PATIENT: ERIN BALES
When did you start writing? Why did you pick the genre you write it?
I’ve written for as long as I can remember, but I started writing seriously
only recently. In my mind, writing was always a fallback, something I imagined
I would be good at if I ever tried. It was my secret ambition -- the one that I
was afraid to try at because what if I failed? But I eventually realized that
not trying to live my dream was basically the same as not having a dream at
all, and that’s when I applied to the MFA program at Seton Hill.
As for my genre, I write speculative fiction because I love chasing the
what-if. I like taking the real world and turning it on its ear to see what it
looks like from a different perspective. I gravitate toward epic fantasy
because I love big stories, massive tales that span continents, where the fate
of the world (or at least the fate of those living in it) is at stake.
Also, magic is cool.
Where you get your ideas from? Do you journal at all?
I don’t journal. I’ve tried to, but never had much luck with it. I’m not
sure where my ideas come from. Sometimes my story ideas start with a character
or a scene. Other times they begin with a concept.
What’s a normal (writing) day like for you?
I’m slow to wake, so I like to write first thing in the morning, before my
inner critic has a chance to pipe up. I get a cup of espresso, put a sign up on
my door to warn the family, stick my ear buds in, and go to town. I’ve found
giving myself a weekly goal is best, as that gives me a little leeway on any
given day. At least it does until the end of the week.
Favorite author or book? Who are you currently reading?
I tend to get very attached to authors – some of the ones I’m particularly
attached to are Brandon Sanderson, Tamora Pierce, George R.R. Martin, Sharon
Shinn, Octavia Butler, Scott Westerfeld, Scott Lynch, and Stephen King.
Favorite books are more difficult, especially since a lot of my favorites write
series, and while some series titles can function well as standalones, my love
of them has much to do with the series of which they are a part.
As for what I’m currently reading, I’m making my way through Angie Sage’s
now complete Septimus Heap series. I’m on book six of seven, Darke. The world is a lot of fun and
there is a wide range of great characters. The series reminds me of the first
four Harry Potter books (the end of Goblet
of Fire being the point when Rowling took the series from middle grade to
Do you prefer writing poetry or prose? Why one over the other?
I’m a prose girl. I’ve never spent enough time writing poetry to evolve past
the terrible, adolescent-angst phase. Plus, I’m an epic fantasy writer, so I
tend to think of stories and ideas on a fairly grand scale. I suppose I could
try my hand at something like Beowulf
. . .
Do you write in silence or with noise (TV, movies, music)?
I usually can’t write to anything with words, so I listen to instrumental
music, soundtracks mostly. Sometimes I can revise to stuff with lyrics – when I
do that, I tend to create playlists that reflect the mood of the scene I’m
working on. I also have playlists for characters that I listen to in the
shower. So many brilliant ideas come in the shower . . .
Do you have any weird habits when it comes to writing? Do you type or write
I type all of my prose, but most of my notes are handwritten. I do need my
music, and I have a specific mug that I prefer to use. I think that’s about it.
Would you consider yourself a Plotter or a Pancer?
Neither. That is to say, I’m kind of a pancer, but I prefer a different
term. George R. R. Martin discusses architects and gardeners. Architects plan
out a structure completely before they start building; whereas gardeners plant
seeds and see how they grow. Most of the time a gardener knows what they’re
planting, so there is some planning involved, but the mystery is in how that
seed will grow and what the plant will eventually look like. So I prefer
gardener to pancer because I’m not so much flying by the seats of my pants as I
am finding seeds, planting them, and tending them as they grow.
What do you think is the hardest aspect of the craft?
The discipline needed -- in particular, the discipline needed to get through
to “The End.” The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this includes
unfinished manuscripts. Until a novel is finished that’s all it is, a good
intention. A vague hope. An unlived dream.
My thesis novel, which is about a city-state that has lived in peace for
many years. But when the heir to the throne dies in what seems like a horrible
accident, the ripples spread out to every corner of the continent.
I’m still working on my elevator pitch, but that’s the basic idea. I know a
lot of people can work on more than one project at a time, but I’ve never been
very good at that. I have some other ideas, but they’re mostly just stacks of
notes at this point.
How do you balance being an editor and being a writer?
This is still something I’m figuring out because I tend to get very focused
on one project at a time. I try to start with writing and move on to editing,
but if I’m feeling too divided, then I’ll try to get one out of the way before
moving to the other. With writing, this usually means taking a day or two to
finish a chapter. With editing, it’s finishing a pass on a manuscript. This
isn’t ideal, but so far it’s the best I’ve got.
What do you think people expect from you with your writing?
Well, I don’t think anyone expects anything yet, but hopefully they will
come to expect large and well-drawn worlds, lots of complicated and engaging
characters, strong female protagonists, and fantastical elements (they seem to
even sneak into my SF).
Advice for aspiring writers?
1) Read. If you don’t enjoy reading, then you’re probably barking up the
2) Write. Write as much as you can, as often as you can.
3) Finish what you start.
Bio: I write. I read. I edit professionally. I love snow and sad songs. My
favorite color is red. If it wasn't totally weird, I might have a squirrel as a
Here is a link to my much neglected blog: http://erinsbales.blogspot.com/
I’m on Twitter @Bibliomaniacal1