I recently did a Skype author interview with my niece's English class. They asked when I started writing, and I realized I was younger than their 14-year-old selves when my fingers started itching. I began with poetry heavily influenced by Shel Silverstein and progressed to thinly veiled plagiarism short stories in the style of Ray Bradbury. After being published in a chapbook that I think probably published anyone who sent anything in, I had the bug bad, and it really never left. So let's talk about writing.
What am I working on/writing?
Right now, I am not writing anything. A few weeks ago, I sent my contemporary new adult novel, THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES, to my agent. He said he would read it. I was happy, though I felt none of the excitement that I felt when people asked to read THE OBVIOUS GAME, because now I know not to drink the water until it's been filtered, or some other terrible metaphor for becoming jaded by the publishing beast. I have a few ideas for my next novel, but for now, I wait to see if my agent will represent PARKER CLEAVES or if I need to go to Plan B. (I do not know what Plan B is yet.)
How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
Well, for one thing, it's in my voice. I know that sounds silly, but it's true. If I find a writer I like, I'll read anything that person writes. I fangirl easily. It's my dream that people will like my voice and then want to read anything I write, and I realize that is totally vain. But it's the truth. So I work hard to make my voice sound different than other people's voices. THE OBVIOUS GAME was turned down by some major publishers because "they already had an anorexia book on their lists." That was frustrating for me, because that makes it sound like the book is all subject and no voice. I get it from a business/catalog perspective, but it also made me want to scream. I think it's clear the same person wrote THE OBVIOUS GAME and THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES even though the subject matter is vastly different. All of my writing tends to be less action/more character development than other books in my genres. I also try to portray strong parent/child relationships, because it seems like every young adult or new adult book I read has a crappy mother in it.
Why do I write what I do?
Someone super famous but apparently not easily googled once said, "Write the book only you can write." So that's what I try to do. My writing is influenced by my life experiences, my observations of people and events, my politics, my anxiety disorder, my sense of humor. It does no good to try to follow trends, because it takes so long for most of us to get a book published, the trends will change by then. When I'm planning a book, I start with a takeaway I want the reader to have, and I build a story around that. It's kind of like building an outfit around a belt.
How does my writing process work?
When I wrote THE OBVIOUS GAME, I just wrote in a linear fashion. Then I ended up having all these structural problems and rewrote and moved and rewrote four or five times over two years, and that was really painful. When I started THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES, I used StoryMill software and outlined scenes in three acts. I figured out who all the characters were and when they would appear. I figured out the climax and most of the major events. And THEN I wrote, one scene at a time instead of one chapter at a time like THE OBVIOUS GAME. This time, too, I used my beta readers differently. I wrote a very loose and short rough draft and gave it to beta readers. Then I incorporated their feedback into the second draft and gave it to different beta readers. Finally, I incorporated that feedback and came up with a third draft, which I gave to yet again different beta readers. Then I shined it up and sent it to my agent. It'll probably change again, but I'd reached the point when I hated the whole thing, which is typically a good sign that you're done revising for a bit.
Next week, you can read about my friend Kyran Pittman's writing process. She's the author of PLANTING DANDELIONS, which is a really good book that I enjoyed muchly.
Some friends and I read Matthew Quick's THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW this month. One of the quirky things about the book (one of many) is that it's primarily told through letters from the protagonist to Richard Gere. THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW isn't my favorite Matthew Quick book (I love, love, love FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK), but the main character's striking observations about people and humanity linger with me still.
I wondered aloud on social media if Richard Gere actually knew he was in the book, and the author tweeted me back today.