Yes, it’s been a very long time since my last post. Thanks for your patience. I’m ready and eager to rejoin the world, and jumping into an ongoing blog hop seems like a good place to start.
Thanks to Deborah Blake for inviting me to participate! Her blog, Writing the Witchy Way, is a fun peek into her books, her writing process, and her life. Check out her responses to the questions from this blog hop. Deborah’s debut novel, Wickedly Dangerous, will be released on September 2, and it’s getting great reviews so far. Deborah reimagines Baba Yaga, a scary witch from Slavic folk tales, as a heroine for the 21st century. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy, and I’m reading it now. It’s a fun, fast-paced, sexy read that’s hard to put down. Don’t miss it! (And if you can’t wait to read Wickedly Dangerous, check out the series’ introductory novella, Wickedly Magical.)
On to the questions:
1) What am I working on? I’m still working on the sixth and final novel in my Deadtown series, Firestorm. The past year has been a tough one for me. My husband, Steve, died last September after a long hospitalization, and part of the aftermath for me has been intractable writer’s block. But I don’t want to dwell on that. No matter how many times I lose momentum, I keep returning to the story, listening for my characters’ voices and letting them guide me. It’s the only way I know to regain my focus. There have been times over the past months where I was ready to give up, but I’m not going to let trauma and depression win. Steve wouldn’t have wanted that—he was always a great supporter of my writing—and I don’t want it, either.
Firestorm is the explosive ending to the story of Vicky Vaughn, a Boston shapeshifter who kills other people’s personal demons for a living. When Vicky allowed an ancient goddess to possess her, she had no regrets—it was the only way to save two people she loved. But now Ceridwen refuses to leave. The goddess is locked in a power struggle with the Hellion that, years ago, claimed Vicky with its mark. Each believes controlling Vicky is key to winning the coming war for the human realm. No wonder Vicky feels crowded out.
But Vicky needs all her wits about her. The denizens of Hell are growing bold, and she can barely keep up with the demon attacks that plague Boston: sirens in the Mystic River, goblins snarling traffic on Storrow Drive, imps ripping the gold from the State House dome. Her mate, Kane, is battling to gain dominance over Boston’s werewolves. And her missing protégé, Tina, has been spotted among the zombie gangs making random attacks around the state.
As signs of war multiply and Hell threatens to overflow its borders, Vicky faces an impossible choice—one she never dreamed she’d have to make.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? The Deadtown series is straight-up urban fantasy, so if you like paranormal action/adventure with a kickass female protagonist, you’ll enjoy my books. All of my favorite urban fantasy series have great characters with a strong voice, exciting plots, and fully realized fantasy worlds, and I like to think my series has those, too. What makes my series different is its background mythology. Vicky and her world originate in medieval Welsh stories and legends. I began my career as a medievalist, and I’ve always been fascinated by the way people from the early Middle Ages understood the world and where they came from. Vicky’s race of shapeshifters is called the Cerddorion, the “sons of Ceridwen,” a powerful witch/goddess who could change her form at will. Much of the mythology on which Deadtown is built comes from The Mabinogi, a collection of early Welsh stories that a source for Arthurian legends. Characters and themes from these stories appear throughout the series.
3) Why do I write what I do? I’ve always enjoyed reading urban fantasy, so that’s why I wanted to write it. I love the combination of action and mythology in a contemporary setting. I love how characters in this genre are dealing with everyday problems we all recognize—from paying the bills to building a career to being in a relationship—while saving the world and stopping some really nasty bad guys. I see urban fantasy as a contemporary version of the medieval stories I studied, recognizable people having larger-than-life adventures and protecting their tribes from the monsters. This genre offers the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer.
4) How does your writing process work? Even though I’ve published six novels, I still don’t know “how to write a novel.” Every one has been different. Sometimes I start with a short outline of the main plot points; sometimes I start with a detailed synopsis. Sometimes I start at the beginning and write the story chronologically; other times I jump into a scene from the middle of the book and only try to write the beginning after I’ve written the end. Sometimes I zip through the first draft; sometimes I work and rework each scene the first time through. Sometimes I write best early in the morning; sometimes my writing engine doesn’t get going until nine or ten at night. There are, however, a few things I’ve learned about writing that hold true no matter what the process turns out to be for a given novel:
- Write every day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it keeps momentum going. Often five minutes turns into two hours. But if I miss a day, I don’t beat myself up over it. I justy get back to business the next day.
- To learn about your characters, give them something to do. For me, the best way to learn about my characters is to see them in action. At the start of a project, I write scenes that will never make their way into the book. The point is to drop my characters into a situation and see how they react. I use character sheets to record details about each character as they reveal themselves. But just like with real people, I have to listen to and watch my characters to get a sense of who they are.
- You don’t write a novel, you write a scene. The idea of “writing a novel” can be intimidating, even to someone who’s written several. But, as with any large task, the secret is to break it down into a series of manageable steps–take it “bird by bird,” as Anne Lamott put it. Thinking in terms of scenes works for me, and each scene becomes a building block of the novel. On those days when even a scene feels too big to tackle, I’ll try to write a sentence. Do what you can, and more will follow.
- Minimize distractions. I’m one of those people who can happily claim to be doing “research” for weeks while wasting time I should be using to write. So I often have to seek out places to write where I—gasp!—cannot connect to the Internet. I’m not a multitasker. To be able to get deeply into my characters’ world, I need to focus only on that. I write best when I’m doing nothing but writing—no music, no laundry, no checking emails or updating Facebook. Nothing to claim my attention and pull me out of the story.
Thanks for hopping along with me! Next up is my friend and fellow author Sean Cummings, who writes a variety of fantasy, including urban, YA, post-apocalyptic (with zombies!), and more. He’s a first-rate writer with a wild imagination and a great sense of humor. Check out his website, and be sure to see how he answers the questions next Monday.