it supports.
Currently S. A. Porcher is a student at Purdue University. In May 2015 she will graduate with three degrees in English, Creative Writing, and Industrial Design.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve been writing since I was very young. It started as a way for me to stretch my imagination but as I grew older and encountered more difficult life challenges, it became a way for me to work through them. Now, writing is sort of like breathing for me. Something difficult in my life? Write it down. Something I’m nervous about? Write it down. Something I wish could happen in the real world but it’s physically impossible? Write it down. Something boring happened that no one but me will ever care about? Write it down and hide it in a folder of permanently unpublished works.
While I’ve always loved writing fantasy and sci-fi type things, my journey through a creative writing major in school has really opened me up to different genres. I’ve toyed with some deeper pieces, flash fiction, memoirs, and even poetry. The company I co-founded in 2013 (Aviator Owl Books Inc.) was started based on my books that featured 5 little owls and it’s through these books that I find the most satisfaction. I nannied and student taught second graders in high school, and I loved and admired the way that kids believe in impossible things. Their imaginations are so beautifully unrestricted and I really want to help foster that and keep it alive. It’s sad to me that somewhere along the way people lose that, but I find that the most innovative people are the ones who were able to hold onto some small sliver of unabashed creativity. If I can help kids hold onto that in any way, I’m going to.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am all over the map when it comes to process. For any Aviator Owl book, I usually start on a whiteboard or paper and sketch out a rough version of every spread. Usually it’s chicken scratch. I snap a photo of this on my phone and (usually in the back of one of my college classes), I’ll look over the storyboard and begin a rough manuscript. Since I also illustrate all of those books, I get sheets of paper and sketch a larger, more refined version of every spread. These get scanned into the computer, thrown in Photoshop or Illustrator and I’ll digitally paint or sketch over them. Then these are put into InDesign so I can look over the book for several days and make sure the manuscript fits it well. Then I refine it until it’s approved by my business partner, and we publish.
For my short stories, poems and flash fiction, it’s incredibly rare that I’ll outline anything. Usually I’ll be “struck” with inspiration, scribble down my idea (which later I’ll find as illegible smudges on the back on some class notes), and think about that idea for several hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. Eventually I’ll sit down and just start writing, and the characters will take me where they’re ready to go. Every once in a while I’ll take a “side journey” with a character and write them in a completely different scenario just so I can get a feel for exactly who they are. Stuff like that will never see the light of day, but it’s helpful for me to take that walk with them.
If I’m interested in a chapter book, it’s storyboarded. I got very lucky one day in class and was able to snag a (free!) giant roll of white paper, and I used this to map out my characters, plot lines, environments, and even random things like pets and important objects. I have to storyboard longer works because I love writing details but my memory is terrible. I have to have a way to keep everything straight.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Oh my goodness yes. Sure, I thought up my original characters, but usually they end up having personalities of their own. It’s part of what I love about the writing process. I feel like I get to meet new and exciting people (and sometimes creatures). There was a year of school that required me to drive 70 minutes both ways to work (yay internships), and it was on a very quiet, dark road. I was frequently visited by my own characters, and I think those 140 minutes of commuting every day really helped some of them develop. I’ll have full conversations in my head with them. It was fun and I was certainly never bored.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t stop writing. But also don’t expect to be the next J. K. Rowling. If you’re writing for the money, get out now. Write for you and don’t ever worry about, “they won’t like this.” I remember a while ago I was working on a chapter book and the main character was a girl. I was so worried that people wouldn’t read the book because of that (this was before the huge surge of popular female leads like in The Hunger Games and Divergent). Eventually I stopped working on it because of my stupid preconceived notions. I’ve recently picked it up again but this time it’s with much more freedom. I’m writing it for me this time.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I chose the self-publishing route for the children’s books for a very simple reason: I did not want to give up the rights or creative intent of my work. I write and illustrate all of the books for Aviator Owl, and I wanted to keep my illustrations and writings intact. It took a while for me to learn the ropes, but I did my research and now I know how to make the books look professional. I’m good at Photoshop and Illustrator and I’m going to school for creative writing, English and design so I trust my abilities to make a good product. At Aviator Owl we also go through user testing (and let real people read the books before they’re published), so that helps too.
My advice to authors who are considering traditional publishing vs. self-publishing is do your research. If you’re doing a children’s book and you’re not good at illustrating and not willing to pay a professional, then don’t self publish just because you can. If you’re writing a novel and you have faith in it but you don’t want to go the traditional route, I still strongly recommend hiring at least a professional editor. I’d also consider a professional to do the cover design because people really do judge a book by its cover.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I’m one of those people that accepts new technology, so the new “ebook” movement is cool (plus I’m a huge tree-hugger and it saves a lot of paper). However, I grew up with physical books in my hand and I hope that’s always an option for me as I get older because I love the feel of a real book. I really hope that in fifty years there are still physical copies being produced.
My big concern with technology in the book business is how easy it makes self-publishing. Anyone at any age can publish anything, and more often than not that published “thing” is not the best work it could be. I think technology can sometimes make it too easy for inexperienced authors to rush through their work just so they can see their books on the market. But the reality is that these books don’t have the chance to be refined. One of the great things about traditional publishing is that it weeds out the weaker stories. The authors that wrote them can either quit or refine their craft until their work becomes something truly amazing, and those are the books that I like to see on the market. Don’t get me wrong, self-publishing is awesome (obviously I’m an advocate because I self-publish) but I think it makes it too easy for authors to skip the nitty-gritty editing/refining phase and jump right into seeing a physical copy, even if that physical copy is terrible.
What do you use?: Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: children’s, young adult fiction, fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, memoir, flash fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
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