Interview with Liz Turney
How did you become a writer?
I have wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember, but it started to become an actionable goal when I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Then in 2021 I had an idea for a middle grade novel about a girl dealing with hearing loss. Of all my medical issues that is the one that was the hardest for me to accept, so I knew I had to write the story. Coincidentally that is the year #PitchDis began on Twitter and the feedback I got for my pitch was much better than I expected. After that I knew I needed to do whatever it takes to get my story into the world. The process also reminded me how much I have always loved storytelling.
What inspires you to write?
I have always loved to write, and being a published author has been my dream for as long as I can remember. Many of my stories are inspired by my experiences with various medical issues and the idea that a kid might read one of them, see themselves in it, and be comforted knowing they aren’t alone, is very inspiring to me.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Normally I think of the concept first, then the plot and characters come after. The main character’s personality is like me in some way. That makes it easier to imagine how I would react in the character’s situation. Other characters develop based on their role in the story. As for the plot, when I begin a story I typically know how I want it to end or what the main character’s goal is before I know anything else about the plot. My favorite experience while writing is when the characters take over and drive the story in a way that’s better than I ever predicted.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
Time is the biggest challenge. My day job is still my day job, so finding the time to write is the hardest part. However since I switched my priorities to focus on my writing, I have found I have more time than I thought I did.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Betsy is 11 years old and is in many ways the fictional version of me. She’s somewhat shy, very introspective, confident and a bit stubborn when she’s passionate about something. My favorite trait about Betsy is her confidence on stage. She becomes a different version of herself and it’s a joy for all to see. Her biggest weakness is the way she becomes closed off when something is bothering her. Instead of talking to her friends and family she retreats and suffers alone and in silence.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
The main antagonist is really Betsy’s internal struggle to accept her hearing loss and the changes she must make in her life because of it. She rebels against it to her own detriment until she’s trapped and has to confess the truth. Her refusal to tell anyone what’s going on hurts herself more than anyone else.
What are your current/future projects?
I am working on a dual perspective middle grade novel. A girl is experiencing some odd symptoms, but does not know what’s causing them, but inside, her body knows what’s wrong. So while on the outside she and her parents struggle to figure out what’s going on, on the inside her body is fighting a potentially deadly invader.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
I don’t have a strict routine when writing. I write on weekends and before or after work when possible. I don’t set any word count or hours per day goals because they stress me out. I want to enjoy my writing time, not be stressed about it. I also let myself step away when I get stuck. I’ll listen to music, go for a walk, peruse Twitter, or jump ahead to a different scene.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Keep writing, and learning about writing and publishing. It will happen when the time is right, but you have to keep writing so you are ready when that time comes.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write the story you want to write. There are tons of resources for writers at every stage to help improve your craft, learn about the querying process, and publishing industries, so take advantage of them. Check out the writing community on Twitter, and search for writing groups, there are plenty and they can help you grow and stay motivated. Finally, do not compare your journey to anyone else’s. Focus on the path, the tools, and the story that is right for you. You may not get there the way you want or thought you would, but that doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your writing dreams. You just have to keep trying.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?