I was tagged by two separate people to receive the Liebster Blog Award, once by Rebelise of Rebecca's Pen, and once by Katiebug. I am not going to follow the normal rules (I'm really quite dreadful when it comes to that sort of thing) but I am going to answer their questions for you as they fit so nicely into the vein of my blog party! All of my stories, including The Shadow Things, managed to worm their way into these answers. They have a way of doing that.
1. L.M. Montgomery or Louisa May Alcott?
Ooh, aah… Gee, I feel like a minority under the acute blaze of this question. To be honest, neither. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley stories were certainly amusing at times (I would sometimes catch snippets while my sister-in-law read them aloud to Abigail in some years past) but I only read Anne of Green Gables and I was never much motivated to read anything else. The same goes for Alcott, except that I didn’t like the one book I read (Little Women) and I did enjoy Anne of Green Gables. In the defence of Little Women, I have to say that I did read it for school and, in the defence of Little Women, looking at my bookshelf, I see I do not often read books with women as the main characters…
2. Do you listen to music while writing? If so, how important is music to your writing process? Do you do anything special to integrate music into your story-writing?
Usually I do. Depending on how diligent I feel (or how focused) music may or may not be superfluous to keep me on track; sometimes sifting through my brain and hunting down songs on YouTube proves very distracting and I will often fix upon a single song and hit “repeat” all day long while I work. The type of music is not always important; whatever it is, its basic function is to create a sound barrier between myself and the rest of the world so that I stay cocooned inside my task. You can see I have thought about this.
3. If you could have one of your original characters meet a character from your favorite book, which would these characters be?
Ooh, now, there’s an interesting question… I have got to the point at which I no longer have favourite books. There are too many good books—I can no longer call one my favourite. But…that’s dashed hard! Perhaps Rhodri from my book Adamantine and Simon from the novel of the same name. They may be quiet and grey-coloured enough not to spook each other out of a conversation.
4. What is your biggest crush on a fictional character, if you ever had one?
I’ve never had crushes, but I have always had a deep attachment to Justin of The Silver Branch, for he is such a sweet, intuitive fellow. I have a great admiration for a dozen other characters, but Justin has always been sweet and kindly, a little stubborn, good-hearted, and loyal, and I put a high price on those qualities.
5. If you were writing a historical fiction novel, what time period would you choose for the setting? Why would you choose that time period?
Well, I did. I chose insular, post-Roman Britain. I say post-Roman; it was still rather Roman, for it clung to its Roman roots as long as the spark glowed, but the Western Empire had effectively crumbled and Rome had made it quite clear that Britain’s petitions for aid could no longer be answered. Why I chose that time period, especially since these great facts of history are essentially unimportant to the story, I cannot tell you. It was the time period that the story chose, and I wrote it that way.
6. Would you want your story illustrated? If so, what kind of artistic style would you prefer? (manga, traditional, cartoonish, sketchy . . .?)
No, I don’t think so. I think it would be neat to have a cover by Sakimichan, whose art is very vibrant (though I cannot, in good conscience, say I like all the pieces), and as I get the impression from other people’s impressions that my writing is also vibrant, those seem to work well together.
7. What is the biggest distraction for you while writing?
Myself. Once I get going I am usually a good little engine, but buckling down and overcoming the inertia is often difficult, and as I am the Engineer-in-Chief who oversaw the laying of the Path of Least Resistance, I will often amuse myself in other ways before I finally get down to business. To defeat the Huns.
I had to say it.
8. If you have done or are currently doing NaNoWriMo, how do you set aside the entire month of November for writing?
I am, and I don’t. NaNo isn’t so much about shunting work out of the way to tackle writing as it is learning a precise balance so that everything, including your writing, is accomplished. My sister does this best—she also has a fuller plate than I do and a disposition naturally attuned to balance—but I have a home with cleaning, laundry, and meals to attend to, without which life will suffer greatly, so I have to learn balance. It really is not that hard, you just have to remain diligent.
9. What are your thoughts on college as a writer? Do you view college positively, or as a hindrance to a writer?
For myself, I could not qualify how bad college would be for my writing. I think it might be akin to Mr. Murdstone putting Clara in a cage and breaking her spirit. That sort of thing. Or Ginger—poor Ginger!—of Black Beauty. I need vent for fire and spice and “scope for the imagination.” I am acquainted with how little scope college wants to allow you.
10. If you had to choose, would you emulate from Charles Dickens’ writing style, or from George Eliot’s? Explain your choice.
Neither. And I will direct you to this post to read my explanation.
