Writing Process Blog Tour!
This is a blog post relay, which the lovely and talented Eileen Favorite (author of The Heroines) invited me to join.
Question #1: What am I working on now?
Presently I’m doing a long, nerveracking, global rewrite of a novel set in contemporary Paris, as yet untitled, though for a while its working title was Paris Gare St.-Lazare, after the busy train station in the eighth arrondissement, a fabled northwest quarter of the city where some of the most famous Impressionist painters once lived. The other day I realized that I’m writing what will likely amount to a new book, but one that shares a cast of characters with the preceding draft. If we stay on schedule, Bloomsbury will publish it in mid-2015.
Question #2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write character-driven fiction, and it’s usually about people trying to understand their thornier desires and those of the people they care about most. In my second book, Little Known Facts, I wrote about a family that orbits a successful film actor; each, except for one person, has the material and social advantages that we’re told from a young age – by the media especially – that we should have, but they’re still not happy. I’m interested in characters who are forced to face some unflattering news about themselves and what happens as a result of this unwanted self-knowledge. I’m not sure if my work is much different from other writers of literary fiction, but the way we each approach characterization, pacing, story structure, and use language and humor, etc. - these are the elements that create an author’s individual voice and style, and I hope there’s something unique about my work. But I couldn’t say what it is.
Question #3: Why do I write what I do?
I try to write books that I would want to read. I have a signature line with my primary email account that explains what I hope to do with each story or novel that I write. It’s a quote from Toni Morrison: “If there is a book you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I mentioned above that my characters are often in conflict with their desires. The painful flaw, the moment of difficult self-knowledge – these are topics of great interest to me, and they continue to fuel my writing process.
Question #4: How does my writing process work?
Some days it works just fine; other days I mentally flog myself, but what finally happens is quite mundane: I stop making excuses, stop doing the dishes, stop running errands, grading papers, and finally I sit in my chair and start writing. I also read as much as I can (when not doing dishes/running errands/grading papers) and feel almost physically fortified by writers who inspire me; one whose books I’ve lately been obsessed with is Scott Spencer (A Ship Made of Paper, The Rich Man’s Table, Men in Black [no relation to the silly movies], Endless Love; two-time National Book Award finalist, raised in Chicago, U of WI-Madison graduate, genius.) Also, short story writer and novelist Mavis Gallant, who died at 91 on February 18. Great souls. I highly recommend them both.
Here are three writers whom I've invited to join this tour.
They will post their entries on April 7:
Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer. She's the author of Any Anxious Body (2014, Broadstone Books) and a novel manuscript, Charmed Particles. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in a number of literary journals and anthologies. You can learn more about her work at www.chrissykolaya.com
Paulette Livers is the author of the novel Cementville (Counterpoint Press, March 2014). The recipient of the 2012 David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction, her work has also been shortlisted for awards from Writers at Work and the Sozopol Summer Literary Seminars. Her stories have appeared in The Southwest Review, The Dos Passos Review, Spring Gun Press, and elsewhere, and can be heard at the audio-journal Bound Off. A member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, she lives in Chicago. http://paulettelivers.com/whats-new/
A professor of Renaissance literature at Western Michigan University, Grace Tiffany is the author of five historical novels set in the Middle Ages or the English Renaissance. Her fiction has been honored by the American Library Association and by Book Sense 76, the “best books” list of the association of American independent bookstores. Her latest novel, Paint, is based on the life of seventeenth-century English poet Emilia Lanier. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and maintains a blog at www.shakespearefiction.blogspot.com.