My friend and agent-sister Maya Rock tagged me for a blog tour spotlighting the writing process, and I procrastinated. I procrastinated when responding to her invitation. I procrastinated when sending my bio for her post. And I especially procrastinated when answering these questions because there’s so much pressure to be witty and chatty and philosophical. I procrastinated until this morning, and now I have to post something! So much for wit, chat, and philosophy. Here we go:
Who came before?
Maya Rock is the author of SCRIPTED (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015), a young adult book about a teen girl who starts to question her place on Bliss Island, where everyone’s lives are broadcasted to the mainland as a TV reality show. Here is her contribution to the tour.
What am I working on?
I’m drawn to revisit the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood, a space imbued with restlessness, anxiety, shame, and desire. I’m finishing up the first draft of a novel that I’m not quite ready to share. (It’s going well, and I don’t want to jinx it!) But I can tell you about the short stories I’ve been writing, which I plan to compile into a collection entitled MONSTERS. The stories are set in Stone, an imagined town in an off-kilter version of our reality that underscores the destabilizing experience of growing up. A girl awakens to the reverberation of a sound that might have been a scream. Losers at a special school for reticent athletes must learn to toughen up, or risk being labeled Lost Causes. A man who longs to recapture his adolescent desire becomes trapped in a memory with the girl he once loved. There is a Ferris wheel.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Who cares? I know it’s good to be a business-savvy writer, to be aware of trends, and to pinpoint exactly where in the bookstore your masterpiece should be shelved—but I’m trying not worry about all that and just focus on the work. I write what I want to write, which might be different, and it might not. As my father says in the only Hebrew he knows, En kol chadásh táchat hashámesh. It’s different because it’s mine.
Why do I write what I do?
I write stories based on events that haunt me, most of which occurred when I was thirteen or fourteen—an age when we feel everything so close to the skin. It took me 15 years to figure out how to write my first (as-yet unpublished) novel, THE HERO, which was inspired by a traumatic experience on a youth sports team. My intention was to show how easily children get caught up in the quest to win—without questioning what “winning” means to them. In my research, I came across a striking quote from sports psychologists Robert Hughes and Jay Coakley: “According to the sport ethic, an athlete does not give in to pressure, pain, or fear… The idea is that athletes never back down from challenges in the form of either physical risk or pressure, and that standing up to challenges involves moral courage” (emphasis added). With THE HERO, I wanted to challenge the way we measure our heroes—and the way our “heroes” measure themselves.
My novel-in-progress is also inspired by an event from my adolescence, which haunted until I finally figured out how to tell the story. It’s about some girls. And that’s all I’m going to say about it for now!
How does your writing process work?
I write before work, when the house is dark and the only sounds are the computer keys and my cat purring. I write during my lunch break, too—unless I’m watching Vampire Diaries. For a more earnest discussion about the Writing Process, here’s an old blog post. And another one. And one more for good measure.
Who’s next? (In alphabetical order)
I’m tagging three of my favorite authors to answer the questions and continue the tour next Monday, March 24:
Abigail Baker (who will join the tour a day later on Tuesday, March 25) shares her home with a Siamese cat endearingly named “The Other Cat” and two rescued mutts with mundane human names that people think are cute. In addition to writing about rebellious heroines, she enjoys hiking, discovering craft beers, baking the perfect vanilla bean cupcake, and rock climbing (going as far as scaling 800 vertical feet to the summit of Devil’s Tower National Monument in 2013.). Abigail won first place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2010 Colorado Gold Writing Contest for Romance for THE BLOODSUCKER and first place in RWA’s Golden Network’s 2011 Golden Pen in Paranormal Romance for TATTOO OF YOUR NAME ACROSS MY SOUL (now THE REAPER’S KISS, Deathmark Book One). She regularly blogs about life observances, lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and can be easily found hiking any of Colorado’s best trails. Her urban fantasy series THE REAPER’S KISS, Deathmark Book One will be released by Entangled Publishing, LLC in 2014.
Brenna Ehrlich is the co-author of the book STUFF HIPSTERS HATE: A FIELD GUIDE TO THE PASSIONATE OPINIONS OF THE INDIFFERENT, published in 2010 by Ulysses Press, as well a blog by the same name. She’s the Senior Writer and Editor of MTV’s O Music Awards and a reporter for MTV News. In the past, she had a weekly Netiquette column on CNN, and served as associate editor at Mashable.com, as well as associate editor at Heeb magazine. She has a master’s in journalism from Medill University and enjoys listening to songs on repeat. Teenage Writeland is a blog featuring interviews with YA authors.
Austin H. Gilkeson spends his days working as a Japanese government bureaucrat and his nights writing middle-grade and YA fiction. He recently completed his first book, MAB IPSWICH, OR THE WICKEDEST WITCH. His writing has appeared in Underneath the Juniper Tree, Spellbound, and will soon be featured on Cast of Wonders. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife.
Maya also tagged our fellow agent-sister Jennifer Chen, a freelance writer and editor, playwright, and author who has written for Cosmpolitan.com, Bust, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Natural Health, and VegNews. In April 2013, she won a Maggie award for Best Feature Article for her piece on the survival of independent magazines. She writes middle-grade and YA fiction and is represented by the lovely Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary. She blogs at typecraftwriter.com and can be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest at @jchenwriter. Typecraftwriter.com features all types of crafts from writing advice, cookbook reviews, vegan hot spots, and knitting projects.