Monday, March 5, 2007

Fits, Starts and Finishing the Book

1) When did you start writing? Or if you've been writing all your life, then when and how did you decide to pursue publication?

I figured out I could really write in 6th grade. We had a literature textbook with color plates of famous paintings every so many pages. We had to pick a painting and write a story about it. It was the first time I felt the "flow"--it felt like someone was writing through me and I was just the channel. The teacher looked up from grading my paper later that day and said "how did you do this?" Not that I can do that regularly, but I learned then, at age 11, that it exists, and I've been a believer ever since. I started writing romance seriously (though not attempting publication seriously) maybe fifteen years ago when I had a nightmare that was the seed of a plot. I'd been reading series romance and about a week later I threw the latest read down and said "I can do this. I can do BETTER than this." Three weeks later I had a manuscript. A bad manuscript, but a manuscript nonetheless.

2) What books/authors have influenced you?
Every book I've ever read has taught me something. Suzanne Brockman was the one who made me believe I could write romantic suspense, which was my natural bent with the high body counts in my manuscripts, because she got the weapons and action right. I was married to a former Special Forces soldier, and I couldn't stomach the poorly written action scenes and fluff I'd been reading that masqueraded as research. When she got it right, I realized that maybe I could write this stuff and not embarrass myself, although I have no dream of doing it as well as she does. At present, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is influencing (read intimidating) me beyond all belief. I live on a constant roller coaster of "I really want to do this" highs juxtaposed against "God I'll never be able to do this" lows.

3) Describe your writing process.

My process is strange. I learned to trust it in journalism school. Four years in a crack journalism program taught me that if I have a story due in three weeks, I may not sit down to actually write until two days (or one day) before it's due. And that's how I get the best stories because even though I'm not physically writing, my subconscious is doing its job. I think about it constantly. My mind is setting up the approach and how I'll "wrap" the story into a neat package and evoke emotion in the reader. I learned to trust that process, and to some extent, it's still viable in fiction writing. Unfortunately when it's a 400 page manuscript, that method has its drawbacks. I am a pantzer in that I learn about my characters as I start writing, but my plots are so big and involved that I have to work them out ahead of time. Most of it is working out the character motivations and the motivation for the plot. Rewriting a book manuscript eight or ten times to fix the holes is no way to work. It's pure hell. It's a way to go insane. I did it with the manuscript that finaled in the GH last year. And I never want to do it again so I've learned to plot a bit more and the other manuscripts have come easier thus far. But I am proof that you can indeed learn to write fiction by rewriting the same freaking book over and over and over and.....

4) Tell us about your current Work In Progress and what is next for you?

I have three or four in various stages. I think I have five manuscripts total, but not that are ready to show. I'm working most right now on a sequel to my GH finalist. It's called The Resurrection and stars a couple of secondary characters from The Ritual. All of my fiction is dark and angsty and has a lot of religious undertones in the themes. I didn't realize that until I started creating titles for the books.

5) Any advice for others or personal observations?

I look at this business and think I'm such a poser. I hate to write. I LOVE having written. It's the truth and I admit it. But I can't not do it because I need, desperately, to "have written." And like Stephen King says "If God gives you something you can do, why in the world wouldn't you do it?" Then Auntie Cindy reminds me that I finaled in the Golden Heart. And then I look around at every human being I meet who says "I always wanted to write a book." But they didn't. And I did. And I'm working on more books. And I'm capable of finishing those books. So even if it's in fits and starts, I guess that makes me a writer. I just need Auntie Cindy and my friends to remind me that I am one. That's the best part of being a writer. Other writers.


scott_sproles said...

cassondra--my CP (the seldom seen Six Packer Susan Seyfarth, also a romantic suspense gal) and I have the same relationship with SEP. Paralyzing fear after reading her that we'll never be that good so why bother. thank goodness we get over it long enough to get back to the keyboard!


Cassondra said...

Oh, Inara thank God I'm not the only one. I keep re-reading Aint She Sweet, thinking it'll rub off, or I'll get some of it by osmosis or something. I used that book in a class I helped to teach at a local university in January. I'd taught the kids about deep third and character development and character arc and growth across the story. One of the girls came into our meeting after reading Ain't She Sweet and said "This is the best *%&$ book I've ever read. Even the DOG had a learning curve in this book!" I just smiled. It was clear the student had indeed learned something from the class, and equally clear that SEP is so amazing, I'll never be able to do that in my writing.

Aunty Cindy said...

Dear Lil Niece Cassondra,
I've said it before and I'll say it again, "YOU ARE NOT A POSER!" There, I hope that helps! We ALL feel like that, if not about SEP (though I'm pretty sure most ALL of us do about her) then about some other brilliant writer. To paraphrase an Irish saying, "I'd crawl a hundred miles across broken glass to kiss the paper shredder she used to destroy her sh*tty first draft." But none of us can compare ourselves to other writers. We are all unique and have our own unique contributions to make.

So get BUSY, girly!
Aunty C