I met Courtney through our regional NaNoWriMo group, and we've talked a bit over the last few years. I'm excited to learn more about her and her work today, and share that with you.
So Courtney, tell me a bit about yourself; What do you like to do beyond your writing? My favorite thing to do right now is learn. I know that sounds weird, but I have found that taking the time to learn how to do certain things is important for me to continue writing. Right now I am trying to teach myself to create a new language for my novel, as well as writing the lore and history of the world.
Reading is something that I have always loved to do, but ever since I started college it has been harder for me to read for fun. I am slowly picking up more books and I started to realize again how much reading influences my own writing.
Outside of reading and writing I love to cook. I wrote a small cookbook last year and I have been inventing new recipes and finding fun ways to cook different types of meals. Anything from Vegan/ vegetarian to Mexican and Indian.
I would usually say videogames as well but I haven’t had much time to play many games lately because of work and trying to make myself write more everyday.
What is your favorite way to story build and brainstorm?
My favorite way to brainstorm is to just write out all of my ideas until something comes from it. If you look through any of my notebooks you will see pages of me explaining the concepts of stories rather than just writing them. I like to plan out my characters, the plots, the beginnings and ends. It’s the middle of the story that I usually have the most trouble with.
I was discussing recently in a forum how I get the ideas for my stories and I realized that most of the stories I have started as dreams. I have really vivid and lucid dreams when I sleep and when I wake up, I will usually write them down or at least write down the bits I remember. The story I just submitted to a writing contest a few weeks ago was something that had started as a dream I had and slowly became the story I wrote. It was weird and kind of funny when I tried to explain to my creative writing professor where most of my inspiration came from for my stories.
Other than that I will usually just write and see what happens. I read once that it takes writing for a couple pages to get the junk out of your head and then you will find the gold that you really want to write and it’s true. I will usually just free write until I feel that I have enough clarity to continue writing a story or start a new one.
Do you have a favorite project so far? What makes it so?
My favorite project is probably my novel just because I have been working on it so long and it has evolved so much. I can say that this novel has taken a good eight years to reach the point it has now and being able to see myself mature throughout the years with my writing is just an amazing and strange thing to watch. Being able to finally finish a draft and see the light at the end of the tunnel is such a weird feeling. I know there is still a lot of work to do on it, but its nice to know that years of work haven’t been in vain.
The other part of this project that has been really fun has been the world building. I recently watched videos explaining the LOTR world and it really inspired me to explore the history and lore of my own fantasy world. I have already drawn a couple maps and started writing out what my world contains, how it reached the point its at in the story, the history of the world, and where the world might go as the story progresses. I also bought like five new notebooks just for this project but I doubt I will need them all. But hey, you can never have too many notebooks.
What's next on your agenda? What can we look forward to in the coming year?
Right now I am currently working on a second draft of my novel. I finished the first draft just a few months ago and now comes the time when I get to polish it up, add more details, and really make it shine. Lately I’ve been really into world building and figuring out the history and lore of this fantasy world.
I’ve also been working on a play about the Egyptian Revolution. I interviewed an artist who lived in Egypt at the time and his story has inspired me to create my own script to showcase the brave men and women who lived through the riots and are still living there today.
For college I have a couple of theatre projects brewing that don’t necessarily involve writing but are other ways I can do more research. I am the 'dramaturg' for the spring production of “Mr. Burns”, which basically means I work with the director to do the research for the play, find inspiration for the direction of the play, analyze the characters, and all of the other fun things I like doing with my own work. I’m also a production manager for our two student run festivals and I will hopefully be directing or dramturging in the spring as well for my senior thesis.
Why did you decide to write and publish?
I’ve always considered myself a writer, even from a young age I can remember filling notebooks with weird little stories about my beanie babies or stuffed animals and Barbie’s, so it just has always felt natural to write stories. When I was in eighth grade I started to become more serious with my stories and knew that I someday wanted to publish a novel or series about elves, fairies and the like. I started planning (I still have the notebooks and drafts of those early chapters and it is painful to read) and it became a sort of obsession. I found myself dreaming about chapters, writing for hours on end, staying up all night, and even writing short paragraphs while in class.
Publishing has always seemed so distant. The desire to write the next “Harry Potter” or LOTR is still strong within me, but I have always learned to take time to write smaller pieces, which is part of the reason I compiled a bunch of my short stories into one novel. I called the novel “Finding a Way” mostly because it represents my journey of writing and learning to call myself an author. I’m slowly finding my way to the dream novel that I want to create and the shorter pieces are just stepping stones to the end of the beginning.
What do you think is your driving force behind your writing? What keeps you going?
Right now the thing that is keeping me writing is knowing that I do want to share my story with the world, and not just my novels or fiction, but my life story as well. I want to be able to go on book tours and talk to people and inspire others like the authors that inspired me. I have always wanted to be a writer and finishing my novel this year felt like a huge leap in that direction. Being able to share it with the world is the next step in this long and arduous journey that I have chosen.
Writing has given me the ability to go to different worlds and experience new things and it has opened a lot of doors for me creatively and I want to continue that trend in my life. I never want to be told to stop being creative just because it might not make me a lot of money or because it might not get me where I want it to. I have this need to prove something to the world that even the smallest of us can make it by doing what we love.
The mother of all questions: Tell us about a favorite book?
Oh jeez. Well, the new Harry Potter just came out and I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but Harry Potter is definitely one of my favorite book series. Right now I am reading the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and they are such funny and awesome fantasy books, but they don’t always feel like fantasy books.
Overall, though, my favorite book would be the Wizard of Oz. It was one of the first books I read as a kid and the movie has always been one of my favorites as well. The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Harry Potter were the three that really inspired me to start writing as a kid.
Anything else you'd like our adoring masses to know?
Inspiration can really come from anywhere. I always carry a notebook and a plethora of pens with me because you never know when that itch to write will come. And writers block is all in your head. Even if you think you don’t have anything to say, just start writing and something important may come out of it.
Finding A Way By Courtney Seyl