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Monday, September 03, 2007

Camy Tang-athon, Part II

We'll be giving away one autographed copy of Camy's debut novel, SUSHI FOR ONE? every day this week. To enter, leave a comment for Camy.


Camy Tang is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/




What mistakes have you made while seeking publication?

I signed with an agent without doing my homework about the agent’s reputation and without having a literary lawyer look at the contract. I hadn’t done much research about agents in general.

I should have spent more time talking to authors and talking to agents I met at conferences. I was so thrilled an agent wanted to represent me that I took the plunge thoughtlessly.

My writing at the time wasn’t quite ready for publication—although I thought it was—and I should have simply WAITED for God’s leading to the right agent at the right time. I was much better at waiting on God’s leading and timing later in my writing career, especially as more and more rejections came in.

My current agent is the best agent in the world.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

At my first Mount Hermon Writers Conference, Brandilyn Collins mentioned how all writers should be constantly striving to improve their craft. That advice has stuck with me for years.

I started off voraciously reading writing craft books and articles, avidly listening to workshops on MP3s, and forking out the money to take classes at conferences. That desire to keep learning helped me to improve my craft a great deal in the first few years I started writing.

I think a lot of writers just start writing—and keep writing for years afterward—without learning enough about the craft. While it’s important to just write, it’s also important to learn how to write well.

I can honestly say I spend about 30 minutes a day, five days a week either listening to a workshop or reading a writing craft book or article. That’s not a boast—that’s a challenge to other writers to keep striving to improve your craft. There is never a point when a writer has “made it.”

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

That I could quit my day job once I got a contract. (I can see you laughing, Gina!)



Yes, it’s true—writers don’t make very much when they first start out. Imagine that! If you didn’t know that already, well, you know it now.

Luckily, I had gone back to work during the years I was writing, so I learned how to write efficiently while working full time. I got my contract while I happened to be between jobs—and I had naively thought I wouldn’t have to get another job if I got a contract, and we’d live happily ever after. Boy, was I stupid.

However, if I do have to go back to work eventually, I know my productivity won’t decrease too much, because I’ve worked full time and written manuscripts before. I can do it again.

The housework, on the other hand, might get neglected …

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

Judges’ comments from contests are NOTHING compared to editor revision letters and reviewers on Amazon.

This is not a business for the thin-skinned or vulnerable. Pull up your big girl panties, ladies.

I used to rant and agonize over judges’ comments. I used to take it personally. I used to think those judges were all just stupid.

Some of them might have been stupid, but I was stupider.

It clicked one day when I read a nasty review of a book on Amazon. That could be something somebody writes about my book. Suddenly the judge’s comment that my heroine was too stupid to live didn’t seem so mean.

Editors aren’t mean, but they’re very blunt. They don’t have time to put smiley faces and encouraging words like my critique partners do. (Although don’t get me wrong, I live off of those smiley faces.)

I’m very lucky because all three of my current editors are fabulous. They are all incredibly encouraging, and they really get my writing.

They are also very honest and blunt. I have come to really appreciate that, because they help make each of my manuscripts better, more marketable, more readable.

If I had known this even two years ago, I wouldn’t have wasted so much emotional energy being upset at judges’ comments and scores.

Right now, I’m preparing for that reader who will completely hate my book and bash it on Amazon. Preparing myself emotionally for something like that makes those early days of ranting over contest judges seem trivial.

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

I mentioned before about signing with my first agent. The predatory contract I ignorantly signed has haunted my writing career for months.

For a few weeks, I was terribly depressed and stressed at my efforts to terminate with that agent. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even pray because I didn’t know what to pray about.

God helped me through that, with the help of good friends. And although it was one of the darkest periods of my writing career so far, I’ve learned the value of waiting on God’s timing and leading. The consequences of not waiting can be disastrous, and I never want to experience that again.

What are a few of your favorite books? (Not written by you.)


Jane Austen is my hero. I have Persuasion on audiobook, and I listen to that every few months. I also listen to Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice at least once a year.

The woman had an astounding gift with words and wit. Her dry humor and the artistry of her sentences continue to amaze me almost two centuries after she wrote them.

I also love Mary Ann Gibbs and Norma Lee Clark, both Regency and historical romance writers who are no longer in print. I have yet to figure out how they can write characters I absolutely love and craft an engaging, enthralling story I can’t put down.



