Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another Friendly Conversation: Rosie Connolly

Today I've invited Rosie Connolly to talk with me. She runs a really fun blog called East for Green Eyes. I have to admit that the title was what got me to visit in the first place! I wasn't disappointed either! Sit and listen, then go check it out!

How did you get started as a writer?

Excellent question, and I’m not really sure I have a solid answer for it. I’ve always been somewhat of a storyteller, even if it just meant gross exaggerations and tales of ghosts and aliens when I was a kid. I started actually writing things down—outside of class assignments—when I was 11 or 12. After that, I couldn’t really stop. I started college (several years later, of course) as a creative writing major. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I set writing aside for about 10 years, returning to it in 2008.

A good story is what really makes me tick!

What was your first complete story?

My first complete story was a horror “novel” of about 50K that I wrote in JHS. I considered myself the next up and coming Christopher Pike, conquering the YA horror scene. Honestly, it was crap, but it was fun.

Yeah, I thought my first book was going to be the great American sci-fi novel... I should go back and revisit that one; maybe it can be salvaged ;)

What made you decide to write it?

Hahaha. Honestly, it was JHS, and I was unpopular (to say the least). I based several characters off of people I knew in my classes and killed them off. Totally cathartic J


Do you free-write or outline?

A little of both, but I lean more toward the outline. I’ve found that if I don’t know the ultimate end game of a story, my characters won’t cooperate with me. So I always need to have a beginning, an end, and several middle points in mind before I can begin anything. But some scenes in between, and how I connect the dots, tends to be a little more free form.

That's about the point I'm at in my writing process.

If you free-write, how do you keep things organized?

I use a program called Scrivener for everything I write. I LOOOOVE it. I downloaded a free trial version for NaNoWriMo last year and I haven’t written in any program other than Scrivener every since. I can start a “scene” by taking notes for myself, and it’s always there, ready and waiting when I get there. And I can move things around so much easier than cutting and pasting in Word or another word processor. I don’t really want to sound like a walking advertisement, but, seriously, it’s the best thing I’ve ever paid for. (I’m even trying to get my husband to get himself a copy for academic writing. I think it would help him, too)

Ooh! Sounds fun! I'll have to check it out.

If you outline, do you plot the entire story first, or bits at a time as you write?

A little of both. Like I said, I can’t start without a beginning, several middle points, and an end, so I always have that as a loose outline. Sometimes I’ll free-write in between. Sometimes I’ll come up with another middle point that has to happen, and I’ll add it to the outline.

What do you do to counteract writer’s block?

The best thing that’s ever worked for me is forbidding myself from writing. It sounds silly, but once I’m not “allowed” to write, that’s all I want to do. My brain goes into overdrive and I can’t think about anything else until I can get back to that last scene. Reverse psychology at its finest.

Hahaha! That is awesome!

How do you keep your characters original? (i.e. what do you do to make sure your characters don’t turn out the same in every story?)

I’m not sure. My characters come to me in various forms, and they all just feel inherently different from the start. I can’t say it’s always a conscious decision. 

*Jealousy!!!* I have to check and recheck to make sure my characters aren't too similar...of course it forces me to develop them more, so it has it's advantages.

What exercises to you use to develop your characters?

I like to ask my characters a series of questions, some of which I have posted on my blog. Sometimes I’ll use some of the resources at the
Honestly, and while it’s the easiest tactic, it’s also the most time consuming, I’ll write a full draft, and the character will develop on his or her own over the course of the writing. Then I’ll go back and tweak in revisions.

Cool! I'm going to go check out those questions!

What do you do to make your whole story interesting? How do you avoid “slow stretches”?

I picture each scene as having its own individual arc, so that it has to have some kind of rising tension throughout, possibly with dips, but there’s always something increasing the tension. Maybe it’s not the tension of the main plot, but it’s something to keep the reader interested. If I can keep that in mind, I like to think that it staves off the slow stretches. I suppose we’ll find out for sure once I actually start querying (hopefully just after the new year).

