Author Interview with Maya Joelle
I am so excited to have the author of the lovely poetry collection Cathedral on the blog today...none other than Maya Joelle! She is such an inspiration and so creative - I have loved following her blog these last several months! You can learn about her and where to follow her here...or, y'know, keep reading for our interview below!!
What first inspired you to write?
My first-ever story was a Narnia fanfiction, which I wrote at age six out of frustration at C.S. Lewis for not telling us what happened next to Susan. So I’d say my first inspiration to write was Lewis, which really means that it was my parents, because my father read aloud the entire Narnia series to my sister and me and both my parents encouraged me to continue writing stories.
What are some of the driving forces behind you and your writing now?
For my poetry, I’m driven by the need to get my emotions out on paper (or on a computer screen). I love it when I manage to write something that can bring me back to a certain moment and the exact way I felt at the time. It’s even better when others can experience the same emotions by reading my poem. I also write high fantasy, which is driven by a love for my characters and worlds. (Seriously. I geek out about my main characters and their arcs all the time. It’s great fun.)
Can you name any authors who have inspired your voice in different ways? How can you see their influence in your writing?
I’ve been strongly influenced by the poetry of Allison Beery, Havilah Gael, Essie-Marie W, Levi the Poet, Shigé Clark, and my good friend Lilly, and I’d like to think my poems resemble theirs in some ways. They are all immensely talented and manage to capture emotions and moments in such creative, memorable ways.
I always pray that my poetry will give people the same experience that I have when I listen to Levi the Poet, specifically his tracks “The Dark Night of the Soul” and Chapter Seven: Orphan Theism.” Here are a couple quotes:
So where is the lullaby that our doctrine sang? Where is the house on the rock when even the rock couldn’t withstand the rain? What does it mean, you who uses spit to clean the eyes of blind men suddenly guilty for all that they have
claimed to see? It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s just that sometimes faith feels more like cataracts than clarity. Please, go gentle on me. - Levi the Poet, “The Dark Night of the Soul”
I have no idea what to believe, but beauty pulls me beyond myself like I don’t even have a
choice, so I know I don’t believe in nothing. - Levi the Poet, “Chapter Seven: Orphan Theism”
(lyrics found at https://www.levithepoet.net/music-lyrics/)
What are some of your most favorite books/genres—to read and to write?
My favorite genres to read are high fantasy and historical fiction, and some of my favorite authors are J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Brandon Sanderson, N.D. Wilson, Intisar Khanani, Megan Whalen Turner, Andrew Peterson, Rosemary Sutcliff, Robin McKinley, L.M. Montgomery, and G.K. Chesterton. Yes, I know that’s an inordinately long list. Just be thankful I didn’t try to list all of my favorite books :)
As for writing, I have several high fantasy WIPs and ideas for WIPs, and I also spend a lot of time writing poetry. I’ve written some contemporary fiction as well. But it’s mainly fantasy and poetry.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I read a lot. That is, I did, until college started. Now I spend a lot of time studying, hanging out with friends, listening to music, and walking to and from classes (not to mention actually taking said classes). My other hobbies include singing, martial arts, and holding my little brothers.
Looking back, what has changed for you as a writer—be it how you write or what you write about?
I write less now than I used to, but that’s mainly because I’m quite busy. I’ve gotten better over the years at planning plots before I write them (I wouldn’t call it actually plotting, because my system is very loose and disorganized, but at least it exists).
What draws you to poetry?
I love the flexibility of it — there are so many different ways to express yourself, and less “rules” (you decide where line/stanza breaks go, etc.). And it’s a way to express emotions and capture moments through metaphors and imagery, which is one of my favorite ways to write.
What does your writing process look like — for poetry and prose?
For poetry, I either type or handwrite a draft as soon as I can after I get the idea for a poem. Then I let it sit for a while, and come back to it and edit it later. Mostly I make little changes. If a poem needs large, structural edits, that usually means I should re-write and find a different way to say the thought.
For example, here’s the first draft of a poem from Cathedral (originally called “dizzy”)’
We are spinning at a speed we cannot comprehend Dizzily turning Somehow we are yet alive. Can anyone understand this mercy? How we spin round See the stars
And yet stand incredibly still And see the sky full of fire and awe
And here’s the final draft (now titled “fire and awe”):
We are spinning at a speed we cannot comprehend Dizzily turning Somehow we are yet alive. Can anyone understand this mercy? How we spin round through a sea of stars
And yet stand incredibly still And see the sky
By removing the last half of the final line and making it the title instead, I think I made the conclusion stronger overall, and I was able to create a parallel between “sea” and “see” without repeating the word twice in such a short poem.
For prose, my first drafts are usually a lot further from the final product. It can take many rewrites to get there, and I often absolutely hate the initial draft.
Cathedral is your upcoming release—can you tell me a little bit about it?
Cathedral is a collection of poetry and short creative prose that I’ve written over the past several years, about darkness and light, courage and fear, and death and life. (Among many other things.)
What made you choose self-publishing for Cathedral?
The process of querying, acquiring an agent, and getting a publishing deal is very long and hard. I’ll likely pursue it someday, but I knew that I could design and format satisfactorily myself, and I am satisfied with the manuscript without further editing. (I did pay for an editor for a previous draft.) It made more sense for me in terms of how much time and effort I have to spend on publication, and I’ll be able to hold my own book in my hands and say, “I wrote that, and I designed and formatted it, and now other people can read it.”
What are your thoughts for other aspiring writers on writing and publishing?
For writing — just write. Don’t worry about how terrible you are. Don’t worry about anything. Just consistently write something. That’s the first step. (Of course, there are things you can and should do to get better at writing, but if you’re not consistently writing, you haven’t got anything to improve.)
For publishing — don’t do it until you’re ready, do lots of research, and if you’re going to be like me and do everything yourself, make sure you’re satisfied with the quality of the product you produce. Would you buy the book you’re selling? If you wouldn’t, you’re not ready to publish it. (I don’t really have advice for traditional publishing at the moment, but the same basic idea applies — don’t query/submit until you’re sure you’ve written something you’re proud of, something you’d want to read or buy if someone else wrote it.)
What do you want your readers to take away from this collection?
Have the courage to create.
This darkness will end.
Lay down your life as a gift to others.
Give all the glory to the true King.
Have you ever experienced any discouragement as an author? If so, what inspired you to persevere?
Of course. I think everyone goes through that. In fact, one of the pieces in Cathedral, “dust,” deals with this issue. I’ll let you read it to learn a little more about my reasons for persevering.
What are your greatest aspirations for your future, be it as a person or as a writer?
As a writer, I’d like to self-publish my poetry, and pursue traditional publishing for my fantasy. I hope to continue to write all my life, but not make it my main career. My aspirations as a person in general include traveling to Europe, homesteading and homeschooling, publishing my own translation of a Latin epic, being a Bible translator and missionary, and owning a pair of gold earrings (among other hopes). I think I’ll at least achieve that last one.
What has being a writer taught you?
If you want to get better at anything, you have to consistently do it.
About the Author
Maya Joelle is a wordsmith, bookdragon, and avid forest enthusiast from Michigan. In addition to poetry, she writes high fantasy novels and short stories that turn into novels. When she’s not writing or studying, she is often found marveling at the beauty of creation through the wonders of nature, music, and friendship. She writes poems to remind herself and others of God’s goodness amidst pain and sorrow, for the glory of the Author who knows the ending of her story. All the important links: https://mayajoelle.carrd.co/