Samantha Dunaway Bryant, a new blog friend I met through the A-to-Z Challenge, invited me to participate in this blog tour. The purpose of the tour is to get writers, published or unpublished, to talk about their writing: current projects, writing process, and so on. Thanks Samantha for asking me to take part. Here are my answers to the questions:
What am I working on?
Right now, I’m working on final revisions to my current novel. At the moment, it’s title is A TEENAGE ALIEN IN VICTORIAN LONDON, and it’s about… a teenage alien who gets stuck in Victorian London. Seriously. The idea for the story came to me a few years ago. I had already come up with a race of aliens who think Earth is the technical center of the universe, and consider Earth’s inhabitants to be geniuses. The only way in which this race are superior to “Earthians” is that they have mastered space travel. Otherwise, their technology is at least 20 years behind Earth’s. Indeed, the technology they have is stolen from Earth because they couldn’t invent it themselves. I have long enjoyed H.G. Wells, and read THE WAR OF THE WORLDS when I was nine or ten years old. Years after coming up with this Earthophile alien race, I was contemplating the setting of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and I wondered what it would be like if the alien visitors had been benign. In fact, what if a teenage alien girl found herself in Victorian London. What would she think? Especially if she already knew about modern Earth, so it would be a double culture-shock. Then, in a burst of inspiration, teenage alien in London idea met up with retro-aliens idea, and my novel was born. My main character, Pearl, is one of these Earth-loving, technologically inferior aliens, who accidentally ends up in Victorian London in need of electricity to get home. The problem is, it’s 1879, and electricity’s a bit of a novelty.
My Beta Readers seemed to enjoy it, so my plan is to begin querying as soon as I’ve finished these last edits.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This particular novel is one I find hard to categorize. It’s a historical, but it’s also sci-fi. The best way I’ve found to describe it is “Douglas Adams meets the big-house feel of ‘Downton Abbey’.” I suppose it differs from others in its genre since, unlike most historicals, it involves an alien, and unlike most sci-fi, most of the story is spent in a real, historical setting, with no extra-terrestrial technology. Perhaps another thing that sets it apart is that it is YA. The main characters in the story are all teenagers, whether alien or Victorian. It would be foolishly arrogant for me to suggest that my novel is unique, but I’ve not seen anything like it, so hopefully it will fill a gap in bookshelves.
Why do I write what I do?
The simple answer is because I have ideas for stories that no-one else will tell if I don’t–at least, not the way I would tell them. I don’t consider myself a genre writer. My last couple of novels have been YA, but not by design. In fact, I discovered the YA category because I had written a novel (not my current novel) and I needed to know it’s genre. Before then, I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as “YA literature.” As soon as I made this discovery, I got hold of other YA books and read them to see how well my novel fit. That novel may never see publication, but it helped me understand what YA is about, and introduced me to a great bunch of writer friends online. Will my next novel be YA? Possibly, or maybe not. I have ideas for Middle Grade and Adult novels too, so it depends which I decide to take on next.
How does your writing process work?
I see the value of plotting, but I have no patience for it. My problem is that I love writing, and I love the thought of writing, but I hate the process of going from thinking to doing. I’m lazy like that, and will procrastinate if I don’t exercise discipline. One way I encourage myself to write is to remind myself how much I enjoy it when I get started. Most of the time that does the trick. So my writing process begins with me telling myself to quit procrastinating because that great story idea I keep thinking about won’t make it to the page unless I put it there. I might draw up a very rough outline so I know what the main plot points are, and I’ll probably jot down character names if I have them at that time. Some like to do extensive bios of their characters, but I try to avoid getting into that. Not because I have anything against that kind of background detail, but because such things separate me from the work of actually writing, which just feeds my procrastination. I’d sooner get on and write the first draft, and let the characters develop with the story. In the case of this novel, I did a lot of reading on Victorian London, and made notes on things of relevance (e.g., the different staff jobs in a large manor house, the social dynamics within the house, the development of electricity, etc.). I’m sure there are factual errors and places where I’ve exercised artistic license, but for a work of fiction, I’m more concerned about verisimilitude–being right enough that it feels real.
The revision process involves me working with my Beta Readers’ notes, comparing their comments and weighing them, chapter by chapter. It’s very time consuming, but given as much time they put in to reading and commenting on my work, it’s only right that I give all their notes due attention.
That’s a little insight into how I work. I’ve invited some blog friends of mine to discuss their writing processes on their blogs next week (Monday, May 12), so please be sure to visit them:
Robin Moran is an as-yet-unpublished YA horror writer in England, who otherwise teaches children. Her current novel, BEAST INSIDE, is nearly ready for beta readers.
Cole Burke is another as-yet-unpublished writer from England, who has been learning the violin alongside trying to tame all the wild story ideas she has roaming around her head.
Tracey Neithercott is one of my U.S. writer friends who gets paid to write magazine articles on health, but in real life she writes YA novels. Her fiction is as-yet unpublished, but, along with the rest of my writer friends, it’s only a matter of time.