Monday, August 4, 2014

In which I drone on about my own writing... but by special request

Quite a while ago, my friend Leigh Rourks, a fabulous writer I met at Pacific, asked me to participate in a blog tour: a fun and easy way to share your work and the work of others. The idea is to ‘hop on,’ answer some questions about your current projects, and then ‘hop off,’ passing the torch to a couple of new writers the next week.

Of course, I went dark on the blog for a while, a mix of kids-home-for-summer, a new job at work, and using every scrap of free time to try to finish my novel. Also, vacation. The blog suffered. This is not unusual these days.

Also, the questions are so short and simple in appearance, but are deceptively difficult for me to answer well.

But a promise is a promise, so here I am finally.

1) What am I working on?

A novel called LIES WE'VE TOLD. I began this under a different name several years ago, finished it up, put it away after I began school, and have come back to rewrite it the past two years.

It began as a story I needed to tell, but every draft felt flat and lifeless, and while I was compelled to write and finish it (several times), I didn't love the book. Now, in this almost completely new form, with new plots and new characters and an entirely new beginning and end, I am in love with it. Passionately, unfathomably in love with it.  

The story is told from the point of view of Kat, an abused girl who shoots her father and then flees the state, and Jackson, a teen whose parents die in a car crash and who is taken in by Kat's family. When Kat learns her mother is sick, she returns home to mend broken bonds. Before she can do that, her mother is killed, leaving Kat the main suspect in the murder and the only guardian of a brother she barely knows. It is up to Kat to find out what secrets her mom had been keeping that led to her death, even as she is falling in love with Jackson, who might hold the key to what she really doesn't want to know.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Although there is a murder and an investigation, this book is not primarily a mystery. I'd shelve it with literary fiction, the emphasis really on the internal journey of the two main narrators, the crime and its fallout merely a way to propel that journey. In that way, I suppose, it is the crime and mystery that sets this book in particular apart from other literary fiction. 

This was true of my previous novel as well. Some Kind of Normal was not a medical or science fiction, but it involved a lot of science and medicine. I like this blending of genres, this incorporating elements of other genres into what essentially is still just the journey of a character trying to figure out life. It also allows me to indulge in great amounts of research, which I find entirely fun.

3) Why do I write what I do?

 One of the things I learned at school that has really stuck with me is that we write to tell what it means to be human. I think this really is behind everything I write.I definitely don't write escapist fiction, or stories you wish you could be in the middle of. They aren't full of romance, and they don't often have happily-ever-after endings. But they are about about people I hope you can relate to on some level, people who are in situations you might never be in, but who still feel real.

There is a piece of me in everything I write. It isn't always the most obvious thing in a story, but it's a thought, an emotion, something that gnawed at me, a seed of something in my own life that grew into something entirely different but whose heart is still there.

4) How does my writing process work?   

Messily. And slowly.

Everything I've every written has had its own unique process of developing. I've tried fitting it all into some neat process, but my stories don't work that way. 

Sometimes I outline. Sometimes I start with a character that I have no idea what he's going to do. Sometimes I start with a plot idea. Sometimes I write to discover what the story is, and then have to do a million revisions to hone it to what I finally figure out it is about. 

I always write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite. 

I write when I can. Most often late at night, but sometimes in the morning, if I don't have students to tutor. Sometimes in the afternoon when my kids are doing homework. Sometimes at the counter as I'm making dinner, lysoling the laptop as needed, just because the words are there, dinnertime or no. 

Sometimes, I have to stop writing and just mull it all over. The middle of a scene will grind to a halt, or be heading in the wrong direction, and I'll just shut the computer for a few days and turn the ideas around in my head, trying things out until eventually (and usually around 1am), it all clicks. Then it becomes a race to get it all down.  

I am passing this blog tour on specifically to Hannah Bissell, another great writer (and poet extraordinaire) . BUT... if YOU want to do it, consider yourself tagged and please blog hop!! I'd love to see what you have to say, too! Let us know in the comments you're going to do it so I can make sure I swing by and read it. :)


  1. I'm SO GLAD you wrote this, especially the messily and slowly part! Really needed to read this today.

    1. You and I always seem to be on the same writing wavelength. :) Messy is okay! Just ... keeping moving forward.

  2. I always have a lot of trouble putting the ideas behind my fiction into words - especially when I try to think about how my stories are different from those of others. You do it so eloquently here! And it makes me happy that you shut the computer down for days sometimes. Sometimes mine lasts for weeks...but then I start going to bed in a cold sweat because I can't handle the fact that I'm not writing anything.

    So, okay! Baton in hand, off I go.

    1. I talk about writing so much, you'd think it would be simpler to explain. :) Glad you took up the baton so quickly!

  3. You know I loved reading it when it was under the previous title! The journey of this work inspires me for my own work. The changes, the newfound love and passion. I just get goosebumps when I read this!

  4. Your constant support of this book is what keeps me going, Brit. I hope that your new passion for Frank's story is a springboard to a new era for you. :)