If you follow my blog you are probably aware that I am involved with a monthly blog swap with my fellow authors at 47North. Here is a fun one by J. Lincoln Fenn titled “The Six Worst Ways to Get Your Novel Published.” J. Lincoln Fenn is the author of Poe, a horror thriller and winner of the 2013 Amazon Breakout Novel Award. Author Anne Charnock and Philip K. Dick Award finalist (A Calculated Life) is the host.
I am taking part in The Writing process–Blog Tour series where authors offer a brief description of their own writing process and lead you to three more authors who will answer the same questions the following week. I was invited to participate by Roberto Calas, author of the fantastic medieval-zombie fantasy series The Scourge.
I’d like to thank Roberto for his kind invitation and if you’d like to check out Roberto and his work you can visit his blog here at: http://robertocalas.com/ and chat with him @robertocalas on Twitter.
1) What am I working on? I have taken a short hiatus from the Romulus Buckle series and written a Young Adult adventure novel which involves World War 2 England, crazy inventions and Egyptian mummies. It was a good break from the steampunk genre and I had a boast writing it. I’ll be submitting the manuscript to publishers in the new year. Once the polishes on this Young Adult book are complete I do plan to attack the third book in the Romulus Buckle series and I hope to have that manuscript ready to roll by the end of the spring in 2014.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? I’d say that the Romulus Buckle series is different in its combination of elements: steampunk, post-apocalyptic, dystopian and involving alien beings and beasties. The main difference being the alien part. While I doubt that it is unique, you usually don’t see aliens woven into the steampunk tapestry. They fit quite well, mind you. I was new to steampuk when I started this series and I decided to make it a book that people can enjoy even if they have never read a steampunk book before and are unfamiliar with the standard steampunk literary conventions. Most of the time I think I’m hitting the ball straight down the middle of what steampunk is (zeppelins, Victorian/Edwardian clothing, steam-powered machines and robots, etc.)
3) Why do I write what I do? I write what I must, I suppose. Stories grab me and don’t let me go like they do for any author. My manuscripts tend towards adventure and war scenarios probably because those are the stories which have always fascinated me. I have a number of projects under way including a historical fiction series set in World War Two Russia. I am also interested in love affairs in a time of war, when people are functioning under a set of rules very different from the ones in peacetime. Hence my love for the film Casablanca and the book/film The English Patient.
4) How does your writing process work? I start with either a scenario or a character. The character always becomes paramount and will emerge from and take over a scenario even if I begin with that. A character and his/her story has to stick with me for a long time, haunt my brain in this weird gestating, knocking-on-the-door state, before I consider that proto-person and their story important enough to me to invest six months to a year of my life trying to capture it on paper. And it has to be a tale that grabs me and won’t let me go. It has to be a book I would love to read or I can’t expect the reader to possibly feel the same way about it.
I do outlines, both on paper and with 3×5 cards. I have large bulletin boards all over my office walls and in the process of writing a book I smother them in cards. The cards are covered in notes. I like this because I can see the entire skeleton of my book from the start – the scenes, character beats, story points – and also hundreds of notes and observations I tack up along the way. This ‘skeleton’ is not rigid but fluid and it is constantly reforming and reassembling as I write the book. I do have to know my ending at the start. I have to know where I am going.
I try not to edit myself as I write the first draft. I try to let the initial creative rush have all of the leeway it wants, even if I am writing things I know won’t make it into the final book. I try to take at least a week away from the book after the first draft is finished. Then I come back and try to read it as a whole (which never works because I immediately start editing). The first revision is a massacre of cuts and rewrites. I’d never show another human being (or my dog) my first draft of anything. Usually I can start having people start reading about the fourth or fifth draft, and getting feedback.
Writing a book is a lot of hard work. But when you don’t know how to do much of anything else and you are obsessed with writing it isn’t such a bad thing. I love it.
Next week the four highly experienced authors Steve McHugh, Anne Charnock and the husband/wife writing team of Michael Tinker Pearce & Linda Pearce will be posting on the Writing Process Blog Tour. Please check out what they have to say.
