Hello everyone! Here’s another interview for the Foster Your Writing blog. This week’s interview is with E. J. Robison, a freelancer, blog writer, and science fiction/fantasy author. Read more below!
1) What does writing mean to you? What do you think the purpose of writing is?
Ah, starting off with the most difficult questions, I see! 🙂 I think that writing is seeing the world as what it could be, perhaps even what it should be—using imagination and creativity to teach real-world truths that otherwise can’t (or won’t) be digested. This, I believe, is the purpose of writing. Writers are entertainers, yes, but most of all teachers. A story that simply entertains is forgettable at worst and a mind-numbing distraction at best, but a story that means something, a story that teaches us to see the world, other people, or ourselves just a bit differently… That’s a story with the potential to change the world.
2) What particular genre do you write in? Why are you passionate about that genre?
I’ve written in most of the popular genres and enjoyed them, but my favourites will always be fantasy and sci-fi. How did I begin writing them? I don’t know. They were in my DNA, in the stories I was surrounded with growing up. It wasn’t a choice for me; from my very first story, magic and dragons came flowing out of my pen, and strange planets and spaceships soon followed.
For a long time, I never really considered why these genres were so important to me, but I think I understand a little better now. Sci-fi and fantasy worlds are so very different from our own world; I love being free to imagine any possibility. What if there was a planet made of glass? What if genies were real? In these genres, I can do absolutely anything.
But the part that most deeply resonates with me, I think, is that even on the most alien worlds imaginable, truth is still truth. There is good and evil. People—aliens, mythical creatures, what have you—they all still struggle to do the right thing. Despite the fact that these stories are as far from humanity as you can get, they’re still such human stories. Sci-fi and fantasy truly reveal deep, universal human needs, most of all the need for a Saviour, the need for love, forgiveness, and mercy to overcome the ever-present darkness.
To me, this is an excellent way to teach. Telling someone about the power of sacrifice might not be enough, but reading about Aslan offering to die in Edmund’s place? That’s much more powerful. Sci-fi and fantasy stories have the potential to really drive home these deeper truths.
3) What does being a writer mean to you?
I’m repeating myself a bit here, but it means teaching through storytelling. As we all know, showing is vastly superior to telling, and that’s exactly what stories do: they show us how to hope. They show us what love really means. They show us what bravery looks like. (Maybe it should be called story-showing rather than storytelling…) My passion is to demonstrate these truths through well-written, engaging stories so that people learn while being thoroughly entertained.
4) Where and how do you find inspiration?
Where? Anywhere but my house. 🙂 I’m only sort of kidding. Many of my bursts of inspiration come when I’m sitting quietly at a coffee shop, taking a walk, or just adventuring wherever. Since I work from home, I’ve made it a habit to get out of the house several times a week to get some fresh air—and ideas.
However, a lot of ideas also come to me late at night while I’m brushing my teeth or climbing into bed (which is why I literally keep a notebook and pen under my mattress). All that stuff they say about your brain getting more creative as you get tired is absolutely true; I’ve always done my best writing at night.
I will admit that inspiration has never been difficult for me—it’s important to remember that we all have different struggles, right? Ideas are ever-flowing in my brain, but planning them makes me want to pull my hair out. I can say that one key to inspiration is letting it come to you. I’ve met a lot of people who complain about having no inspiration, and when I hear that they wake up, work out, go to work from 9-5, come home, make dinner, watch TV, and then go right to bed every day, I can see why. There’s no space for your brain to get any inspiration with a schedule like that! I understand that some people truly are that busy, but it’s important for your creativity—and most importantly, for your mental and physical health—to give yourself a break. Every day, even if it’s brief. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can do if you start from a place of rest rather than a place of hurry and stress.
Another key to inspiration is getting outside, or at least out of the house somewhere. As you become accustomed to your surroundings, natural curiosity fades, and that’s the curiosity you need for ideas. Go somewhere new, or sit at a park for a bit—nature is always changing. Chill at your favourite coffee shop for a day and people-watch. Truly experience everything—your coffee, your food, what you hear, what you see… Use all of your senses to their fullest, and then just imagine that anything’s possible because it is in storytelling.
Oops…that became a bit of a lecture, but hey, I’m preaching to myself, too!
5) What are some of the challenges you face as a writer and how do you combat them when you sit down to write or even just prepare to write?
Planning, if you couldn’t tell by my last answer. It’s the enemy of all my writing. I’m wonderful at ideas, terrible at actually planning them and turning them into a full, good story and seeing it through.
This is something I’m still working through, step by teeny tiny step. For a long time, I denied that I needed to plan anything because I’m a pantser. I still am, but I’ve now realised that to make sure you have a well-rounded, meaningful story, you really do need to plan, regardless of whether you’re a planner or pantser. Planning just looks a little different depending on how much structure you prefer.
I combated this difficulty, first, through a lot of research. I’ve tried lots of different plotting methods to try to find one that clicks, and just recently, I think I hit the jackpot. (You can read about it here if you’re interested!) But it was hard to reach this point. I still have several projects dear to my heart that have gone unfinished because I couldn’t figure out how to plan them correctly. So I guess the true moral of the story is simply not giving up. Even if you’ve been writing for over a decade like I have, sometimes things change and you have to find a different way of doing things. Writing is never a stagnant, straightforward process; you have to learn to adapt and accept failure sometimes.
I know I’ve already droned on long enough, but I also have to mention that the strongest and most recent enemy of my writing has simply been time. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been in my whole life, and when I first started getting busier, there was a long time when I wasn’t writing at all because I simply didn’t have time.
Everyone says this, I know, but you do have time. I remember planning out my average day hour by hour and growing cold as I realised there was no room for anything else in my schedule, let alone writing for fun. But I didn’t let that stop me. I asked my husband for help cooking dinner some nights so I’d have time to write instead on those days. Then I figured out ways to streamline my work process. I started meal prepping. Little by little, I made time—even just a little bit—to write every day (except for Sundays, because I believe a day of rest is important, but that’s a whole different topic).
6) Where can we find some of your writing?
You can check out my Amazon author page here to find some of my published works. I also frequently post story “blurbs” on my blog here. Other than that, you can find some additional works on Vocal. I post new stories all the time, so following my blog is the best way to see what’s new!
7) Where can we reach you?
8) What are some interesting facts about you?
Trying to think of some of the weirdest stuff about me… 🙂 I love baking, and I especially love baking bread; I’m the proud “mom” of a sourdough starter that’s now two years old. I’m also a musician, so I play and own too many instruments to count, one of which is a traditional Chinese instrument called the pipa. I’m a huge lover of both tea and espresso (yes, espresso specifically, drip coffee is evil) and I enjoy trying out all sorts of fun new drinks and blends at home. I have an amazing, massive family with lots of siblings and nieces/nephews, as well as many wonderful friends and an incredible husband. One day, I want to be able to say I’ve travelled the world!
There you have it! Check out E. J. Robison’s blog and the amazing answers to these questions, and be sure to stick around for a new post on THIS blog tomorrow. Happy reading and writing!
I’ve updated my writing profile! You can find-
My website here: emsherwoodfoster.com
The Facebook Page