One of the ways Emilia Ares works through writer’s block is by acting out the scene she’s writing. While this advice is fantastic for all writers, Emilia might have a leg up on most of us. She’s a professional actress who understands that storytelling is an inherent part of the human experience. Enjoy Emilia’s interview.
Who are you?
My name is Emilia Ares. I am an author, and a film and television actress. I live in Los Angeles, California with my husband and my two amazing kiddos. Connect with Emilia on her website.
What do you write?
I write Young Adult contemporary fiction. I began writing when I was 7 — a short story inspired by my younger sister. It was a dramatization of how she broke into our mother’s lipstick collection and illustrated our apartment walls. I had since secretly dreamt of becoming a writer, but I didn’t think it was a realistic aspiration because I was as an immigrant, growing up in a non-English-speaking household. I got to a point where I knew I had a story to tell, and I just needed to tell it, insecurities be damned. Writing a book was exhausting and exhilarating, like trying to describe a vivid dream that won’t leave your consciousness until you give it life on paper.
Where do you write?
I wrote the first draft of Love and Other Sins on my laptop in bed between 10 pm and 5 am. That’s when my imagination really churns — in the wee hours of the night. Once that was complete, the subsequent 20-some-odd rounds of editing took place at my writing desk during the day. It would have been dreadfully unpleasant without the company of my good friends: Stained Coffee Mug and Spinal Support Pillow (I have terrible posture).
I wrote and edited on ol’ handy-dandy Microsoft Word, and if I was ever inspired on the go, I just jotted things down into the notes section of my phone. Since I was usually driving around a lot to auditions, work, my son’s school, etc., it helped to edit on the go. I would program the Microsoft document accessibility tool to read excerpts aloud to me, that way I utilized almost every minute of my day efficiently, and it was easier to notice typos hearing them aloud.
When do you write?
I like to initially write at night and edit during the day. I wrote the first draft at the pace of about a thousand words a day. Sometimes, it would be three thousand. Sometimes, I’d take days off. When editing, I tried to get through about a chapter a day — more or less — depending on the chapter’s length. I do set deadlines and goals for myself. I hold myself accountable by hiring the editor in advanced and booking three months ahead of time, for instance.
Why do you write?
I was interested in storytelling for as far back as I can remember. Storytelling is an inherent part of the human experience; it’s how we link ourselves to one another, to our ancestors. Maybe it’s my way of rebelling against the inevitable oblivion of my own finite existence. But, put more simply, as an actress, I felt like a vessel for the story — pivotal, but restricted. As an author, I finally understood what it felt like to be in full control of the narrative. It’s a very different feeling. It’s also a different responsibility — to be the driver of the vessel and to be the vessel itself and to be the driving force and to be the road and the mountains and the sea and gravity and everything in-between.
Also, I write because it’s fun for me. I really enjoy making something and sharing it with others and hoping they can connect in at least some aspect. That was the best part of making movies like Falling Overnight, the unexpected emails and outreach from the fans who were touched by the story. I’ve craved that connection ever since. I think this is my chance to connect with a whole new group of people, readers. My heart is really in it. I want to shed light on the flaws of the foster care system. I want to bring attention to the stigmas that all immigrant families face. And I want to advocate for those who are overlooked by learning more about different issues affecting our community and spreading the word. The arts are a powerful tool to foster empathy toward one another.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I overcome blocks by pivoting. I try different approaches: I switch to pen and paper to connect to a different part of my brain; I write scenes out by hand in my notebooks whenever I had blocks; it really got my brain sparking in periods of stifled creativity. Another way to get through a block: I’d act a scene out or read it aloud. Sometimes, taking a break from writing and doing something physical helps. If nothing is working, I’ll skip a part that’s giving me trouble and go to the next moment or character mind-space that I can imagine clearly. Later, I’ll go back and fill in that blank. Usually, that does the trick.
Bonus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
When I’m not writing or working, I spend most of my time with my kids. We make five-course meals out of play-dough, paint abstract masterpieces, jump to the moon on the backyard trampoline, fly to Hawaii in an Amazon shipping box. It’s so much fun to see the world through my kids’ eyes.
I am also partial to a good red wine, inhaling a bewitching fantasy novel in one sitting, or binge-watching the latest book-to-television series adaptation, regardless of my sleep-deprivation.