It’s Monday yet again! Was your weekend productive? Mine was… NOT. No wild parties for me, but I do have a vicious sunburn that’s started its second round of peeling. I look like I have leprosy. That’s what I get for not bringing sunscreen for a Sahara crossing on the back of a two headed camel, while being chased by Cthulhu-crazed Bedouins, huh?
So last week (before the Bedouins and Frick and Frack the Two Headed Camel), I was hanging out in my treehouse lair in the darkest jungles of Appalachia when I get a messenger pigeon from Lillith over at the Eclectic Little Dork blog. Seems she’s taking part in a Blog Hop and Baton Passing thingie with some other bloggers, and would I be interested in participating? Duh! Of course I’d like to participate! So I strapped on my jetpack and zoomed out to the Interwebz. (BTW: check out Lillith’s blog for yourself; it’s great, and I love her writing style)
The Blog Hop is simple enough: I need to answer four questions about my writing process. No need to dilly-dally, so I’ll get right to it:
1) What am I currently working on?
I have a couple (dozen) projects on the string at the moment. I’m working on two short stories and a novel set in 1941-1944, tentatively called Black And White Adventures; they involve a British spy/mage and an American cat burglar fighting against the dark magic practitioners of the Third Reich. In the end outlining stages is another period piece, sort of a girl Indiana Jones traipsing through the 1930’s and seeking out magical objects. The third project is a ghost hunting series; it’s in the very early planning stages, so I haven’t even decided what era it’s set in, but it will definitely fit into the New Pulp genre. Hopefully, all three of these series will be posted here on the blog.
In addition to the regular prose, I also write radio drama for Gypsy Audio. I have two shows going over there, The Blackburn Gaslight Adventures (steampunk) and Fortuna (pulp SF). I also write one-off shows for them, in various genres. At the moment, I owe an entire season of scripts for Blackburn, and half a season of scripts for Fortuna. AND I just finished a short one-off horror piece for their annual Halloween offerings
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Other than writing audio drama, which is practically a lost art? Okay, time for me to climb onto my soapbox. In most speculative fiction, you either have The Lone Wolf Going It Alone (patent pending), or you have a teasing romantic subplot. Or both. That’s nice and all, I enjoy reading them (Okay, I dig the Lone Wolf; the will they? / won’t they? thing can only be milked for a while before it gets tiresome).
But what about married couples? What about siblings? Just friends? These are vastly under-represented in fiction. I’m from an enormous family, lots of siblings and tons of extended family, not to mention four children of my own. I have zero experience being a Lone Wolf. I’ve been married since I was nineteen (to the same guy the whole time: 28 years! Shocker, I know, right?). I barely got to play the field before I settled down, and “Will they or won’t they?” is right out; being married is a Sure Thing (thank goodness! Dating sounds horrible.)
Too many writers seem to think that married couple = no sexual tension. I think that’s wrong; a married couple can be just as sexy as anything Harlequin Romances or HBO can dream up. It’s a different kind of sexual tension, granted, but it’s still there, and it’s still damned exciting.
Along those same lines, too many writers think that if you put a man and a woman in a situation together, they simply MUST be sexually attracted to one another. Well, actually, no, guys, they don’t; I have many many male friends with whom the idea of sleeping with them feels more than a little icky. They are my FRIENDS, not potential lovers. Why not write about that? The same thing applies to siblings. On TV, Supernatural proves you can write about two people (brothers, in that example) who love each other deeply, almost obsessively, without it being sexual. The BBC’s Doctor Who has been doing the same thing for ages; the Doctor and Donna Noble is only their most recent example of a pairing where there is no sexual attraction, but still providing a gripping story and a dynamic of love and trust and devotion without sex involved (or even implied) If a television series — hardly the cradle of Great Literature — can make it work, why can’t your average novelist/short story writer?
