Blog Archives

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

My friend Emily Swartz tagged me in a blog hop meme and gave me some questions to answer about inspiration and my writing process. Here are my responses – and the bios/links for the next authors I’m tagging!

1) What am I working on?

Lots and lots of things. My main project at the moment is refining and plot-doctoring my Victorian Dark Fantasy novel (yeah, that’s a codename) with my mentor at the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA. I also have to read two books for that each month, on which I then write two papers. Also for Stonecoast: our July workshops are bearing down upon us, so I’m currently editing one short story about parallel universes and halfway through writing another about all the nifty lost bits of Toronto.

I’m also working on an “interactive, text-based, online game,” which is a fancy way of saying I’m writing a “choose-your-own-adventure-style” story, which will have buttons to click instead of pages to turn. Keeping all the branching storylines straight has been a fun challenge…and it’s kind of sci-fi, which is new for me.

I also write for two blogs. This one has posts up every Saturday, and we have Thirsty Thursdays over at The Black Creek Growler, which is the official blog of the Black Creek Historic Brewery.

Then I drink coffee, because that’s just the writing which is strictly mine. There are also the internships. Ah, the internships…

I’m the official intern of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Mostly, I oversee Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’s calendars, booking interviews and keeping track of appearances and suchlike. Using my Victorian research skillz, I post to the Ministry’s Facebook page. I also edit stories for Tales from the Archives—a podcast anthology of Ministry short stories—and it was strongly hinted that I should start writing another story to follow up Under Oak Island.

UnderOakIsland_Cover_small

But remember, I said internships? One isn’t enough! I also intern for Mur Lafferty, scheduling interviews, keeping track of her calendar, and so forth.

I also became a freelance editor along the way. I’ve joined the One-Stop Writer Shop, which is a really cool resource for self-published authors: you can find everything from editing to layout, from audio book production to marketing!

Also, I owe my friend Marie Bilodeau a blog post soon.

And I return to the dayjob in two weeks.

Next question, please?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Although I consider myself a fantasy writer, I don’t really write the usual questing stories. While I often draw from history and myth, I tend to turn things inside-out and then run in the opposite direction with them.

Sometimes, that means combining a literary term (a hapax is a word that occurs only once in a body of work) with a theological concept (“…the Word was with God and the Word was God”) and seeing what happens (answer: this). Other times, it means using Irish mythology and history as the most tenuous of analogies to explain a backwater, pseudo-Victorian village to myself.

Despite the epic themes, my work is also very much focused on people. Yes, there is magic and gods and (sometimes) apocalypses: but there are also families, people endlessly seeking home, people trying very hard to do the right thing in terrible situations.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I see many possible answers to this question: some philosophical, some practical.

The practical ones are easy, so let’s start with those. Sometimes, I write the things I do because someone has said, “If you write this thing for me, I will give you monies!” Since my landlord and the grocery store regularly desire monies from me, I say, “Okay!” Don’t get me wrong—I still have fun, and always latch onto something in the project that sparks my passion. It’s just that this habit of saying, “Yeah, sure, I could do that!” has landed me some opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise, which is wonderful.

Otherwise, an exchange from The Red Shoes comes to mind:

 

The Red Shoes: quippy dialogue, music, and those awesome 1940s movie accents.

Why do you want to dance?

Why do you want to live?

Well, I don’t know exactly why, but I must.

That’s my answer too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, my writing springs from some deep-rooted feeling –  my best pieces have always been love songs in one form or another. Other times, a character emerges from the aether and won’t leave me alone. They pester me, whispering constantly in my ear, teasing me with images and emotions until I finally get their story out.

4) How does my writing process work?

When an idea first starts whispering, I try not to scare it away. I let it develop in the back of my head, like one of those old Polaroid snapshots coming into focus. When I can see more relevant details, I start asking questions.

Who is that woman? How does this magic work? When did this one country invade another country? The answers spark more questions, and so this back-and-forth with myself continues, sometimes for a few days, sometime for months, writing long letters to myself or musing on the bus.

When it feels right (and it’s hard to explain exactly…mixing metaphors here, it’s like when bread has risen enough—you just know), I put together a very rough roadmap of the story. Often, I pull out the index cards, just because I find physically manipulating the story structure helpful.

NotecardPlotting

And then, when it feels right, I start writing.

How many words I get per day largely depends on deadlines and other projects. The game isn’t due until June and I’m really busy, so I get maybe 1000 words/day. I’ve twice written a novel in two months, getting 2000-3000 words/day. Once, I was on deadline. The other time, it was the Victorian Dark Fantasy, and I was having too much fun to stop.

Again, though, we can get philosophical with this. How does it work?

I sit down and then words happen. I do cultivate other interests—music, history, Doctor Who, beer, SNES games—to keep myself sane and the creative well full. I get outside when I can, I hang out with friends.

