Linda Prather contacted me last week and invited me to participate in something called the “My Writing Process” blog tour. Linda is a great author, and I’m proud to say, a good friend, as well. She is the author of the Jacody Ives Mysteries, and the Catherine Mans psychic suspense novels (some of my personal favorites), and recently participated in marketing her novel “The Gifts” as one of “The Deadly Dozen”, a boxed set of twelve mysteries and thrillers by some of the best writers in their fields. It was this boxed set that recently landed her the coveted titles of “USA Today Best Selling Author” and “New York Times Best Selling Author”. Yeah, I wanna be like Linda when I grow up.
To see what Linda had to say about her writing process, check out her blog post here.
Now, for the blog tour itself. The “My Writing Process” blog tour is where various authors answer four particular questions about how and why they write what they do. It’s always the same four questions, but as you might imagine, the answers are as varied as the authors themselves. Curious about it, I looked it up and tried tracing it back to see if I could find the origins of this tour. HAH! After finding literally hundreds of entries spanning back over at least three years, I finally gave up. This thing is simply too huge and widespread to find an origin. I can imagine someone one day asking an author, “Hey, how do you write the stuff you write?” and from there becoming a tradition of sorts.
Whatever its origins, I am honored to have been asked. Thanks for inviting me along, Linda.
Now, on to the questions of the tour…
MY WRITING PROCESS
1) What are you currently working on?
I have a few irons in the fire at the moment. My main project right now is Chucklers. It’s a collaborative apocalyptic/horror novel that I’m writing with horror writer, and good friend, Edward Lorn. Ed approached me with the idea of expanding on a premise he wrote in his short story “He Who Laughs Last” from his story collection, What the Dark Brings. After talking a bit, I think we both got pretty excited about where it looked like the story was going to go, and we dove in. Recently, we realized that Chucklers is a much larger story than we anticipated, and it looks like it’s going to end up as a trilogy.
I also have a sequel to my first novel in the works. I’m working on it under the working title of “Year 12”, and as is the nature of working titles, it may or may not change. It will be the story of Zachary Dawcett, the young boy who was kidnapped in the last part of Half Past Midnight. As the title implies, it is set twelve years after the Doomsday War of HPM, and Zachary is a young man now, in a world struggling to rebuild.
And finally, I have something new. WC1 is my manuscript code for a more traditional SF novel. I wrote a little bit about it in an earlier post. I like to call it “military sci-fi – light”. I don’t have a military background, and what I have in mind is going to be considerably different from what most people would think of when they hear the words “military science fiction”. But it will definitely be science fiction, and will deal with a war, so for now… military sci-fi light.
2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?
First of all, I don’t think genre really applies to me. In this breakneck paced world of e-books and self publishing, many authors no longer seem to stick to a single genre. I know that has always been the case to a certain extent, but it is so much more common now, and I’m nothing if not common.
Currently, I dabble in several genres; post-apocolyptic, cyberpunk, horror, science fiction, and am even considering writing a reference book for writers. So let me address the question as a matter of writing style; How does my work differ from others?
Something that I try to do in all my work is to bring an air of inner strength to my characters. Whether the story is about a family in a near future east Texas after a nuclear war, or a female detective three hundred years in the future, I try to make my main characters as independent and resourceful as I can. And then I try to test their limits.
I’m also a bit of a research junkie. I strive to bring as much realism into my settings as I can. I once spent three days researching atmospheric density, Rayliegh scattering, types of photosynthesis, stellar classifications and the frequency of the various star types in our galaxy, molecular composition of translucent atmospheric particulates… all to see what color the sky might be in the world of a short story I was writing for an anthology.
3) Why do you write what you do?
As strange as it sounds, I think I want to help people. I want to write stories that show readers that everyone can be a hero. You don’t have to be a hulking mass of muscle to win the day, as long as you embrace your inner strengths. I’ve mentioned it before, but much of my writing is influenced by my martial arts training, as is my life in general.
I learned early on that there are advantages and disadvantages to all physical attributes. If you’re tall and muscular, you likely have a longer reach and body strength. But a smaller, lighter person is likely faster, and can be trained to take advantage of a larger person’s higher center of gravity, unbalancing their opponent. It’s a lesson I learned early in life when someone half my size wiped the mat with me during a judo randori. That was roughly forty years ago, and the lesson has stuck.
