Monday, 28 April 2014

I'm up, on the writing blog tour

Readers, for this post you'll need to put your outdoor shoes on. We're going on a journey, well, not so much a journey, more of a tour. A 'writing blog tour'. Not everyone likes these little pockets of me, me, me wisdom but I love their charm and character, they are a fascinating insight into writing, or more specifically the writing processes of writers. It's like a really posh nosiness, a kind of 'come dine with me' snoop in the bedroom with drama that's not on the stove but in the fingertips of those who cook words and scenarios rather than dinner.

Don't get me wrong, writers eat too but we make an awful lot of things up so an actual come dine with me would most definitely involve some level of fabrication as part of its preparation and delivery. The pastry wouldn't emerge from the simple process of opening a paper bag of flour. The story would more likely begin in the pocket of a battered leather saddle-bag, on the back of a donkey in a partially ploughed field, on a thinly populated island inaccessible by anything other than a bi-annual boat trip. Or something like that..

Okay, for those of you not sure of what is about to whet your appetite, here's how it works. A writer, who has been nominated by another person of words, answers four questions that are designed to reveal something about the inner sanctum of the writers' writing and writing processes. I was nominated by Paul Cuddihy who is a prolific writer of some four published books and he's working on another. He's also really proactive and is incredibly passionate about his love for writing. His enthusiasm gives me a wee shake when I need it. This is one such shake.

Before I answer the questions on the menu, you can read Paul's very well constructed responses to the blog tour HERE.

And to the questions.

What am I working on?
I'm working on my second novel. The process is one of absolute joy and excitement, the kind of all-encompassing satisfaction that makes sense of why I was put on this earth and reminds me of why I write. But then, as is always the case, such moments of joy are always compounded, sometimes just moments later, with sheer panic, a key-stone cop crisis of confidence that has me physically lunging, hopscotching out my despair in comedy, spindly legged fashion.

Drama folks, is definitely part of the writing deal.

Fortunately I don't panic (other than in the actual moment, which is admittedly, quite panicky) as I understand that uncertainty is a part of the process and always, always the way forward emerges. I guess I'm lucky in that I work in a creative environment and I have learned to trust my instincts and believe in my ability to let the right outcome emerge in it's own time. It aye does and it's lovely when it does.

Anyway, the novel, which I won't say too much about for now, has been as long as 35,000 words and is now a little over 15,000. Much of what I had written was telling me what the story was, now I need to show the reader how the narrative and characters will illustrate it. The scythe has been swung and I'm seeing the beauty beneath.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
This is actually a difficult question to answer as it's not easy to be truly original when writing fiction as characters are always in some respects familiar to the reader, no matter how unique we as writers try to make them. However, I can say that my work is different from others in this genre because I stay true to the characters, I let them be themselves and dictate their journey. It's their narrative and that in itself must equate to difference, no?

My first novel, The Birds That Never Flew featured the Virgin Mary, not as you might think of her, if indeed you have ever thought about thinking of her, but as a young Glaswegian with a local twang and attitude that doesn't hold back. Her 'language' was in some respects her strength, it allowed her to illustrate Elizabeth's vulnerability (the narrator of the story) with a toughness that might not have been as compelling in another tongue. In my new novel, language, or at least an interpretation of it, is a key component of the relationship between two of the central characters, twin brother and sister Barra and Rathlin. I don't want to say too much about it but sometimes language isn't always about talking and that in itself can make the narrative, and the body of the work, different from anything else that is out there.

Why do I write what I do?
I write what I do because I believe that the stories aren't just important to me, they reflect the narrative journey of the world that we all peel away from and then just as frequently disappear into, our rollercoaster lives bouncing along with drama and pain and tragedy and sometimes even joy. There's a lot of me and the world I understand in my characters and I'm sure my experiences are shared and that my stories are a reflection of what is to some a familiar and often overwhelming world.  I think consuming writing you already know the taste of can be even better than devouring a big bowl of your favourite mashed spuds (or insert similar comfort food fetish)...

I also write the way I do because I am compelled to, my stories are character driven and they don't sit about saying whheeessstt if anyone tries to speak. They holler, I listen and then I do my best to capture what they are saying.

How does my writing process work?
Probably not in the most efficient way. I tend to write a little blind, I know roughly what my hypothesis is (although that seems a little crude) and who my key characters are and then I start to write. I'll have an absolute sense of who my protagonists are and what their story is, but I let them drive the narrative as we go along, giving some of the plot responsibility to them. This process means that characters develop on the road and their outcomes alter or emerge completely differently. For example, I always knew Elizabeth's story in The Birds That Never Flew and I always knew that Mary would impact on her life as she carried out her quest for 'revenge' but the other key characters; Sadie, Paddy, Alan, Larry Spencer, Collette and Laura developed their own characteristics along the way and challenged most of the notions I had of how they would drive the story. It's living a wee bit on the edge, but it's fun when it's working!

I'm doing the same in my new novel, I know absolutely what Rathlin and Barra's story is but I'm writing with five or six additional characters and they are all emerging and adapting and making the conflicting narratives so much more interesting than anything I could have pre-planned. I'm trusting my instincts and the fact that the characters are strong enough to shape the story in a manner which is natural to the people I am writing about. Well, I am at the moment, ask me again at the end of the day and I'll undoubtedly be in crisis...

I write when I can, which isn't as often as I would like it to be, but even when I don't have pen on paper (or fingertips on keyboard) I'm scribbling away beneath my eyelids, absorbing situations that I know will work.

I always, though, start the day creatively, writing a 140 character piece of prose on Twitter that illustrates the world I see beyond my eyes. Before I get out of bed I look out of the window and write about what's in front of me, being as honest and open as I can. It's about seeing what's really there, not what appears to be there at first glance. The world is an astonishing place, if we choose to look at it with our eyes open to possibilities. It's a wee bit twee I guess but it starts my day positively and in my hectic life you can't hope for any more than that!

And that my lovely readers is that.

It's time I went back to my writing and as I do I will pass the blog tour baton on to the amazing Sara Sheridan who will undoubtedly be an intriguing asset to this process.

Sara is a hugely successful author and is the creator of the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries - a series of 1950s murder mysteries that have been dubbed 'Miss Marple with an edge'. She also writes historical novels based on the real-life adventures of Georgian and Victorian explorers. She is also incredibly hard working so I'm really keen (nosey!) to learn more about how she manages to be both creative and prolific in equal abundance.

She'll be posting her responses on the 12th of May. In the meantime you can find out a bit more about her prolific writing career HERE:

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