Something I’m realizing: work-life balance will probably never be my strong suit. But I’m starting to see another possibility: a more holistic approach, in which work and writing and fun all blend together. The lines between the different segments of my life blurred a lot over the last year—I kind of like it, this experience of a complete whole, rather than many disparate parts.

And on that profound note: I’m tagging you, P.C. Haring and Erik Buchanan!

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A fan of Science Fiction from an early age P.C. Haring has always been one of those who looked up at the night sky and wondered “what if…” On 01/01/10, he began exploring those questions when he made his debut as a writer and podcast novelist with the release of the Cybrosis Podcast.  Since then, he has not looked back.  He has contributed short stories to Scott Sigler’s The Crypt: Book 1 — The Crew podcast, Philippa Ballantine’s Chronicles of the Order, audio anthology, and Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine’s Tales from the Archives anthology where his podcast of “The Seven” won the 2012 Parsec Award for “Best Short Story.”

When he’s not writing and podcasting, P.C. Haring puts his Accounting degree, his MBA, and his CPA credentials to good use as a corporate accountant in the Chicagoland area.

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Erik Buchanan is a writer, ghostwriter, communications consultant, fight director and actor living in Toronto, Canada. He holds a BFA in Theatre, three black belts, and a variety of strange jobs that keep him busy. He is the author of the Magics Trilogy: Small Magics, Cold Magics and True Magics (Fall, 2014) published by Dragon Moon Press, as well as several short stories and over 300 articles on topics ranging from consumer electronics to where to get the flu shot. Currently, Erik is writing a young adult horror series set in Victorian London, an historical fiction piece set in Pre-Elizabethan England, and a web series about two thieves where Erik expects he will get thumped about a fair bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 signs that you’re a writers’ intern

1. Your phone frequently buzzes with reminders and appointments…for authors who are hundreds of kilometres away.

2. In the context of interning, you’re not exactly sure how to refer to the people for whom you’re working. My authors? My bosses? My friends, whom I assist? All of the above?

3. Simultaneously managing four people’s calendars no longer fazes you.

keepcalmsuperintern12

4. There is some wicked cool stuff sitting on your hard drive. It takes every bit of self-control you have not to submerge yourself in it and read it all right now…because hey, you’ve got work to do.

5. There is an increasingly enmeshed set of connections between the different parts of your life—and you love it. Case in point.

6. You’re up to four email addresses and counting.

7. Bedroom = home office + bed.

8. You look at a novel interior, or a video, or a website banner, and think, “I know how they did that! I can do that!”

9. You secretly envision a future in which you intern for all the authors, coordinating the entire publishing industry from the shadows—ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR.

...try to take over the world. (*cough* Sorry, something in my throat...)

…try to take over the world. (*cough* Sorry, something in my throat…)

And…

10. You often find yourself thinking, “How on Earth did I get so lucky?”

-KT

“Go away, I’m reading!” DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT and Me

Between two internships, Stonecoast, and my own writing, it’s been a busy week. And it’s only going to get busier, because DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT is out on Tuesday!

I haven’t been this excited (or this obsessive) since the release of HAPAX.

dawnsearlylight

About halfway through my stay in Virginia, Pip and Tee tossed me an ARC and said, “Yeah, you should probably read that.” Now, I’d been eyeing the giant flipping box of ARCs in the basement since the day I arrived, but I was too nervous to ask for one. But once it was in my eager little hands, I settled myself on the couch with a contented sigh.

“Whoa,” Tee said at one point, peering over. “You’re tearing through that.”

“Mm-hmm.”

A while later, he cleared his throat. “So—let’s get back to InDesign. We can set up the templates for WEATHER CHILD.”

Or something like that. Eliza was enjoying her first real taste of American “hospitality,” which happened to involve a fight scene, and it was very exciting. I wasn’t really listening.

Tee sighed. “Here, what page are you on? Ok. When you finish that chapter, we’ll go down.”

“But—”

“Don’t make me take that book away, young lady!”

So I finished the chapter and closed the book with a dramatic, exaggerated sigh. Of course, I was happy to do more layout work—I’d never actually be obstinate with my hosts and mentors. But still…those first five chapters had woken a weird, persistent itch. I’d left Eliza contemplating a new revelation, and she and Wellington needed to actually communicate with each other because the tension between them was driving me slowly but surely mad, and I was very aware of mines planted in earlier chapters that were waiting to go off later in the plot (metaphorical mines—it’s always a good idea to specify when dealing with Eliza D. Braun).

I needed to read more.

This one is mine. Get your own copy!

This one is mine. Get your own copy!

After dinner, instead of writing, I settled on the couch again. It was lovely and quiet, with Pip and Tee tapping at their own laptops and Sophia del Morte watching and plotting.

“Hey Katie, where are you now?”

I’m reading!

The next day found me back in the same spot. Pip was writing on the couch opposite me. Suddenly, I stopped reading with a gasp. I put the book down and gaped at Pip.

You guys had Edison [PLOT POINT REDACTED]?!”

She flashed a guilty smile.

