Today I am privileged to bring to you an interview with Emigh Cannaday! She is an Indie Author who has successfully written books in both the fantasy and contemporary genres. I first came to know this author with the book The Flame and the Arrow, which I just fell in love with. Subsequently I read a couple of her other books, The Silver Thread, Release and Catch and I am still a huge fan-girl of her writing!
A conversation with Emigh Cannaday
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
I enjoy wine, Corgis, art and horses. Not necessarily in that order. 😉
Q. What motivated you to become an Indie Author?
I’m a visual artist at heart, and grew up drawing and painting along with scribbling stories for my own amusement. Artistic integrity has always been very important to me, and I swore I would always stay true to those values. After writing my first book I tried traditional publishing for a few years, but had a difficult time getting my foot in the door. Years later, I now believe it was meant to be, because I think I would hate writing if I had editors chop up my beloved stories until they were completely unrecognizable, or publishers dictating what I should write and how I should write it. The reason I started writing was for my own personal enjoyment. I wasn’t finding the kinds of books that I wanted to read, so I wrote exactly what I wanted to read. I don’t write to trends and I’m not sure I ever would, unless it was to make a mockery of it. I’m proud to be an indie author and I deeply value the creative freedom it’s given me to write what I want and stay true to who I am.
Q. The Scarlet Tanager is the third installment of the Annika Brisby series, can you tell us a little bit about it and how you came up with the idea for your book/series?
I wanted Annika to walk that knife edge of what’s expected of her and what’s strictly forbidden. I’d say one of the biggest themes that I wanted to explore was the idea that we have about commitment to a relationship. A lot of this book was influenced by Dan Savage and the work of Esther Perelle. For some reason, we expect to have all our needs met by one person for the rest of our lives, yet there’s a huge paradox in that, and we might just be setting ourselves up to fail. I mean, that’s a LOT to expect from one person, and a LOT of pressure to put on them! I think the reason that so many relationships fall apart is because one party finally realizes that the other is only human, and they occasionally make mistakes. And then we make them pay for it eternally rather than forgiving and moving forward. This book was my way of suggesting that we can move forward after making mistakes…no matter how large.
Q. What is your writing process?
Since my background is in making fine art, I create stories the same way that I draw pictures: I start with a few sentences as a loose outline of where I want the story to end up…then I keep adding and erasing and adding back in and highlighting certain areas until I’ve pantsed my way from point A to B. That means I venture down a lot of rabbit holes. I used to dream of being a spelunker (cave explorer), so it makes sense that I’m totally ok with this strategy of blindly groping through the dark. 😉 Also, I can’t stand formulaic storytelling, whether it’s in movies or books. I’ve tried to plot things out in a 3-act structure and it wasn’t the magical writing tool for me that it is for some people. I prefer to have a basic plot and then focus on character growth (or demise) and then revise, revise, revise. And then I revise some more. If I didn’t hop around so much and try to cram so many little nuggets into my books, I’d probably write faster, but I don’t know that I’d enjoy the finished product as much.
Another part of my process for the Annika Brisby series is the dreaded cliffhanger. I know some people hate them because they hate waiting. You know who else hates waiting? Small children and animals. I think cliffhangers can be used poorly, as in a cheap sales gimmick to make people buy the next book, but let’s be real here. First, no one can make someone buy a book. Not even college professors. Second, we are talking about a friggin’ book here, not an organ to become available for a transplant. Waiting for a book will not impair your quality of life, whereas waiting for a liver might actually kill you. Third, if all I wanted was to make money I never would’ve gone to college for drawing with charcoal and playing in porcelain mud. For me, having a cliffhanger is the ‘magic feather’ that propels me into the next book. It lets me hit the ground running and gives me direction. Without it, I’m left staring at a blank canvas, which leads to artistic anxiety, which means no words are going on the page, which means you’ll be waiting even longer to read the next book. So maybe that cliffhanger isn’t really so bad.
Q. What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on The Darkest of Dreams, book 4 of the Annika Brisby series. And also re-vamping a whimsical, rowdy contemporary rom-com to be re-released later this autumn. And then there’s the spinoffs…I just want to do all the things right now!
Q. Of the books you have written, do you have a favorite?
I’d have to say they’re like children in that I don’t have a favorite; I love them all for different reasons. Some of them make you laugh harder, some of them make you read them again and again, and some of them are brand-new and need all your time and attention. It doesn’t mean you love the others any less. 😉
Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?
It’s not glamorous, and it’s pretty lonely at times, and most people will not understand why you still do it. I do it because my inner-artist MAKES me do it. I also think that a lot of people don’t have the first clue how much work you have to do AFTER the book is written. Since I’m indie, I have to arrange for covers, formatting, marketing and distribution all by myself. I love that element of the business, but it’s not for everyone.
Q. When you are not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have a few different jobs that keep me active, like painting/plaster & drywall repair, designing custom picture frames, and working on call as a stable hand at a farm. I like DIY home improvement projects, gardening, cooking & baking from scratch, riding horses, and spending time with family and friends. And there’s nothing like lounging on the deck with my husband and dogs, surrounded by plants and a enjoying a glass of wine. Too bad northern summers are so short!
Q. Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?
Make friends with other writers. Don’t fall into the trap of negative thinking or be in groups with negative people. Listen to the most popular podcasts for authors. I strongly recommend the Rocking Self Publishing podcast with Simon Whistler and The Creative Penn with Joanna Penn. Find others who inspire you. Cling to the advice that makes sense, and let go of the rest. You can always come back to it later. Realize that you don’t have to do everything right this very moment. Do a little bit every day and it will add up. Persistence and resilience are the two things that are going to get you to where you want to go, once you decide where that destination is. And if you ever have questions, the author community is filled with helping hands! Never be afraid to ask questions!