Hey! I do the same thing!

How does your own life inform your writing?

It does. I don’t think anyone can deny this fact. But how? I’ve noticed a trend recently where several of my main protagonists have missing parents. It’s not consistently one or the other, but there’s at least one absent. I suppose that’s because I’m still dealing with the death of my father from a few years ago.
Beyond that, I guess the only other thing is that I can’t stand my female characters being stupid or silly, just in the same way I can’t surround myself with those kinds of women. I need strong, smart female friends just like I need strong, smart female characters.

I find myself working my philosophy/values into a story by spreading them among the characters, including the villain. I find it gives the story a more realistic, well-rounded feel (especially when I can show the villain doing things for what even I feel would be a good cause, even if I am horror-struck by what he/she does).

Who is your favorite author?

(For the record, none of my following answers go together.)
I would say my favorite author is probably Barbara Kingsolver. I love the Poisonwood Bible!

I've always been a bit intrigues by the Poisonwood Bible, but never enough to pick it up. Maybe I'll check it out.

Favorite book?

Geeky as it may sound, War and Peace. I’m a sucker for a good epic. And a good romance.

Epic I can go for. Romance...well, just like chick-flicks, I prefer something with action and excitement.

Favorite genre to read?

Anything YA, though I’m definitely not exclusive in my reading. I recently devoured The Ghost and the Goth and Divergent. Excellent reads (imho) for anyone looking for a YA suggestion.

There has to be something extraordinary in a book for me. I don't mind books set in the real world, as long as there's something to take it out of the realm of everyday life. I like spy novels! I also like mysteries.

Favorite genre to write?

Definitely YA, though I lean more into the urban fantasy realm. The novel that I plan to query is a YA urban fantasy/romance. My NaNo piece from last November is YA urban fantasy. Right now I’m working on a YA dystopian, and my NaNo this year will be a YA paranormal.

Now that's what I'm talking about! Though I confess most of the ones I've read are all basically the same.

When you’re not writing, what do you do in your spare time?

Um, what’s spare time? I consider that I have two part-time jobs: the one that pays my bills now (which is working as a technical editor for a small academic publisher), and one that will pay a bill or two later (which is my writing). That consumes 50-60 hours Monday through Friday. Add to that my weekend work, and I don’t even want to think about the number of hours. I suppose after that I’m a compulsive TV-watcher/knitter. I also like to cook, but mainly because I’m cheap and I can’t really eat out (too many dietary restrictions).

Wow, and I thought I was busy! What's your weekend work?

What are three interesting facts about you?

1) I have a master’s degree in Slavic Linguistics. I specialized in Polish syntax and clitics.

Wow! How in the world did you decide on Slavic linguistics?!?!?!

2) As a linguist by training, I fit several stereotypes, including (but not limited to) have studied several languages but speaking none of them with any kind of fluency. The best two, I suppose, are Russian and Polish. If I were dropped in the center of either of those countries, though, I’d probably get my fluency level up within a couple of weeks.

That's about where my Spanish is.

3) One of my cats is from Poland. My husband and I adopted him while we were living in Krakow in 2004. We call him to dinner in Polish. Since then, we have adopted a second cat from the local shelter, who really just gets confused when we try using commands with her in Polish. She is hopelessly monolingual J

What were you doing in Poland? Gotta confess, I'm a little jealous (of the travel in general). And funniest pet situation in the world!!!

Wow! I've never learned so much about one of my visitors before! Rosie, you are an awesome interviewee! I hope I can read some of your stories some day!


  1. This is great! Thanks, Reece! I've known Rosie for over a year and still learned some new things in this interview! (Hi Rosie.) I think it's a kick she calls her cat to dinner in Polish, and absent (or distant) parents are a good thing in YA--it gets them out of the way so the MC can do his/her thing. :)

  2. Thanks, Reece, for hosting me. And you couldn't have picked a better day, since it was my birthday on Thursday. I had fun answering your questions :)

  3. Great interview! :)

    War and Peace is a good book--I just finished reading it last summer.