Welcome to this week’s author spotlight.
I’m delighted to have Ariel Paiement share a little bit about herself with you and me.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’m glad that you’re here to chat for a spell. So, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me! I’m Ariel Paiement, a Christian speculative fiction author who specializes in fantasy and extensive world building. I’m also an accounting major and work as a credit analyst for my day job. As an author, my absolute favorite things to do in my work are to build complex characters, instill a Christian worldview and principles into my work to make it a clean and uplifting read for whoever reads it, and to bring to my stories all the complexity of real life situations and people. My philosophy is that even though you might be reading to entertain yourself, you should still leave the book thinking and having in some way connected with the characters on a level that allows you to see the real world with a fresh perspective. I guess as someone who loves teaching and wants to become a college English professor, I can’t entirely resist the urge to instill real life lessons and commentary into my work while I’m striving to give the reader a good read.
What kind of stories do you like to write? Is there a specific genre that YOU absolutely LOVE writing in? Any that you *ahem* dislike?
I love writing stories where the situations and the characters are complex. One of the highest compliments I’ve ever been paid is that my work was more realistic than some realistic fiction available these days and that it really makes the reader think. That’s often not something that can be said of speculative fiction nowadays, but stories like that are my absolute favorite to work with, and it always leaves a good feeling and a sense of accomplishment when I hear from a reader that I succeeded at it. As far as genres I love writing in, fantasy is my first love and always will be. I do enjoy playing with sci-fi elements and sci-fantasy though, which is why I consider myself a speculative fiction author not just fantasy. However, fantasy is the main genre I tend to write in.
Genres I dislike… Hmmm… I really don’t like writing erotica, I guess. I’m not comfortable with it, and I wouldn’t be able to really craft a good story in that genre, I don’t think. (Nor do I feel like trying particularly). Otherwise, horror. I love psychological thrillers, but straight up horror? No can do. I just can’t. It’s not that I think I wouldn’t be good at it, but I’m concerned that I’d end up in too many bad places mentally and end up freaking myself out, not just my readers. My characters tend to really come to life for me in my imagination and mind, so horror is one genre that’s just out. I couldn’t handle it.
What got you into writing? And can you tell me your big reason ‘WHY’ you’re doing it?
At first, I got into it because I just wanted to tell stories that wouldn’t get out of my head until I wrote them down. I started writing short stories when I was around six or seven. As I got older and life happened, I ended up turning to writing as a way to deal with emotions I didn’t know how to explain or express or just felt I couldn’t share with anyone. It was a therapy of sorts. I did come to a point where I wanted to publish as well.
But I think the biggest thing that kept me going for the longest time was that my dad told me he didn’t think I could make it. I’m a very competitive person, so hearing that made me upset at first and then just made me dig my heels in. I was determined to learn whatever it took and practice however long it took to become as good as the authors he read and often handed to me as examples of good writing. I realized eventually that I needed to write for me because I really enjoyed it and because I wanted to be published and have that sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that you’ve helped someone else in some small way through your writing. Now I write because I can’t imagine not doing so and because I’ve seen firsthand how a good book can change a person’s whole mindset for the better. I want to help others and be that instrument of change or encouragement that others are in need of.
Your story, that you wrote for the anthology Glimpses of Time and Magic, what was the inspiration for it?
Hmm… My inspiration was two-fold. First, I had the constraint that Joanna and I had set that the genre needed to be historical fantasy. Victorian England is one of my favorite time periods, and I’d been playing around with the idea of going back to when one of the organizations that features in another series got started. Since they started more officially during the Victorian era, that was where I got the setting. For Bram and Alantha specifically, I drew inspiration from my friendship with my best friend (Bram was actually directly inspired by my best friend who also had a habit of asking all the wrong questions–or the right ones depending on who you ask. The two both started off their introductory conversations with some very strange and deep questions. So… Yeah, that’s where Bram came from.) As for the love story, I had just come out of a particularly rough relationship and an equally nasty breakup, and those feelings, difficulties, and emotional damage were very fresh in my mind when writing Alantha.
If you could change anything about your story, what would it be and why?
Man, that’s a tough question. I really do love this story. Maybe that it would be longer. That seems to be a consistent theme with most of my short stories. I fall in love with the characters and just wish I could write a whole book, not a 10,000 word short story.
When writing stories every author has a process. Sometimes the story dictates the process. How about you? Do you approach your stories with the same tactics or do you let your muse run wild?
I generally do a lot of plotting ahead of time because almost all of my stories connect into a broader timeline and interwoven set of universes. So if I don’t plan extensively, then I end up with holes in how the various sets of books connect, especially with ones that aren’t in the same universe but overlap somehow with another series.