What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

I was doing an Inductive Bible study on the book of John (thanks to Kay Arthur’s study book), and the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus literally haunted me for days. I wondered about Mary and Martha’s actions, and how Lazarus might have felt as he rose from the dead.

I wrote a short story that isn’t the best example of my writing, but I truly love it. It’s called “Waiting: a Story of Martha and Mary,” and it’s on my website:
http://www.camytang.com/Waiting.html

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

It’s not really a pet peeve, it’s more like a constant frustration. Writing has done terrible things to my diet. I write better when I’m munching on something, and when I’m close to deadline, the diet goes out the window in favor of more inspired sentences on the computer screen.

I recently took up knitting, because I realized that it’s not so much the food as the tactile sensation that helps me write. I am a tactile “creator” I guess you can call it—I need tactile stimulation when I’m in that creative right brain mode. Knitting accomplishes that to an extent—I’ll knit a little, then drop it and type a little, knit a little, type a little.

However, knitting just doesn’t quite get the same creative juices flowing for me like food. Chips, chocolate, nuts. I’ve tried substituting healthy things like carrot sticks and celery, but nothing can take the place of salty potato chips or M&Ms.

This is the bane of life. I’d really like to get down to a more healthy weight—I’m slightly overweight, and my doctor has advised I try to lose those last 25 pounds. It also doesn’t help that I work with my church youth group, and those skinny minnies complaining about their little poochy tummies make me want to vomit. All over their size zero jeans.

(I’m kidding, I really do love them. But I don’t think I fit into a size zero pair of jeans even when I was twelve.)

If I can find a way to write without food, I’d feel like I won the lottery.

Take us through your process of writing a novel briefly—from conception to revision.

I am a plotter. I think I’m an anomaly in the fiction writing world.

I am completely anal about my plotting. I use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method, including that horrific Excel spreadsheet he talks about. In fact, I add more columns to that spreadsheet to make it more detailed.

I spend several months on the plotting and planning stage, although I’m trying to get that time down to three months at the most.

As my main resources for characterization, I use Brandilyn Collins’s book Getting Into Character and Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s book 45 Master Characters. Sometimes I’ll use other books as well, but those two seem to be the ones I always pick up first.

I plot out the storyline and fill out that Excel spreadsheet—actually, I usually end up with two spreadsheets, one as a general outline and one as a more detailed scene outline. This enables me to pace the book, balance the point of view scenes, give the book the best structure I can.

Most of the time, I don’t get as much done on the plotting as I’d like to before I have to turn in the Marketing Info sheet to my publisher, which includes details about the characters, the story synopsis, and the first chapter. However, as long as I have a general idea of the characters and the story, it’s okay if that first chapter changes or the storyline alters a bit.

After I get the outlines done, I sit down to write. It takes me about 50 days to write a 90,000 word manuscript—but this is after I’ve taken months to do the planning and plotting.

I send the manuscript to my critique partners, and then incorporate their crits in my revisions before sending it to my Senior Editor, Sue Brower. She reads it and passes it off to my Macro Editor, Rachelle Gardner, who talks to Sue and then gives me a 10-20 page revision letter. After Macro edits, my Developmental Editor, Becky Shingledecker, continues with fine-tuning my manuscript, all the way to galley stage and publication.


Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

I WANT TO BE ON (OPRAH.) [Novel Journey] (edited for content)

Barring that, I’d love to hit the New York Times bestseller list.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Some dreams do come true, Camy. Wink. Wink.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

I did quit, because God told me to. But He’s cool that way—He also told me when to take it up again.

I might get in trouble for saying this, but I think every writer needs to reach a point where she’s willing to quit—willing to lay it down before God, to completely submit to Him and His will for her.

It’s not easy—I’m not saying it is. But I think it puts the writer in a particular spiritual place of worship. Willing to give up the writing in order to please Christ.

Abraham did it with Isaac, and God gave him his son back. God can do the same with the writing, if it’s what He wants for you, if it will give Him glory.

Even now, every so often I reach inside myself and ask, Am I willing to lay down my writing again if God asked me to? Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. I try to always be honest with Him, and He’s honest with me.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

Favorite—plotting and characterization. I love the thrill of discovery of a new character, a new plot. I love coming up with new conflicts and obstacles, of crafting a character’s spiritual arc to the tense climax and the satisfying ending. And hopefully there’s a romantic kiss or two somewhere in there, as well. :)

The actual writing is a close second. Most writers say that plotting saps their creativity, but it doesn’t for me—I still feel that sizzle of excitement as I lay down words, as the scene I envisioned and plotted comes to life on the page.

