I was tagged in the Author Process Blog Tour by author Linden McNeilly, fellow VCFA MFA grad, my writing group bud, and the author of the gorgeous, just released book (along with sister, Jill K. Berry) MAP ART LAB. It’s got 52 fabulous art projects for all ages involving maps, armchair travel, and imagination.
Here are our questions:
What are you currently working on?
I am doing minor revisions on my YA novel that will be out from St. Martin’s Press in fall 2015, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light. Working with editor Kat Brzozowski is awesome. Far more difficult and mundane, I am trying to get going on something new. It makes me break out in rashes. Once I have that bad first draft, I’m can happily revise indefinitely.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is a YA thriller. It’s a romance, too, that’s set in Paris where I lived for ten years.The protagonist is an eighteen year-old American woman who is “troubled,” a great euphemism. Her name is Summer and she not only has alcohol abuse problems, but is depressed, and we learn, suicidal. A.M. Jenkins wrote from the point-of-view a memorable suicidal protagonist in Damage in 2001. Ned Vizini, Julie Anne Peters, and Matthew Quick have done so as well. But in YA otherwise, it’s more likely the main character’s boyfriend or sister or friend who attempts or commits suicide.
This story is set among international students at an American/International high school and features a charming, life-loving, heart-throb from Kuwait. His nick-name is Moony.
Why do you write what you write?
One of my favorite quotes is, “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” (Muriel Rukeyser) I’ve been fascinated with stories since my parents could prop me up in front of Lassie on television, and later, as I sprawled of my own volition before The Munsters. Once I learned to read, I made fast friends with school librarians who fed me healthy diets of ghost stories, Newbery winners, mythology, bios, and tear-jerkers. I love tragedies and dark reads, and especially loved them as a teen because they made me feel normal, understood, and not alone.
Since I started writing, I’ve been trying to tell a story about someone struggling with sucidality (the term for feeling suicidal) and that very profound and basic question some of us—or more accurately, a lot more than will admit—have grappled with. And from a plot standpoint, it’s one of the ultimate choices to force a character into. To be or not to be. Yes, it's an intense story, but I swear it has some funny parts.
I also love humor and wrote something much more light-hearted for eight-year-old boys, because they crack me up. It’s called Will and Mitch the Mighty: Attack of the Alien Rodents.
How does your individual writing process work?
I've learned through much trial and error that the following work best for me:
Start early, between 7 and 8 am depending on whether it's necessary to get dressed or not.
Limit email and social media stuff to trouble-shooting and then ignore it until later in the day.
Take lots of breaks for snacks.
On first drafts, just write, don't stop, and try really hard not to edit (which is basically impossible). Did I mention that I despair of first drafts?
After full draft is completed, go back and throw out, rearrange, map, line-edit, re-write, chart and track threads, to heart’s content. For years, even.
Last but not least, my writing group (Beyond the Margins, below) and trusted readers, not to mention a freelance editor or two, are crucial in my process.