writingI was invited by Steven Hendricks (author of Little Is Left to Tell) to participate in a “writing process blog tour.” Thanks, Steve!

Each person on the tour tags three others to answer questions about creative work and their writing process.

My process comments are below.

I’ve tagged the following writers: author of paranormal fiction Mark Henry (Random House), historical novelist Jan Moran (St. Martin), and perennial best-seller in historical romance Kathryn Le Veque (Amazon).

My WRITING PROCESS. 

1. What am I working on?

I am currently working on three different fictional works, in various stages of the process for each. First, and top of mind for me right now is a new book in a new genre for me — a work of fantastic/weird fiction that is essentially a John Le Carre spy novel about the War on Terror (but with sorcery) called Wilderness of Mirrors.  I’ve been working on the structure and the story, and the characters for this book for nearly two years now, off and on. However, I’m furthest along on the process for this novel, as I have over 100,000 words on paper for this work, and I’m in second draft stage on several portions of the novel. It’s a complicated novel though, that moves in and out of time, and breaks the “straight” chronology, and I’ve also complicated it by working on the book in fits and starts, rather than straight through.

I’m also part way through a wonderful short novel called Eagle Tree. Yep, I can call it “wonderful” because I’ve never completed a first draft — yet — of this novel, so it’s this beautiful conception in my brain that is not written down, and thus perfect in my own mind. Eagle Tree focuses on the inner life of a 14 year old boy with Asperberger’s and his perceptions of trees. I abandoned the current draft earlier this year to focus on Wilderness of Mirrors, but I hope to get back to it next year.

Finally, I’ve promised my faithful readers a sequel to the novel Sinful Folk, my first historical novel that appeared to some acclaim earlier this year. The novel has sold very well, and yet that’s not the only reason to do a sequel. I continue to be fascinated by the medieval period, and the character of Mear is endlessly fascinating to me, and I know precisely where her trajectory takes her — smack dab into the middle of the Peasant Revolt of 1381. So I have a solid outline for the book Garden of Earthly Delight, and I’m personally intrigued to see what happens. I’m further back in the process on this novel, although I can regularly hear Mear asking me to tell her next story… so this one has to come out of me, sometime soon!

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

I write in multiple genres, but let’s focus on just the stuff I’ve published to date. I’d like to think that my first novel Coeur d’Alene Waters brought a more literary perspective to a pretty standard mystery/noir story. After writers like Scott Turow (only in Presumed Innocent, not so much in his subsequent books) Pete Dexter (in Brotherly Love and Pete Dexter) and Dennis Lehane (in Mystic River) showed us the way towards that kind of dark literary magic in a story with bodies, police work, and self-reflective conflicted “detectives” — several of us attempted to jump into that area. I think Jess Walter got closest with his novel Over Tumbled Graves, but I know that Jim Lynch and a number of other writers whom I respect tried their hand at the literary mystery genre. In fact, one well-known NY editor I know rejected Coeur d’Alene with the reader’s comment that “this is pretty dark, and it’s very like some other books I’ve published recently, so I’m going to pass.” So it was a momentary literary mini-movement that didn’t really take off.

I’d also like to think I infuse a more literary and poetic vein into the historical fiction I write, such as Sinful Folk, instead of just creating a fast-paced plot or a story that is “entertaining.” Historical Novels review seems to agree with me, as they wrote it was both “riveting” and “poetic.” So my focus is on poetic prose and plot-driven narratives. That’s where I hang my hat.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I think C.S. Lewis had the best answer to this: he said “We write the books we would wish we could read.” Toni Morrison has said something very similar — the types of books she was hoping to read were simply not there, so she invented them. I do the same — I write books because the story or the setting or the character intrigues me, and I desperately want to read that book. In a way, the best case would be that after I finish a book, I get momentary amnesia, and forget that I wrote the book, and I get to read it, un-impeded by my own knowledge of what comes next. (However, something like this happened to William Styron, and it was no fun for him… so let’s not do that).

4. How does my writing process work?

God, this is the mother of all questions! Writing processes highly vary between writers — and for me, at least — between books. For Sinful Folk, I wrote religiously on the commuter train every morning. In fact, I have a nice little post that describes how I wrote the novel here.  I wrote that novel chronologically four times, from the beginning to the end, each time improving the flow, the plot, and stripping away extraneous information to clarify the story and the flow. I wrote on a MacBook Pro.

However, with Wilderness of Mirrors I had a much more haphazard process, where I sketched out small scenes, some as short as a few sentences. I wrote in a paper notebook, and gradually filled up two big bound paper books with my skitterish handwriting, twisting and winding all over the pages.

Then I had to organize it all. That took a few months to figure out what the story was, and how it was all set up.

Then I had to type that all in, get it all in order, and add more to it, tying together all the different pieces. Rather exhausting really!

I have limited time to write, given the demands of my day job and my family, so I tend to be quite focused when I get time to write, and set myself goals (ie. 2,000 words one day, 1,500 and some organizing the next) and often… actually accomplish those goals!