Hi, all! I was tagged by writers Sky Croft and Carol Wolf to participate in this here blog hop thingie in which writers answer four questions about their writing and work.
So here we go.
What are you working on?
Oh, lordie. Let’s see. My novel From the Hat Down is about to drop (in the next few days, hopefully). It’s the follow-up to my Rainbow Award runner-up novella, From the Boots Up. Fellow author/editor R.G. Emanuelle and I are also co-editing an anthology of lesbian romance and erotica, All You Can Eat (forthcoming, August, Ylva Publishing). I have a short story in there. I’m also working on the 4th in my science fiction series, The Far Seek Chronicles and another romance novel. That one’s just about done. I’m currently waiting to hear back from another anthology about a short story I submitted and I’m working on short stories for two other anthologies forthcoming from Ylva. One is Halloween-oriented and the other is Christmas/holiday-oriented.
And yes, I’m doing some research for the fifth New Mexico book in my mystery series.
I stay kinda busy on the writing front. Heh.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
Dang, lookit you, blog tour, asking hard questions! Overall, the main characters generally identify as lesbian (or LGBT), which is not something you see a whole lot of in mystery, sci fi (though this genre has been much better than others at incorporating LGBT characters and explorations of gender and sexuality over the years), and romance. Having said that, it’s not that big a deal in lesfic, because the whole point is to have characters who identify that way.
In terms of mysteries, I base my series in New Mexico, which is not something you see (often) in lesfic (I am from New Mexico), though the state has been used as a setting in more “mainstream” mysteries. I also incorporate larger themes into my mystery series and use New Mexico as a petri dish to see how those themes play out. The first deals with white nationalism, the second with homophobia (internal and external) and religious fundamentalism, the third deals with the oil and gas industry in NM as well as Navajo culture and beliefs and the fourth with a homicide set against the backdrop of immigration. The series is designed to introduce readers to New Mexico, its history and cultures, and to larger issues that play into the plotlines that I address.
My science fiction series is space opera (i.e. adventures in space — think Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly), and there aren’t that many LGBT people writing it (at least not self-identified), and there aren’t that many of us writing characters for it that are predominantly strong women who may or may not hook up with other women. Space opera is traditionally a male-oriented subgenre, but I happen to love it, so I write it. With my own spin on things.
There are a variety of tropes in romance writing (whether it’s heterosexual or LGBT). Generally, it involves some kind of angst between the characters or outside forces that may or may not keep them apart. These are great formulas, but I tend to either employ them a little differently or not really at all. Many of the characters that I end up hooking up are attracted to each other right off the bat and the fun comes in seeing if they’re able to follow through (hence the angst). My characters also tend to be strong, and I’ll do things that you generally don’t see in romance novels — that is, I’ll stick to one point of view in some, rather than jumping back and forth between the two primary characters who are on the road to hooking up. That means that the love interest character is what I call a “strong secondary.” She’s not the main character, but she needs to be able to carry a lot of the plot through the eyes of the main character. Makes for fun and interesting writing for me. All that said, I also incorporate romance into my mysteries and science fiction.
Why do you write what you do?
That’s like asking chefs why they cook what they do. Or painters why they paint what they do. Or musicians why they play what they do. The stories show up and I write ’em. There’s not a day that goes by when something doesn’t pop into my head and leave me thinking: “what if…” or “wouldn’t it be cool if…”
I’m sure my intrinsic identity plays a role, too. I like telling stories with strong LGBT characters and strong female characters (and including characters from all kinds of backgrounds). And yes, my characters have flaws, and those are fun to explore, too. I write stories I’d like to read (and tell).
How does your writing process work?
Pretty well, I think. ba-DUMP-dump! Har!
Okay, okay. I assume this means approach/methodology:
1. Idea for story pops into my head or a character shows up in my head. I ponder this, and soon thereafter a potential plotline pops into my head. In some cases, I start writing immediately. In others, I…
2. Assess how much research I need to do to flesh out the characters’ backgrounds, settings, and plots. I generally do research before and during the course of a project.
