Blog Tour Bonus Interview

Well, after the disastrous ending of the last Character Backstage, I think we’re done with these interviews. Thank you, everyone, for—

[thumping off stage]

Lissa: Hey! We want to play!

Kari: Yeah! We can sit in chairs and talk just like grown-ups!


Kari: Everybody else got to play. Don’t be mean!

[They each climb into a chair.]

All right. Go ahead.

Kari: What do we do?

Uh, you ask questions.

Kari: [beaming] I’m good at this!

Lissa: We have to ask grown-up questions. [voice deepens, becomes stern] Kari, why did you eat all the chocolate cookies?

Kari: I shared them with you!

Lissa: You did not!

Kari: I did too. I put them on a plate and I said, “These are for Lissa.” But you didn’t eat them, and I didn’t want to waste them.

Lissa: Kari Thorne, you go to your room!

Kari: No! It’s my turn to ask a question. Don’t you think Marley is pretty?

Lissa: I dunno. She’s not pretty like the other ladies Uncle Zachariah knows. But she has a very nice smile.

Kari: Lissa Thorne, you go to your room!

Lissa: Why? I answered!

Kari: I think Marley and Uncle Zach should get married. Then Marley could stay with us all the time.

Lissa: I don’t know if that’s a good idea…

Kari: Why not?

Lissa: Dunno. Might make some people grumpy.

Kari: Those people are mean and don’t deserve Marley.

Lissa: I guess so. My turn. You should give me your doll, since you ate my cookies.

Kari: What? No way! You had your own doll, I saw it.

Lissa: I lost it. When—

[loud buzzing]

Lissa: What was that?

There are some things you’re not supposed to talk about in these interviews.

Kari: Why not? What are we supposed to talk about?

Casual things. Interpersonal things.

Kari: I don’t know what that means. What does the voice mean, Lissa?

Lissa: Boring things, I think.

Kari: [big sigh] Of course.

Lissa: I think if we made the voice and the camera go away, we could say whatever we wanted, though.

Kari: Can’t be bad.

Lissa: Not bad. Just point them at boring stuff. All the boring things they want.

Kari: Ooh! Like that tv channel with lots of old men talking.

Lissa: Yeah. Like that. Have fun, voice person.

Kari: You mean don’t have fun.

Lissa: Oh yeah. Bye!

I mean, not with a stick or anything.

I’m working on outlining a new story.

Well, I say ‘working on’ but the last couple of days have been exercises in cat-vacuuming. I’ve gotten a lot of the basics of character, worldbuilding, and theme down. I even had a sense of the ending, and the overall developing action. What I didn’t have was a plot to string all this together.

I mean, plot is hard for me. In this case it was even harder because I almost could have made a story out of meandering character development and world exploration, a sort of magic realism– and part of me wanted to. But the story is a direct sequel to a definite contemporary/urban fantasy, and I’ve read far too many complaints about sequels being incredibly different books from the original to want to tread that route by switching whole _subgenres_.

Plus, I know what a solid plot adds to a story: it adds action, it adds pacing, and it usually brings a whole bunch of secondary character definition and scene ideas. Without knowing my plot in advance, my characters would spend a lot of time in the kitchen drinking coffee.

Anyhow, backstory explained: [Copied from Google Plus.]

Well, at least I got almost six hours of sleep before getting smacked in the face with a (relevant) idea about how to solve my plot hangup and a third of a novel unfolded before my eyes.

(Well, I say ‘getting smacked in the face’ but it wasn’t the ‘wake up out of a sound sleep with the Muse standing over me with a shovel’ variety. I’d woken up naturally, was having trouble drifting off again, and started the Hour of the Wolf, in which I chew helplessly on the problems afflicting me. I hate the Hour of the Wolf. But in this case, almost as soon as I turned my attention to the issue, I asked myself the Right Question about it. And lost all ability to go back to sleep.)

And, as is starting to feel suspiciously ordinary, it is the kind of idea that seems like it might get me into… trouble.

Plus, it breaks about half the guidelines I set out for narrowing in on a plot.

So now here I am, listening to the sun rise, thinking about all the work I have to (get to?) do now. I’m pretty sure I’ll do about a fifth of it before realizing ‘oh no, this idea won’t work!’. That’s just the way these things go. And it _will_ work. With some, er, work.


Oh so busy revising and writing and driving

Well, the Handy Small Child has started preschool, and I’ve started working through the Matchbox Girls edit notes in earnest. The lazy days of summer, when all I had to do was write a Nightlights scene a day and do chores, have drifted away like autumn leaves.

Of course, it’s the hottest weather we’ve had all summer right now. I mean, my tomatoes  don’t care, they’re still stubbornly staying green, because they’re conspiring against me. But still, hot weather.

Anyhow, this weekly post is supposed to be about Matchbox Girls. It’s my novel! It’s coming out in February! I’m going through it closely for the first time in at least six months. It hasn’t faded as much as I thought it might, but I did spend three years weeping tears of blood over it. Maybe it takes more than six months for those to fade.

Yes, okay, hyperbole. I don’t think I even cried salt tears over it. I did, however, reach the 3/4th point in the original draft, then decide it was All Crap and wrote it all over again from scratch. And it took a long time. Three+ years from start to finish, as I said (and for comparison, I’ve written 111,000 words since starting Nightlights in April).

A few scenes from the initial draft made it into the second draft mostly unmodified, but there were huge, huge changes, too. Characters cut, characters added, sub-plots expanded, sub-plots removed. Sometimes I run into brainstorming from before I even started the initial draft and it’s barely recognizable.

One thing I’ve noticed I do in the process of refining a story idea is that I strip information from the protagonist. In early iterations of an idea, the protagonist is often well-informed, with clear instructions and knowledgeable mentors. This makes maintaining tension harder, which affects pacing. So I throw out most of the information and make acquiring it part of the plot. What I do is probably a bit of a cheat, and I’m sure many excellent authors are able to provide a well-paced story without throwing characters in over their heads.

But it seems to be an effective cheat.

Okay, going through editorial comments and changes probably adds a lot of tension to the reading process for me. But while every scene is still laser-engraved in my memory, I still picked up this sense of growing anxiety and dread from the story, an awful sense of ‘Oh God, what’s going to happen next?’ Ridiculous, because I know. I wrote it. Ridiculous and weird. A couple of beta readers mentioned that they’d read most of the story in one sitting, which I dismissed at the time as ‘they were trying to get through it fast’. (Sorry, beta readers! Please forgive me!) Now, I’m wondering if I maybe did something right.

Posts like this are hard for me. The idea that saying something good about myself or my work will backfire on me is deeply, deeply ingrained. But I also need to do lots of self-promotion to succeed in this new publishing world. Or at least– I need to do some self-promotion. I still firmly believe that quality should rise to the top, but I’ve grudgingly come to admit that it can’t happen if it’s hidden in a closet. It’s easier for introverted me to work on quality improvement over selling myself, but I’ve got to work on both.

So, Matchbox Girls. Every sixty pages or so, it changes gears, always going faster. I think people will like it. And you’ll probably be hearing more from me about it.