I’ve seen too many people (including yours truly) underestimate the abilities of their opponents, as well as their own abilities, whether they be physical or intellectual. I want my stories to get people to think outside the box. I want them to realize their own strengths and weaknesses, to ask themselves, “could I do that in that situation?” I want people to keep the thought in the back of their minds that there are often unorthodox solutions to common problems, if only you are willing to embrace them. I want them to realize that they don’t have to rely on someone else to be the hero of their story–that heroes are often just ordinary people who are willing to step up and face the crap that life throws at them.
4) How does your writing process work?
It varies. (I suppose that shows that I’m still pretty new to the writing business.) I’ve had instances where a story comes to me pretty much full-blown, beginning to end, all at once. There is one currently on my “to do” list that came to me in a dream one night. It was an entire story that I woke up with and scrambled to get on paper before it left me. There are others where I have nothing but a specific scene or idea that I have to think about for a long time before the actual story comes to me. For instance, my short story The Burning Land (the one for which I did all the atmospheric research), in the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology, also started because of a dream. (I wrote about the process of that one in more detail in an earlier blog post.) For now, I’ll just say that I awoke from a dream about a story, and the dream led me down a days-long rabbit hole of research that I found so fascinating that I believe I will likely revisit the world later on to expand the setting of The Burning Land into a full length novel.
And yes, I am definitely a research junkie. I get carried away with my world building to the point that most of what I write in notes never makes it to the final manuscript. I’m sure it’s a common frustration with writers–you spend hours and hours writing notes so that you know the world of your story inside and out, only to have most of it end up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. But in my opinion, it is a necessity. As the author you have to know your world in minute detail, but you don’t want to burden the reader with extraneous information that doesn’t really contribute to the story you’re writing.
And I’m now learning about writing with another author. Collaboration writing is much different from anything I’ve done up to now. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and incredibly satisfying to see the words fly almost effortlessly onto the page. And working with a good partner helps keep the story fresh. I’m lucky enough to be working with someone who thinks a lot like I do, yet different enough that we often surprise one another with what we come up with. It keeps the story fresh and exciting for us while we write it. The only problem is scheduling, and that is something that can always be worked through.
So that’s it. There are my answers to the “My Writing Process” questions. And now it’s time for me to pass the baton. I’d like to introduce you to three authors whose work I have read and enjoyed. They have accepted the invitation to post a bit about their writing processes, so watch for their blog posts next Monday (April 28) to see how they approach the craft of writing.
So next week, watch for…
Once upon a time, during a session of show and tell, a seven-year-old Edward Lorn shared with his class that his baby brother had died over the weekend. His classmates, the teacher included, wept while he recounted the painful tragedy of having lost a sibling. Edward went home that day and found an irate mother waiting for him. Edward’s teacher had called to express her condolences. This was unfortunate, as Edward had never had a baby brother.
With advice given to her by a frustrated teacher, Edward’s mother made him start writing all of his lies down. The rest, as they say, is history.
Edward Lorn and his wife are raising two children, along with a handful of outside cats and a beagle named Dot. He remains a liar to this day. The only difference is, now he’s a useful one.
JUSTIN R. MACUMBER
Justin Macumber is the author of Haywire, A Minor Magic, and the newly released Still Water. Justin was the founder and host of the popular Dead Robots’ Society podcast, having only recently stepped down as host to spend more time on his writing. He is still a co-host on The Hollywood Outsider, a weekly podcast about movies and television and does weekly TV Talk chats for Grimm and Sleepy Hollow.
He and his lovely wife live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex along with their motley pack of dogs and cats that they think of as their children.
Mary Fan is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series, published by Red Adept Publishing. The first book of her Young Adult dystopian fantasy series, Flynn Nightsider, will be released in 2015 by Glass House Press. (For a taste of the world of Flynn Nightsider, check out her newly released novella, The Firedragon.) And Part One of her Young Adult fairytale series, Fated Stars, will be released 2015, also by Glass House Press.
A resident of New Jersey, Mary currently works in financial marketing. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.
Mary graduated Magna cum Laude from Princeton University in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Music, specializing in composition. Although she is currently focusing on writing, music is still her first love, and so in her spare time she composes songs and soundtracks. You can follow her at her blog, on twitter, or on Facebook.
And that’s it for tonight. Stay safe everyone.