So that’s my great obsession: where are the stories that speak to that experience? I couldn’t find any, so I started writing my own. With The Blackburn Gaslight Adventures, the main characters are a married couple. In the Black and White Adventures, they are boy/girl, but have absolutely no romantic attraction whatsoever; just friends and working partners. I struggled with this for a while, bucking the accepted system. But I’ve come to terms with it. And I think it creates an interesting dynamic, something other than the run-of-the-mill. (Note: my show Fortuna does not follow any of the above dynamics; it’s an ensemble piece, which is a whole ‘nother conversation)
Sorry, guys. Rant over, soapbox stored away safely. Shall we move on?
3) Why do I write what I do?
Because I love it. I grew up on a weird mix of English Lit Classics (the influence of my mom) and the best and worst of Golden Age Science Fiction (the influence of my dad). When I was little, I used to fantasize about having the sort of adventures I read about in Burroughs and Lester Dent and all those exciting stories. I own books and magazines dating back to 1934, I reread the entirety of Doc Savage (that’s about 150 books) at least once a year (then I switch over to John Bunyan and Jane Austin; it makes sense to me, okay? Don’t judge me). I constantly listen to old radio shows and gobble up any book that promises a little adventure. I just love it all and I want to be a part of it. But old married ladies from Hillbillyland don’t have adventures; they have mortgages and grocery shopping and church twice a week and children to raise. If I wanted to have an adventure, I was going to have to write it myself. And the rest is history.
4) How does your writing process work?
I’m a die-hard outliner. Once I have an idea, I generally brainstorm the heck out of it, instant spot research, vomiting ideas more or less at random, looking for holes and hoping for inspiration. Then I let it rest a bit (rest = anywhere between a day and five or six years; just depends). Once the idea has gestated enough, I do an outline. My outlining process varies from story to story; I’ve had a lot of luck with the Snowflake method, but I’ve also used the Lester Dent method, various RPG-inspired methods, and even trusting to my own intuition. But I must have an outline of some sort. I’ve tried writing free-form, and I always end up stuck and frustrated.
Once I have the outline completed, I’m one of those writers who works by the clock. I get up every morning between five and six, pull myself together, and then immediately start writing. I keep writing until lunchtime. At my best, I can get about four thousand words in that time frame (I once got seven thousand, but that was a special circumstance, not to be depended on as a regular thing); but life is seldom ideal, and if I can get a thousand words in that time, I consider it a good day’s work. I write five days a week, Monday through Friday; Saturdays and Sundays are busy times in the Clarkson household. I write linearly; I’ve tried writing out of order, and, again, my brain balks at it. Stupid, annoying brain, so uncooperative.
(BTW: don’t look at the early rising and think I’m some sort of martyr or show-off; I don’t do it from choice. Arthritis makes it very painful to lie abed very long; it wakes me up, and damn, I wish it wouldn’t).
Well, that was fun! Now I must leave you in the hands of my successors. First up is Sarah Hendrix, a friend from the Fort Lost-in-the-Woods area, and a goddess of the SF/F short story. She actually has two writing-related blogs. First up, The darker side of the fire, which is as insightful and full of personality as Sarah herself. The second is a new one, only two posts in so far, but promises to be a laugh a minute: The Gerbil Space Exploration Logs.
Next up, is a debonair Man About Town; cue the music! Oh, wait, sorry, that’s Young Frankenstein. I meant to say, next up is Ted Theewen, a horror writer with an offbeat sense of humor and an absolutely irresistible pull-no-punches literary voice and style. He maintains a blog called Ted’s Creepy Van. (I always get Ted and Frankenstein mixed up; it’s the bolts in the neck that confuse me.
And I think that’s about it from me today. Check out the links and enjoy a fun day of reading my friends’ work. And come back here again on Wednesday, so you can watch me do something I hate worse than housework and dental appointments. In the meantime, don’t forget to comment, share and tweet; your feedback is all the payment I get. And if you have a recommendation for a Fun Friday showcase, please email me (the address is on my About AJ page). And self-recommendations are always welcome; I just want to see/hear/read your play-pretties!