Least favorite—I hate traveling. I am a bad traveler because I get motion sickness very easily. I hate airports, I hate airplanes. The smells of the terminal and the recycled air in the plane make my stomach ball up.

I use a motion sickness patch right now, which makes me completely loopy and tired. I have tried almost everything else and they don’t work. At all. I haven’t yet tried ginger pills—I’ll see if they work well enough without the side effects of the patch.

Once I’m at the place I have to get to—the conference or convention—I’m okay after a good night’s sleep. It’s why I usually have to get in a day earlier, so I have time to recover from the trauma of air travel. I’m usually exhausted and cranky when I first get in, so if you happen to see me at that point, please forgive me for biting your head off. Because I’m almost guaranteed to do it.






Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

I did, even before the book came out, and it was memorable but not in a positive way. I had very naively thought that all Asian Americans would be just thrilled to read my Asian American novel. That they’d laugh and enjoy the story and characters. It never occurred to me that my writing fiction about Asian American Christians—and, by extension, the Asian American church—would offend some Asian American Christians.

It never occurred to me that my opinion on the Asian American church, which wasn’t quite the same as a few other Asian American Christians, would offend and inflame them. I had blogged about the Youth Specialties Skit Controversy, stating my opinion very honestly—like I usually do about things—but it caught the attention of some Asian American Christians who didn’t agree with what I said and started a heated debate in the comments section. They also blogged about me on their own blogs, all without having read Sushi for One. This was the most hurtful, demoralizing thing that had ever happened to me as a writer. It shattered all my ignorant assumptions about how my book would be received by the Asian American Christian community, and I felt personally attacked by people who should have been my siblings in Christ.

But God brought incredible good out of it. Some Asian American Christians who didn’t agree with the aggressive bloggers contacted me and we started an insightful, encouraging dialogue about the Asian American church. I have learned so much and solidified some of my more vague beliefs as a result of those dialogues. I am also better prepared for how my novel will be received. I know I am breaking ground, because there is no other novel in the CBA written by an Asian American (there are several non-fiction titles, and I have been honored to meet some of those authors). New things will always create some conflict, and I am better prepared for it, now.

How much marketing/publicity do you do? Any advice in this area?

When I first started learning about the writing business, I learned a lot about marketing and the writer. Marketing is not easy and it’s time consuming, but if a writer is willing to do it, it could help boost sales.

I wasn’t published at the time, but seeing how long it takes to gain a presence in the market made me realize that maybe I should get on the bandwagon ASAP, so that when/if I did get a contract, I’d be a little ahead of the game.

My website came first. Just a little thing with info about me and my writing brand, which I summarized in my tagline, Romance with a kick of wasabi. A friend of mine took my Japanese family crest—called a mon—and had a graphic designer embed the letter C in the middle of it, giving me a logo of sorts to put on my website.

I also started blogging, which originally was just a place for me to be verbose and silly. However, I soon realized how powerful a marketing tool blogging can be, if the writer enjoys blogging and is willing to blog often.

My Camy’s Loft blog is targeted at my readers (not writers—that’s what my Story Sensei blog is for), and I post five days a week. My posts are aimed at my readers and what I think would interest them—random news bits, little things about me, fresh new fiction, and Asiana.

Because I targeted readers, I also figured that readers would be like me and like free book giveaways. I started my blog book giveaways a couple years ago and they’ve been very successful. I’ve been able to introduce some fabulous new authors to readers, and I’ve gotten new releases by established authors into the hands of fans.

My website and blogging are both good marketing tools, and they were things I not only enjoyed doing but were also easy for me to do. I always tell writers not to blog if they don’t enjoy it (although a website is kind of a non-negotiable—writers really do need to get a website up).

In addition, I’ve got a newsletter YahooGroup to let readers know about my writing, releases, and my contests. The YahooGroup was super-easy to set up and again, it’s an easy but effective marketing tool.

I also have held contests on my website, with the aim of building the number of newsletter subscribers. My most recent one is a gigantic contest giving away a couple baskets of books and iPods! You MUST be a member of my newsletter YahooGroup to enter, but it’s easy to sign up and then enter my contest. Information is here:
http://www.camytang.com/contest.html

One of the best classes I ever took was a Media Training class by Ellie Kay. It helped to prepare me for a few video interviews I’ve done already. I’d highly recommend for authors to take some type of Media Training, because interviews are usually inevitable.

