Blog Hoppin’ Around

A huge thank you to Marsha Qualey, one of my Hamline Creative Writing MFA faculty, for inviting me to this blog hop! I enjoyed thinking about these four questions and the opportunity to peek inside the writing process of my author-friends. And speaking of author-friends, don’t miss the three talented authors I’ve featured at the end of this post!

And without further ado, a little Q and A…

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I’ve just dipped my toes into the water of writing a new novel which is so new that it doesn’t even have a working title yet. I’m revisiting characters from a work I recently completed titled Reflecting Hours. I’m in the stage of writing where I’m not even trying to write scenes in sequential order yet, instead simply accumulating scenes in order to hear the voice of the story. Soon, very soon, I need to take the plunge and dive into the deep water of the book, but for now, I’m giving the creative process space and giving myself room to play. It’s an interesting creative tension, the drive to finish a book and the need to enjoy the journey. One important lesson I learned through the process of writing and publishing the four-book From Sadie’s Sketchbook series is that to be a working author, one needs to take joy in every stage of creation, not just in the moment when one holds a finished book in one’s hands. Those moments do come, but the reality of being an author is that when you finish a book, the process starts over again. The beginnings of a book whispers to you, and you start to scribble it down on whatever paper you can find, until after weeks and possibly months, you have a draft to revise and polish and reshape. One of the most essential tasks of being an author is finding one’s rhythm, and I feel like even more than working on a book right now, I’m working on that even more important task of shaping my life as an author. Im working on finding a workable pace that will allow me to grow and develop with the writing of each new book, while still finishing the process in a reasonable amount of time.

Q: How does it differ from other books in the genre?

A: Reflecting Hours and it’s untitled sequel are what I’m calling “Chem-Punk.” Similar to Steam Punk, the books are set in an alternate reality where science has progressed differently than it has in our world. However instead of relying on steam power, the world of Reflecting Hours is built on advances made through chemical technology with deep roots in alchemy. The line between technology and magic has always been thin, being that one generation’s magic is another generation’s invention. Such is the case in these books. Magic clashes against science and Elixia, who has magical abilities she doesn’t fully understand, is faced with impossible decisions that have no simple answers.

Q: Why do you write what you do?

A: When I first started writing, I thought I’d only ever write fantasy. My writing heroes are Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis, and my bookshelves are stuffed with Cornelia Funke, Anne Ursu, Edward Eager, and Susan Cooper. However, I also have a full set of the Anne of Green Gables books, and many other books that explore the magic in real life by authors such as Sharon Creech, Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, and E. L. Konigsburg. What I discovered as I learned the craft of being a writer, is that what I really want to do is explore the space between real and magic, those thin places where we ask, “Is it possible that…?” For me, life is fuller, deeper, more adventurous, when the answer to that question is, “Maybe so.”

Q: What is the hardest part about writing?

A: For me, the hardest part about writing is the hardest part about being an artist, or maybe even about being human. It seems like my whole life has conspired to slam me up against the truth: you can’t grow unless you’re willing to fail. Actually, you don’t only have to be willing; you have to truly fail sometimes, too. You don’t aim to fail, of course, but you take risks that put you in a position where you aren’t sure you can succeed. Sometimes you succeed at the new challenge and you grow at a steady, predictable pace. But sometimes you fail, and how you handle the failure is the crucible for exponential growth. For a person like me, a down-to-the-bones perfectionist, even the possibility of failure (particularly public failure) brings with it heart-thumping terror of a kind that should be reserved for giant spiders, tight enclosed spaces and things that go bump in the night. When we write, we put our hearts on the page with as much skill as we can. Despite our efforts, sometimes we don’t communicate what we’d hoped to say. Other times, we say exactly what we meant, and we rile others up. Sometimes the story that we see is on a far-away vista that our current skill can’t help us to reach. Most failures are much smaller, though, the daily moments when I read the words I wrote yesterday and I have to admit: I can do better. These private, small moments are the ones in which I build the muscles I need to become the kind of writer (and person) I long to be. I want to be a person who looks at my efforts and says, “I did my best yesterday, and now, today, I’m going to do even better. It’s okay that I’m not perfect the first or fourth or twentieth time. I’m growing and learning and becoming who I’m meant to be.” This kind of thing is much easier to say than to do, and I’d never want to become the kind of person who gave in to being adequate. It’s not that we shouldn’t dream big or aim high. We should. And because we do dream big and aim  high, we won’t always get it right the first time. The important thing is what we do when we see that we’ve fallen short. Will we get up and try again? Getting up, trying again, that’s the hardest part of writing for me.

And now, drumroll please… here are those three amazing authors I was telling you about. All of these lovely ladies are celebrating upcoming book releases!

First, Erin Dealey, whose book, DECK THE WALLS, A WACKY CHRISTMAS CAROL is coming out this September. This picture book is for the whole family and celebrates the joy of family and tradition and fun.

Second, Sue Fliess, whose picture book ROBOTS, ROBOTS EVERYWHERE (can you guess what it’s about??) has just hit the shelves.

Third, Holly Schindler, whose THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY for middle grade readers is scheduled to launch in February 2014.

I hope you’ll visit their blogs and check out their books! And if you’d like, I’d love to hear from you about what the hardest part of writing is for you. Share away, below.

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