Fellow She Writes Press author Tory McCagg invited me to join the My Writing Process Blog Tour.
First, I would like to tell you a little about her, then I will answer the four questions about my process, and then I will introduce you to the three wonderful writers who will continue the blog tour next week.
Tory explains how her writings explore the concept of home:
Because I tend to draw heavily on my life experiences in both my fiction and nonfiction, my writing tends towards my own sturm und dram: a degree of anxiety balanced by humor . . . and my search for home. All three books mentioned–Bittersweet Manor, Darwin’s View, and Mother Daze–have that at their heart: Home. The search for home. The being home. The saving of home. Be it a house, the world, or a state of mind, that is what my writing explores. www.torymccagg.com
Tory McCagg earned a M.F.A. from Emerson College’s writing program in 1989; her thesis and novel Shards won the Graduate Dean’s Award. In February 1997, her short story “Earthquake Weather” was a semi-finalist in the Tara Fellowships/Heekin Foundation. She has won two honorable mentions: one for “Enology” in 1998 (A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, White Eagle Coffee Store Press); the other for “Chain Material” in 2001 (Lorien Hemenway Short Story Competition). In 1999, “Roots”, a (since revised) chapter from her novel Bittersweet Manor was a semi-finalist in the New Millennium awards VIII contest. Her novel Bittersweet Manor came out on She Writes Press in May, 2014. Tory is an accomplished flutist. She is currently working on a non-fiction book, Darwin’s View: One Breath After Midnight; and a novel with the working title Angell Street Daze.
My Writing Process
What am I working on?
Everyone who has recently launched a novel will be familiar with what I am doing now: promoting my debut novel, In the Shadow of Lies: A Mystery Novel, in all the many ways possible to do so. However, I have come to believe that one of the best ways to promote it is to write the second Oliver Wright mystery novel, so I am hard at work researching the sequel (working title – Only the Dead) and devising its plot.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have read thousands of mystery novels and enjoy many genres, but only a small number of them have been memorable. That is my dream: to write a memorable, thought provoking novel with characters that linger long after the reader has finished the book. The crimes in my mystery novels derive from actual social issues in the United States during the Second World War. They are set in the San Francisco Bay area.
Why do I write what I do?
First, I write to evoke a genuine emotional response from the reader — joy, anger, sadness. Second, to remind us of the past and introduce significant aspects of our history of which we may not have been aware. For example, few people know that the Ku Klux Klan was active in northern California up until the war, or that Italian Americans were almost relocated the way the Japanese were. I try to follow Isabel Allende’s advice, to write what should not be forgotten. Third, I write to entertain, to create a community of characters who entice the reader to join them in another time, another culture, and another place.
How does my writing process work?
Oh my, it’s not a pretty thing. First I research the history of the United States, then the East Bay during the time the novel takes place until I find an event or issue that intrigues me. For Only the Dead, the time is November-December 1944. Then I focus my research on that event or issue and on other happenings that derive from them no matter where that takes me. In Only the Dead, my research has taken me to eastern Europe. I read until the time and place become real to me, three dimensional. In first person accounts and oral histories, I find the details that give the story depth and bring the time alive — tiny things that one could only have known if one had been there.
While I am researching for veracity, I am also making notes of possible plots and subplots that are suggested by my reading. I write down everything, even things that contradict each other, because sometimes they work together to help me find THE final plot and subplots. If a scene presents itself to me, I write it, even if it is out of chronological order in the story. When the characters start talking to me, I jot down their conversations, even when I am not sure where they will appear in the book. Then I draw diagrams of the plots, and their arcs, how they intercept and are resolved, and then develop a scene list. I try to have each scene end with a sentence that will lead the reader to the next scene and the next and keep her turning pages. Of course, because the book is a mystery novel, I need to decide where the clues and red herrings will go, who will “plant” them, and how and when they will be unraveled.
