My good friend Jill S. over at the Slow Bloom blog tagged me as the next person in this chain of posts, where writers talk about their process and projects. I always think it’s fun to hear other creative people talk about how they do what they do, so hopefully you’ll enjoy my post as well. Heeeeere goes!
What am I working on?
I am very excited to report that after 3 years of sweating, writing a shitty first draft, beta reads, workshops, critiques, revising gajillions of times (six more drafts!), professional edits and proofreading, my comedic feminist zombie novella VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS is Done with a capital D.
So, my main focus right now is getting that out there into the world, so anyone who enjoys comedic horror can enjoy a good chuckle. I’ll have an announcement about that very soon. It feels surreal to have finished and tightly polished something larger than a short story, as this is my first book-length piece, but there it is, it’s really happening. Soon, it’ll be out there and you’ll be able to hold it on your hand. Or on your e-reader.
I’ve also finished the first draft of the next book in the series, and am working on expanding that, fleshing it out. And I’m always tinkering with short stories. I cheat on my novels with my short stories—little quickies that change up the scenery when I get stuck working on whatever novel project.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
This is hard to say, because while I’ve read a lot of zombie stuff, there’s so much that I still haven’t read yet. There are certainly comedic zombie stories out there, but I’d say there’s probably not a lot, most zombie fiction seems pretty dark. Where VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS really differs is that it has an agenda, it wants to make a point about feminism, and was really written as a response to the film industry, where girls always have to get saved by the guys (take Zombieland, for example—two tough girls still end up needing to get saved), but it’s hardly ever the other way around. I wanted to write a story where girls save the guys. So while there are great zombie books with strong female protagonists (Carrie Ryan’s and Dana Fredsti’s books come to mind) I was really trying to respond to pop culture overall. My book is a pointed satire that takes aim at all kinds of things: sexism, media representation of women, girls bashing girls, consumerism, conformity, and overly-rigid belief systems. So, it should be really different from anything you’ve ever read.
Why do I write what I do?
I vainly hope that I can change people’s minds about cultural issues with my writing. But with VEGAN TEENAGE ZOMBIE HUNTRESS, the main impetus was selfish. When I started writing the book I was processing some inner turmoil—I was in an abusive female friendship where I was never allowed to speak. I hadn’t lived in Seattle very long and the few friends I had made had moved away, so it was a dark time. My self-esteem took a hit, and an old stutter I’d had in middle school had started to come back (in middle school, I had a stutter that only came during English class, because the teacher was a bully and terrified me) and I started speaking less and less. It became a serious cognitive block and was hurting my life. So, Cokie, the main character’s sidekick, is basically me, a loyal friend who needed to regain her voice and stand up for herself, which I did. Incidentally, my speech problems subsided while I wrote the book. You can say that writing is a therapeutic process, for sure.
The main character, Clarissa, is another side of me that I grapple with—someone who has high standards and may adhere too closely to her own beliefs. Thankfully, Clarissa and Cokie work it out, but not before enduring some major struggles.
Overall, I’d say that my characters across the board tend to be misfits, people who are marginalized or are different than the norm, and carry with them a fair measure of pain. But they also get some measure of release, which is important.
How does my writing process work?
My process has morphed along the way. I used to do first drafts longhand, then transfer and edit on the computer, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with just sitting in front of the laptop and blasting things out. I don’t self-edit when I’m in drafting mode, I just turn off the censors and let it rip. I don’t wait for inspiration, I just sit down and go to work. But it’s more fun than work, so that’s why I never feel blocked. Writing is one of the last free pleasures on the planet. Also, I never turn off my ear for a story. Even if I’m washing dishes or walking the dog, I’m listening to an internal monologue, sometimes characters’ voices or strange images just come to me and I have to write them down.
Editing-wise, I believe in letting stories rest between drafts, so I can revisit with fresh eyes and see the flaws. Sometimes I let stories rest for months, and I work on something else in the meantime. I love editing though—it’s like sculpting, smoothing rough edges and making them beautiful. I’ve been known to do twelve drafts of a short story. I believe THE HOUSE OF BUTTERFLIES had twelve drafts, but it won an award and was worth it.
Well, that’s it for this leg of the writing process blog tour. I hope you enjoyed my post. Next up will be Dudley Bryan Jr., a dear old friend of mine who is working on a very cool YA fantasy novel that I’m eagerly awaiting. Follow him on Twitter so you can read his post when it’s ready.