My UK LesFic blog buddy Tig Ashton (AKA Clare Ashton, best-selling author of new and very well-received RomCom release That Certain Something!) tagged me in the current authorly blog hop: The Writing Processes Blog Tour. Each Monday, willing victims answer four questions that focus on their current works in progress, genre, and how they actually go about putting pen to paper. So here goes!
What are you working on?
I’m currently about 16,000 words into a sequel to my fourth novel No Good Reason (due for publication in Spring 2015), which is my first foray into the crime/police procedural genre. I always had a series in mind when I wrote No Good Reason, so I chose a setup that would support a multi-novel arc and spent a lot of time creating characters whose back-stories I could go on to develop and explore. I submitted the manuscript to Bold Strokes as a stand-alone, and chewed my nails for a while before plucking up the courage to say “actually, I want to take this into a series – what do you think?” I was delighted when they gave me the go ahead, and then had a momentary wiggins where I thought oh crap, I don’t actually know what I’m doing! I guess time will tell on that one, but I’m relishing the challenge of thinking and planning ahead, and it’s a joy knowing that I don’t have to say goodbye to the characters after only one book.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My first three novels have been classified as lesbian romance, and they do abide by the basic tenets of that genre in that two women meet and fall in love over the course of the story, but the romance takes a back seat to the thriller and adventure aspects in the plot. Their mix of violence, tension, and love story can be a disconcerting one, especially for readers whose expectations are more grounded in traditional, chocolate-box romances, but I hope I manage to find a happy medium whereby you care about the characters’ well-being and relationship alike.
With No Good Reason, I intentionally set out to tinker with the crime genre. Its lead characters – Sanne and Meg – aren’t the typical tormented heroines with tragic, mysterious histories and almost preternatural talent in their field. Although they do share crappy upbringings, they don’t let that define who they are, and they’re good at their jobs without having amazing superwoman skills. I prefer to write regular women, women you could bump into on the street and have a laugh with, so even though the case in No Good Reason is horrific, there’s plenty of humour as well, which is not particularly in keeping with the genre. Many mainstream crime novels have po-faced leads, but in my experience the people working in emergency services laugh more often than they cry, and I want my writing to reflect that.
After setting a couple of novels in the USA, I’ve come full circle with No Good Reason and returned to the Derbyshire Peak District. Its language, slang, and social themes are all unapologetically local to the north of England, and I have to say it’s lovely to be home again.
Why do I write what I do?
I write what I love to read. It takes me about a year to complete a novel, and I don’t think I could spend that much time working on something that I wasn’t having fun with. My shelves are stacked with thriller/crime series, and my favourite authors in that genre – Karin Slaughter, Joe Lansdale, Denise Mina, Chelsea Cain – are the ones who achieve that tricky balance between an interesting standalone plot and ongoing, overarching character development. Most of them also feature strong, complex female roles. After Tumbledown gave me my first taste of writing a sequel, I knew I wanted to take that a step further and try my hand at a crime series. I’ve never written just to make money – I wrote non-profit fan fiction both before and after signing with Bold Strokes – and I would rather write what I enjoy, be unconstrained by formula, and hope some readers come along for the ride. So far, that seems to be working out pretty well.
How does my writing process work?
I can break my writing process down into stages:
Me: “I don’t think I can do this again. I’m not sure I’ve got another novel in me.”
Wife: “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not getting any tea until you’ve written something.”
So I write an outline that I probably won’t follow, but at least I’ve written something and I don’t go to bed hungry.
2. I get an actual idea
My writing process inevitably involves a cat “helping out” at some point…
And it’s quite exciting, and I write loads more of a plan that I probably won’t follow, but now I know the main character and plot beats. After a few pages of this, lots of Googling and maybe the odd diagram, I think “sod it” and start the first chapter.
3. I work a set of night shifts
I spend the next few days unable to pull on my own socks, let alone remember the plot of my work in progress. I might be coherent enough to revise some edits, but I certainly won’t be writing anything worthwhile.
I hit a plot SNAFU and avoid rectifying it by buggering about online, Hoovering, watching the tadpoles in the pond, or baking a cake.
5. The hissy fit
My long-suffering wife and beta reader takes issue with a section I rather like. I spit my dummy out, stomp my feet, and refuse to see sense. She always turns out to be right.
See what I mean?
6. Things finally kick in
The sun comes out while I have a week off work and my brain feels functional. I sit in the back garden with my pen and pad, and everything slots into place. The story ties me in wonderful knots, and the characters are great to spend time with. At the end of the week, I break the news to my wife that she has 5,000 words to beta, but that’s okay because I’m heading straight back to Step 3…
Look out for blogs from KE Payne, a UK-based Young Adult author with Bold Strokes Books, whose novels “artfully capture the confusion and concerns of a young woman coming to terms with her lesbian libido” – The Rainbow Reader. Her sixth novel Once The Clouds Have Gone is due for release in October.
Fellow Goldie nominee Sky Croft is a woman who takes after my own heart, in that she likes women and mountains, and writing about women and mountains. Mountain Rescue: On The Edge (a sequel to Mountain Rescue: The Ascent) is due out from Regal Crest in December.