Over at the kboards forum a few weeks ago, fantasy author Heidi Garrett brought up the topic of doing a blog tour amongst us speculative fiction authors, and so began our recent Writing Process Blog Tour. Last week, Cat Amesbury talked about her writing process. Cat is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel, THE GUESTS OF HONOR, and has her next release, WITH HONOR INTACT, dropping this summer. She describes her work as "adult fables that draw inspiration from Lewis Carroll, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Sun Tzu." Sounds good to me! You can find more information on these titles here, so please, go check out her work.
Since she's tasked me with continuing the blog tour, let's get down to tacks with the 4 questions.
1. What am I working on?
Since releasing CONVERGENCE in February, I've been busy working on my second novel, which is currently on track for a 2015 release, once all the much-needed edits are finished.
I'll be releasing more details on EMERGENCE in the coming months, but here's what I can tell you right now: The story picks up three years after the end of CONVERGENCE and it's filled to the brim with action, identity hijacking, conspiracies, and a trip to the seasteading nation-states. If you liked my first novel, I think you'll enjoy its follow-up just as much. It'll be a big damn page-turner!
I am also working on developing my third novel. This is a book I've spent several years thinking about, and once the finishing touches are put on EMERGENCE, I plan on devoting my full attention to this new work. While Book 3 is still very much in the early outlining stages, it will be a stand-alone novel and with a greater emphasis on the mystery/thriller elements. I'm shooting for a more traditional noir vibe with it, but we'll see what happens. I do believe it will be a much more contemporary mystery novel, though, and hopefully it won't feel too alien to the DRMR fans by the time it lands. My big hope, of course, is that it's not only a comfortable fit for those who found me via the DRMR series, but which can widen my audience. I want it to appeal to my current readers, but also bring in some of those The Wire/Veronica Mars/Dennis Lehane/Michael Connelly fans.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think when most people think "science fiction" they focus on extraterrestrials, spaceships, alien planets, intergalactic war, first contact scenarios. Things like that.
My work has absolutely none of that.
I focus more on the Earth-bound, near-future, high-tech aspects of science fiction. While advanced technology plays a key-role, I work hard on keeping as much of the story as grounded as I can. As a product of the 1980s, one of the first TV shows I can remember obsessing about as a child is MAX HEADROOM, and to crib from him, I like to say that my book is coming at you from twenty minutes into the future. In fact, I'd say the late-80s sci-fi dystopia has played a significant role in my own work as a writer. I definitely favor the dystopic scenarios of HEADROOM, ROBOCOP, ALIEN(S), over the utopic fantasies of STAR TREK.
Publisher's Weekly called my book a "smart splice of espionage and science fiction" which is the sort of cross-genre blend that interests me. I tend to think of my work as a bit of William Gibson by way of Barry Eisler. Ultimately, I wanted to tell a thriller story that was more about deception, terrorism, a willful complicity in evil, war, kidnapping, tragedy and loss, fun stuff like that. The only thing was, I had this little technological hook about mnemonic data storage and replay and an altered geopolitical landscape that turned this thriller into a sci-fi thriller.
As a media consumer, I always like it when genre material gets elevated by meshing with something a bit different, or which allows it to strike some disparate chords that actually work well together. Like ALIEN - it's horror, but it's also sci-fi; it uses two different genre staples to elevate the work into something new and fresh that stands the test of time. Or Chuck Wendig's DOUBLE DEAD - could have been a zombie novel, or it could have been a straight-up a vampire novel, but by squishing these two often-separated tropes together you get a crazy, cool new breed.
So, that was my long-range goal with CONVERGENCE. I think the sci-fi elements actually get down-played a fair amount, and I tried to shape that world enough to let people in and make things feel natural. Enough so that when people are stealing memories and getting high on their playback, that's just a part of the overall mystery story that's simmering underneath.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Well, first and foremost, because it interests me! Although I certainly hope readers will find a lot to like in my work, I'm writing mostly to entertain myself. I'm also a bit of a tech-geek and a science junkie, and I try to stay current on what's happening in the world. CONVERGENCE grew out of technological advances over the last fifteen years or so, and has been influenced by clippings from Popular Science to DARPA research and BBC Future postings. Just a few days ago, Discovery reported that in a few weeks military researchers will unveil "new advances toward developing a brain implant that could one day restore a wounded soldier's memory." This concept sounds awfully familiar to me...
