Jen Singer for the #HowIWrite blog hop. I’m supposed to answer four questions and tag four author friends to do the same, which struck me as a fun summer chain letter sort of thing to do. Plus I do love any opportunity to tout the big talent of Roz Morris, Barbara Taylor Sissel, John A.A. Logan, and Linda Gillard. (Sharing a stellar summer reading recommendation from each.)
First, the questions:
What am I writing?
Well, at the moment, this blog post—one of several short pieces I owe right now. This past winter was pretty intense personally and professionally, and I fell wretchedly behind. (Amazing how clear one’s priorities become when one is in the crucible.) But in general, I’m not a great multitasker. Things tend to pile up while I’m writing a book. I go down the rabbit hole and forget about the real world until I’ve either exhausted myself or finished the thing. Right now, with the third (hopefully final) draft of my next novel fermenting in the wine cellar, I’m catching up on commitments, domestics, and sleep so I’ll be ready to check out again and obsess through revisions.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’ve never been able to settle into one genre, but as Shakespeare said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The uniqueness in any author’s work is the unique life experience, emotional intelligence, and personalized vocabulary s/he brings to the page. Your soul knows a story no other soul has ever known. For better or worse, my work is different because it’s mine.
Why do I write what I do?
Because I bloody well feel like it. Look, I spent my teens pleasing my parents, my 20s accommodating various employers, my 30s facilitating my children, my 40s being a team player for publishers and agents. Later this year, I’m releasing an essay collection with the working title “50 is the New F#ck You.” I’m in the Power Decade now. If a woman’s not doing what she wants to do at this point in her life, what exactly would she be waiting for? Trade publishing has done a lot for me. I’m grateful for the craft skills I gained under the thumb of so many wise editors over the years, but I intend to spend the rest of my life drunk on creative autonomy, writing what I want to write, publishing under my own imprint, and helming my own financial destiny. Hopefully, there will always be a bit of money in my particular brand of quirky fiction and memoirellas. If not, I’ll dine on cat food and greet the evening with no regrets.
How does my writing process work?
Surprisingly well. At the beginning of a book, I always feel overwhelmed. No way I can see myself climbing this mountain. I know from experience that doggedly clinging to an outline doesn’t work for me; I’m a research hound, and that always takes me in wonderfully unexpected directions, so every book is a free fall during the writing phase. Then comes the editing; you get jerked up short by your parachute. Everything slows down. You take a breath, look around, get your bearings. When I finish a first draft, I’m in love with the characters, and that gives me the energy I need to push through two or three rounds of revisions. So I guess my process involves being sufficiently inspired to leap and confident enough to trust my craft skills on the way down. I have the tremendous advantage of an excellent freelance editor on my speed dial: my daughter, Jerusha Rodgers of Rabid Badger Editing. The kid has an eagle eye and has never flinched at critiquing my prose or my wardrobe.
Enough about me. Time to tag my author pals, each of whom has written more than one book I can highly recommend for your summer reading joy, but I forced myself to narrow it down:
Roz Morris's fiction has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, although you won't have seen her name on the covers as she ghostwrote for high-profile authors. She is now writing fiction under her own name, starting with her critically acclaimed novel My Memories of a Future Life. She is a writer, journalist, fiction editor and the author of the Nail Your Novel series for writers.
Roz’s writing blog: Nail Your Novel. Find Roz on Facebook and Twitter as @Roz_Morris.
Best summer read: Lifeform Three, a richly imagined fable in the tradition of Bradbury and Atwood, one of my all-time favorite books.
Barbara Taylor Sissel once lived on the grounds of a prison facility in Kentucky, which might explain the nature of her writing, especially her latest: Safe Keeping and Evidence of Life. Driven by the compelling reality that at the heart of every crime, there’s a family, her novels are issue-oriented, threaded with elements of suspense and defined by their particular emphasis on how crime affects families of both victim and perpetrator. She now lives and writes from her bucolic Story House near Austin, Texas. Find Barbara on Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads.
Best summer read: A Sophie of a choice, but I'll go with The Ninth Step, a lovely garden of complex characters entangled by a painful past, perfect for fans of Picoult and Shreve.
John A. A. Logan is the author of The Survival of Thomas Ford, Storm Damage, and Agency Woman. His fiction has been published by Picador, Vintage, Edinburgh Review, Chapman, Northwords, Nomad, Secrets Of A View, and Scratchings; with reviews of his work in Scottish Studies Review, Scotland On Sunday, The Spectator, and The Hindustan Times. His work has been published internationally in anthologies edited by A L Kennedy, John Fowles, Ali Smith, Toby Litt; and he has been invited to read his work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He blogs monthly for Authors Electric.
Find John on Facebook and Twitter.
Best summer read: The Survival of Thomas Ford, an intense psychological thriller about batshit crazy scariness in the wake of a car wreck, perfect for fans of Stephen King and Dean Koonz.
Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She’s the author of seven novels, including Star Gazing, which was short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award (for writing that promotes the Scottish landscape), and House of Silence, a Kindle bestseller selected by Amazon as one of their Top Ten Best of 2011 in the Indie Author category. Linda’s latest is Cauldstane, a contemporary ghost story set in a decaying Highland castle.
Find Linda on Facebook and check out some of her wise writing advice.
Best summer read: Emotional Geology, an offbeat, award-winning love story that showcases this author’s mad skills with character, dialogue, and throat-burning emotion.
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