And now you know the real reason I created a website overnight (well, technically, while my middle child was napping and my youngest was having his brain melted by Dora the Explorer). My good friend, fellow writer, and Thursday evening Firefly viewing buddy Carly Drake asked me to join in on a blog hop. I had a very simple objection to this request: “I don’t have a writing blog!” But she twisted my arm a quarter of an inch or so, and I decided it was time to brave this new frontier. So first things first, head on over to her blog and find out why she’s so excited to go to New York City next month — beyond the obvious reasons. While you’re there, if you enjoy stories of fey that don’t involve whiny heroines or Tinkerbell sweetness, you should check out her recently released YA, Words Once Spoken.
On to the main event:
1) What are you currently working on?
Mostly, other people’s books! My editing business is keeping me busy with interesting worlds not of my own creation. But I’m nearing the finish line on HOPE’S GRAVE, a sci-fi set on contemporary Earth. The course of humanity has been secretly manipulated by aliens sent here to cultivate and harvest specific human emotions, to be used as an energy source by the entity who sent them. Convinced that humans are more than fuel cells, the cultivator of hope sacrifices himself to give one human, grad student Sanya Murray, the ability to use his powers and interact with the world he came from. My book is Sanya’s story — her struggle to understand what’s happening to her, to hold on to her humanity, and to find a way to stand in defense of mankind against a threat no one else can see. Complicating matters is an alien who was exiled for consuming his associated energy instead of sending it home. He wants a way back, and he has his own plans for Hope’s champion.
Think “Horton Hears a Who”, if Earth is Whoville and Horton is an alien who views Earth as a petri dish full of lovely little energy-producing bacteria. The cultivators are like molecular tools used to adjust the ratio and production of human emotions by triggering lynch-pin events throughout our history…along with other tactics…dun dun dunnn…
2) How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Science fiction is such a broad genre that it’s easy to start listing differences between my book and many other sci-fi options on shelves today. There’s no jargon, no advanced tech (yet), and no alien military threat. It isn’t dystopian, and it isn’t utopian; depending on Sanya’s choices, it could be pre-apocalyptic but I’m not going to give that away here! Really, the biggest difference is one of tone; HOPE’S GRAVE feels more like a fantasy book. I didn’t deliberately choose to write it that way, but I enjoy stories that blur the line between genres and it turns out that I love to write books like that too. It is incredibly fun to write a scene discussing the dynamics of alien space travel, then follow it up with a flashback to a druid-esque character releasing a horde of bubonic plague-ridden rats from a crumbling castle. The presence of aliens and a spaceship dictate, of course, that the book falls rather firmly on the sci-fi side of the SF/F fence.
3) Why do you write what you write?
I write what I love to read. I fell in love with science (and science fiction) when I stumbled across Madeleine L’Engle’s books as a child, and dove headfirst into fantasy with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. The summer before my 5th grade year, I split my days between riding my horse and pretending to ride dragons through the woods behind my house. Then I discovered Asimov, Phillip K. Dick, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula K. LeGuin… These are the kinds of books that make me dream and help me see the wondrous in the everyday and leave an imprint on my life, and that’s what I want to write.
4) How does your process work?
My process is still, if you forgive me for saying so, a work-in-process. I’ve learned some things about how I write while drafting this book that will change how I write the next one. For HOPE’S GRAVE, I had a kernel of an idea years ago that just refused to be forgotten. When I made the decision to start writing seriously, I spent a week in a hotel room in Vegas deciding which idea to go with and plotting out the framework for the story. I have since applied several different plotting methods because each one helps me see the story from a different angle — I use the index card method, the Hero’s Journey, John Truby’s master storyteller process, and bits and pieces of techniques I’ve picked up over the years. Every time I have a new idea or a line of dialogue pop into my head, I immediately jot it down in my journal or on my phone. Just last week, since I’m nearing the end of the book, I had to go through and scour all of my journals for notes to make sure I didn’t forget anything. It took about half a day to compile everything!
For drafting, I use writing software called “Write It Now 4”. I like how it organizes characters, scenes, and notes — but the main reason I use it for the writing stage is that when I see a Word document, my editing brain engages. That’s not the part of my brain I need when it’s time to create. As you can see by the photo of my desk at the top of this post, I’ve got an awesome setup with two screens on a poppy-red desk with lots of flat surface to lay notes out on. I usually have my WIP open on one monitor and use the other one for reference files…and maybe my twitter feed, when I need to pause for air. At the end of the day, I export to Word and save the file in OneDrive as “WIP.date” because I’m paranoid like that. Losing that middle school report on Antelope the day before it was due scarred me for life.
Alright, that’s enough about me! Though I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments.
Next up, check out the fabulous fantastic
four five writers who have graciously agreed to carry the torch on:
Heather Walters, Young Adult & Middle Grade with some killer wrestling moves
Shelley K. Wall, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance & Women’s Fiction
Rebecca (R.L.) Nolen, Psychological Suspense & MG Historical Fantasy
Melanie Greene, Contemporary Romance
And last but not least, Emmie Mears, whose debut superhero novel The Masked Songbird releases this summer! It’s set in Scotland and features a superwoman, so don’t miss it!