I began the DRMR series simply because that's where my current attention and fascination lies. But, I've also written horror, thrillers, mysteries...all of which (with the sole exception of one piece) remain unpublished, and for very good reason. I'm planning on returning to those old stomping grounds in the future, though, and have a few ideas in the back of my head, so we'll see what happens.
Now that I've begun establishing my own series, I need to take a step back from it for a little while and experiment with some different genres. Which is why, with Book 3, I'm planning on going back to my "roots" if you will, and trying my hand at something that is more broadly a straight-up mystery/thriller. I'm particularly excited to write this book since it draws on local Detroit events over the last decade and I get to return to a sort of investigative mode of story telling. I think it'll be fun!
4.How does my writing process work?
With EMERGENCE it bordered more on ritualistic dedication and a demand to craft than anything else. By staying focused and forcing myself to carve out a thousand words every day, or more whenever possible, I was able to knock out the book in only a few months.
Writing CONVERGENCE was definitely a big learning curve and helped shaped my approach in writing its follow-up. Prior to CONVERGENCE, my previous (and again, deservedly unpublished) novels were written in the early 2000s, so getting back into author mode after a long stretch away required strict attention. The first step was to become more of a plotter. Now, in the decade-plus since I last wrote a novel, I did a good deal of freelance journalism, and the fundamentals of writing seem, to me at least, to be generally the same. You need to have a story, and you need to know what your story is about. And, what that story is about can change as more information comes in. So, you need your idea, and you need flexibility to develop that idea.
Typically, before I begin writing long-form pieces (except, obviously, these blog posts...) I have a bare bones outlines. I know the end, at any rate, and usually the beginning. If I'm really lucky, I have a midpoint objective strung up in-between that I can build toward and then work down from to reach the resolution.
Plot-wise, I think CONVERGENCE was a bit more complicated since I was going for more of a mystery/thriller pulp set-up, and there's a fair number of twists and turns and shifting loyalties. For me, having a loose outline worked and I was able to afford myself more flexibility in developing the story and the characters, and their motivations. I didn't really need a heavy outline until about the last third of the book, simply so I could figure out how to unravel and deliver the big story points.
With EMERGENCE, I set out to write more of an action/thriller and ramp up everything as far as I could, and go bigger and wilder and more chaotic and violent. While it made for quick writing, that wouldn't have been possible for me without a stronger, more rigid outline.
Before I set out on EMERGENCE, I plotted. I did an outline and got comfortable with the world I was creating (partly easy because a lot of that legwork was done in the previous work, but partly not so easy because I'm expanding it and bringing in new players and changing the game a bit), and established motivations and back-story for the big, important characters. Villains are important, but they need to have clear motivations, which means that I, as the writer, need to understand their motivations and know why they're doing what they're doing.
So, with a pretty full outline set up, but still leaving a lot of wiggle room for the story to take over, I set out to write a thousand words a day, with the goal of finishing by May. And I did that. In fact, I wrapped up the first draft early by about two weeks! #humblebrag
But, look. My writing process can be a bit screwy and nonsensical and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method one minute, and then finely tuned the next. It's one of those YMMV things. The most important aspect of any writing process, though, is sticking to your guns and finishing what you start.
And then editing the hell out of it. Which is the next stage for EMERGENCE, and it will be, by far, the more brutal, harder aspect. It's all worth it though.
OK, so, that's it for my much-too-long spiel on all this. Before I turn things over to our next blogger, though, here's a little reward for making it this far. If you're a Smashwords customer, you can save 50% on CONVERGENCE and snag the book for only $1.99 by using the coupon code AV28S prior to checkout. This coupon is only good until May 7, so act fast, and feel free to share the code!
Now I'm going to turn things over to Elle Chambers, who will be continuing the tour next week! Elle currently lives and works in a cramped Midwestern closet where she writes dark and erotic fiction. She drinks too much (coffee), eats too much (junk), and will probably be dead by 40. You can catch her in the meantime hanging with fellow author Amber Turner at www.indiespiritpress.com or on Twitter at indie_spirit.
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for William D. Richards' post, as well. William D. Richards discovered writing at an early age thanks to a writing exercise by his fourth grade teacher and since has been bewildering people with his wild flights of fantasy. Yet, it was only recently that he began writing in earnest when the Great Recession forced him into making an involuntary career move. He splits his time between writing, promoting, and coaching others how to take the leap into publishing for themselves. His book, Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody, is available through most ebook retail channels. You can find his blog at http://www.williamdrichards.com/