Monday, November 11, 2013

Blog Tour – My Writing Process

Today is blog tour day! I’m pretty excited as I haven’t participated in a blog tour before. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to get to know other writers and their work. I always enjoy reading about other people’s creative process, so I was keen to take part when asked.

Last week, my fellow scribe of ancient stories, Luciana Cavallaro, posted on her website Eternal Atlantis. Be sure to check it out. If you like retellings of ancient myths, you’ll love her Accursed Women series of short stories.

Now for the tour questions and a peek into the Labyrinth of my mind. Be sure to bring your sword and hold on to the end of that string…

What am I working on?

Sometimes I feel like that question should be ‘What am I NOT working on?’ I always thought that I was a writer who would tackle one project at a time. That’s how I read, after all.

But no. There are just too many stories I want to tell, and because I mostly write series, I have a hard time leaving those stories be for extended periods of time. It’s almost as if the characters are all staring at me from across a dark river, pleading with me to help them continue their journeys and not leave them in limbo.

At the moment, my biggest project is putting the finishing touches on Killing the Hydra, the second book in my Eagles and Dragons series. I hope to have that out for the holidays. Eagles and Dragons is my main series and I’m already writing and researching book three, Warriors of Epona.

I’m also writing the second part of my Carpathian Interlude series of novellas which takes place on the Danube frontier during the reign of Augustus. The first part of that was Immortui which was Romans vs. Zombies. The second part, Lykoi, is Romans vs. Werewolves. It’s a lot of fun to write the more fantastical stuff in an historical context.

Other projects that are begging my attention in the wings of my life right now are the second draft of the first part of my Alexander the Great trilogy, and the second draft of a short story I’ve written. The latter is a retelling of the ancient Greek Phaethon myth. I can’t wait to share that with everyone.

Needless to say, time is precious and in short supply.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There are a couple of ways in which my work differs from others. I don’t believe, and I’ve been told this by others, that my books slot into one particular genre. A lot of historical fiction, where the protagonists are in the Roman army, deal purely with the military aspects of campaigning, battle and blood. Such books are geared mainly to male adventure readers. In my work I always incorporate some ‘softer’ elements, romance, and strong female characters to balance out the brutality of war in the ancient world. I think that is why at least half of my readers are female. I like to immerse my readers in the serene beauty of a place and then throw them headlong into battle. I like to have something for everyone in my stories.

The second thing that makes my books quite different is the incorporation of ancient religion. I’ve had some wonderful reader comments and e-mails saying that they loved Children of Apollo because no other books they have read made ancient religion and the Gods so great a part of the story. I’m also an historian, and as I see it, if I’m going to give people an accurate a feel for the ancient world, I can’t ignore something that was so integral to that world and its way of thinking. In ancient Greece and Rome, the Gods played an important role in every aspect of life and as such deserve much more than a passing nod. Religion just makes the story that much richer, and accurate.

Why do I write what I do?

I just love history and mythology. I also love storytelling and believe that historical fiction is one of the best ways to learn about the past, to be immersed in it. I first fell in love with history through storytelling and my studies grew out of that.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I fell in love with history and writing at the exact same time. 

As soon as I got the history bug after a trip to England, I immediately started writing about the places I’d been to, and the history I had learned -  Poems, short stories, even sketches (though I’m rubbish at drawing!).

Basically, I want to share my love of ancient and medieval history with others in an interesting and entertaining way.

How does your writing process work?

I write in the cracks of my life.

Ideally, I would write all morning and then do editing and marketing in the afternoons. I’d have some good coffee flowing and some nice treats to go along with it.

Then I wake up and realize that’s not going to happen, not with a day job.

I usually carry a notebook for the current project I’m working on and write whenever I can. I do most of my writing on my lunch breaks and can get about 4-5 pages out of that. My first draft is always done long hand in notebooks and then I work on the second draft as I’m typing it out.

A project usually starts like this:

I get a very powerful, personal image that won’t leave me alone. That’s the spark that ignites it all. For Children of Apollo, I just kept seeing a column of dirty, tired legionaries marching over desert dunes. I could taste the sand in my mouth and the sweat running down my cheeks.

Then I jump into research, which is what sets historical fiction apart. It requires tonnes of research if you want to do it well and transport your readers. I try to immerse myself in the period. I travel when I can to the places I’m writing about, I look at colour reference books, maps and photos. I listen to period music (when possible), watch movies and documentaries, and eat and drink things that might have been consumed. Ancient Rome is great because I like wine, but I’m not a fan of stuffed kidneys, sheep’s brains or milk-fed snails. I didn’t go that far for my craft!

Part of my research is also creating an approximate timeline so that my fictional story is in sync with the history. I am a ‘pantser’ when I write, but for historical fiction a timeline can provide a sort of outline.

When I write, I like to listen to movie soundtrack music because it is so emotive. When I get to a major action sequence or battle scene, I’ll stop to sketch out the stages of the combat so I don’t get lost in the chaos.

Then I start writing, and I don’t stop until the story is done. The best advice I ever got was from my late mentor, the poet Leila Pepper, who learned from W.O. Mitchell. Leila said that the most important thing was to “just get the story down on paper…no matter what…just get it down.” That’s great advice, and very liberating. 

I find there is never a perfect time to write. You have to do it whenever you can, and because you love it. For me family always comes first; art supports life, not the other way around. But it’s in those spare moments, however few they might be, that I love to jump into the past and join the characters I’ve created, whether it’s marching through the Sahara, attending an imperial banquet or hunting zombies north of the Danube. There is no better feeling than when the story just comes together unexpectedly, with the exception of hearing the words “Daddy’s home!” at the end of a long day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my writing process. As ever, I look forward to your comments. Also, be sure to check out the posts from my two friends below. They will be posting their blogs for the tour on their own websites on November 18th. They have interesting stories to tell and I for one cannot wait to hear how they go about their writing lives.

Here they are:

RobertoCalas is an author and lover of history. His serial trilogy (The Scourge) is about a 14th century knight fighting his way through a zombie-infested England to reunite with the woman he loves. And every bit of it is true except for the made up parts. In addition to The Scourge series, Roberto has written The Beast of Maug Maurai (fantasy), and Kingdom of Glass (historical fiction in the Foreworld universe). He lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, with his two children, and visits the United Kingdom on a monthly basis to be with his fiancée, Annabelle. Sometimes he fights zombies to get to her.

You can learn more about Roberto on his website: http://robertocalas.com. He’d be most appreciative if you liked his facebook page, too: https://www.facebook.com/RobertoCalasAuthor. And if you feel you can only take 140 characters worth of him at a time, his twitter handle is, @robertocalas.

Lindsay Townsend is fascinated by ancient world and medieval history and writes historical romance covering these periods. She also enjoys thrillers and writes both historical and contemporary romantic suspense. When not writing, Lindsay enjoys spending time with her husband, gardening, reading and taking long, languid baths - possibly with chocolate. 

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