I told you guys I was going to talk about “the process,” and that’s exactly what I’m going to do for the next few weeks. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to talk about, ask in a comment, or in my personal forum, or in a message to me.
I’m going to alternate Talking About Myself (one of my favorite activities) with Talking About Other People. I have interviewed three writers who are all at different stages of the process. First, we’ll have Gretchen McNeil, who just fought off FOUR (count ‘em, FOUR) agents to find a match made in heaven. Next, we have Jen Hayley, who is at the revisions stage with her own agent. Finally, we have Cindy Pon, whose YA Fantasy, Silver Phoenix, will be available April 28, 2009. These are all women you’ll being seeing a lot of, soon, so here’s your chance to get to know ‘em.
But first I’m going to talk about myself. Mmmmm. Myself. I wrote Tempest Rising, on a whim, after I’d completed my doctorate. I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I didn’t have anything to do all of a sudden. My life had been completely dominated by my teaching and thesis-writing, but suddenly these were gone. The thesis was done and defended, I was just about finished with the very short British semester, and I had nothing on my plate. Then I went on a fortuitous visit to a little place called Shreveport, Louisiana, to interview for a job. On the way back to the UK, my niece helped me pick out a book with a pretty cover about a girl who lived on the outskirts of Shreveport, and who was just about to drive into town to hang with the local vampires. It was a book I ate up like candy, and it reminded me why I loved the urban fantasy genre so much as a child. But this book was different from the ones I remembered. This book was ironic, funny as hell, and really self-aware. It knew it was a vampire book in a world full of vampire books. It had this amazing tone that combined self-awareness, a hint of self-deprecation, hot supernatural nookie, and, rather paradoxically, a heady dose of reality. It was the most believable fantasy book I could ever remember reading.
And I knew I could write like that. Something about the tone spoke to me, challenging me to try my own hand at the genre. So I did. I think I had my job interview in late February, 2008, but I know I had a first chapter when I went to Turkey at the end of April. I remember because I went from Istanbul to the Lake District for a friend’s birthday celebration, and when everyone else went walking I stayed in our rented cottage with my friend, Ruth, who was finishing up her dissertation. We sat in front of the fire. She wrote her thesis; I wrote my second chapter; we cooked chickens. It was a heavenly combination of a good friend, that feeling of excitement and energy that only comes with a great project, and the smells of woodsmoke and roasting chicken. I finished Tempest Rising in June and I had an agent by August and a deal October 27.
It was fast; it was furious. I don’t know how much I really learned. I know I did a lot of stuff incorrectly, and I learned mostly be faffing things up. But I’ll take you through what I did to find an agent, slower, next Tuesday. And this Thursday, we’ll hear from Gretchen McNeil: Agent Magnet.
In the meantime, get in touch with your comments regarding your own experiences. What made you start writing? What kicked off a particular project or a particular idea? How do you roast a chicken?