I love hearing about other authors’ writing journeys, and today I’m pleased to interview author Silvia Villalobos. We met several years ago in an online writing class and have stayed connected ever since, encouraging, commiserating, and celebrating different steps in our writing careers.
Silvia was born in Bucharest, Romania and moved to California in 1992 to finish her studies. She loves to write, read, and hang out with her husband and son at the beach. Her stories have appeared in Fiction365, a Literary Journal, and Red Fez, a Literary Magazine. She is currently working on her mystery novel, Stranger or Friend.
Silvia’s Writing Process
Linda Covella: Silvia, how long have you been a writer?
Silvia Villalobos: I’ve been actively writing for the past ten years or so, but I remember making up stories in my head–occasionally transferring them onto paper–since I was in grade school.
LC: Interesting…I know many writers who had the “bug” at a young age, but didn’t think of writing as a profession until later in life.
Do you write in one particular genre, or explore a variety of stories?
SV: I write novels and short stories. My novels are always mysteries–those are the story ideas that pop into my head the most. Short stories are about everything, most often life experiences.
LC: Your short stories that I’ve read have a real ring of truth to them. From where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
SV: For short stories, from all around me: friends, family, acquaintances, conversations I overhear, newspaper articles. Anything goes.
For mysteries, it all starts with the premise. That is what I find engaging. The reader is presented with a series of problems and questions which arouse feelings that are often beyond imagination yet seem real. If I do my job right–involve the reader in my fictional world–he’ll hopefully stay with me until the last question is answered, until there is a resolution.
LC: What is your writing process? How much/often do you write?
SV: I usually start with two elements: setting and character. I give the character goals, motivations and conflicts (internal and external). The external conflict is particularly complicated by the world she lives in, hence setting is important.
I write all the time. Even when I don’t actually write (at the computer or on paper), I write in my head by working out scenarios, going over a scene, deciding on a piece of dialog, a description. If I’m visiting a museum, for example, and an idea sparks, I focus on that notion and keep it hidden in the back of my mind, hoping it will resurface at the right time, when I’m writing the right scene. Often it does.
LC: Do you have writing partners who critique your work before submission? Why do or why don’t you think this is important?
SV: I have a handful of writing friends I absolutely cherish. I usually email them a short story, a chapter, even a novel manuscript, and I ask for their opinion. They read my work, and I read theirs. I also submit chapters and short stories to my online critique group, The Internet Writing Workshop (one of the best decisions I’ve made was joining this group), and always receive valuable feedback.
Having my work critiqued in the early stages is important. It helps me see the story in the way a reader might see it. It helps me make it better.
Silvia’s Road to Publication
LC: How long have you actively been pursuing publication?
SV: I submitted three chapters to an agent a couple of years ago–looking back, I wasn’t ready for an agent–and received some advice, but no offer. So, I set out to write for a while and not worry about agents or publication. Just read, write and have fun. To be good, writing has to be fun. At the same time, I worked on my short stories and had a few published.
LC: Do you think an agent would be helpful to your writing career/do you plan to seek an agent?
SV: I don’t have an agent, but yes, I plan to seek one. Working with someone who understands the industry, and understands the constant changes in the publishing world, who can help me appreciate the fine details (the writing is up to me, but like with everything else, there is the business part), can’t be anything but beneficial, in my mind. Of course, signing up with an agent is easier said than done, but I will try.
LC: What’s your take on self-published vs. traditionally published books?
SV: Self-publishing is not for me, not yet anyway, for two reasons. First, I’m not in any hurry. Second, I want to write for an audience, and as I said above, that involves understanding the business, and understanding it very well. My friends and family will buy my books, but will I be able to reach a wider audience as a self-published writer? I’m not so sure.
I’ve done my research on promotion and such, and I don’t feel this is something I can undertake at this point. I’m happy to do my part, as writers are responsible for a big chunk of marketing these days. For the business itself to be remotely successful, I think there needs to be a partnership of sorts in place. Self-publishing is never completely off the table, and I am grateful that I have that choice.
LC: What’s up next for Author Silvia Villalobos?
SV: I have a short story (flash fiction) coming up in July from Pure Slush. I had my mystery novel, Stranger or Friend, evaluated by an editor and am working on her comments. Once that’s done–hopefully this summer–my plan is to take a look at the market and see what my next step is. In the meantime, I write every chance I get. Life is but a series of stories waiting to be told.
LC: Congratulations on your next publication. I’ll look forward to reading it! Also congrats on getting feedback from the editor. That’s a success in and of itself.
Thank you for telling us about your “road to publication,” Silvia. And I think the perfect ending to our interview is a repeat of your lovely last line:
“Life is but a series of stories waiting to be told.”