I don’t normally do these things, where you get mentioned on someone’s blog and you are asked to pay it forward by mentioning several other blogs. It always seems a bit like those chain letters, or a blog version of pyramid selling.
But recently this blog hop came to H. Anthe Davis’s rather splendid blog, wherein she describes in astonishing detail all aspects of her created world, as seen in her ‘War of Memory’ series. And you know what? This particular blog hop is rather fun. The only requirement is to talk about your own writing process, and mention three other writers you admire. What could be easier? Who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
So here goes.
1. What am I currently working on?
I have four books on the go at the moment, at different stages.
1) ‘The Plains of Kallanash’: epic fantasy with a strong romance element, set in a society ruled by multiple marriages. My two main characters are the junior wife and husband in one such marriage when the lead wife dies under mysterious circumstances. I’ve just finished the post-beta edits, and it’s currently with my proofreader. Cover art is done, blurb is polished, and all being well I shall be sending out ARCs very soon and self-publishing in September. I’m getting slightly excited about it (SQUEEEE!!!!!!) and already planning a proper launch party, with champagne and a cake and me ceremonially clicking the ‘Publish’ button. Fun or what?
2) ‘The Fire Mages’: epic fantasy with a strong romantic element, and more of a traditional coming-of-age, girl with powers affair. Might even be YA (who’d a thunk it? Me writing YA – whatever next). Finished and ready to post chapters on Scribophile for critiquing.
3) ‘The Mages of Bennamore’: a direct follow-on to #2 in time, but with an entirely different cast of characters. Features a 40-year-old woman with a secret past (is there a character anywhere who doesn’t have a secret past? Sigh…) who gets involved with said mages. Just finished the first draft – yay!
4) New project, tentatively called ‘The Mines of Asharim’ (although my random it’ll-do-for-now titles do tend to become permanent). A woman running away from [something or other] volunteers to work in the mysterious mines in the Sky Mountains. Just getting going, but it looks like being fun. Magic! Sex! Exciting stuff happening (probably)!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This question might be easier to answer if I knew what genre it actually is. I define it as epic fantasy with romance, but it’s not epic in the sense of vast armies fighting the evil dark lord, or the rise and fall of empires, nor is it romance in the conventional sense of two people who meet, fall in love, are beset by obstacles but end up together. It’s definitely fantasy, though – a world unlike ours, with magic, although not overrun with monsters or zombies or vampires or anything of the sort.
As to how that differs from anything else – dunno. Every writer’s work is unique, so there’s that, but I’m not stretching the boundaries of speculative fiction or anything, or making profound points about the human condition. I don’t think there’s anything I do that’s never been done before. But undoubtedly my characters are as unique as any set of people, and their particular problems are unique, and I like to think I can produce an absorbing story, even if it’s not revolutionary.
There is one thing that’s slightly different about it. Some fantasy worlds are post-apocalyptic, having returned to some pseudo-medieval lifestyle after a high-tech, possibly modern type of era. Some fantasy worlds have had a magical apocalypse – a mage war or some other devastating magic-induced disaster. Well, my world has had both. There were in the distant past multiple advanced civilisations which rose and fell and rose again in a different format. There was also a period when very powerful mages existed, who got a bit above themselves and accidentally reshaped the planet and changed the orbits of the moons. All of those are gone, now, but not necessarily forgotten. The advanced civilisations left records of their techniques, and the mages left a number of ways for later societies to continue to use magic without getting dangerously powerful. These two factors underlie all my stories.
3. Why do I write what I write?
Because I had these sodding characters in my head and they wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote their story down, that’s why. I suppose it’s fantasy because that’s what I mostly read. I love the open-endedness of it, that frisson of excitement that absolutely anything can happen. There’s nothing sadder than predictable fantasy.
