I know where I’m going to be the weekend of June 21st: at the 2013 Historical Novel Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. I also know what I’ll be doing there, beyond catching up with writer friends and meeting authors whose work I admire: I’ll be moderating a panel entitled “Is Genre a Dirty Word? Literary versus Genre Historical Fiction” with authors Mary Sharratt, Michelle Cameron, Christy English, and Mitchell James Kaplan. I’m excited to explore this fun and provocative subject which, to my mind, has as much to do with publishing constraints as it does marketing considerations.
As part of the ramp up to the HNS conference, novelist and book reviewer Judith Starkston has posted an interview with me on her site. In the interview, I disclose my favorite books and movies, what living or deceased writer I’d most like to meet, and a little about my Next Novel.
Read the full interview here.
So true and hilarious. Novelist Owen King on the process of writing—and renaming—a novel:
“It generally takes awhile to write a novel. Although there are authors who can write a quality book every year, they’re the exceptions; it’s more typical to spend three, five, or even seven years to complete a draft. If you’ve never attempted to write anything of a novel’s length, imagine having a friend or relative visit you for roughly that length of time, for three or five or seven years…. Let’s be honest: even if it was your favorite cousin, and even though you sort of invited him, after a year or so, you would owe it to yourself to give, at minimum, tacit consideration to murdering this person. This is the unique affliction of writing books: the endeavor is such that you can never entirely stop thinking about it.”
I suppose it’s safe to say that this speaks to my condition today, as I obsess over my new novel: Who—or what—am I inviting to become my new roomie for the next year and beyond? Are they dark and bothered? Or easy-peasy? Will they drive me crazy? More importantly, will they steal the secret stash of good chocolate hidden in my studio?
Read the rest of King’s post at The Weeklings.
And in other publishing news, here are several of the funnier April Fool’s jokes crossing the internet today:
- The Big Six Become One, via Shelf Awareness.
- The Debutante’s Ball is now sponsored by Amazon.
- Another Amazon-themed one: Amazon Announces Purchase of English™, via The Millions.
- Borders to Re-Launch as a ‘New Adult’ Line, also via Shelf Awareness. (You’ll need to scroll down for it.)
Before I get to today’s Publishing Monday post, I’d like to extend an early and hearty congratulations to my author friend Nancy Bilyeau! Tomorrow is the publication day for THE CHALICE, her new historical thriller set in the dark times between Henry VIII’s Queens #3 and #4. I was fortunate to have received an advance reading copy of THE CHALICE way back in 2012. Here’s what I had to say about it:
“Superbly set in the political and religious turmoil between Henry VIII’s queens Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, The Chalice is a dark, twisty thriller that I couldn’t put down. Nancy Bilyeau’s extensive historical research makes the sense of dread, danger, and mysticism permeating this era tangible. Ex-Dominican novice Joanna Stafford is an especially compelling and sympathetic heroine—I adored her!”
Yes, THE CHALICE is that good. And I’ve good news: to commemorate Nancy’s publication day, her publisher Simon and Schuster is offering a hardcover copy of THE CHALICE to a reader of my blog. I’ll be posting this giveaway tomorrow, along with an interview with Nancy. So please check back!
Finally, if you’re in the New York City area, Nancy will be hosting a book launch for THE CHALICE on March 6, 2013 at 7pm at the renowned Mysterious Bookshop in Tribecca. See you there?
So, back to Publishing Monday’s subject du jour: first chapters. Now that I’ve started writing the Next Novel, I’ve been struggling with mine, though I also know enough not to get too invested in anything I write at this stage. After my experience writing THE LILY MAID, I’m convinced first drafts are for discovering the world of your novel: your characters, the setting they inhabit, and the conflicts to plague them. Even so, it’s important to consider the content of your first chapter. First chapters are a lot of work primarily because their function involves setting forth the promise of your novel:
1. What can the reader expect from your novel? Is it a literary novel? Genre? Or something in between?
2. Who is the protagonist? Antagonist?
3. What are the main themes to be expressed throughout?
4. What and when is the setting? The social milieu?
5. Is it clear what the call to action is for your protagonist? What will be the fuel that fires your story?
6. What does your protagonist desire? Fear?
Sometimes it takes a while to figure the answers to these questions out—and that’s what first drafts are for.
While I’ve been mulling these issues over, author Anne Allen posted a list of thirteen questions for writers to ask themselves about first chapters. My favorite question:
Does your MC have strong emotions we can identify with in the opening scene? We don’t have to identify with the situation, but with the emotion: If the character is furious because his roommate keeps playing to As Long As You Love Me over and over—even if you’ve never heard of Justin Beiber you’ll identify with the anger, because everybody’s been angry.
Go forth and read the rest here.
Here are the details:
LitWrap Winter Words and Drinks @ 61 Local
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 @ 7pm
~ For Storytellers and Story Lovers ~
The time when we get to meet each other in person! Shake each other’s hands! Toast each other’s successes! Rib each other for book reviews we felt were misleading—all that great stuff! Matt Dojny, author of The Festival of Earthly Delights will open the night with a discussion of craft, and the lessons he learned when putting together his debut novel, published by Dzanc in 2012. Then we’ll roll into readings of works-in-progress by these awesome writers:
The reading theme for the evening is winter. 61 Local is located at 61 Bergen Street in Cobble Hill. I’m scheduled to read at around 8 pm-ish. Join us?
It’s been a busy week in Casa Art and Words. Beyond income taxes, childcare stuff, design deadlines, and more, it feels like I haven’t a moment to breathe. But, as you can see from the above photo, I am getting things done—a few more cross outs, and it will be time to update my chalkboard wall. Most importantly on the creative front, I’m deep into last edits for THE LILY MAID after hearing back from my agent regarding my draft while in England.
Now we’re down to the truly nitty gritty. My main goal this ’round: streamline the length since the manuscript has gotten a bit long. (So far, I’m cut about 7,000 words, but plan to lose another 5k.) There’s also several small edits, mainly to punch up plot points and refine my protagonist’s character. However, even small edits require combing the manuscript to check for consistency. For example, one character’s name was changed because it was too similar to another’s; a very minor plot thread was deleted to tighten one section. Frankly, at this stage, the process feels more nuts-and-bolts than creative—like smoothing icing on a cake so no marks remain. I’m reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”
Yup, that’s what it feels like.
In more cheerful news, I’m delighted that three of my Next Big Thing tagees (is that even a word?) have posted their responses to the ten questions I was posited. I hope you’ll hop over to read their answers regarding their novels-in-progress:
What makes this blog hop especially fun for me is that I’ve beta read all of their novels. I feel fortunate to have been privy to their creative processes.
For those of you following at home, here are the ten interview questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Reminder: the giveaway for Mary Sharratt’s wonderful Hildegard von Bingen novel ILLUMINATIONS is still going on. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment here.
And with that, I’m back to my LILY MAID edits. Today I’m finishing clarifying one plot point involving a flashback. If I’m lucky I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of editing an important love scene which serves as a turning point in my story. Lots of emotional Sturm und Drang.