However, some books just won’t work with my usual methods. I have a story I’m working on right now that’s like that. I still don’t have an outline, though I’ve gotten to a point where I have a basic idea of where things are headed, and I don’t know if I’ll ever end up having one. I’ve had to just start writing and ask questions about the characters and of the characters as I go along instead of using my usual methods of getting everything down in the rough before writing the first draft. For some reason, it just wouldn’t work like most of my stories do.
When I start revising, I do sometimes let my muse run a little wild if I think of something that would make the book a lot better, more complex, or more engaging. Sometimes that comes during the writing process and I can work with it without having to reorganize or rewrite the entire novel, but other times, I end up having to edit with that new addition in mind through the whole manuscript.
Have you always written in historical fantasy? If so, what is the allure of this genre? If not, then what did you think of this genre now?
I haven’t, no. This is my first attempt at historical fantasy. I really enjoyed it because it took two of my favorite things–history and fantasy–and blended them together. It isn’t my first experience with historical fiction as I did write some Ancient Egyptian-based historical fiction when I was twelve or thirteen, but it’s definitely my first blend of my favorite genre with my love of history. It was an interesting experience. A bit less intense on the research than the full-blown historical novel I wrote when I was twelve, but I still had to look at a lot of little details such as styles of dress, what was normal/proprietary behavior, what they ate, the kind of society they would have in the country versus London, and so on. There were definitely a lot of details, but instead of having to make all of them up, I just had to go look them up. Overall, I enjoyed working on it and really like the genre. I’ll probably dabble in it a bit more for other short stories in the future.
Writing stories, as we all know, takes time. Blood, sweat and tears go into the words that are placed upon the pages. Who would you consider to be your besties when it comes to your support team? Y’know when times get hard and you want to throw the computer across the room but they swoop in and stop you.
I don’t have a very large support network, to be honest. Most of my family doesn’t fully understand what it means to be a writer who’s trying to build a platform while also working full-time, and they don’t understand the difficulties that writing can present. So usually I end up talking to Joanna White when I get stuck. She and I have worked with each other for close to six years now, I think, for various activities ranging from authors’ games on Wattpad to organizing this anthology. She’s the one I go to about brainstorming for projects or if I need a writer’s perspective on a piece. If something doesn’t feel right or is driving me crazy, she’s the one I talk to.
But I also talk to my best friend a lot. He’s helped me out here and there with characters, whether by asking me questions to help me figure out a problem with what I’m working on or by talking to the character directly through me to help me get a character who doesn’t want to talk to open up. (He’s much better at that than I am, particularly if the interview method I’m used to doesn’t work or the character doesn’t start talking on their own.) Most of all, he’s been the one who makes sure I don’t neglect my own health and sanity in favor of trying to meet self-imposed deadlines, which are usually where most of the stress and frustration come in. He’s one of the most supportive people in my life with my writing, and I love that I can go to him with any problem I’m having and ask for help without having any fears that I’ll be dismissed or told it’s not that important because it’s just writing stuff.
Got any advice for the aspiring authors out there?
Don’t give up. That’s the one thing you must never do. Keep writing no matter how bad that work is, and never stop learning how to make it that much better next time. Sometimes it’ll be hard. Sometimes you’ll have to make yourself sit down and write. But if you want to make a career out of it, even if it’s not the only thing you end up choosing (or needing) to do, then you need to write. And you need to write every day. It’s the only way to improve. Writing trash or mediocre work takes very little effort, but writing well takes years and years of practice.
If you’re not willing to put that effort and time in, then being an author isn’t for you. Write for fun if that’s what you enjoy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But don’t try to force yourself into a mold you don’t fit. And if you are willing to put in the work, don’t forget that, while you’re trying new things and doing the work to improve, you’ll find what works for you eventually. Do whatever works best for you because if you hate your process or what you’re writing, the reader will be able to tell.
One more thing… I promise. If you had a chance to go back and redo that one thing in your author career… what would it be and why?
My choice of education. I would’ve gone to school in order to double major in English and Professional Writing at my school. That would’ve served me better as an author and an editor, I believe, than accounting has. While I’ve found uses for my degree, going to school for English and Professional Writing would’ve opened up job opportunities in fields that are more related to what I’m doing as an author.
It gets very exhausting at times to go from working as a credit analyst and crunching numbers all day to putting on my author’s hat and getting into the right-brain/creative mode. I make it work because it matters too much to me not to, but it’s not easy, and some days I just can’t muster the mental energy to put anything on paper. I end up needing more time to just rest my mind and give my headspace a break from all the voices of characters and the plot twists or connections just so that I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m not naturally a left-brain kind of person. Through time and effort, I’ve gotten to a point where I can use both equally proficiently, but I still wear out more mentally working with left-brain/math/number stuff than I do with right-brain/creative/writing stuff.