Writing Process Blog Tour!
Lo, these many moons ago, I was wont to post here. I'm glad to be back, and glad to prompted to post by the wonderful Chrissy Kolaya, who asked me to be part of this blog tour. You should go grab a copy of her new book, Any Anxious Body, which is available from Broadstone Media. The idea here is to answer four questions about your writing, and then tag three other writers to do the same, a week from now. You can read Chrissy's post from last week at the link above, or read an interview with her over at Sophisticated Dorkiness. Okay, here we go!
1) What am I working on?
As is typical with me, I am working on two projects at the moment. The one taking most of my time is deep revisions of my novel Charley Cross and the London Dead. I have been shopping a third draft of this novel for quite a few months, and have had interest from an agent who invited me to resubmit after further revisions. Her suggestions were good--I think they will result in a much better novel. So I'm doing a round with two beta-readers/critique partners while I rework the book. I'm shooting for mid-to-late May to resubmit. Charley Cross is a YA supernatural mystery set in Victorian London, chock full of walking corpses, mad scientists, and quirky, quasi-Dickensian characters. I quite like it, or else I wouldn't still be tinkering with it.
The other project I'm working on is a new play, which is still in the planning stages. It deals with an aging and difficult rock star and the young, rather idealistic writer sent to interview him. This will be my summer project. It's non-supernatural, which is something newish for me.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I hope that Charley Cross departs from typical living dead novels in a few ways. I have tried very hard to avoid stereotypical zombie paraphernalia, at least as the genre has developed post-Romero. These aren't Day of the Dead zombies in Victorian dress, and they certainly aren't Pride and Prejudice and Zombies monsters. My dead men (and a few women) are sort of a hybrid of the original Haitian zombie and Mary Shelley's creature. I've also tried to develop a pair of main characters--a girl and a boy, both sixteen--who have a relationship that matters, but isn't the primary purpose of the narrative. Actually, lots of YA does this (see the Holly Black, Kendare Blake, the amazing Courtney Summers), but public perception is sometimes otherwise.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write work that engages with popular culture and history, that tries to be funny and dark, that combines disparate elements of things I love in new and interesting ways. I like ghosts, because they're cool, and because that's one way we can talk about the way we're haunted by the past or by themes and ideas that won't stay dead.
My mom and I watched horror movies together when I was a kid. That's the real reason.
4) How does my writing process work?
Depends on what else is going on. This semester, I've been committed to quite a lot of non-writing things, some work-related and some connected to creative projects by other family members. I try to carve out revision and brainstorming time in the early mornings and on weekends.
During intensive writing times, like what I will embark on this summer, I get up early (5am) and write for an hour and a half or two hours until the rest of the family gets up. In the summer I get in four or five hours a day, divided between early morning and afternoon. If I have more than one project going, I work on one in the morning and another in the afternoon, often switching them up so that the one I go to bed thinking a out is the one I start on fresh the next day.
If that doesn't sound messy, I haven't explained it correctly.
Here are the three writers I've asked to write entries for next week. They are good folks, stalwart and true, who I'm excited for you to meet. Look for their posts next Monday, April 21st.
Amy Carol Reeves has a PhD in 19thcentury British Literature and a master’s degree in British Literature from the University of South Carolina. She became entranced by the idea forRipper, her debut novel, after meeting Donald Rumbelow, a world-recognized expert on Jack the Ripper. Reeves is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, and lives with her husband and two children in Columbia, S.C.
Ed Madden is president of the American Conference of Irish Studies, Southern Region. He has written several critical articles on modern British and Irish poetry and has completed a book on representations of Tiresian liminality in modernist poetry (Tiresian Poetics: Modernism, Sexuality, Voice, 1888-2001 from Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). He co-edited (with Marti Lee) Irish Studies: Geographies and Genders, also co-edited an anthology of essays and poems on male experience, The Emergence of Man into the 21st Century, and wrote "An Open Letter to My Christian Friends," which appears in various textbooks, including Everything's an Argument.
In addition to his literary criticism, he also publishes on issues involving sexuality and spirituality. He has published "Gospels of Inversion: Literature, Scripture, Sexology" in a collection of essays entitled Divine Aporia: Postmodern Conversation About the Other (edited by John C. Hawley). Another intervention in the intersection of religion, literature, and sex came in the essay "'The Well of Loneliness', or the Gospel According to Radclyffe Hall," published in Reclaiming the Sacred: The Bible in Gay and Lesbian Culture (edited by Raymond-Jean Frontain).
Ray McManus is the author of four books of poetry: Punch. (Hub City Press, forthcoming) Red Dirt Jesus (Marick Press, 2011), Left Behind (Steeping Stones Press, 2008), and Driving through the country before you are born (USC Press, 2007). His poetry has appeared in numerous journals. Ray is an Assistant Professor of English in the Division of Arts and Letters at University of South Carolina Sumter where he teaches creative writing, Irish literature, and Southern literature.
Thanks again to Chrissy Kolaya for inviting to be part of this. Have a swell week, y'all.
