Guys. I am the *worst* at this blog thing.
Apologies for the long radio silence. It’s been a busy few months! Over at the Greenhouse, there have been deals, new clients, release dates, and all manner of agent-y ass-kickery. Here at my writer’s desk…well, more on that below.
My pal and occasional short-fiction publisher, the fabulous Kerri Majors, “tagged” me in her Writing Process blog post a few days ago. Kerri is the founder of and editor-in-chief at YARN (Young Adult Review Network) and the author of THIS IS NOT A WRITING MANUAL (Writer’s Digest Books, 2013), a guide for young writers. I’m delighted to answer the tour’s four burning questions (and then I get to tag two bloggers much better at blogging than I.)
A’ight let’s do this.
1. What are you working on?
Right now I’m wrapping up the final section of a new young adult novel. It’s a large, sprawling “faux-historical” (which means, I wanted to write a historical but didn’t want to do any research…kidding…sort of). It takes place in a re-imagined turn-of-the-century Manhattan. It’s the story of a girl who rises from an ethnic ghetto to the glamorous rooftops of Central Park while becoming entangled with organized crime and terrorism. Think a steampunky Boardwalk Empire.
I like to explore themes of personhood, gender, and class in my novels (I didn’t know that starting out, I just look back and it seems those ideas keep cropping up), but unlike GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY, this new project is a bit more sprawling in scope. I wanted to write something epic and sweeping, about family and history and culture, like Jeffrey Eugenides’s MIDDLESEX. It’s more ambitious than anything I’ve ever done and I’m very excited about it.
2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?
As far as the current WIP goes, it’s a “steampunk” novel, but not a swashbuckling adventure. This is a character-driven story, though it takes place in a newly-imagined world. There are life and death stakes, but no robots or coal-powered giant spiders.
Generally, I’m a devotee of unreliable narrators, and there are certainly a great host of those in young adult. I also like to write narrators who are unreliable to themselves, who have only so much self-awareness. My protagonists grapple with how society has defined them and how they’ve self-defined. In GIRL PARTS, Rose is built to love one boy, and must forge an identity of her own when he rejects her. In CHERRY, the title character has an image of herself as a small-town girl, and must question that self-image when faced with the opportunity to enter a more glamorous tier of society. The protagonist of this new project, whom we’ll call Vette (because that’s what she’s called), is an infamous historical persona in her world, like Annie Oakley or Patty Hearst. She has a public persona of cruelty and danger that’s separate from who she is, or feels she is.
So, I suppose that’s something unique about my work- the exploration of multiple identities within single characters, personas, self-image, and one’s “true self,” if such a thing exists.
Sorry. I haven’t had my coffee yet…
Okay! Let’s keep going!
3. Why do you write what you do?
I love young adult fiction. I love writing it. It’s honest, and unpretentious, and relies on great story and true characters. You can’t hide behind pretty prose or brilliant metaphors in y.a.; you’ve got to make the reader *feel* something. Though I read a lot across age groups, writing y.a., and exploring that particular formation of identity that happens between 13 and 18, is where my heart is.
I’ve made the switch with my current WIP from a contemporary realistic backdrop to something more fantastical. I’m a sci-fi fan at heart, and I wanted to exercise that part of my brain this go-round. It’s been beyond fun.
4. How does your writing process work?
I go by drafts. I start with an idea, usually a series of images, or a very vague plot arc, and after taking some rough notes, I start with Chapter One, Word One. From the there the story will usually develop away from my initial concept or outline. I sometimes jump around– I like to begin chapters in the middle and then fill in the edges– but I more or less write in chronological order. I’m pushing the protagonist forward, watching her strive for her goals, and at the same time figuring out what the book is *about* as I go. In a sense, I write plot first, theme second. It usually takes a draft or two before I can say, “Ah ha! So *this* is what I’m trying to say!” From there it’s a matter of shaping and developing.
If you enjoyed reading my pre-caffeinated ramblings, and would like more, even *better* ramblings, there shall be new posts on the tour every Monday.
Next week, head on over to Sharon Biggs Waller’s. Sharon is my client and the author of the amazing and critically acclaimed y.a. historical A MAD WICKED FOLLY (Viking, 2014). Sharon does great giveaways on her blog, plus occasionally posts pictures of her beautiful farm (my favorite). Summer Heacock, aka Fizzygrrl, is one of my favorite book-bloggers and posts some of the most insightful and touching stuff about this maddening thing we do. Check ‘em out!