Sunday, August 31, 2014

"My Writing Process" blog tour

I was asked by my friend, author Alia Yunis, to participate in a blog tour of authors sharing their writing processes. I'm honored to a part of this tour. At any live event I've done people--whether aspiring writers themselves or avid readers--seem most curious about the writing process (how do you get your ideas? how to you go from concept to a full-blown novel?) If this describes you, I hope you'll take a look at the posts by all the writers participating in the blog tour. I'm sure we'll all pick up some valuable tips along the way. (And you can start here and follow the links: Alia's post; Myfanwy Collins' post; and Patricia Dunn's post.)

I met Alia at the Squaw Valley Conference of Writers. The conference organizers invite alumni to come back to the conference to do a reading after they've been published. Alia and I attended Squaw during different years but we did our debut reading the same summer and this is where I got to meet her. When I first arrived, everyone kept mistaking me for Alia. Okay, our first names are similar and we're both women, and we're both on the short side and have dark hair. But that's where the similarities end. She is younger and prettier than I am and has a bubbly, fun and wildly creative personality. I honestly can't imagine how anyone who knew Alia would mistake her for me. She is enormous fun to be around especially if you are a creative person. We were roommates, too, which gave me time to get to know her. I love getting to spend time with Alia but since she lives in the UAE, where she teaches at university, those times are all too rare.

Okay, let's get to the questions . . .

What are you working on?

I handed in a manuscript to my agent recently and so am shifting between ideas, trying to decide which will be the next project, while knowing that once notes come back from the agent I'll probably spend a few months (at least) tied up with that. I'm thinking about a rewrite of a book I was working on before the one I just handed in, a historical fantasy that has some knotty problems to be worked out. But I also had an idea for something new and I'm working on the outline and writing some scenes to try it on for size. Since I much prefer creating fresh to rewriting, I find I'm being drawn to the new project . . .

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I'm going to give an oblique answer to this question. I was a music journalist many years ago and noticed that bands (especially new, young bands) used to hate it when I asked them about their genre. "Don't label me," they seemed to be saying; judge us on our own merits. Which is all well and good--we all want to think as artists that we're doing something fresh and unique--but at the same time, it's really important for people to be able to quickly grasp what you're about so they can determine whether it's something they think they'll like. So being part of a genre is not a bad thing.

When my first book came out I bristled at the question of genre because I felt my book was different from most of the books it typically got compared to. Now I see that this resisting categorization hurt me.  So now I embrace my genre, though I think it's a pretty broad genre. (I'd put Diana Gabaldon in there as well as Audrey Niffenegger, and Anne Rice, too, though lots of people probably wouldn't think of those three writers in the same breath). So, how are my books different? I think all our books are different in some way. The Taker Trilogy put the reader very close to the narrator; "so much emotion" was how one reader described it or, as another reader put it, "All the feels!" I think the next book will be a little different from the Taker books in that it might not take the reader on such an emotional rollercoaster ride.

Why do you write what you do?

It's the way my brain works, I'm afraid. The book I just handed in is a historical, no fantasy, and I have to say that in some ways it was a much easier book to write. More straightforward. But since then, the stories I've been able to think of all have fantastical elements in them. I must be trying to escape from the constraints of life.

How does your writing process work?

Usually, I come up with the premise and broad outline for a story quickly and start throwing down chapters, broad brush, in sequence.  At this stage, it's like a strawman. It might not even have much personality. The true nature of the characters and all the deepening and enriching comes in when I go back and expand those chapters. Anyway, that's how it usually happens but the book I'm working on now is being written out of sequence. I like to mix things up for the fun of it, and to keep my writing fresh.

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