11. What do people in your life think of you writing? Do they approve, or do they think you’re strange?
A good bit of both, I imagine. Everyone has read The Shadow Things and most have read my latest manuscript of Adamantine—Plenilune is not fit for anyone’s eyes yet—so they have a good idea of my style and what I am capable of (digging people’s hearts out with spoons) and they seem to enjoy it. I think it would be naïve to say someone with as many characters, plots, landscapes and emotions embroiled in a constant war in the brain could be anything but a little strange.
1. Do you outline before starting a novel? If so, how extensive an outline do you create?
I don’t. I did outline for The Shadow Things, which did help, but I found it left me with a bare-bones story and I had to go back in and flesh it out anyway. I tend to have a general idea of where I am going, but my writing is very organic and grows and develops in itself as I go, which a rigid adherence to an outline would not allow.
2. Do you profile your characters to flesh them out and make them as realistic as possible? If so, would you share the template or basic outline you use?
Actually, I don’t. (My word, I'm so negative!) Again, like my plots, my characters tend to be organic and often very Athenian. I may use Beautiful People to explore them, but the characters themselves usually drop like a thunderbolt out of the air, fully formed and complete with their own personalities. It is no more different, really, than meeting a person on the street—except that you know more about the character before the first meeting than you do about the stranger on the sidewalk.
3. Do you force yourself to finish a writing project before starting on a new one?
In a broad sense, yes. I haven’t seriously begun Gingerune yet because I am still thigh-deep in the bloody muck of Plenilune—like Christian in the slough, the more I struggle for the shore, the more Plenilune sucks me in. And anyway, I wouldn’t be able to do either plot justice if I tried to focus on both seriously at a time. As ideas come to me, I will write them down, but for now it is just Plenilune.
4. HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU CONTROL THE PLOT-BUNNIES?!
I don’t have many of them! Honestly, I don’t. I may have little one-shots that I will scribble when I ought to be scribbling something else, but at present I have an orderly bunch: Adamantine, finished and pacing in the paddock, Plenilune, which I am still trying to get the mastery of and which seems to be getting the mastery of me, Gingerune, rather more spirit at present than anything with a body I can put a bridle on, and Between Earth and Sky, which has been let out to grass for so long it has become placid and fat and will gladly wait a little longer even though I love the beastie and am anxious to get back to it. But they are all pretty polite fellows and wait their turn; it helps that I usually get so deeply entrenched in a single story that to work on it is enough to satisfy my creative genius.
5. Once in a while, we all write characters that scare us for one reason or other. How do you deal with these characters and the emotions they evoke in you?
So far my only difficulty with being “afraid” of a character is being afraid I will not write him properly. They come to me to be written, I don’t usually go to write them, and some of them are so awful or so splendid that I wonder, “Can I possibly capture the soul of this character and do it justice?” It can be frightening, but so far, somehow, I have managed it, so I try to trust to my own skills and run forward helter-skelter, hoping I won’t fall on my face. As for the truly frightening characters, I always feel a sense of dark success when I write them, for to get the ring of evil as truly as the ring of goodness is equally important for a storyteller; I am never afraid of them, but once in a while, when one of them—the pooka, perhaps, or Rupert de la Mare—cut cleanly with the grain of evil, I sit back and revel a little in my vessel of dishonour which I have made.
6. Bronte sisters or Jane Austen?
I can’t fairly answer this, Katiebug! I haven’t read any of the Brontes yet, though I have read Austen.
7. Peeta or Gale? (This has everything to do with everything.)
Does it? I am sure they are both very nice people in their own way—(“Yes, but what kind of people…?”)—though I couldn’t say as I have met neither of them. (Run—run away from this question!)
8. Do you people-watch? Do you find this inspires you to create more relatable, three-dimensional characters based on your observations?
I don’t. I know Rachel does it, and does it well, but I don’t really like watching people—they can be very scary—and I’m a bit daft when it comes to picking up on mannerisms and suchlike. I’m an intuitive learner: much of what I get goes into my subconscious to be sifted out later and probably at the most inconvenient time.
9. Do you write best when warm and cosy indoors, or outdoors with the sun in your face and the wind in your hair?
Oh, I like the wind and the suchlike, but there is too much scope for the imagination out-of-doors. You try rounding up your mind when it has so much wideopeneness to run away in. There is absolutely no barrier between myself and everything else outside. I need to be put in my little corner with my scores of sticky-note notations, a cup of tea and a strain of music, and then—and often only then—can I go into that odd trance which is writing.