Recently I had the opportunity of reading and reviewing Autumn Recovery (review) and Desolate (review) written by the lovely self-published author Stephanie Binding. Yesterday, October 28th, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Stephanie about her novels, her own struggles with addiction and mental illness, writing, and her upcoming project. Here is a transcript of our talk:
Me: I want to get started with some of the more practical things such as – you’ve now published two books at the age of 20, how did you get to that point? Is it at all overwhelming or shocking to believe?
Stephanie: I’ll be honest. My first book, Autumn Recovery, almost happened as an accident. I basically wrote a couple “chapters” and shared it to Facebook, and people seemed really interested in it, which made me realize that I could actually make money doing what I love to do. It isn’t overwhelming or shocking for me to believe, because I have been writing since I was a young child. Right now, my only job is to just write (new books, short stories, poems) and promote my finished products. I’m not receiving a lot of attention for it yet.
Me: What is your normal writing routine? Do you do anything specific to get yourself in the right frame of mind or is it more a “go with the flow” mentality?
Stephanie: There is no set routine for me. I have more of a “go with the flow” mentality when it comes to writing. However, I do feel that I need to make sure I am in a mostly quiet place and have the desire to actually write, otherwise I will just sit and stare at the computer screen, which doesn’t do any good for me.
Me: How did you find that writing was your desire, your passion in life?
Stephanie: As I stated earlier, I have been writing since I was a child. It was a well-known trait of mine to anyone who knew me, that I liked to read and write. That being said, it wasn’t until I was beginning to get to know my significant other that I realized I may actually be good at what I do. He had read my short stories and poems (that I showed to very few people) and told me that I had talent. That little compliment that seems so small was the very thing to propel me into this career. It made me encouraged to pursue my passion of writing even further.
Me: It is wonderful to have such a wealth of support in your significant other. Getting down into some of the deeper questions, what was your inspiration for Autumn Recovery? And for Desolate?
Stephanie: There was nothing in particular that had inspired me to write Desolate; it was a story sitting in the back of my head for a while that I had decided to pick up and write once my first book was published. You may have read in Autumn Recovery’s disclaimer that I had loosely based the book off of my personal life experiences. Though it is a definite fiction, Autumn Recovery was indeed inspired by my own past of drug abuse and my current struggle with mental illness.
Me: Discussing specifically your disclaimer with Autumn Recovery, what percentage would you consider to be based off of your real life experience? Do you think your struggles with drug abuse and mental illness have had a noticeable impact on your writing?
Stephanie: I have given rough estimates of the “percentage” of truth in Autumn Recovery, but it is important to note that they are merely estimates. It’s difficult to put an accurate percentage because there are just so many factors to take in. For example, Evelyn Padenski was a teenage girl who struggled with her emotions. A lot of the feelings that Evelyn explained in the book very much came from my own heart. Certain moments and situations in Autumn Recovery were almost all complete fiction. As I’ve said before to many different people who have asked similar questions, my real story was much worse.
Me: Fair enough and very well explained. I know that one of the concerns you shared with me about Autumn Recovery was its lack of polish, where do you feel you could have improved with the novel?
Stephanie: My regrets with Autumn Recovery are that I didn’t get many beta readers, an editor, or paid services for cover design and such. I also agree with what you had said in your review—that the “flashbacks” were choppy and irrelevant at times.
Me: I can only imagine how valued beta readers, editors, and other paid services can be. When you compared Autumn Recovery’s finished product to Desolate’s finished product, were you able sense the amount of growth your writing experienced? Do you attribute some of this to having better access to the same services you didn’t utilize with your first novel?
Stephanie: I find that not only is Desolate a cleaner and more finished product, but also better written. It took me a year to finish it up, what with the beta readers and the constant re-writing and the editor, and then the formatting and the cover design on top of that. I spent a lot more time and put a lot more work into Desolate. Also, I have became a much better writer since Autumn Recovery. Admittedly, I have become a much better writer since Desolate as well.
Me: Ooooh, possible allusion to a future Stephanie Binding novel…do you have any other projects currently in the works and when can we expect to read them?
Stephanie: Haha! Did you just think I was going to quit after my second novel? Yes, I am working on my latest project and I am honestly so excited for it, but I think it is a little too early to talk about it yet. I’ll give you a couple hints, though: Sci-Fi and Trilogy.
Me: Never thought you were going to stop, just curiosity and all. A Sci-Fi trilogy is definitely something a little more outside of the box compared to your two coming of age novels and sounds very exciting! Going back to discussions of improvement, we have already discussed how you would have improved upon Autumn Recovery – are there any such things you wish you had improved upon with Desolate?
