Andi O’Connor is the award-winning author of The Dragonath Chronicles, The Vaelinel Trilogy, and The Legacy of Ilvania. Her critically acclaimed novel, Silevethiel, is the 2015 Best Indie Book Award winner for Science Fiction/Fantasy and the 2015 New Apple Official Selection for Young Adult. The Speaker is the 2018 Independent Press Award Winner for Fantasy and a Finalist in the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. Andi’s novel, Awakening, is a 2018 Independent Press Award Distinguished Favorite for Fantasy.
You can frequently find Andi as a guest panelist and exhibitor at Comic Cons throughout the country. Visit www.andioconnor.net for more information.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
AOC: I can’t say I ever realized I wanted to be a writer. It’s something that came about rather accidentally. I had started writing my first book during college for fun, but pursuing a career as an author never crossed my mind. I would write every once in a while, but the manuscript never got more than a quarter of the way finished.
In 2011, my mom passed away from cancer, and I decided to finish the book in her memory as she’s the one who really got me into reading and the Fantasy genre as a whole. Once I was finished, I thought that I might as well look to get it published, and that’s how my career took off. It’s gratifying to know that something good came out of such a dark part of my life, and it propelled me into a wonderfully gratifying career. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else!
- How long does it take to write your book(s)?
AOC: I’m a pantser, so I don’t write any outlines or do any kind of planning before I begin writing. As a result, it takes me about 6 – 8 months to write a book, and then another 4 – 6 months to work with my editors and cover designer to get the finished product.
- What is your work schedule like when writing a book?
AOC: I write full time, so my mornings generally consist of responding to emails, scheduling social media posts, marketing, admin tasks, etc. In the afternoons, I’ll write or edit, depending on what I’m working on. This is also when I’ll work on blog posts, interviews, and guest posts. I have ballet two mornings during the week, so those days, I’ll do less of the marketing and admin tasks and try to focus more on writing. I’ll also sometimes work at night as well and will usually work on the weekends.
- Where do you get your ideas or information for your book?
AOC: As far as the storyline goes, I have no idea where I get my ideas from. Things just come to me out of nowhere, and there have been many times when I’ve reread certain sections during an edit and thought to myself, “How the heck did I come up with that?”
As far as the content and social issues included in my books, inspiration from that comes from life. Some are from my own experiences, and some are from stories in the news or issues facing our country and the world. I take the issue and alter it to fit within the parameters of my world and characters, but I usually don’t have to make too many changes. It’s surprising how similar a fantasy world can be to the real world.
- When did you write your first book?
AOC: I began writing The Lost Heir in 2002 as something fun to do in my spare time during college. I put it away and didn’t think about it for years until my mom passed away in 2011. I took it out, dusted it off, sat my ass in the chair and finished it in her memory.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
AOC: I love ballet and make it to class at least 3 or 4 times a week. I also cross-stitch and have been playing Lord of the Rings Online for so many years I’ve lost count.
- What does your family think of your writing?
AOC: Both of my parents are deceased, but I like to think they’d be supportive of my career as an author. My mom was a book-a-holic, so I know she would have read all my books at least 5 times! My husband loves my writing. He’s read all of my books and was 100% supportive when I decided to stop teaching private music lessons in order to write full-time. I also have a cousin who’s read my Vaelinel series and loved it!
However, the rest of my family doesn’t seem to see writing as a real job, and they don’t offer any support or show the slightest interest in my career. One time, my father-in-law actually said, “How’s work? Well, I suppose it isn’t really work…” I interrupted him and said in the iciest tone possible, “Of course it’s work. I get paid for it, don’t I?” Then I stood there and watched him try to backpedal for five minutes. It was glorious.
- What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your books?
AOC: There is much more to Fantasy than meets the eye. It’s actually quite a difficult genre to write.
- How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
AOC: I’ve written six books. Three in The Dragonath Chronicles, and three in The Vaelinel Trilogy. Both series are complete, so now I’m working on my 7th book for a new series. It’s Urban Fantasy involving time travel and the gods of Pestilence, Famine, Hope, and Peace.
As for which of my books is my favorite, that’s tough! I love different things about each one, but if pressed, I’d have to choose my latest book, A Prophecy Fulfilled. It’s the final book in the Vaelinel series, and although I had a tougher time writing it than the others, it really resonates with me on a personal level.
- Any tips/suggestions on getting started?
AOC: Come up with some sort of system that works for you. I’m a pantser, so I don’t plan, but if you feel like you’ll need something in front of you before you start writing, work on creating an outline or character sheets (descriptions/backgrounds) to help yourself along the way. Then, just start writing. I know it sounds simple, but you can’t get anywhere unless you start. Even if it’s just one or two hundred words, that’s better than nothing, and it will help you figure out your process. Perhaps you’re somewhere in between a hard-core Pantser or Planner. Try different things, and don’t listen to other writers tell you their way is the right way. Just because it works for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.
- What do you think makes a good story?
AOC: A good story is one with characters that aren’t good or bad simply because the author says so. Creating characters with more depth makes them more relatable and believable to the reader, but it also gives the author a chance to delve into their backgrounds to help the readers understand why they are the way they are. Not only is it more entertaining to the reader, it often leaves them torn. They hate a villain because of the atrocities the character has committed, but they also empathize with them. The reader understands the villain’s past and the events that shaped the character into the despicable person they are today. So, although the reader strongly dislikes the character, they feel sorry for them. They can relate to them.
I do this with my characters, especially the antagonists. In a Goodreads review for A Prophecy Fulfilled, the reader discussed the characters and pointed out “…a villain who is at once, completely evil and oddly sympathetic…” Another said, “You get a feisty, relatable heroine, a fantastic accompaniment of engaging and fully developed companion characters, plus a villain you can’t help but love to hate…and also relate to…which always feels weird but is a fantastic trick on the part of the author to draw the reader closer in.”
Complex characters bring about complex emotions and force the reader to look deeply into themselves. That is the mark of a good book.
- As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up?
AOC: I wanted to be a paleontologist. I had (and still have) an unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs. In 8th grade, I managed to do every single report during the year for my one class on dinosaurs. My teacher was so impressed, I even won an award for it at the end of the school year! However, it was also during this time that I realized my severe arachnophobia would hinder my ability to perform certain tasks required of paleontologists, and with a heavy heart, I put my dream aside. But afterwards, I continued to research dinosaurs for fun, so not all was lost!