Once I have a basic blueprint for the novel, I become obsessed with writing. I can write for hours every day for days at a time, taking breaks when I have to see why the dogs are barking or when they come tell me it’s their dinner time or when I am not sure what will happen next — the times when I am pondering while doing the laundry or throwing together some soup. I have read about people who have a writing schedule, but I find it difficult to do anything except what I have described here. And I know I could not have written a novel when I had children at home. I am amazed by people who can.
One thing I do adhere to: even when the scene isn’t working and the writing is clunky and inelegant, I keep writing. I have found that if I keep going, the writing eventually begins to flow. If a scene doesn’t work, sometimes instead of trying to revise the words that already exist on the page, I just start the scene over in a different place, or from a different character’s point of view. My mantra: “The only thing you can’t edit is a blank page.”
The Blog Tour Continues
On Monday, August 25, check the blogs of the three talented writers below who will describe their writing processes and introduce you to the writers they tag.
Marylee MacDonald writes literary fiction. Her novel, MONTPELIER TOMORROW, about a mid-life mom who would do anything to protect her grown children from harm, makes its debut the first week of September.
Her short stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, the ALR Ficton Prize, and the Matt Clark Prize, among others.
If you’d like to read a sample of her work, drop in at http://maryleemacdonald.us Many of the stories in her forthcoming collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, are posted there.
http://blog.maryleemacdonald.org, Twitter: MaryleeMacD
The very short Bio
(The longer version… but not the complete one… here)
Writer, translator, researcher, engineer… and much more. What else can I ask for?
“If you insist to believe that only swimming is possible, you will never learn to fly” says one of my favorite quotes.
Yes, that’s me. I believe in the boundless possibilities which are our birth gifts that we forgot about; and I believe that we are the only ones who are blocking these gifts; blocking them due to our induced beliefs.
I have breathed on this planet since January, 29, 1967, being born in Romania, a country which I always liked, in a city crossed by the Danube river, where my mother was in a short holiday before she was to deliver her first child.
Giving me a musical name, my parents planned out my life since the first days of my existence here. One thing my parents didn’t know about; my stubbornness. Instead of using my voice to build my life on, I chose to use my technical abilities and became an engineer; a good one in my field of interest. I’m still an engineer as a main activity and for sure love my job.
In my bio there’s something which needs to be mentioned. I recently decided that I am also a writer. This writer started to ask for her freedom and I intend to set her free. So, the first move was to choose a Pen Name… like any writer who has a reason to choose it. What’s my reason? Only one: intending to write only in English language, my real name would be hard to spell; but loving too much my name, I simply couldn’t get rid of it and I decided only to cut the last letters.
Now… being a writer… I have to write, isn’t it? So, I just finished my first book (non-fiction) that is in the publishing process and I am working on my first novel that will be a mix between romance, fantasy, normal and paranormal and most of all… behind each written line will be a hidden meaning that will be felt by the readers accordingly with their spiritual attainment.
“Everything is based on contrasts. You can read these lines only because it is enough contrast between the letters and the background”.
Yes, that’s me also. Fire and ice, sweet and bitter, warm and cold… I will not continue anymore here; I am sure you caught the main idea.
And I am wondering now… can the letters which I will choose bring out enough contrast on the paper to keep your attention awakened?
Brenda Moguez lives in San Francisco. She writes fiction with quirky, strong women, with non-formulaic endings because life isn’t always perfect. She writes by the light of the moon and between conference calls. She has aspirations for a fully staffed villa in Barcelona and funding aplenty for a room of her own. When she’s not working on a story, she writes love letters to the universe, dead poets, and Mae West. You can find her at http://www.brendamoguez.com and https://www.facebook.com/BrendaMoguez, where she explores passionate pursuits in all its forms.
I’ve been published in multiple publications and fiction anthologies. My first book, Loving Is Good, released through The Wild Rose Press, August 2014. I have Honorable Mentions from Glimmer Train, Writer’s Weekly 24 Hour Contest, and second place in Southern Louisiana RWA’s, 8th Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Contest for a contemporary romance.
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And sneak a peek at Passionate Pursuits, my blog, for the other half of the story.