New glasses. Let there be songs /feasting.
Happy July everyone! First off, I'm happy to report that the second Reggie Spiffington mystery, MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN, has been delivered, sent back for edits, revised, and redelivered. So now it's going into design and production. I'll keep you updated. I'm really happy with the results--very pleased with where Reggie, Pelham, Mimsy, and company went on this second outing. Terribly dashing, all of it. This is probably a good time to remind you all that Reggie has his own Twitter account.
Since finishing the novel, I've written a couple of essays for Typecast's Inspiration Institute. I'm offering fiction writing workshops over there, and saying some non-fictiony things as an intro to myself. The first one is a musing on Charles Dickens and Clash frontman Joe Strummer. A second one about my love for the 1980s film Time Bandits should be up any time now.
What else? I'm really proud to have been asked to be part of the first season of Unbound, a new fiction on the radio project put together by Erin Keane at WFPL in Louisville. Twenty great writers, reading their own work. I'm part of a line-up that includes some stunning writers, including Gwenda Bond, Roxane Gay, Frank Bill, and Kirby Gann. My episode, shared with Frank Bill, is here, but you should check out the whole series. Erin is a pretty grand poet herself, and you can't do better than her circus noir poem cycle Death-Defying Acts, unless you wait for the new Springsteen-inspired collection coming out next year.
Still shopping the manuscript of my Victorian London zombie/mad scientist YA novel, CHARLEY CROSS AND THE LONDON DEAD, to agents far and wide. I've had one full request, and one request for additional pages, along with the dozen or so queries still out. Fingers crossed.
Next on the agenda: a couple of short stories, a play, and possibly a children's book about pirates and cheese.
What are y'all up to?
So that was funny, huh? How I thought I'd give weekly updates? The end of April featured three visiting artists at my university, and then finals and attendant grading. Writing did not progress apace.
BUT--now that May is here I am cranking it out. I'm aiming for a couple of thousand words a day, and have been making it nearly every time. Since last I saw you, Mad Dogs and Englishmen has increased by about 13,000 words, but almost all of that has been since the 4th of May.
Since we last spoke, murder has interrupted a wedding, Reggie has gotten himself in the doghouse with his lady-love, and a cantankerous food critic has nearly come to fisticuffs with a renowned chef. Also, someone is hunting werewolves on the grounds. The police have just arrived, and the full moon is tonight.
Project: Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Word Count Goal: Approx. 60,000
Word Count to Date: 33, 831
I will continue to update, but I make no promises as to when.
The dashing gentleman to the left is Reginald Spiffington, Reggie to his friends. He is the star of my first novel, Barking Mad, which came out in 2011. He is getting his second outing early next year in a novel that might be called Mad Dogs and Englishmen. In order that you get to read about Reggie's latest exploits on schedule, I need to get a first draft to my editor by May 31st.
It's been a couple of months full of things designed to interrupt a writing schedule. I am now in buckle down mode, and you are the confessional by which I shall keep myself accountable. Steampunk superstar Cherie Priest publishes daily word counts to keep track of her writing. I don't want to do that to you daily, but I am going to do it weekly. I'm thinking every Saturday from here through the end of May, I'll give an update.
Today is where we're starting. I'm about to begin Chapter Seven, about a third of the way into the novel. It's been mainly scene-setting to this point, introducing characters (there are a lot of new characters in this one), and getting the situation poised precariously. So as of today:
Project: Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Word Count Goal: Approx. 60,000
Word Count to Date: 20, 964
Last week my friend, the charming and talented Erin Keane, tagged me in The Next Big Thing—a rolling blog-based self-interview in which writers talk about their upcoming projects. As a handy coincidence, I happen to have an upcoming project. So without further ado…here’s THE NEXT BIG THING!!
1. What is the working title of the book?
The book has had a couple of working titles. At first I was calling it Wolf Tickets, but now it is called Mad Dogs and Englishmen. That’s also the title of a Noel Coward song that was a hit in 1931. Since my book is a British werewolf novel set in 1931, I felt that was too serendipitous to pass up. I hope that’s the one that sticks; the publisher has final say on the title, but I’m luckily given lots of input.
2. Where did the idea come from for this book?
This book is a sequel to my 2011 novel Barking Mad. THAT book was inspired by my love of Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, and the old Universal horror films. This one is a natural extension of the first. The central event in Mad Dogs and Englishmen is the marriage ceremony of two characters who hooked up in the first novel. I also wanted to flesh out some plot lines that were only hinted at in the first one.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Downton Abbey as a supernatural buddy film.
4. What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie rendition?
Why is it that writers love to do this? We all do—it’s sort of the fantasy football league for the literary set. I’m surprised how hard I find this, actually. The characters have a clear look and demeanor in my head, and it’s difficult to put other people’s faces on them. But here we go.
I hate to continue the Downton Abbey thing, but I think Dan Stevens would make a rather perfect Reggie. Pelham is a little harder, ideally he’d be Arthur-era Geilgud (actually artist Ali Larock used Geilgud as one of the references for her illustration of Pelham in Barking Mad). Since Sir John is dead, we’d have to go with someone else. Anthony Stewart Head, perhaps? Simon Callow could do it. Fanny Ampersand, the young American ingenue who goes after Reggie, would be best played by my Walking Dead crush, Emily Kinney, since she has the look and can sing, as Fanny does. Mimsy is much, much harder. She’s sort of a younger Alex Kingston, but I’m open to suggestions there.
Why don’t I cop out and do that? There are some Reginald Spiffington fans out there, yeah? Who do YOU think should play Reggie, Pelham, Mimsy, Moony, and Arabella? Leave suggestions in the comments below.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
While attending the marriage of his friends Moony and Arabella, carefree playboy Reginald Spiffington and his trusty manservant Pelham must contend with romantic tensions, society politics, werewolf hunters, and murder.
6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’ll let you know when it’s finished. I wrote ten thousand words or so right after the first novel came out, and then set it aside to write another novel and a play. I picked it back up when Typecast asked for a sequel. If I make the deadline (and never fear, I might) it will all told be six or seven months of drafting.
7. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This is sort of question #2 in a new set of clothes, isn’t it? I was inspired to create Reginald Spiffington during a long shower in which I thought about my love for country house murder-mysteries, P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories, and the Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s. I fantasized about a story in which all three could happen at once, and decided I had better write it. The present book is a continuation of those characters’ stories.
8. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
If you read the first book, you might be interested to find out more about Signor Reynaldo MacGregor and his organization. And you might really be interested to see what happens when Mimsy Borogove gets jealous of a young American socialite who sets her sights on Reggie. Plus all the usual suspects: scotch, fine dining, witty repartee.
And it’s a Typecast book, so it’ll look kick-ass.
9. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. I don’t have an agent, but I am working with a publisher. Typecast Publishing, the extraordinary folks who published Barking Mad, are also bringing Mad Dogs and Englishmen into the world. I couldn’t be in better hands.
Also check out these amazing authors:
Eva Ridenhour (who will be doing the Next Big Thing next Wednesday)
Amy Carol Reeves (who did it a couple of weeks ago)
Ray McManus (who doesn't even know he's been tagged)
My lovely cast.
This past Thursday through Sunday my new play Grave Lullaby got its world debut on stage at the University of Mary. I've been immersed in the world of these characters since late May when I began writing the play, and it is bittersweet shifting out of it.
I have been involved in theater for over twenty years, and I've been writing forever, but this is the first time I've combined the two. It's been the best creative experience I've had. As someone who primarily writes fiction, it is a surreal experience to have my characters come to life and walk around in front of me, speaking the words I've written and occasionally offering suggestions and trying new things. I'm lucky that my cast were not only very talented but also seemed to be as committed as I was to breathing life into these imaginary people.
All the special effects worked, including the much fussed over bleeding rig--the actress playing Lily blossomed into gouts of blood each night in a beautifully gruesome manner, all while delivering a believably emotional monologue. Blood and tears is always something to shoot for, and we hit the mark every night.
So now, we are very tired and very proud. Happy to have our evenings back and sad to break the little community we built. The standard end-of-production feelings, but a little stronger on both ends of the spectrum, for me at least. We are waiting now to hear if we get invited to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Regional Festival, in which case we start rehearsals again after Christmas and take the whole show on the road in mid-January. Fingers crossed.
And now I've got to decide what's next. There are three possible novels to be written, as well as the next Cornerboys film (which both Ali and Kevin are ready to do). Also an essay and a Reggie Spiffington short story. But first, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorating. And sleep at a decent hour.
A few pics from this week's rehearsal.
Here are a few early pictures from rehearsals for Grave Lullaby, my new play. Just thought you'd like to see what we're up to...
It was 81 today in Bismarck. Tomorrow the forecast is for a high of 49. Welcome to October, freaks!!
I'm settling into the semester. I have finished the novel (Charley Cross and the London Dead) and have sent it to a fistful of agents. And I have finished the play (Grave Lullaby).
That's where most of my creative juices will be focused for the next six weeks--directing the play. That means working with a very talented cast to get them comfortable with their parts, helping them to develop their characters, etc. I'm already having a lot of fun, and being blown away as always at the process of theatre--the greater than the sum of its parts thing that happens. I'll be sharing some of that process as it happens.
This also means that this Friday we get to have BLOOD REHEARSAL!! We need to have a character bleed onstage at one point, and it needs to be surprising and creepy when it happens. So the blood matters. Thursday evening our tech director is going to cook up four or five different recipes of blood, and Friday afternoon we're going to dump them, one after the other, on our actress and see what they look like.
That's what fun's all about, y'all. Pics shall be forthcoming.
Three upcoming events as well, which can be found on the calendar and which I'll give more details on later. I'm just too excited about the blood right now.
In other news, my daughter has decided she's dressing up as Buffy for Halloween. My parenting is made of win.