There was another book that I was meant to be reading for Stonecoast. This is where I’m responsible, set DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT aside, and do my schoolwork, right?

Heck no! This is where I email my mentor saying, “Hello! I know you wanted me to write an imitative annotation this month…but can I write one on this book instead??”

Fortunately, she said yes. Which means that DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT was used in an academic paper before it was even officially released.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of hypersteam, explosions, historical personages, and crafty (figurative) Easter eggs. Here’s the thing, though: DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT is a lot of fun. No question about that. But there’s a real emotional heart to the story as well. During the big, climactic scene…well, my eyes got misty.

That’s right. I’m not ashamed of my tears. Although I did try to be subtle about them—after all, the authors were right there. And I’m also not ashamed to admit that I just looked up that scene for reference and instantly felt like I’d been stabbed again.  

And for me, that’s the real strength of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences in general and DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT in particular. You care. You care about these characters and their world so damn much. I was nineteen when PHOENIX RISING came out, so while I haven’t grown up alongside Eliza and Wellington quite the same way I did with Harry Potter, I think that we have developed together—settling into our respective skins.

As the novel ended, I could almost hear the ominous chords, the rumble of oncoming thunder.

When the fourth book comes out, I’m not waiting. I’m diving into that box of ARCs the minute I see it.

-KT

Internship of Awesome

First day back in Toronto after spending the last month interning with authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris! We recorded an episode of The Shared Desk (out on Feb 26th) which examines our time together, but I wanted to do my own post-mortem as well, because it was such an amazing, incredible, still-can’t-believe-it-happened experience.

Who are these people?

Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris are fantasy authors. Currently, they’re co-writing The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series (think steampunk X-files, with more shenanigans), though they also write their own fantasy independently.

I stumbled across them through podcasting—they were some of the earliest podcast authors (in Tee’s case, the earliest), met them in person at Dragon Con, and the rest is history.

And so, this February…

As Pip so eloquently put it, we assumed a fair exchange of learning experience for practical help. I flew down to Virginia (completely forgetting about the trains connecting Dulles’s international terminals and arrivals hall until the last moment) and stayed with them for just over three weeks.

During that time, they taught me things—everything from cover design to book layout to video editing to How To Not Be A Jerk On Social Media. In return, I did things—laying out a novel and some short stories, editing short stories, maintaining the calendar, posting on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Facebook page, and so forth.

The Awesome

Pip and Tee are awesome. Writing is awesome. Learning is awesome. Therefore, learning about writing with Pip and Tee is awesome.

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And Sebastian is AWESOME.

Considering that I was only there for twenty-four days, I learned an incredible amount. Not just about the business of writing or the mechanics of programs like InDesign and Final Cut—essentially, I learned how to Author. I know I have more to learn (and they keep saying they have more to teach), but I’ve got much more of a foundation, now. It’s a great complement to Stonecoast, which is all about the craft. Pip and Tee taught me everything else.

More Awesome

As well, I got to spend some quality time with some people very dear to my heart. Pip, Tee, and their daughter Sonic Boom gave me a home: literally and figuratively.

This is where I get emotional and the words start failing.

I admire them as authors. I admire them even more as people.

The Challenge

I wanted so badly to help. I wanted so, so badly to be useful.

And they assure me that I was. Self-critical KT is self-critical, but I do feel a twinge of pride as I leaf through the Weather Child proof. They did the really tricky stuff—but I did the grunt work. Same twinge of pride when I got second and third drafts back from Tales from the Archives authors, and my editorial suggestions worked.

Putting New Zealand fantasy on the map! Literally!

Putting New Zealand fantasy on the map! Literally!

What Next?

I’m still helping from Canada (if you have a podcast and would like Pip and Tee on your podcast, please email me at contact(at)ministryofpeculiaroccurrences(dot)com). This whole experience also lit a fire under me—I want to do all of the writing things ever right now this minute.

It’s the same fired-up feeling mixed with slight depression that you get after cons. On the one hand, I’m so excited. On the other…I miss them. So much.

But hey, concrete steps. Today I got another whiteboard, so now I have one for my projects and one for Interning Stuff. I made sure my papers and files are organized. I rejigged my own whiteboard, adding new projects and plots (including a goal to have a new post here every Saturday—regular blogging fell by the wayside, and now I’m reclaiming it for real).

As I tweeted earlier today…

InternTweet

That about sums it up.

But I want to see more!

Want to see what I did?

Then take a listen to Tales from the Archives.

Check out Pip’s novel, Weather Child.

Look at Tee’s Kickstarter campaign for another Billibub Baddings mystery and consider backing it.

Do spend some time with the Ministry (the third book, Dawn’s Early Light, comes out next month. I devoured the ARC in less than two days. Just saying…)

This one is mine. Get your own copy!

This one is mine. Get your own copy!

So, then…

This was incredible. Absolutely incredible. I loved every minute of it. Pip, Tee, Sonic Boom—thank you for everything, from the bottom of my heart.

Arohanui,

KT