ScreenCraft is excited to have Victoria Aveyard in the hot seat for 10 Questions. After growing up in small town Massachusetts, Victoria moved across the country to attend the University of Southern California. She graduated with a BFA in screenwriting. She tries her best to combine her love of history, explosions, and butt-kicking heroines in her writing. We love Victoria because of her unflinching voice, passion for all things writing, and ability to switch between novels and screenplays.
Victoria is the author of RED QUEEN, which will be published in the winter of 2015 by HarperTeen at HarperCollins. The rights have already been purchased by Universal. She recently sold her Action-Adventure screenplay, ETERNAL, to Sony.
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
It was never really a conscious choice. I’ve been writing since I physically could write (and making up stories long before that), and then in high school I realized I could actually go to college for this. The after-college/adult job stuff, I would figure out later.
2. Who and/or what are some of your key influences?
The first non-Disney movie I ever saw was Jurassic Park, and I was three years old. That basically set the bar for me. My childhood was a product of Indiana Jones/Star Wars/Independence Day, and later on Lord of the Rings (books and films). Book-wise, I’m from the Harry Potter generation, so that’s a given, as well The Chronicles of Narnia and A Song of Ice and Fire. Basically, anything with a deep mythology and huge world, I’m in, and hopefully that shows in my writing.
3. What was your experience like at film school?
Pretty fantastic. Southern California is the best out there for a film education, not just because of the great resources and professors at your disposal. You’re in Los Angeles, so that’s a huge bonus in terms of internships and just the general atmosphere. But I also really liked being part of a larger, more traditional university. My classes were in a studio-level building, with writing screenplays for assignments, but I also got a well-rounded college experience. A lot of film schools don’t have that, and I feel like undergrads definitely miss out on being actual college students.
4. Did you Intern in LA? What were some of your early jobs?
I interned at a production company my junior year, and then in the Fox Writers Program my senior year. The first was more traditional, reading coverage and getting coffee, but a really valuable window into the industry and how it works on that level. At Fox, I was more of a creative intern, and got to see writers working on a daily basis. Not to mention I was in the Action/Adventure room, so that was awesome. It was there that I first got the idea to write a YA novel, and started brainstorming.
5. What’s more satisfying, selling a book or a screenplay?
Both had me really jazzed, to be honest. The book sale came first, and that was just a huge relief. Moving home to Massachusetts, spending almost all of my first year out of college doing nothing but writing had paid off. It was really validating. And then the script sale was just fantastic because it meant I wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Also, that’s kind of what I went to college for, so it was cool to see four years pay off.
6. How is your process different from book to script?
Screenplays are much faster and, in some ways, easier. You get right to the point, scenes are fully communicated as quickly as possible, and I’m a visual writer, so this medium really works for me. And, in comparison to books, scripts are just so much shorter. I wrote ETERNAL in about four months, including back and forth with my reps. There’s much more collaboration in scriptwriting, from outline to final copy, whereas writing a novel, it’s almost all me until a draft is finished. I just finished my second novel and my agent gave my outline a quick overlook, but that’s about it until I finished the first draft. Then, the collaboration really amps up. My lit agent, editor, and then copy editors do passes before we land on something everyone can agree on. And the steps are much more stratified on a finished manuscript as opposed to a screenplay. Once a manuscript is sold, it almost always makes it to publishing. We all know that’s just not the case with screenplays.
7. How do you manage your time / choose what to write next?
I’m quite lucky to have an ongoing book series, so that’s always the priority. My progress on RED QUEEN dictates how much time I have for other things. For example, I wrote ETERNAL during the edit period of my first book when there was a lot of waiting during the back and forth with edit notes. And sometimes, I have an idea that is just begging to be pursued, so I chip at it even when I shouldn’t.
Time-wise, I try to keep my days structured. I keep to regular work hours so I don’t burn myself out, and I’m usually done for the day by 5 or 6pm. That way, I’m ready to go come the next morning. I do the same with weekends and unless I’m really deep into something, don’t really touch the writing computer on Saturday and Sunday. It helps me buckle down on weekdays. But for “fun writing” or the aforementioned beggar ideas, all bets are off.
8. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you began writing?
Write what you want. Don’t chase trends. Your own enthusiasm, passion, and interest can’t be faked, and will always come through in the work if it’s there. And if what you want to write happens to be on-trend, or even a little behind the curve, write it anyways. Just do your thing and see what sticks.
9. What other projects are you working on?
RED QUEEN 2 edits should be coming in the near future, so those will take over soon. Right now, I’m brainstorming some new stuff, and one idea in particular has taken hold.
10. What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
I’ve got two, both from USC professors. The first: the spider doesn’t know which part of the web will catch the fly. The second: good luck is an opportunity you’re ready and prepared for, bad luck is an opportunity you aren’t.
You can find more from Victoria at http://www.victoriaaveyard.blogspot.com or on Twitter @VictoriaAveyard