I was asked by the mighty Alexandra Tys O’Connor to continue the ages-old blog tradition called So You Think You Can Write a Novel. Alexandra linked forward to me through her awesome Whispering Minds blog, in which she made the entire affair look effortless. How like her that is!
The idea is that we’re supposed to wax philosophical, and reveal the inner workings of our artistic workflows, to the titillation of the multitudes. For me, this presents a conundrum, in that my methods are terribly mundane, such as using a scrabble set and an old player piano to generate plot twists.
But, beneath the workaday writerly habits like picking words at random from the thesaurus to spice up my manuscript, writing entire chapters that are palindromes, and having the first letter of each line spell out haikus, there’s not much to say, really. You can only detail the nitty-gritty so many times before the mere mention of quills and papyrus sets heads to nodding.
So, having imposed on your patience long enough, here’s my contribution to posterity:
1- What is the working title of your book?
My current project is a dark fantasy trilogy called Queen of Cinders. The individual books are Waif, Widow, and Witch. Currently, I’m wrapping up the first draft of Book Two: Widow.
2- Where did the idea come from for the book?
My oldest daughter is four, and she’s entering the fairy-tale zone. But, while reading her the many versions of these tales, a number of nagging questions in the setup occur, and won’t let my writer’s mind rest. All of these stories suffer from huge, glaring plot holes, and these demand answers. As the most popular fairy tale, Cinderella was ripe for a mature treatment. While there have been many retellings of this story, my hope was that, by entangling a number of tales, and treating each story with respect, I’d be able to draw adults into them as well.
3- What genre does your book fall under?
Adult fantasy. Emphasis on the adult. While not gratuitous, these books are somewhat graphic, and have disturbing elements not really suitable for children. Of course, if you think about it, the base stories are pretty disturbing on their own.
4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This is really a tough question. No big names spring to mind for this series, perhaps because the standard “fantasy cast” go-tos are all so obvious, and all so very inappropriate. I think a cast of virtual unknowns would suit this well. But the characters all play so many roles in the span of the trilogy that I’d have a hard time casting it. But they’d pretty much all need to be from the UK.
5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Who, really, was that low-born girl that won the hand of a prince and thereby gained a throne?
6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ve got leads on a publishing house, but will also consider shopping for agency representation. Since self-publication changes so quickly, and the proceeds that writers are realizing are now so significant, self-publication is a real possibility, too.
7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
27 days for book one. Or 27 evenings, really, since my useful writing time starts around 10pm. But once I start a project, it’s all I do until it gets done. So why drag it out? But, even with that mentality, book two has taken me forty-five writing nights stretched out over three clumps of about twenty days each. These clumps are separated by huge gulfs filled with other things. My illustration work, for example, has been taking up a lot of time I had earmarked for writing!
8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Probably Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. I’m reaching for that level of definitive reimagining, although the styles are different, as he was channeling L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, a distinctly American take on writing from a bit over a hundred years ago, and I’m going for more the old-world-that-never-was sort of vibe. A more apt comparison might be Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon, as the basic story is there, but in a form and level of detail that makes the forest hard to see for the trees, and definitely with an adult feel to it.
9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?
If I remember correctly, I was considering some point brought up by a writer acquaintance on Agent Query Connect’s forum, and I wrote something in response using fairy tales as an example. In any case, I clearly remember that I continued to think about it afterward, and suddenly had scenes rolling through my head for a true-to-life sort of retelling of Cinderella. When days pass, and an idea won’t let go, it’s best to listen to your muses. If they don’t stop talking about something for a that long, it’s a project that’s worth taking up.
10- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Even though I write fantasy, these books are the first time I’ve ever had a character that uses magic. Wierd, huh? And the first beta readers I’ve run this past didn’t realize the story they were reading, so it stands on its own merits and doesn’t lean on the reader’s knowing the basic thrust of the story in advance. It doesn’t read like a fairy tale, that’s for sure.
Next week, November 7th, tune in to the awe-inspiring Debra McKellan's The Writer Ambitious blog for our first post-election edition of The Next Big Thing. Also, check out Ian Isaro's blog for another dose of Work-In-Progress goodness, and Dean Rich's practical-minded work at his blog, The Write Time. Those with a taste for road-tested cool can also seek out Peter Burton's blog, and see what the Big Dog has to say.