Laura J. Bear, asked me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Laura authored the novel Where the Heart Lands, a must-read about family, love, and a magical old house of secrets nestled in the remote heartland, forthcoming from publisher Unsolicited Press. I first had the joy of meeting Laura and hearing her read from her debut novel during my sophomore stay at When Words Count, a writers' retreat center in Vermont. Laura's work is powerful, attaining that perfect balance of witty and heartbreaking. Deep into her second novel and a handful of new short stories, she is definitely a literary voice to be on the lookout for!
Now, on to the tour.
What are you working on?
As of this morning, there are 142 as-yet-unwritten stories short and long screaming at me to finish them from within the metal confines of the recipe box that is my idea catalog. Closer at hand, I am presently putting the finishing touches on a collection of three novellas, what I hope are literary modern fables each dealing with the subject matter of robots and humanity. Tales From the Robot Graveyard is forthcoming from the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing. I am also, in addition to various short stories, gearing up to work on a new novel called Different. It's a paranormal YA and I'm challenging myself to write a first draft during November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Even closer at hand, I depart on this coming Thursday for a four-day writing retreat to Maine with friends and members of my Southern New Hampshire writers' group. There, I plan to complete a futuristic romance novella called "Narcissus", and wrap two short story drafts -- "Saturday Morning Cartoons" and "American Grotesque".
How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
I have my own voice, my own way of approach to telling the story. We host three writers' group parties a year in our home -- May, September, and December, the Christmas party. We've done this for years. And there is always a theme for the reading portion, which follows after we've stuffed ourselves into comas as a result of the buffet. Past themes have included such nifty gems as "Coffee", "Down the Up Staircase", and, recently as homage to my new book, "Robots". You can take any of those themes, which are only basic starting points, put a dozen writers in the room (or two, as was the case for our massive May 2014 salon), and none of the stories are going to be anything like the others. For our upcoming Christmas 2014 party, everybody selected a different prompt. I got "You're digging in the garden when you find..." I'm thrilled. I have no idea what I'm going to write for the party, but it will be mine when I unleash it upon the party guests.
Why do you write what you do?
I guess, because it's there. No wait, that's climbing mountains...though some story projects feel like scaling Everest! I write what I love to write, and don't allow myself to be pigeonholed by the business side of writing. This past summer, I wrote westerns, horror, mainstream stories, gothics, and a detective story. As in evidence in the 142 ideas on note cards that howl -- oh, how they howl at me! -- I'm a bad judge at separating the good ideas from the weak until the story is completed. To me, they're all my babies, all part of the litter, and I can't love one more than another or discard it from my protection. An idea pounced upon me in early August -- what if you woke up and the man who claimed to be your husband was a stranger? That story ("The Husbands") charmed me from the moment I put pen to blank page, and wrote its 5,000-word first draft in two days. When I was a teenager and just starting out, I read an interview with a famous and beloved Science Fiction author, who stated that he easily had three times the number of his 300-plus published short stories 'moldering' away unfinished elsewhere in his office. I found the notion of all those half-birthed babies really sad, and vowed on the spot to finish everything I start. Not that all of those ideas are gold; in fact, my filing cabinets are filled with plenty of completed manuscripts that will never go out for consideration into the world. But writing even the lowliest of my creations to THE END has taught me valuable lessons. And I love, really love, the process. All of it. From creation to execution.
How does your writing process work?
I have a fairly comfortable process (for me) -- I wake up, make my coffee (usually iced), and settle into my Writing Room with set priorities in mind. I have a wonderful, big room in the downstairs of Xanadu, our old house on the hill in New Hampshire's North Country -- and, after checking morning emails, I pick up my pen and write. I try to put down 2,500 fresh words per day, with anything above that count bonus. Sometimes what I'm working on is assigned by editors I've written for previously who ask me to write specifically for their latest projects. Other times, I'm creating new work to hopefully match up to calls for submissions I've read about and would like to be part of. I compose all of my first drafts longhand and then edit onto the laptop. The only exception is when I write in screenplay format -- I wrote two feature film scripts in 2014, for the movies Brutal Colors (presently being color corrected in Los Angeles) and the forthcoming The Devil of Lakeford County, planned to go before the cameras in winter of 2015. And over this past summer, much of my editing was done on the wonky, wonderful old sofa left behind by previous tenants of the house on our sun porch. The sun porch became a second, al fresco writing space during a summer that was too brief. The last part of my process is supremely important, at least for me, which is to remind myself why I write. Often, I envision the fifteen-year-old version of me who knew nothing, had nothing, but then found everything when he first experienced that Eureka! moment, and knew he wanted to be a writer, only a writer, with all of his heart. From time to time, when I hold a contributor's copy in hand or I've just had an exchange with a celebrity -- one of those blazing superstars from my youth -- I try to honor that young me by taking the time to feel humbled and happy. Writing still is and has been for most of my life the heart within my heart.
Thank you for reading about my process. I now pass the blog tour baton to the Sisters Dent, my luminous friends and colleagues Roxanne and Karen. Karen, I always note, appeared during the golden age of soap operas on my late, beloved One Life to Live, among others, as an actress. She's since parlayed her talents to the writing life, and her engaging short fiction can be found in numerous venues, including Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification. Roxanne's newest novel, the brilliant The Janus Demon, has just been released by Great Old Ones Publishing.