Stephanie: Oh, definitely. First of all, a few of my beta readers (who happen to be close friends and family members) seemed to be somewhat disinterested in the plot of the story. I feel that most of the positive comments they made were only to be polite towards me and had little to do with the story itself. A few people seemed to indulge in it, claiming to fall into the deep emotions I had tried to portray and adoring many of the characters, whereas other people seemed to have found it over-dramatic. I guess it really depends on the person reading it, but I have to agree that the main character and narrator of Desolate can get on the readers’ nerves. She certainly got on mine.
Me: Do you think you played up on the dramatic because of Camilla’s age? I mean, when you think about it every single thing that happens to us on an individual level at her age seems to have so much more importance and weight to it than it really does. Did you consider this when writing her character to lend more credence and realism to her?
Stephanie: I am honestly not sure about that. I don’t think that I consciously or unconsciously had intended to make her dramatic. The character of Camilla that I know is naturally a more self-centered girl, so it is a possibility that I had woven her to be the way she comes across to many people in the book.
Me: I tend to agree that Camilla did come across as very self-centered. I discussed in my review how her relationship with Le’Vaughn was very reminiscent of addiction rather than a healthy relationship, given your own experience with addiction and knowing of Camilla, what are your thoughts on that?
Stephanie: A highly privileged white female living in New York City with her well-off parents as an only child? I believe her self-centered trait is realistic. Ha. Your thoughts on that were interesting for me to read, and I will admit they made me sit back and really think about it for a while. I had talked to my significant other about it afterwards and we discussed how your perspective may hold a serious truth behind it. Camilla was, in a way, obsessed with Le-Vaughn. I think I will ultimately leave that up for the readers to decide on their own. Though I will openly disagree with you that their love isn’t true, I think the rest is up to the readers to decide for themselves.
Me: I agree with you that she came about her self-centeredness rightly. I greatly appreciate that you took the time to critically think about the point I raised rather than just shooting it down and thank you for being candid about it. I also appreciate authors who give some room for interpretation, such as you have, with Camilla and Le’Vaughn. I do agree that they love each other, I just tend to think that Camilla’s issues and seeming addiction to him at first are what eventually grew into the love that she has for him whereas for him it was real the whole time.
Stephanie: Oh, no worries! I appreciate you giving me your honest opinion about it. For me, it is refreshing to have a discussion about these characters with someone who actually seems interested in them enough to put some real thought behind their motives and feelings.
Me: I find that it is easier to give such thought and feedback on characters which have a certain amount of depth to them – you were able to give a good sense of depth and realism to Camilla and Le’Vaughn which allowed me as a reader to connect with them, to become emotionally invested in them. What are some of your practices for writing well developed characters?
Stephanie: You know, it’s funny, because people are always asking about techniques and practices on writing. I usually have little to no advice to give. Every writer is different in their own way, but to explain in a way that most people can understand, allow me to quote the author George R.R. Martin:
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.”
Whereas Mr. Martin tells his fans he is an architect, I have to tell you that I am most definitely a gardener. The characters come to life on their own in my head, and even the story will lead me to places I have never been before.
Me: I think that is a very interesting way of looking at it. Are the stories that you are writing complete in your mind and the trick is transferring them from your head to the paper? Or is there more to it than that?
Stephanie: Nope! As a “gardener” type, the stories are merely an idea. I simply plant them into the ground and water them. They truly begin to formulate and come to life on their own as I write them. For my latest project, I do have a rough timeline scribbled down, but I can tell you right now that I never knew it was going to lead me in this direction.
Me: Oh the mystery surrounding the new project is going to drive me crazy, haha. Well, given what you now know about what it means to be an author and getting published, is there any advice that you want to pass along to those interested in doing the same?
Stephanie: Keep following me on Twitter or ‘like’ my Facebook page and you will hear more news about the new novel as time goes on, I promise! My biggest piece of advice is to write and read, write and read. I know that sounds boring but that is really the “secret” trick to being an author! Writing is how you practice and how you hone your skill; reading is how you inspire yourself. Both are very important, in my opinion! Another thing for any new-budding writers or aspiring authors out there—don’t give up. If it is something you love to do, please keep doing it, even when it gets hard, even when you think you’re not good enough. That’s all. =)
Me: I think those are some excellent pieces of advice Stephanie and I definitely look forward to hearing about your upcoming project. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read/review your work and for agreeing to do this interview. I greatly appreciate the opportunity you have given me and wish you the best in your future endeavors. =)
Stephanie: Thank-you, Melanie, for everything you’ve done! I truly appreciate it! As an author who struggles to find more readers, your reviews and this interview have been a tremendous amount of help. Thank-you, and good luck to you in the future, as well!
Again, I wish to thank Miss Stephanie Binding for the opportunity to read/review her books and for agreeing to participate in this interview.
You can find out more about Stephanie at the following links: