Halloween Hangover and the Start of Nanowrimo!

As I mentioned before, I am participating in Nanowrimo (again!) this November. And November has arrived!

My calendar!

My calendar!

After a whirlwind of an October that saw me driving up and down the coast, taking in gorgeous views, yummy food and the weirdest conversations of my life, not to mention my 10 Posts to Halloween, Canadian Thanksgiving posts and a couple of others, we have arrived in the land of novel writing for the month of November.

In honour of this – I am going to talk a little bit about my journey as a writer.

First off, I have been writing since I was a kid. Writing and drawing (dude, I thought up graphic novels before graphic novels were a thing, right …). I never took it seriously until the fourth grade when my then teacher, Mrs. Rini, chose my scary story about the Spadina House (we had gone to visit it and Casa Loma on a school trip) over everyone else’s to read out loud. Apparently I was the only one to have inserted a ghostly mystery with a vengeful spirit into the history of Spadina House, and she thought that was creative, as opposed to everyone else’s writing of their experiences running around the house. I was always a little odd, I guess …

After that, my best friend at the time and I began co-authoring a sci-fi story with characters from both of our imaginations – mine were very humanoid though, hers were epic – lizards, cat people, flying hairballs – really cool stuff. When we were in and around 13 or 14 we both got into supernatural stories and each of us wrote a story based on our group of friends – hers was epic, I will tell you now, the fact that she never finished it, still kills me.

Then in high school, I truly found my voice – I wrote dark, usually supernatural and usually teenaged dramas. It just seemed to be what I was good at.

I kept at it for a long time. Until law school in fact, where I met Smithy and introduced her to romances and somehow, along the way, we both decided that trying to write a romance novel was a good idea. Now, hers is coming out soon – here’s the link – and I am ever so proud of her! When she first gave me the beginning of this novel I was entranced by the heroine and I could not wait to find out what would happen on her adventures (spoiler alert: plenty. Plenty happens.) and it makes me so proud to have known such a talented writer for so long!

And because Smithy is awesome, she tagged me in a little fun blog questionnaire post – and so here I am, answering some of those questions, and leaving it to you, dearest readers, to carry this on:

1. What are you working on right now?

Well, as Nano is on the doorstep and I am working on two novels at once, I figured I would break up my 50,000 words into both books – so 25k per book for the month of November.

The first book is a romance novel tentatively called Cherry Valley, set in the small town of Cherry Valley, where our heroine, Natalie, has just returned after a decade-long absence, following a rather nasty set of events. Suffice it to say, there is a determined hero, a mother with plenty of secrets and two best friends to round out the characters, and Natalie is in for some mystery herself when she gets a threatening note placed on her windshield the second day she’s in town. With any luck, this book will be followed up with the two seperate stories of the two best friends, Chrissy and Donna. And who knows? I love little towns, maybe I will stay there a while.

The second book is one I have been fiddling with for a good long while. Another small town, this one based on Picton ON where I spent a lot of time as a child right through to today. It’s a modern gothic romance with a creepy old house, a family tragedy and a young woman who is stuck in the middle of it all. My major kerfuffle with this story is getting the plot moving – I tend to be very into atmosphere building – which can be a good thing … until you realize your character has spent the last page and half standing next to a gate waiting for you to finish describing ornate moldings and the chill of the air …

Other than that, I am fiddling with some ideas – this is how I do that, btw:

Sketches for Cherry Valley

Sketches for Cherry Valley

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

Hm … if I have one criticism of romance novels, it’s that the plot focuses so heavily on the romantic relationship that it isolates the woman (not the man) from her friends and families. I come from a huge family and tend to surround myself with girlfriends – it’s just odd for me to keep reading stories where heroines have no one to talk to  – or shop with, or get brunch with, etc.

My first novel is different in that the friendship between the three women is key for understanding the rest of the plot that winds its way through all three stories. It’s not completely new – I have read great romances with strong female friendships, but it’s not as common as I would like, and so I am doing it.

My second novel is more traditional in the sense that the heroine is alone – but that’s through making it a gothic romance novel as opposed to a romance novel solely. However, my heroine, Gina, is the one driving the plot – she may have a man who wants to rescue her – can rescue her – but it will be her story. Her choices will bear the scrutiny of readers. She won’t scare easily – but she will scare, and then it will be up to her how to handle her family’s secrets.

3.  Why do you write what you do?

Well … mostly because I like to read it. I only write the things that I would want to read, and so it’s easy for me to write it. A Fangirl writing her Fantasies and so on. However, in particular, I enjoy writing it. I think that most people question why anyone would write (or OMG READ!) romance because it’s been given the reputation of …”fluff” or “female porn” (also – about this, just no. You’re wrong, please shut up) and so people become either dismissive because they lack the curiosity to delve further, or embarrassed because any mention of sex and especially females having a hand in (no pun intended … is that a pun, strictly speaking?) or enjoying sex is … icky. Unthinkable. Ohmygoshmymotherwillreadthis! etc. etc. etc.

The thing of it is, romance novels tend to be fun. Funny, even, with the right author. They’re usually well written, have great characters that echo the real people we’ve known our whole lives and they tap into emotions with such succinct depth of understanding that they do leave you with tears in your eyes. Also, they allow for an entire genre to focus on female sexual empowerment – not the mystery books with dead prostitutes on the cover that serve as warnings to women (don’t enjoy sex, ladies, you will suffer!) or the teen pregnancy horror stories – but real women learning to enjoy sex – as they bloody well should.

And I really want to be a part of that. I want to be a voice in literature that reminds women that it is entirely alright to have emotions, it is totally okay to act on those emotions when you feel you must and it is a damn right to enjoy sex, dammnit. And because of all that – I write romance.

Now horror and supernatural … well I write those because I love a good scare and they are so damned fun to write!

4. How does your writing process work?

That’s an entire post in and of itself! I am actually not really sure how to go about answering it. Usually … quite innocently … I will be listening to music or watching television or just in my own little world, when I happen upon some sort of inspiration: the way the girl ont he bus made shy eyes at the guy by the doors, or the particular way that girl’s three inch heeled boots clicked on the pavement or even the few notes in that song that are different from the rest that evoke a haunting quality – and then I have an idea. And with me, these ideas are half formeed out of the murky swamps of my mind, but they gamely shamble up the shores and holler until I pay attention and then this half-formed idea become a character – or a town, or an event – and I draw it (see the picture above) and I keep drawing, adding colour and details until I have the thing in my head in my notebook too, crammed onto a page with words to remind myself exactly where I was going with that particular doodle or this particular slashing note. And then I just have to say it out loud, so I either root around the house for The Boy (usually at his computer playing some Steam related game) or call Smithy – and just gush. And then I get feedback (from Smithy, the Boy just nods and says it sounds like I know what I am doing) and finally I put on the kettle, grab a couple of munchies, turn on my music and get in the zone.

And then I just … write.

 

How about all you Nanos out there?

Cheers

AmmyB

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