3. Start writing. No, I’m not an outliner. I have clear ideas of what the characters look like, who they are, how they sound, and how they’re going to react to each other and to the events in the story. I generally don’t know how the plot is going to play out, so I’m always surprised at how things develop and I generally write from beginning to end. Some characters show up during the writing (I call these “walk-ons”), which keeps things fresh for me as a writer. What I write tends to unscroll as I write and I see it as a movie and the characters as actors in that movie. And yes, I do engage with my characters. I’ll talk to them and ask them to help me work something out. “Dammit, [insert character’s name here], what the hell are you doing? This makes no sense. Tell me what you want here.” And then I’ll take a break and usually in a few minutes or a few hours, BAM what needs to happen pops into my head.
If, as I’m writing, I need to change something about a character or plot, I’ll go back to earlier scenes in the manuscript and take care of that. I generally know where they are and I’ll do that before returning to the scene I’m working on. I’d thus call my process “organic,” in that it’s flexible, and it’s easy for me to change things as the story unfolds from beginning to end. Which means I generally don’t end up with a whole lot of draft copies of a project, since the manuscript I work off is the “living document,” and I edit and write as I go. I do have scenes that just aren’t going to work that I’ll cut and save in the project folder, but I’m not one of those writers who just slams a draft out and then goes back and edits. I edit as part of the writing process and by the time a draft is ready for another editor, it’s pretty clean.
4. I do keep notebooks (I’m ol’ skool that way) in which I track the chronology of events in each project as well as characters/backgrounds. For my sci fi, my notebooks include the names of certain foods, planetary systems, names of places and characters. I usually add to the notebook after I’ve already brought the scene/character in and recording it ensures that I have, indeed, included it in my notebook.
5. Tools: I got rid of my desktop computer, so now I work off two laptops. I do have an iPad, but I do not consider it a viable writing tool for how I approach my work. For one thing, the screen is too small to use my fingertip as a mouse (my iPad does not have mouse capabilities). If I’m on the road without a laptop and the urge to write overtakes me, I’ll use ol’ skool pen and paper before I use my iPad. I generally create on Word, but I do have Scrivener and I’m doing some experiments with it to get used to it as a platform. I do have an office space where I set my laptop up on a table or my standing desk. Yes, I alternate sitting and standing. My office isn’t the neatest place (I’m fascinated by photos I see of authors’ writing spaces that are pristine. How do they do that?), but when I’m in the middle of a project (which is pretty much all the time), materials tend to pile up.
Other tools: Music. I write to music. The genre/project I’m working on determines the music. You can find some of my playlists for various books on Spotify. You can find me under Andi Marquette (cryptic, I know). I subscribe to Spotify, Pandora, and di.fm, which is a streaming trance/chill/house site that has a variety of genres and subgenres in electronic music. I listen to a lot of chill when I’m working on my speculative fiction.
Other stuff: I have a day job, so most of my writing takes place weeknights (I am totally not a morning person). Usually I’ll start a session at 8 and end at 10, so I have 30 minutes to an hour before bed to clear my head. A writing session for me is usually 1000-2000 words in that 2-hour time block, sometimes fewer, but I don’t sweat that. If I only get a couple hundred words out, that’s okay. If I start getting tired, I’ll stop, because I don’t write effectively when I’m tired. I might be able to get 4-8 hours of writing time on a weekend, and that usually translates to anywhere from 5000-10000 words for me, depending on my mood and what else I have going on that weekend. And yes, I try to write every day (blogging and emails don’t count). But if I’m not feeling it or I’m tired, I’ll take a couple days off to recharge. If I go longer than a week without writing, I start feeling it. I get really cranky and I feel “off.” It’s like not working out for a few days, if you do that regularly. You notice it when it’s missing.
Whew. So there you go. Probably way more than you needed to know. Thanks for stopping by.
Anyway, I hope you’ll check out Veronica Fearon and Joan Opyr, who I’ve tagged to follow up on this blog with their own. They’ll be posting Monday June 9th.
Glad to know I’m not the only one with a messy desk 🙂 BTW The Far Seek playlist is great. I use it to keep me focused when I need to get in a good block of work.