It seems ironic to discuss my writing process on this week of all weeks. I will not bore you with my technical problems. If you would like to know the details of how my netbook rebelled against my move away from a Big Corporate OS by discarding an entire month’s worth of writing, you can read about it here. For my part, I will remember those lost chapters as the best I ever wrote. Nothing will ever achieve their level of greatness (That’s very easy to say, you might rightly point out, because nobody will ever read them). There is really only one word to say in response to a situation like this, and as a children’s book author, I probably shouldn’t say it.
Before I go on, I shall acknowledge the substantial talents of the person who invited me onto this blog train, Yusuf Toropov, whose novel, Jihadi: A Love Story, is a quarter finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And rightly so; it is a remarkable piece of work. I feel honoured to be following in his blogging footsteps.
a) What am I working on?
Two novels (as if one weren’t enough work). I am continuing The Galian Spear series with The Sword of Want, and it is going to be longer and more action-packed than the first book. After a visit to 18th-century Dublin, it is now wending its way through the mythical Dark Ages, on the tracks of the elusive Orvin Flint. The Dark Ages are a great era from a writing point of view because it is a time almost nothing is known about. The imagination is free to do anything. (Well, almost anything. If Orvin took out his smartphone and started tweeting, it might seem a bit of a reality stretch).
The reason I am writing two books at the same time is because two publishers have expressed a strong interest in another of my works in progress and to capture this interest before it wanes, I am hell bent on finishing The Frozen Man as soon as possible. The Frozen Man is not a children’s book. It is a thriller set in 2018, and it is quite political, in its own way. It is very different from The Galian Spear, although they have some things in common: They are both set in Ireland, they both have elements of fantasy and they both feature volcanoes, although in very different ways.
b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think we are all marked by our influences. When I was writing my first book , one writer especially stood out in my mind, E. Nesbit. Nesbit wrote in the 1900s, but she had a very progressive, bohemian outlook for her time, and I think this is why her work has endured so well. I also have always been drawn to books that combine the mundane ordinary aspects of the world with parallel worlds of magic or mythology. This form of magic realism features in my work whether I am writing for adults or children.
c) Why do I write what I do?
My first novel, now titled The Spear of Time, largely arose from my desire to write something for children that they would enjoy. With this in mind, I included many elements that had appealed to me in children’s books when growing up and ones that I knew would entertain my children. The result is a blend of mythology, time travel, science fiction, adventure and fantasy.
The Frozen Man was inspired by the culture of fear that has arisen in the last decade-and-a-half and been fueled by global events and the people who influence them. I began writing it in 2003 and have continued to add to it over the years. I shelved it in order to write The Spear of Time, but it is an idea that will not go away. Last summer, when Edward Snowden was trapped in the no-man’s land of the transit area of Moscow Airport, a crucial element of The Frozen Man occurred to me, and I realized that the time had come to complete the novel.
d) How does my writing process work?
In one word: coffee. No, two words: coffee and chocolate. Actually, three words: coffee, chocolate, and being anywhere else other than my own home. I know… that’s way more than three words. I wrote much of the first draft of The Spear of Time in the lobby of a Dublin theatre called The Helix. My primary writing tools, along with my (now treacherous) netbook, were a large cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate biscuit cake. I can no longer write this way, sadly, because if I did, I would eventually be unable to get out of the house in the first place. The chocolate biscuit cake has had to go, but I now have something I didn’t have when I was originally writing the book: a wonderful network of other writers. Knowing others are there, ready to offer support or act as beta readers and give their unreservedly honest opinion, is a great incentive. I especially must mention Richard Gibney, whose encouraging feedback has kept me going at times when I might simply have given up, and Matt Dickinson, who has been both perceptive and extremely honest.
It is now time to introduce next week’s contributors to the My Writing Process blog tour. I have the honour of passing the baton to three very talented writers: Ruth Eastham, Sarah Holding, and Heather Hill. Here is some information about each of them:
Ruth Eastham was born in the north of England and has lived in several different UK cities, as well as New Zealand, Australia and Italy. Her first two novels, The Memory Cage and The Messenger Bird, between them won 5 awards and were shortlisted for 12 others including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Ruth’s latest book, Arrowhead, has just been released.
Find out more about Ruth and her work at: http://www.rutheastham.com/
Heather Hill – comedy author & mum of five (not the band) is one of a rare kind; the rare kind being a member of the O negative blood group, pitch perfect (therefore unable to fully enjoy the atonal drones of Scotland’s bagpipes) and one of the 0.5% of females that is ever-so-slightly colour blind. She is known to have been prevented from leaving the house with blue eyebrows on at least one occasion.
Find out more about Heather and her work at www.hell4heather.com
Sarah Holding. “Having worked as a postman, an architect, a university professor and an urban development consultant, Sarah Holding is now a full-time children’s author, juggling writing with looking after a family of three children. They live in Surrey in a funny old house with a leaning tower. When she’s not writing she’s singing, and when she’s not singing she’s playing sax in her jazz band. She says she knew there would always come a time when the abandoned island of St Kilda would feature somewhere in her life, little thinking it would be the setting for her first children’s book, nor that her trilogy would join the ranks of a new genre of sci-fi otherwise known as ‘cli-fi’.”
Find out more about Sarah at: Sarah-holding.com
Ruth Eastham, Heather Hill and Sarah Holding will be posting their contributions to the My Writing Process Blog Tour on May 19th.