Monday, July 21, 2014

Resurfacing for Writing Blog Tour!

Greetings and many apologies for not blogging in a very long time! I have LOTS of excuses--most of them boring--but now I'm popping back in to be part of a writer's blog tour, thanks to author Patricia Hruby Powell. I'm such a great fan of her nonfiction, particularly her latest book, Josephine: the Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, I couldn't say no.

So here are the four question on writing we're answering:

1. What are you currently working on? Well, now that all the revisions and edits are done on my middle grade novel, Lucky Strike (Scholastic), coming out next spring, I have a couple different projects I'm working on. I'm about half way through a young adult novel tentatively titled Pink Slip. It's about what happens when The Infinite Mysterious (God to some people) decides that the human race has not passed its probationary period and is about to be given the pink slip. I'm also working on a picture book biography about the last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, Jimmy Winkfield. The more I work on it, the more admiration I have for people like Patricia who write such excellent biographies for kids. It's hard!

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?  That's a tough question. As far as Pink Slip goes, the idea came to me in response to my bafflement with the whole trend of dystopian fiction, and also from my life-long contemplation of religion and spiritual beliefs. After reading The Hunger Games and Divergent, I just couldn't understand why, if the majority believe there is a god who influences everything we do, why he/she would allow the human race to become the way they are in these dystopic worlds. Besides, who needs to create these violent worlds when we're killing each other at such a vicious rate? The book about Jimmy Winkfield will hopefully live up to the other wonderful picture book bios out there!

3. Why do you want to write?  I often ask myself that question as I stare blankly at my computer on a beautiful summer day! I think more than "want to write" it's that I "have to write." I just feel better about my self and about the world when I write. Plus I have all these little voices yakking away in my head. The only way I can get them to shut up is to write! Finally, I write because I LOVE connecting with readers. There's no better high on earth than to meet or get an email from a young person who passionately loves what you write. Nothing can beat that.

4. How does your individual writing process work?  I tend to think about a story for a long time before I sit down to actually write it. That time period can be a couple of months, like with A Dog's Way Home, to five or six years, as with The Dogs of Winter. If I'm still excited by the story after the initial first blush has faded, then I make notes about the story, setting, and characters. This is not an outline! I am NOT an outliner before the first draft. Once I do start writing, I try to get that first draft down a fast as I can. Again, though, that can vary from nine months to four months. I try to write most every day but that doesn't always happen. I'm very happy if I get three to four fairly good pages written when I do write. Because my brain gets tired when I work on fiction, I like to have a nonfiction project to work on at the same time. So a lot of times, I'll work on my fiction project in the first half of the day and then on the nonfiction the second half. All of my books, even fiction, require a lot of research. When I  came up with the idea for The Dogs of Winter, I researched for five years before I wrote the first draft. The irony, though, is that before I actually sit down to write the story, I have to forget all the things I've learned! In a novel, you don't want your "research seams" to show. I try not to get too hung up on "process" though. It seems like the process for each book is different. The two things that are consistent with my process is I always write in my office and have music on when I write.

Okay, that's it! Next you'll hear from my good friend, Becky Hall. She's the author of A Is For Arches and Morris and Buddy: the story of the first seeing eye dog.