Tag, I’m It! The Writing Process Blog Tour

I know what you’re going to say. Aren’t I in the middle of my own blog tour right now? And didn’t I do one of these blog hop thingies about a year ago? Yes, you’re right on both counts. But THIS is different, because I was tagged by Lena Coakley, and do you want to know what the odds are of me ever saying No to Lena Coakley about anything? ZERO, OK?

I first read her novel Witchlanders the winter after it came out and I have read it again every winter since. If you have heard me talk about anything ever, you have probably heard me talk about Witchlanders. It is one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels – gorgeously written, with stunning world-building, and the most beautiful and original vision of magic I’ve read. Look, here is a pretty picture of Witchlanders next to the Crystal Kite award.

Crystal Kite Award

So you can imagine my delight when I first heard she was working on a historical fantasy about the Bronte sisters. The first time I read the premise I gasped out loud, because it’s such a great idea and it is so exciting to think of it in the hands of such a phenomenal writer. You can read Lena’s post about it here.


Now on to those four questions:

What are you working on?

I am writing a trilogy about a thief and spy-for-hire, Julia, who finds herself working on the wrong side of a power struggle between immortal siblings, while a serial killer leaving bodies all over the city is zeroing in on her. When caught in a dangerous bind, Julia does something truly evil to save herself, and must then confront the terrible consequences of her actions.

I am beyond thrilled that Knopf and Doubleday will be bringing all three books into the world, with the first book, Julia Vanishes, slated for spring 2016.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

This question! Somebody or other (how’s that for citation?) said that there are only about seven stories in the world and four of them are crap anyway. If that’s true, it leaves the writer only hoping that she is writing one of the three good ones rather than one of the four crap ones. The difference is in the details. Well, and every voice is different of course, but that goes without saying (she says).

So, Julia Vanishes is the one about evil deeds and the burden of guilt and the hard work of atonement. It’s that story about idealism vs. realism vs. nihilism, forgiveness vs. vengeance, recognizing the lesser evil in the absence of good, addiction and loss and how little we can truly know or be known by the people closest to us and how dearly we love them anyway. It’s the story about perching on the edge of adulthood and looking around and not seeing any models of the kind of life you’d like to inhabit and then figuring out what to do with that lack. It’s that story.

The difference is that in this book the protagonist can vanish and nothing much scares her until she has to take a long hard look at herself, the Prime Minister is a witch-hunting fanatic with a terrible secret, immortal siblings are battling over a fragmented book in the evening of their long lives, witches work magic by writing and the pen is quite literally mightier than the sword, a sad-eyed serial killer uses his victims’ memories as clues, magical killer spiders are the least of the hero’s concerns (but still: don’t get bit!), and a small boy’s life is either a footnote to the conflict or the heart of it, depending on your point of view. Also, I wrote it. That’s different, right?

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve started a lot of books and finished a few. All those that I’ve finished were drafted in great bursts of enthusiasm within a matter of weeks. Years of revision followed of course – but the stories I stick with are the ones that seem to unfold to completion naturally as I go, where the characters and their journeys and relationships fascinate me enough (and for long enough) to keep my fickle heart from straying to another shiny idea. So I suppose my answer to that question is simply “enthusiasm” – I write what I enjoy and what comes easily.

Having said that, I keep coming back to one story that I’ve failed to write so many times but can’t let go of. I intend to give it another go post-Julia, and if ever I’m successful and this slippery idea becomes a book, I might change my answer from enthusiasm to love.

What does your writing process look like?

My process is not very interesting, but it is very comfortable to me. On a macro level, it involves an idea brewing for a while and pages of notes. If the idea keeps growing rather than fizzling out, it progresses to an outline. The outline goes through a number of variations as the idea keeps brewing and growing. At some point, the thing is ready to be written, and I write it. The story develops further during the first draft process, and I pause to adjust the outline and rethink as needed. Then I rewrite the thing a billion times until I have to hand it over.

On a micro level, it involves just me and a computer and a big mug of coffee, sometimes a pen and notepad for tricky scenes or notes. I write happily at home or in cafés. Currently, with my younger son in preschool in the mornings, I have enough time to write but not a lot of time, and I’m starting to think that “enough time but not a lot” is key to my productivity.


I am tagging Dana Alison Levy, who managed to inadvertently (I think) throw both a bean from her plate and a knife into my purse within a matter of minutes at a lunch we both attended, and whose middle-grade debut, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, has been gathering raves and accolades from far and wide, including from little rags like this one  and this one. In spite of these Big Deal reviews, my favorite comment on her book is actually from author Kristen Lippert-Martin on goodreads:

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11.12.02 AM

Look for Dana’s post next Thursday.


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