I only do the kind of marketing and promo that I enjoy doing (with the exception of the video interviews, but the Media Training class made them bearable). Doing marketing and promo things that stress me out isn’t healthy, and I don’t even bother. I’d suggest the same to any writer—do what you feel comfortable with. Stretch the boundaries a little, but don’t stress if you can’t do more.


Parting words?

Thank you so much for having me on Novel Journey! This is one of the BEST blogs on the web for writers, and you guys are my heroes. It’s such an honor for me to be here.

30 comments:

  1. What a great interview Gina and Camy!

    I learned a lot about you and your writing stlye. Love that 'big girl panties' quote...LOL...I've got a poster for that to put on my blog!

    And very wise words about marketing :-)

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  2. Oh..please DON'T put me on the contest list for Camy's book...LOL...I already have it!

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  3. Thanks for all your honest and helpful comments, Camy. I enjoy keep up with you by reading your blog.

    A prisoner of hope,
    Megan DiMaria

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  4. Wow Camy! You are an inspiration! I love the sound of your book! Please enter me for the contest!!!
    itsmyemail (at) bigpond.com

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  5. Camy, this was one of the most well answered interviews we've done. Thank you for taking so much time with it. We're you're heroes. Pah-tay!!! LOL. I'm a dork, but you love me. See ya tomorrow.

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  6. Wow, this WAS well-answered. Eye-opening. Camy, I think that you, like Gina, are a wonderful role model, showing us how go about it/go after it! Happy for you and your success!
    (totally relate on the food).

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  7. What a terrific interview. Thanks for such insightful, honest comments, Camy. I've learned a lot already.

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  8. Congratulations to Laura whose name was drawn to win yesterday's autographed copy of Camy Tang's, Sushi For One?

    Today's winner will be announced tomorrow.

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  9. Wonderful interview! Thank you for the excellent advice, Camy!

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  10. Thanks for all the great advice! But don't even think about taking my M&M's off my desk ;)

    Best Wishes

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  11. wooohoo! thanks for the interview - it was interesting to read how she prepares so much to do the actual writing.

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  12. Camy, I appreciate your honesty in your answers. I really enjoyed the interview.

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  13. Camy, I really, really, really, really, really, really (breathe), really, really, really, really (when you type really so many times, not only does it look wrong, but it starts to sound like a horse galloping across your keyboard--you should try it sometime), really, really, really want a copy of the book.
    Preferably, for free ;) Hey, I'm a starving artist.

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  14. Loved the interview! Wow. If anyone thought the writing life was easy, they're in for a surprise. Thank you for your honesty. It's refreshing and insightful!

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  15. Catching up. I think I'm a day behind because of the holiday but I'm posting anyway. Bound and determined to win!

    Because I love Camy's spirit, and I love the excerpt I read on the Zondervan Breakfast Club.

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  16. I am trying again. I would love to read Camy's debut novel

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  17. Please enter me for the book. forest_rose[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  18. I know how it is to jump in before checking credentials, I messed up my first book by going with a online publishing company that I learned later had a bad reputation. I guess it is a learning process. :O)

    You book sounds great, cant' wait to read it.

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  19. Definitely a great interview! I would love to be entered to win Camy's debut novel!

    Fon James

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  20. awesome interview!!
    i love jane austen!!!
    :)
    please enter me!

    sarah

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  21. Great interview!

    I can't wait to introduce my friend's daughter to Camy's book. She was adopted from Korea as a child.

    Blessings,
    Anna

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  22. Please don't enter me in the contest, I already have a copy of Camy's book and I LOVE it!

    Camy, this was one of the best author interviews I've read. And I have to say that I remember when everything came up on your blog over the Youth Specialties Skit Controversy and while I respected you before that happened, the way you handled it made me respect you even more. You rock!

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  23. Thanks, guys! I appreciate the interview and the comments!
    Camy

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  24. I am thrilled I won this!! I can't wait to read the rest of the book!

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  25. Great tips for marketing, Camy!

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  26. Great interview! I'm looking forward to reading that book!

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  27. And the winner for Tuesday is Lifeasamama!

    Please email me at ane@anemulligan.com and let me know your email address and snail mail address so we can get the book to you.

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  28. Hi Camy. Thanks for all the great info! I have noticed the same thing about my figure and writing. Oh well. All I can say is have two sizes of jeans and be sure to write in sweat pants. 1) They are more comfortable and you can let your tummy hang out. and 2) You will be ready to grap the dog and go for a walk at any time! :) LOL.

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