Barbara Monier has kindly tagged me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Barbara describes herself as an “author, novelist, cynical hopeless romantic”. She has two novels finished and published and a third on the way.
Thank you, Barbara, for thinking of me for this event.
Last week, I answered some set questions in my post for the Meet My Character Blog Tour, so you may notice a small amount of overlap in the answers below, but hopefully not too much.
1. What am I working on?
I’m taking the Summer off from writing, apart from haiku and tanka poetry, having recently completed my 90,000-word speculative fiction novel. This is my fifth novel and the outcome of a journey experimenting with various types of fiction. His Seed (or alternatively, Counting Magpies) is set in the 22nd century and its themes are male infertility, sexual exploitation, incest, love and romance, as measured against the yardstick of humankind’s threatened extinction. That all sounds very serious, but it’s not science-y or remotely preachy.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I’ve always had a tendency to cross-genre. When I first started out, literary agents and publishers made comments such as, “This is really original and well-written, but unmarketable for a novice author” or “I really like this, but where would it go on shelves in bookshops?” or “I applaud your imagination, but comedy, fantasy, horror is just too much of a mix”. I heeded their comments and had a go at writing a straight genre medieval-style sword and sorcery fantasy novel, which had so many full reads and near-misses, I finally flung my hands in the air in despair and declared (I’ll quote Monty Python’s Flying Circus here ) “And now for something completely different!”
To me, speculative fiction is the new respectable name for cross-genre science fiction or fantasy; although some purists will scold me for saying this. Having consciously applied the speculative label to my work, I’ve felt compelled to write in a more literary style than before. I acknowledge that there’s some exceedingly literary published science fiction and fantasy out there, but such works can be sadly overlooked by readers who look down their noses at genre novels.
As far as the finished product goes, it is definitely more literary and lyrical than my other novels, although quite minimalist in style compared to other works that are considered literary. It also breaks away from the urban nightmare often portrayed in Dystopian fiction, instead depicting a future in which nature has started to regenerate without so many people around to rape its resources.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Normal is boring and I just don’t feel driven to write about everyday things. Of course, it’s impossible not to include them in a novel, or readers would have no frame of reference to draw upon, but I’ve always loved “what-if” novels set in the future or in a fantasy kingdom. You see, I’m not very adventurous myself in real life; on the other hand, my imagination is huge and extremely adventurous. Up to the age of thirty-six, I daydreamed during every spare moment. Then I decided to write my first novel and pour all those daydreams into something more constructive, rather than releasing them into the ether. The first draft of my first novel — a time travel romance — received a publisher rejection containing the word “promising”, which was sufficient praise to spur me on; although sometimes I still blush at the memory of sending out an unedited first draft to a publisher.
4. How does my writing process work?
Writing straight on to the computer, I start with one or two characters in my head and perhaps write a piece of flash fiction or prologue about them, just to fill the blank screen with something. It’s all about calling my brain to order and dialing up my literary muse. This starter stuff usually ends up being dumped in the second draft. Having got underway, I soon come up with some kind of emotive and perilous situation into which I throw my characters. From thereon in, the world blossoms around them, new characters unfold and, before I know it, my fictional characters have taken over telling the story, throwing up the most wonderful surprises along the way. Usually the end of the novel comes to me, somewhere past the halfway mark.
I used to write in a linear fashion and then go back to weave subplots in with subsequent drafts. With my latest novel, I wrote from six different character viewpoints, weaving in flashbacks as I went, which required an awful lot of concentration. Normally, I don’t plan a plot or make any notes, but hold everything in my head. This time I admit to having had to stop a third of the way through the novel to construct a family tree/timeline.
I carry out research on the trot, as and when it’s required, and rarely suffer from writers’ block. If my brain won’t work, it means I need to take a break and do something completely different. I tend not to write at the weekend or in the evenings.
I’m now pleased to pass the baton on to two of my writing buddies …
Benjamin Jones, otherwise known as Graphite Bunny, whose blog is full of wonderful photography and prose poetry, and who was my guest storyteller on this blog back in March.
Henry Gee, who blogs at cromercrox.blogspot.co.uk about all manner of things that catch his attention: some of them quirky and some halfway normal. He’s appeared twice on my blog: first, in November for an interview about his then self-published novel “By The Sea” and then a week ago in a post about his success in finding a traditional publisher for the same novel.
Blondeusk, who calls her blog Blondewritemore and describes herself as “a novice writer starting her journey”.
Dave Farmer, who blogs at davefarmersblog about life, writing, and zombies(!), and who was my guest storyteller on this blog in June.
And here’s the link to Henry Gee’s “Writing Process Blog Tour” post.