Time for a fun little blog tour thing in which I answer questions about my writing process! Thanks to Kristin Maffei for tagging me. Kristin’s a poet who also works in publishing, and you should totally check out her blog Not Intent On Arriving.
I originally told her I would have to wait until after I was done packing and moving to write this post. Obviously I lied. Procrastination for the win!
1.) What are you working on?
I’m throwing about 92% of my energy into one specific novel project right now, and that is an urban fantasy that I’m super excited about, and which I sometimes refer to on this blog as RU/SS. I recently finished a gigantic restructuring. (Gigantic like I find myself panting a little when I remember all the work that went into it.) I thought the current draft would be done after that but then I decided to rewrite a few specific chapters, clean up some stray threads. What’s next is to go back to the beginning and literally retype every single sentence, straighten out the prose, do a lot of trimming. (I actually wrote a post just last month that’s more thorough and talks about my other current projects as well.)
2.) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I guess what I hope sets my work apart is the weirdness. I like weird shit. I can’t help but inject strange ideas into everything I write, whether I’m working on YA fantasy or adult literary. Sometimes that means a weird sci-fi premise and sometimes that means a weird relationship between characters.
3.) Why do you write what you write?
I think about 99% of what I write comes out of a potentially unhealthy fixation on certain ideas. There are two specific themes I keep accidentally stumbling into, and you’ll find one or both of them in almost all of my writing: death and identity.
There was a period of several years when I was a kid when I cried every night in the shower because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do if my parents died. I had really awful recurring nightmares about serial murderers breaking into my home and how I would try to kill them with my music stand before they could get to my parents. I know, I was weird (and an orchestra nerd). Eventually I grew out of it, but I still hyperventilate at least once each year before my parents make their trip to Taiwan, out of the fear that it’s the last time I’ll see them. (My parents and I have an unusually codependent relationship which includes talking on the phone for an hour every single day, so that’s maybe part of it.) So a lot of my stories are about the loss of a parent, or the preemptive fear of loss.
The identity theme definitely comes from growing up as an Asian American woman and finding myself recalibrating every time I figure out something new about what that means. A lot of my fantasy projects have featured a main character coming up against an identity crisis and figuring out who s/he is. And a lot of my short stories are about not fitting in for one reason or another (e.g. children of color living in a tiny all-white town in the Midwest; people born with oddities that horrify the rest of society).
4.) How does your writing process work?
Oh geez. Staring at a blank page and writing into the darkness terrifies me, so I very often start with an outline. My definition of “outline” is super loose and it definitely looks different for every project. Occasionally the beginning of a new story comes out because I’m struck by an image, or a sharp sentence floats into my head and sticks there until I write it out. But usually I don’t get farther than a few paragraphs before I have to pause and make some sort of rough sketch for where I’m headed. Then I throw down a crazy rough draft — seriously just churning words onto the page and trying my best to disregard all the crap. Once I’ve got all of the story down I start playing with the pieces and the characters, shifting this, cutting that. My process feels a little like laying down watercolors, starting with a pencil outline, painting the large vague shapes, and then deepening colors and sharpening details with each new draft.
My turn to pick writers! I’m tagging some really awesome Twitter folk:
Elsie Chapman, whose debut novel Dualed was just recently gifted to me! It’s sitting all pretty in my to-read box (which is very sadly sealed up for moving). The opening sentence of that book is constantly stuck in my head: “I’ve buried nearly everyone I love.”
Corey Ann Haydu, who will probably be more disciplined and actually wait until after her move to post answers. She has a new book out — Life By Committee — that I desperately need to read because I’ve heard only amazing things. Fun side note: Corey and I first started emailing back when we were both trying to decide which MFA programs to go to. We lost touch for a while after that and then reconnected on Twitter a few years later.
Victoria Schwab, who doesn’t know it yet but one day I’m going to steal her brain and have it surgically implanted into my own skull. She’s the author of so many awesome books that you absolutely must read. If you haven’t bought yourself a copy of Vicious yet I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Sam Sykes, who is probably most responsible for me cackling at my phone and looking like a crazy person while out in public. Follow him on Twitter if you need are in need of some good entertainment. His book Tome of the Undergates is at the top of my wishlist and I really hope someone gives it to me for my birthday. *cough cough*
Can’t wait to see what these badass writers say about their own processes!