I'm inviting Emily Thrash.
1.) What are you working on?
Right now I've got two big projects in the air. I'm polishing my first novel, which is an upper middle grade fantasy, and I'm writing a second novel. In addition, I'm working on getting my query material shiny and ready to go. I am planning on entering Pitch Wars in August, and querying the first book in the fall. I plan to finish the second before the end of the year.
2.) How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
I both love and hate this question, but it's one that I've thought a lot about in the long hours I've spent staring at my query. I don't know that I have a good answer, but I'll give it a shot.
When I wrote my first book I was thinking a lot about the idea that our stories follow us around, and if the stories, the fairy tales, that we tell ourselves and our children were real, they would follow people when they emigrated. I took the idea of the Sìdhe, the progenitors of the Irish stories about fairies, and put them in Appalachia, where a huge number of Scottish and Irish immigrants settled. As I explored the mythology of the southeast, I found a number of Cherokee stories of a race of magical beings called the Nunnehi. The parallels between the stories of the Sìdhe and the stories about the Nunnehi were really striking to me, so I decided to put those people together in the same world and see what happened. The result, I think, is a pretty unique take on the portal fantasy trope.
So far, my second book is really different from the first, and I'm exploring some themes that have become really important and interesting to me in the last year. It's a high concept fantasy set in a matriarchal society that's somewhat Victorian, and it deals with identity, the grey areas between good and evil, and families. Also, almost everyone in the world is a twin, so that's weird and kind of fun to work with.
3.) Why do you write what you do?
In college I devoted equal time to poetry and fiction, and because the fiction I wrote was fairly awful, when I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school I applied as a poet. Though I took a couple of fiction workshops, I'd pretty much given up the ghost in terms of writing fiction by the time I left graduate school. I remember Richard Bausch looking me right in the eye during a critique and saying something along the lines of, "Your characters are so emotionless and dry I wonder if you know what feelings are or if you've ever had any yourself." That was rough.
All that's to say, when I sat down and wrote what is now the first chapter of my first novel, it was a lark. I'd graduated from my MFA program with a degree in poetry, but I hadn't been inspired to write poems in a while. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to put in my writing time, to go to work. After weeks of staring at a blank document, I started writing, and the story just sort of unfurled. It took a while to realize I was writing a novel, and even longer to talk about it or let anyone see it.
Now writing novels is all I want to do. I know it's a bit of a cliché, but I'm writing the stories that I've always wanted to read. It's a great feeling.
4.) How does your writing process work?
Like I said, when I wrote my first novel, I didn't realize it was a novel for a long time. When I did, I sat down and wrote a rough outline for what I thought might happen to my characters, which I promptly abandoned. I knew that the MC had to get from point A to point B, but what happened along the way just sort of happened. I have another rough outline for my second book, and thus far (about 25,000 words in) the characters seem to be sticking to the plan (aside from a secondary narrator rearing his head unexpectedly).
Aside from the planning, I like to edit as I go. When I get stuck, or I am not sure what should happen next, I go back and do a thorough edit of everything I've done so far. This keeps me familiar with the details of the story, and allows me time to ponder my next move while I work. I'm extremely blessed to have a boyfriend who is willing to let me talk through the sticky spots in my books with him, and he reads what I'm working on along the way, giving me great insight.
As far as a writing routine, once I get rolling on a project I'm pretty single minded. I write a huge chunks of my first drafts by hand, and then sit down at my computer to transcribe them any time I have a minute. I have a really hard time writing after work because my brain gets too tired, so I try to write early in the day. Typically I try to write at least 1000 words by hand Monday through Friday and transcribe whenever I can. Then I go to a coffee shop on Saturdays and Sundays and work for four or five hours.
I hope this was interesting or useful! Next up, check out Emily for more thoughts about writing.