Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the first episode of Writer’s Awakening. Today, we have author Renee Wiseman with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Renee.
Renee: My journey into writing was a twisted one, because I actually started as a kid. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I started writing to escape my life, especially as things grew worse. As my mom’s condition deteriorated I poured a huge amount of energy into creating a science fiction universe. It was an escape from a reality where the person who meant the most to me was failing and preparing to leave the world. She passed away when I was 14, and by that time I had a novel about half written (I thought.) I finished the novel and tried sending it to some publishers with a query letter I found online. This was in the 90s when the internet was still relatively new, and resources scarce.
Moonlake: How was this first novel received by publishers?
Renee: I got personal responses back from several of the publishers. In hindsight, I should have framed those! One in particular I remember just asked me to expand it by a few thousand words and resubmit. But I was a fragile kid who had just lost her mother and was suffering from low self-esteem. I gave up and poured my writing energy into online roleplaying games instead. I created new worlds that way and spent hours a day on them. They really honed my characterization and world building skills. My interests also shifted from Science Fiction to the fantasy genre. About two years ago it became more difficult to find other players and many of the games I was in closed down. I was left with time on my hands and found an old copy of my manuscript from when I was 15. I cringed when I read some parts of it, but got a niggling idea that maybe I should try it again.
Moonlake: Wow, this sounds amazing, Renee. Just so you know, I’ve recently become a player in a dedicated weekly gaming group but I’m not a Game Master (GM) like you, just a player. But really, it amazes me that as a teenager, you already recognize that being a writer is what you want to be enough that you would actually query agents/publishers.
Renee: I remember it took me over 4 hours to print my book on an old fashioned dot matrix printer. I enclosed the envelope so they’d return the manuscript because it cost so much money for me to produce it. I spent more time on those queries than I spent on my college admission essays.
Moonlake: Oh okay, so you were about 18 when you did the querying? But still amazing.
Renee: 16. I started querying at 16.
Moonlake: Oh, you stuck at querying for 2 years?! Wow, you were very persistent back then.
Renee: My dad always told me I was stubborn.
Moonlake: Lol, stubborn is good when it’s for a good cause. So what eventually happened to this first project?
Renee: Well, eventually I gave it up. I got enough rejections I decided it wasn’t good enough, especially with those around me telling me the same. I put it away. That novel was lost in a hard drive crash years ago, though I still have a paper copy of the manuscript.
Moonlake: Have you looked through this first manuscript since you gave it up just to see how far you’ve come since then and maybe plan about giving it a re-write?
Renee: I did actually. Most writers cringe when they look at something they wrote years ago. I didn’t cringe when I read that one, I fled in terror! That book had its place, but it’ll never see print in anything close to its current form. It helped me confront life issues that I was much too young to deal with. I confronted death in that book, and doing so helped me come to terms with what was happening in my real life. I know now that the world was underdeveloped and many of the characters were superficial. I’m not saying I’ll never rewrite it, in fact my husband wants me to, but I’m much more interested in the fantasy genre now, and I have no shortage of stories there to tell.
Moonlake: On looking through old work, actually I’m someone who routinely goes through old writing of mine just to see them with fresh eyes. But I can see that if that initial project was just a means for you to deal with your real life situation at that specific time and like you said, the core ideas are under-developed and your interest had moved on, then it’s best to just keep it as a memorandum. So when is it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what are the circumstances?
Renee: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a kid part of me knew that I was supposed to be doing this. For the past 15 years or so I was content to just share it with a small group of my friends in the form of those online games, but about 2 years ago something in me changed, and I wanted to do something more serious, and more lengthy than a play by email post. I’ve always constructed massive storylines in my games and I just took that to the next level and began doing it largely for myself. Something inspired me, and I began making the time and pouring my energy in that direction instead. Now I have a completed 125K word novel to show for it, with plans for a second book.
Moonlake: Just out of personal curiosity, you said earlier you’ve sunk a lot of your energy into gaming, would you be able to describe more specifically how much time you spent on it?
Renee: At one point I was playing in 22 games, and GMing 5. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on those online games, really. Even now, a group of those friends and I are gaming together in the world I’m creating in my novel. They’re all really excited to read it. Three of them already have.
Moonlake: So I guess the gaming also gives you some natural fans to begin with?
Renee: Yes, it seems I do! And I make sure to put references to those games throughout my works. They are subtle, and things only those involved in the games or plots would recognize. Names of characters or places, or events that happened. As a matter of fact, the plot for my new novel is a plot I ran in one of my RPGs about 10 years ago. I just repurposed, redeveloped and expanded it tremendously.
Moonlake: Ah, additional benefit: recycling of story elements. I’m always fond of recycling too. Now, looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?
Renee: Looking back I would have slapped my teenage self and told her to expand that novel and get it out! I truly regret the time I lost, though I can’t say I fully regret my online gaming years. I have many good friends and great memories that came out of that experience, and working with many characters in one scene taught me how to juggle different voices and points of view. Putting together plots for the games taught me about making plots for books. My settings, descriptions and characterization are all stronger from the input I got from those amazing friends. Looking at my writing then and now I can see how much those skills benefited me. I’m a stronger writer for it.
Moonlake: So overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?
Renee: More than I can easily quantify. When I was a teenager writing that first book, I was learning so much. That was really the first fiction I ever wrote. As part of my Master’s degree I had to write a nonfiction book on history, and doing so taught me many of the technical aspects of writing a book, but holding my work in hard bound form also taught me a feeling of pride and accomplishment that made my gaming experience pale in comparison. That was really my ‘ah hah!’ moment when I said “I love this!” I’m now a far more experienced and sophisticated writer than when I wrote that first book as a teenager.
Moonlake: In terms of your foray into fantasy, how far have you gone in terms publishing? And maybe share your WIP?
Renee: Well, I’m proud to say I have a short story in the upcoming Monsters Vs. Zombies anthology from Stitched Smile Publications. That is due in October. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my novel, tentatively titled “Ayneria’s Call”. This one is about a girl who was born a slave in an empire resembling our historical Rome. She is selected by the Goddess of the Fae to lead the tribes, which leads to a conflict, since she was born and raised among humans, she only wants to be human. But Goddesses aren’t easily turned down, now are they? I’m currently looking for an agent to represent my novel.
Moonlake: Sounds great, those developments. Now, if we want to follow you on social media, how can we find you?
Moonlake: Okay then, best of luck for the novel. I think that about wraps up the interview. Thanks for your time today.
Renee: My pleasure.
Moonlake: That’s all for today. Thanks to all of those who read this through.