Oddly, I’ve never been sucked into the whole must-write-a-trilogy quicksand. My books are long, sure, but not that long, and each one has a clear end without any need for a sequel. I have ideas for follow-on books, but they tend to be different characters and different settings, with just a connecting thread or two, not really sequels. But the fun part about writing multiple books in the same world is that little things from one book creep into another one. So the strange glass balls in Kallanash turn out to have a bigger role in ‘The Mages of Bennamore’. Familiar characters turn up from time to time. They’re still stand-alone books, but with little easter eggs for regular readers.
4. How does my writing process work?
Other authors on this blog hop have described their wonderful and quite complicated methods. Mine is very simple. I have an idea, then I start writing and… erm, that’s it. Somehow it works. I tend to hit a sticky patch near the end when I have to pull all the various strands of the story together into a rousing finale, and my brain goes into melt-down, and that’s when I write lists and time-lines and so on. But otherwise, it all stays in my head, unfurling in front of me as I go along.
Once written, a book sits unopened for a long time – several months. I try to write something else while it’s brewing. Then it gets dusted off, I read it right through, polish the first chapters and get them critiqued. I’ve found Scribophile is invaluable for spotting things I’m quite impervious to – adverb abuse, tedious info-dumps, passive voice, having three successive scenes in the same dull room, ‘committee meeting’ discussions and so on. They’re not so good with plot and character development, because of the nature of chapter-by-chapter critiquing. So I only post a few chapters for critique, then send the book off to beta readers, do some final revisions and after that my proofreader takes over to sort out my creative use of ellipses. And the process does seem to get easier each time.
5. Fangirl about three (OK, four) other writers
Ooh, this is the fun part. I get to tell you about some of my favourite writers. Sorry, I couldn’t keep it to three (I had enough trouble with four; there are a bunch more I’d love to mention). These are supposed to be bloggers that you pester to write their own writing process blog tour, but I hate being pushy, so I’m just going to tell you about a few people whose writing I love, OK? In addition to H. Anthe Davis, mentioned above.
Lexi Revellion: Lexi was one of the first self-published authors I came across when I started filling up my Kindle with new-to-me names, and also one of my first wow-this-is-good successes. She’s unusual in that every book is different – not just the plot style but even the genre, so you never know quite what you’re going to get. Mystery romance, followed by a sci-fi thriller, followed by post-apocalypse… you get the picture. And always a lovely romance. The other constants are believable characters, tight plotting and a wonderfully British spin on things, complete with dry British humour. If I had to choose, I’d probably say ‘Ice Diaries’ was my favourite (but it’s a close call).
Andrea K Host: Andrea has the distinction of being the first self-published author to whom I gave a five star review. Her fantasies are invariably quirky, thought-provoking and intelligent, with genuinely strong female characters (not kick-ass superwomen, just normal women showing their inner strength) and often in a world where gender equality and groupings other than one man, one woman are the norm. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick a favourite book, it would probably be ‘The Champion of the Rose’, because I just adore the idea of a magically evil rose bush, but for pure, unadulterated pleasure, even better than chocolate, I’d recommend the Touchstone trilogy.
Tristan Gregory: I reviewed Tristan’s full-length fantasy novel, ‘Twixt Heaven and Earth’, some time ago, an unusual and intelligent look at a human war where angels and demons also get involved. However, my favourite writing of his, and a good starting point, is his linked series of novellas, collectively known as ‘The Wandering Tale’, independent stories where a minor character in one becomes the main character in the next. These are beautifully crafted, emotionally engaging works which are pretty well word perfect. Start with ‘The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth’.
Intisar Khanani: Intisar was one of those serendipitous finds. I came across ‘Thorn’ somewhere, somehow, started reading the sample and just couldn’t stop. It’s a delightful retelling of the goose girl fairy story, with terrific characters, some great world-building that never overwhelms the story and a magnificent ending. There are a couple of shorter works to enjoy, too, full of wonderful writing and lots of unpredictable twists.
For a longer list of some of my best reads of 2013, check here.