I’ve been nominated to take part in this ongoing initiative by Neil Williamson, following on from Liz Williams, and before her Claire Weaver. Do go and read their excellent posts too. The rules are that you answeer the four questions below and then tag three more writers. Nominated next on the blog tour: Sherwood Smith, Jaine Fenn and Kari Sperring. Check their blogs over the next weeks.
1. What am I working on?
Crossways, a sequel to Empire of Dust which is due out from DAW on 4th November 2014. Both are science fiction / space operas set in my Psi Tech Universe in which mega corporations are more powerful than any one planetary government, even that of Earth. They race each other to gobble up resources across the galaxy, seeding and controlling colonies, using as their agents the implant-enhanced psi-techs they have created.
The psi-techs are bound to the mega-corps, that is, if they want to retain their sanity.
The first book introduces Cara Carlinni and Reska ‘Ben’ Benjamin and puts them through a fair amount of torment, setting them at odds with their former bosses and aligning them with Crossways, a huge free-trade space habitat governed by an uneasy alliance of career criminals and fugitives.
The second book is a direct sequel in which a hunt for survivors turns into a battle for survival.
2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?
I think it would be massively pompous of me to suggest that I’m writing something new and different. I’m pretty sure everything has been done before is some way, by someone, but take any one idea and give it to ten different writers and you’ll have ten different stories. Mine is character-driven space opera. I’m sure there’s a lot of it about, but hopefully my characters and their predicaments will engage you. I write action and adventure set on new worlds, in space, or in a version of the past that never existed. I don’t shy away from relationships. My three book deal with DAW starts off with two linked science fiction novels and then diversifies because my third book is a historical fantasy set in 1800 with magic and includes a cross-dressing pirate captain, a jealous ghost, a wolf shapechanger and a two hundred year old problem that has to be solved to right a wrong.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Stories just demand to be written. And once I’ve started, characters won’t let me stop until I’ve resolved their problems and let them off the hook. (or maybe until they’ve let me off the hook.) I write both science fiction and fantasy, anything with an element of ‘made-up-stuff’, whether far future, distant past or alternate worlds. I’m not a reader of ‘mundane’ fiction so I’d never write it. I’ve always been attracted to read speculative or (sometimes) historical fiction. I live in the present day, I don’t have to read or write about it.
4. How does my writing process work?
I tend to get an idea for a scene on my head – an opening, maybe, though it doesn’t always end up at the beginning of the book – and then I just write and let words fall out of my fingers and on to the screen. At that stage I’m writing to see what happens, who my character is and to discover the key problem that needs to be resolved. As I write things tend to coalesce in my brain and usually by the end of the first chapter, maybe five thousand words, I’ve started to form an idea about where the story is heading. The idea for the resolution usually follows on fairly quickly from the discovery of the initial problem, but the middle bit is usually very flexible at that stage.
Once ideas have started to fall into some kind of logical order I will start to make notes and plan though there can often be sections that are glossed over. My initial plan might not me much more than: 1) It begins; 2) Stuff happens; 3) It ends. Once I have the skeleton in place I’ll start to flesh out characters, work out their backgrounds and start to explore my world. That’s the point at which I can get sidetracked into endless research if I’m not careful.
Yes, even though I make stuff up it still needs to feel real, and therefore I need to hang it on facts. Even if it’s not real, it has to feel as though it could be. Whether set in the past or the future I’m really looking for those details that will give me verisimilitude. For instance, my privateer ship in the historical fantasy book is based on a real ship and even though I’ve invented an island country in the middle of the North Atlantic, it’s still 1800, Mad King George is on the throne, the Americans have fought the British for independence and Napoleon is still hammering at the gates of Europe.
Research aside, eventually I have to sit down and write. I work from home. I’m a booking agent for folk bands and performers touring the UK from all over the world http://www.jacey-bedford.com so I’m at my desk for more hours a day than is strictly healthy. I intersperse the day job work with the writing. I wish I could say I have a strict system, but I don’t. Sometimes there’s a lot of day job work that has an impending deadline which takes precedent. Other times I might get two solid days writing. Quite often my writing happens late at night after the world has gone quiet and the phone has stopped ringing and no one wants a piece of me. I have been known to write ten thousand words in a day, though I can’t keep that up for long. I have achieved fifty thousand words in three weeks, though it was a Herculean effort and I needed a few days lie down in a darkened room afterwards. I do try to write something every day, though, even if it’s only 500 words.
The first draft is only the beginning, of course. After that follows extensive revision – usually after a cooling off period. I enjoy the revision process and often rewrite scenes, add in extras, move things round and remove superfluous characters and scenes. Thanks to Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php it’s easy to work through on a scene by scene basis and then recompile it into one single doc file afterwards.
I like writing to find out what’s going to happen but I also love revision. Reshaping the rough draft into something approaching usable. I find it hard to put the brush down and to know when it’s finished, of course, but luckily my lovely editor at DAW now has the final say on that.