C.J. Archer has loved history and books for as long as she can remember and feels fortunate that she found a way to combine the two with her historical romances. Under her other name of Carolyn Scott, she has published contemporary short stories in women’s magazines on two continents including Take A Break, Woman’s Day and That’s Life.
She has at various times worked as a librarian, IT support person and technical writer but in her heart has always been a fiction writer. She has won and placed in romance writing contests including winning RWAustralia’s Emerald Award in 2008 for the manuscript which she went on to self-publish under the title Honor Bound.
C.J. spent her early childhood in the dramatic beauty of outback Queensland, Australia, but now lives in suburban Melbourne with her husband and two children.
Me: Tell me about your journey toward becoming an author?
C. J.: I've been writing for nearly 20 years and had some success selling short stories during that time. While my novels had won or placed in writing contests, I couldn't sell them to the New York publishers. I had an agent for over 2 years but she couldn't find a publisher for me in a market that was hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis. My books were considered "too different" for all the big publishers, and I wasn't going to waste my time with smaller houses. When the agent decided I wasn't going to make her any money, she let me go (yep, that hurt) and I floundered for months, trying to find another agent, getting close but always rejected. It was tough and my confidence took a dive.
But that all changed in January 2011. Self-publishing had finally become a financially viable option. It was cheap, easy and writers were making money. Writers like me who didn't write within the boundaries and who didn't have a "name". I dove into indie publishing and haven't looked back.
Me: I love your journey. I think it proves to all authors everywhere that rejection from agents doesn't necessarily equal "I'm a terrible writer." I'm so glad you didn't give up on your dreams because I would have hated to miss out on The Medium. What inspired the idea for The Medium series?
C. J.: I love ghosts and have always been fascinated with them. Maybe it stems from my love of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir movie, or from telling ghost stories with my brother around the campfire as kids. I also have a fascination for history and there are so many old buildings that have ghosts associated with them. I just adore hearing their stories, not only of their haunting's, but also who they were when they were alive.
Me: When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
C. J.: A little bit of both. I have an idea of their background and why they act a certain way, but they come to life during the writing. You could say that I create their skeleton in the plotting phase, but add the flesh while writing.
Me: What would you like your readers to learn or come away with after they’ve read The Medium?
C. J.: I want them to be entertained, first and foremost. This is fiction after all, and all fiction should entertain. If any readers come away with a deeper understanding of the Victorian era, then that's a bonus too.
Me: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
C. J.: I usually have an idea percolating for months before I write it down. When it comes time to start it, I sit down and pull out all the notes I've made about the book during the percolating phase. I then add to it, making sure my characters have clear goals and motivations. Then I think about the worst thing that could happen to that character and make it happen. Other than that, I'm not sure. The whole process is a little bit like magic, and I'm not really sure how it happens. It just does.
Me: What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about being an author?
C. J.: Self-doubt is always a challenge as I launch a new book or series into the world. Will my readers like it? Have I left an important plot thread hanging? The rewards come when they tell me they do like it! It's the best feeling in the world to read a glowing review or a private email. It can give me a high long afterwards.
Me: I noticed in your bio that you were a librarian. How did you stay focused long enough to work when you were surrounded by thousands of books?
C. J.: It was easy. I worked in a law firm library. It was very boring.
Me: Okay, that made me giggle. I would imagine a library filled with law books would make for some pretty dry reading. If and when writer’s block hits you, how do you push your way through?
C. J.: I've never gotten writer's block!
Me: That's amazing! I must adopt that line of thinking even if I do sometimes struggle with it. I'll simply call writer's block: Timeout For Chocolate! Where is your favorite place to write?
C. J.: I write in my study with a large bay window that looks over my quiet street. It's incredibly messy but I have everything at my fingertips - computer, printer, research books, cat.
Me: Which character(s) in The Medium do you relate the most with and why?
C. J.: I love Emily, the heroine. She had to battle against some strong society prejudices but I think that has toughened her enough that she has learned to stand up for herself. I can't help cheering for her. I think we've all experienced a time in our life when we've felt the world is against us, and that's what readers respond to her.
Me: What inspires you?
C. J.: People inspire me, particularly those who come up against adversity and soldier on through difficult times without laying the blame at anyone else's feet. They see a problem and they bulldoze right through it.
Me: How do friends and family influence your writing?
C. J.: I have a strong family network who understand when I need to hide away in my study and just write. I'm not sure that they really "get" me, but they do put up with me.
Me: What authors have influenced your writing skills and techniques over the years?
C. J.: Good question! They're quite varied. From Dorothy Dunnett, I learned how history could be fictionalized and brought to life. Jane Austen's works taught me to love romance and not be ashamed of it. After reading the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, I realized that dialogue can show you as much about a character as narrative. Every author should read her just to see how to write zappy dialogue. Finally, my eyes were opened to the YA genre through Stephanie Myer and Cassandra Clare. Beyond those writers I think every book has helped shape my writing in some way without me realizing it.
Me: What projects can we look forward to in the near future?
C. J.: I'm writing the Freak House series, the spin-off to the Emily Chambers books. The 1st Freak House Trilogy is already out, and I'm working on the 2nd. It's a lot of fun and just a little bit spooky too.
Me: I've already started the first book in the first Freak House series, and already love it. Do you have any advice to give aspiring authors everywhere?
C. J.: Don't give up. Writing is a hard slog some days, but if you truly love what you do and believe in your stories, then it's also incredibly rewarding. Do whatever it takes to get better at your craft and get those stories out to a wider audience.
Thanks so much to C. J. Archer for taking the time to share a little of yourself with us. If you are interested in reading The Medium series (remember the first book is FREE) or any of her other books you can visit her website at www.cjarcher.com or click on the book covers below.
You can also connect with C. J. Archer on
Quote for the day:
Focus in on the genre you want to write, and read books in that genre. A LOT of books by a variety of authors. And read with questions in your mind.
- Nicholas Sparks
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