Good morning, today we are chatting with Madeline Lee, who so graciously took some time to answer our questions. She is a fiction writing bursting with ideas to share! Let’s see what she will share with us.
How did you know you had this series in you?
This story is an amalgamation of my favorite things. It combines high school drama with video games and apocalyptic fiction (with bonus references to Edgar Allan Poe) and is set in my favorite decade, the 1990s.
Why did you choose to use a series format?
I actually started The Online Chronicles of Ana Lee Lewis years ago, before I had ever heard of serialized fiction. I wanted to try my hand at blog writing, but fiction was the only type of writing I really enjoyed. Therefore, I decided to create what I called a blog novel in the hopes that readers would keep coming back for more of the story. In fact, the title of the story has a double meaning, with “online chronicles” referring to both the adventures of the protagonist and her avatar and to the format in which the story is published. Unfortunately, my experiment proved to be a failure as I lacked the necessary SEO skills to direct traffic to my website. With no idea how to attract an audience, I shelved the project to focus on more traditional writing processes. Then I discovered Kindle Vella and decided to give Ana a second chance.
I’m so glad Ana gets another chance! As to the challenges of SEO, that’s my greatest ummm….disgruntlement with writing. Attracting readers, whether to Vella, an ebook, and ecourse, or my blog is just so challenging!
What is your greatest challenge in writing?
My greatest challenge with writing is that I have more ideas than I have time to write them. I’ll start a story, then think of an idea for another one and be unable to focus on the first story until I get started on the next one. By the time I’ve returned to the first story, I’ve often completely changed my mind on essential elements and have to basically start from scratch. This is, of course, not an option with the Vella story as those first chapters are already published and therefore cannot be fundamentally changed.
Oh my gosh, yes! I feel this to my bones. I have one WIP that has never wavered, but so many others that take a meandering journey as I overflow with possible ideas and take off in tangents, then cut some of those tangents into their own story and then need to go back and fix the hole that I ripped into the original story! I’m sure you’re more responsible than I.
What surprised you in the writing process?
I have been writing stories almost since I first learned how to write so I’m not sure that any part of the process actually surprised me; however, I think a lot of people might be surprised by the amount of time that I waste on names. When I introduce a new character – or even a business or city – everything stops until I think of the perfect name. A classmate in one of my first fiction writing classes apparently had a similar issue and therefore created “placeholder names” so he could continue to write and think of the names later. While I thought the idea was genius, I have never been able to do it in my own writing. It’s as if the name is a part of the character’s personality and I can’t really know who they are until I know their name.
I learned the placeholder trick a couple years ago and use it a great deal. I have an idea bubbling up and I don’t want to lose it.
Is there something in particular that you found particularly helpful?
For Vella, I find the ability to schedule my episodes to be very helpful. It allows me to write when I have time and to spread out the publication to cover the times when I may not be able to write. That way, new episodes are consistently being published.
That is definitely an advantage of a serial, I agree.
I know we tend to write what we know, but did you need to do research for this book?
While I was a teenager myself in the 1990s, I am still constantly researching everything. A question as simple as “When are cheerleading tryouts usually held?” will have me scouring the internet for clues. Even though I consider my work to be more of an alternate history, thus allowing me to take liberties with the outcomes of various historical events, I want to be sure that my changes are intentional and not a result of ignorance about what actually transpired.
If so, what was the coolest or most surprising thing you learned?
I have yet to uncover any truly surprising details in my research for the Vella story; however, I used to write articles for a history blog and discovered quite a few interesting facts. One that stuck with me the most is that the first Whoopee cushion was actually used by a Roman emperor in the 3rd century, though naturally it was not called a Whoopee cushion and was actually made from an animal bladder. Still, it was interesting to learn that fart jokes have been around for a really long time.
Human nature never really changes, does it? lol
What else can you describe in your writing process?
After years of struggling with the intimidation of the blank page (i.e. overcoming writer’s block), I have found an effective strategy for ensuring every writing session is productive: whenever possible, I try to end each session mid-sentence. That way, when I come back to it the next day, I have somewhere to start. Getting started is always the most difficult part and inspiration often arrives only after I have begun to write, so I make sure to give myself at least one sentence to complete before having to think of new material.
This is a cool technique. I wonder if it may help some of our readers.
Ready to share
How do you know your piece is ready to be shared/complete?
The great thing about Vella is that the entire story need not be complete in order to share it. However, I do have to be sure that the episode is taking the story in the direction I want it to go. Therefore, each episode must be carefully planned with regards to the story as a whole. I find that creating an outline similar to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat beat sheet for screenwriting is an effective means of keeping the story on track.
Who is your expected audience?
The Online Chronicles of Ana Lee Lewis could be categorized as both LitRPG and YA Romance as the story alternates between the real world and the virtual world of Ana’s videogame Superheroes of the Apocalypse. Therefore, the story would most likely appeal to young adults and games. However, the story is set in the 1990s and would therefore offer a nostalgic indulgence for adults in their 30s and 40s. If you happen to be a 40-something adult who enjoys YA fiction and video games, then you’ve hit the trifecta with this one.
That’s perfect! I know many people who could fit into this trifecta!
Who has been your strongest supporter?
My mom has always been the biggest supporter of my writing. Ironically, my dad was less supportive as he considered writing to be just a hobby and not a profession, but he was such a natural storyteller that he actually inspired an anthology of short stories I’ve been writing.
If you could have any author (alive, dead, or fictional) read your book, who would you like to read it?
I would have to go with Shawn Spencer from Psych. He counts as a fictional author as he is credited with writing Psych’s Guide to Crime Fighting For the Totally Unqualified. He’s constantly making pop culture references on the show and I’m looking to incorporate more of those into my story so he would be the perfect choice.
What author, or book, or series most influenced you?
Magic 2.0 series by Scott Meyer
Something else you can share with us, that we may not know?
In addition to being a writer, I’m also a future high school English teacher (if all goes well this semester) and a Disney travel planner. I go to Disney World as much for the food as I do for the rides. My favorite tv shows are Supernatural and Psych, and my favorite video game series is Kingdom Hearts.
What else is important to share about your book?
While it is mostly intended to be fun and nostalgic, I also plan to explore some of the more serious aspects of the internet, such as cyber bullying and online predators.
When can we expect more from you?
I try to publish at least one episode a week, but I am currently working on my teacher certification so there may be some delays while I finish that.
Plus Amazon is having its own delays…Good luck with the Praxis exams and completing your certifications!
Where can we find your book?
Where can we find you?
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