Steve McHugh. Steve’s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A. It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which; Crimes Against Magic is now available from Amazon. He was born in a small village called Mexbrough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton. http://stevejmchugh.wordpress.com/
Anne Charnock. Anne Charnock’s writing career began in journalism; her articles appeared in the Guardian, New Scientist, International Herald Tribune, and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied environmental sciences, and at the Manchester School of Art. She travelled widely as a foreign correspondent and spent a year trekking through Egypt, Sudan, and Kenya. In her fine art practice, she tried to answer the questions “What is it to be human? What is it to be a machine?” and ultimately she decided to write fiction as another route to finding answers. She is the author of A Calculated Life. http://annecharnock.com/
Michael Tinker Pearce. Michael ‘Tinker’ Pearce lives in Seattle with his wife and co-author Linda. He got the nickname ‘Tinker’ in the 1980’s when he was at various times a soldier, college student, a bodyguard, a private investigator, a meat-carver at a restaurant, a police officer, an illustrator, heavy equipment operator, competition shooter, cover-copy writer, outlaw road-racer, Drill Instructor Candidate, receptionist, executive assistant to the heads of corporate banking at Citycorps, Tobacconist, courier for a currency exchange etc. He finally settled down to become a knife and sword maker, specializing in the blades of medieval Europe and the Viking Era. He is the author of ‘The Medieval Sword in the Modern World,’ and the designer of the CAS Iberia Tinker Line of medieval swords and trainers. He is a trained theatrical fighter and choreographer, and a student of Historic European Martial Arts. Michael and his wife Linda are the co-authors of the novel Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman. http://michaeltinkerpearce.com/
Linda Pearce. Linda Pearce is the Co-author of 2 Novellas set in the Foreworld Sagas of the Mongoliad, several other short stories, and the Novel – Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman. Born in New York, raised in San Jose, CA, Linda currently resides with her husband and Co-author Michael Tinker Pearce (a renowned Sword Maker and Medieval European Martial artist) in Seattle, WA. They currently have several other books in the works. http://michaeltinkerpearce.com/
I am honored to welcome the fantastic science fiction author Anne Charnock to the blog today! Anne just released her new science fiction novel, A Calculated Life, yesterday, which has been described as a “Stunningly relevant re-imagining of 21st century Britain as a bioengineered corporate dystopia.” (Chris Graham)
In the following piece Anne talks about the steampunkish history of her home town of Manchester, why she chose it as the setting for her new novel (which takes place in the near future), and gives us a brief introduction to both herself and the story:
Anne Charnock: If you ranked British cities according to their steampunk credentials, I reckon that my home city of Manchester, in the north of England, would be top of the list. Why do I say that? Well, Manchester was the first global industrial city and steam power was the key to its growth. The first railway station on the planet was built in Manchester. That alone should put my city top of the list.
I was raised in one of the largest cotton mill towns on the outskirts of Manchester – Bolton – and I can remember as a child looking down from the surrounding hills and seeing a town huddled around dozens of mill chimneys. Although the cotton industry went into terminal decline during my childhood you could still walk alongside an operating mill and hear the slapping of shuttles in weaving looms.
And I have incised memories of my parents taking me, my sister and brothers to a stone bridge over the local railway line, where we’d wave to the engine driver of the lunchtime steam train. It blasted along the tracks and the driver always blew the whistle as we disappeared in clouds of steam and smoke. We often made these short trips during our school lunch break and I’d return to school with specks of soot on my shirt collar.
I chose Manchester as the setting for my near-future novel, A Calculated Life, because ever since the Industrial Revolution this city has maintained its record of innovation, often centred on research at Manchester University. In fact the computer revolution began there in 1948 when “The Baby” machine ran its first stored programme. Where better to set a science fiction story?
Although my novel imagines a future Manchester Metropolis, I allow the city’s industrial history to seep into the narrative. In Chapter Six, for example, my main character Jayna makes a clandestine visit outside the city limits and I describe her walk to the shuttle terminus:
“Leaving the commercial district, she walked along the glass-walled buildings of the sprawling university complex. The pavements widened and the dense canopies of whitebeam gave intermittent shade to the weekend pedestrians. Relegated, she thought, these whitebeam; just a form of sunblock now. But, once upon a time, they were the stuff of industry; the cogs, literally!”
Whitebeam wood made particularly strong cogs for early industrial machinery, just as Jayna – with her hyper-intelligence – becomes a strong cog in a late 21st century corporation.
Here’s a summary of A Calculated Life:
Late in the twenty-first century, big business is booming and state institutions are thriving thanks to advances in genetic engineering, which have produced a compliant population free of addictions. Violent crime is a rarity.
Hyper-intelligent Jayna is a star performer at top predictive agency Mayhew McCline, where she forecasts economic and social trends. A brilliant mathematical modeler, she far outshines her co-workers, often correcting their work on the quiet. Her latest coup: finding a link between northeasterly winds and violent crime.
When a string of events contradicts her forecasts, Jayna suspects she needs more data and better intuition. She needs direct interactions with the rest of society. Bravely—and naively—she sets out to disrupt her strict routine and stumbles unwittingly into a world where her IQ is increasingly irrelevant…a place where human relationships and the complexity of life are difficult for her to decode. And as she experiments with taking risks, she crosses the line into corporate intrigue and disloyalty.
Can Jayna confront the question of what it means to live a “normal” life? Or has the possibility of a “normal” life already been eclipsed for everyone?
And a little bit about me:
Anne’s writing career began in journalism. Her articles appeared in The Guardian, New Scientist, International Herald Tribune, and Geographical. She travelled widely as a foreign correspondent and spent a year trekking through Egypt, Sudan, and Kenya. Anne is an active blogger and contributes reviews and book recommendations to the Huffington Post. She splits her time between London and Chester and, whenever possible, she and her husband, Garry, take off in their little campervan to southern Europe, and as far as the Anti-Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco.