Sunday, May 4, 2014

My #cat Paprika interviews me on my #writing process. (#amwriting) (#bloghop)

Q. First things first. Why did you consent to be interviewed by a cat?

A. Not just any cat. You. I find you pretty easy to talk to. Over the years, we've built up a certain rapport. I know you support my work. I don't think you're going to ask me anything embarrassing.

Q. Why do you keep posting the same picture of me over and over again?

A. Because I like that photo a lot.

Q. I hate short answers. Can you elaborate?

A. For one thing, you look thoughtful and expectant. It's like you're reminding me to write something. For another, that photo features three novels in which I immersed myself while I was writing JIHADI: A LOVE STORY. Reading a good book and getting inspired by it is part of my writing process. Those three novels were books I kept coming back to during the last two years of writing JIHADI. So were the two nonfiction books in that photo.

Q. Had you read all five of those books before?

A. Yeah. All of them. I'm big on books you can read twice.

Q. Will people have to read JIHADI: A LOVE STORY twice?

A: They can if they want. They don't have to.

Q. Does that mean they won't quote get it unquote the first time around?

A. Nope. Nice air quotes with the paws there.

Q. Why can't people buy a complete copy of JIHADI: A LOVE STORY? I get a lot of e-mails about this.

A. Because the novel hasn't been published yet. People can download a copy of the first five thousand words, though. That's the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) excerpt, which is downloadable here. The novel just made the quarterfinals of that contest.

Q. How many people entered the ABNA contest?

A. Ten thousand.

Q. How many novels are still standing, including JIHADI: A LOVE STORY?

A. Five hundred.

Q. Can people review that excerpt on Amazon after they read it?

A. Yep.

Q. Do you want them to do that?

A. Indeed I do.

Q. How are the reviews looking so far?

A. Very good.

Q. Do you tell people what to write in the reviews?

A. Nope.

Q. How long did you and I work on this novel, JIHADI: A LOVE STORY?

A. About six years. You're a beta reader, though, not an author. We discussed this, remember?

Q. Hmph. Listen, I thought this was a blog hop thing, right?

A. It is.

Q. So doesn't that mean I'm supposed to ask you specific questions?

A. Yes. Look at the email I sent you.

Q. Okay, wait a minute. Can you type in the password for me?

A. Yes. Get off the keyboard. See. There you go. Just read from the screen.

Q. Thank you. Question one. "What are you working on right now?"

A. It's a new novel called FREED. It's about my late Papa, among other things. Also about imprisonment and liberation. I've only finished one chapter.

Q. Is the second novel going to have more scenes about open cans of tuna fish? I remember I kept on suggesting you write scenes that had open cans of tuna fish for JIHADI, and you kept on not writing those scenes.

A. Yes. There will be more scenes in this novel featuring open cans of tuna fish.

Q. Question two. "How does your work differ from others of its genre?"

A. Well, my chosen genre is literary fiction, and most of the people I'm trying to live up to show up as books in that photo I used a little earlier in this post. My work differs from theirs in that I have the dubious, enduring legacy of the second Bush administration to write about -- a rich vein of source material -- and my work also differs in that I just wrote my first novel. They're all quite experienced, by contrast. To the extent of actually being dead. So. I do have the advantage of being alive. I guess that's another difference between me and the role models I chose. They're all dead. Except for Martha Alderson. She's not dead, thank God. She's not a novelist, though, so she's a different kind of role model. Martha is my virtual writing coach. Meaning she doesn't actually coach me except through her books and videos. Everyone who writes for a living, fiction or nonfiction, should buy her book immediately and then follow her on Twitter and YouTube.

Q. Did she pay you to say that?

A. No.

Q. Have you ever met her?

A. Not really. I talked to her once, and I tried to tell her how much her book THE PLOT WHISPERER meant to me. I think she thought I was a stalker.

Q. Isn't this blog post going a little long?

A. Maybe. But I promised I would write 1500 words today, so let's keep going.

Q. Question three. "Why do you write what you do?"

A. When it comes to fiction, I find I generally write best about things that piss me off. It's the only constructive thing I can think of to do with the anger. So in JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, I ended up writing about things like the rape culture that has emerged within the US military. There were a lot of topics like that.

Q. You're writing about ME now. Does that mean I piss you off?

A. No. Well. Hold on. Only when you sneak outside when you're not supposed to, which doesn't happen that often. I guess I should find a way to work that conflict into the new novel. That does piss me off.

Q. Are you saying I shouldn't go outside, ever? Even when you're like, bringing groceries in? And there's a perfect opportunity to slip past you while you're holding heavy paper bags and all distracted? Are you saying I shouldn't go outside THEN?

A. Yes. That's what I'm saying. We've discussed this many times.

Q. Why? Why, why, oh why? Why?

A. Because there are big, powerful, mean cats out there who can kick your ass and have kicked your ass.

Q. I don't recall any of that. Question four. "How does your writing process work?"

A. Step one: Find something that pisses me off. Like you sneaking out when you're not supposed to. Step two: Start writing about that and follow it wherever it leads. Step three: Crank out at least five hundred words a day, good or bad, fiction or nonfiction, six days a week. Step four: Gather all those accumulated words into a complex system of Word files that no one but me could possibly make sense of. Step five: Pull the most promising sections into another, less complex system of files. Step six: Delete the worst bits while I edit the rest of it into shape.

Q. What's the ratio of "words generated" to "words you actually use in the final draft of a chapter"?

A. I've done some research on this. It looks like it's at least four to one. Maybe five to one.

Q. Is there anything else I'm supposed to ask you?

A. Yes. You're supposed to ask me who chose me for this blog hop.

Q. Okay. Who chose you for this blog hop?

A. That would be the wonderful Lisa Koosis, also an ABNA quarterfinalist. Her blog can be found here. Her ABNA excerpt can be found here.

Q. Are we done yet?

A. No. You should ask me who I'm tagging next in the blog hop. They'll post their own thoughts on how their writing process works next Monday, May 12.

Q. Who is up next in the blog hop, and will you please hotlink their names directly to their blog sites?

A. They are three gifted friends, and yes I will.

Razor-sharp parodist and sci-fi virtuoso Richard Gibney  writes: Chapter The First: Latency Delay. Richard started writing proper stories when he realized at the age of five or six that the artwork in his picturebooks just wasn't up to scratch. He won his first writing competition at the age of ten, and promptly capitalized on this early success with another two contest wins at the age of thirty five, reaching a number of shortlists in the meantime and since. He is the editor of and chief contributor to the English language version of Yeah! International Student Magazine in Ireland. Chapter The Second: In Medias Res, Be It Deceptively So. Born, raised and living in Dublin, Richard's stories have appeared in short fiction collections such as Best New Writing in the United States, in two Cork (Ireland) Libraries' collections, and in other media. Work has also been broadcast on one of Ireland's national stations, RTE Radio One, and in an RTE web series. Seventeen seconds of his material featured on a BBC Radio Four satire programme, probably the best-paying joke of his career so far.

Safie Maken Finlay is a writer, editor and book reviewer. Although she was born in London and has a diverse background, she has lived most of her life in Ireland, which she considers to be her home. She lives there now with her family in a house in the countryside, surrounded by curious cows, goats who think they are human, an inexplicable number of hens named after Star Wars characters, and some pets of the more conventional variety. Safie is the author of The Galian Spear, the first novel in a fantasy adventure series for children aged nine and over. She also edited the YA novel, The Custodian, by D. A. O'Connor, and is a writer and reviewer for the Swallows Nest Children's Books Site. Safie is supposed to be working hard completing The Sword of Want, which is the sequel to The Galian Spear, but she is frequently found on Twitter, instead. If you notice her tweeting, please tell her to switch off the Internet and go back to writing.

Katya Mills lives in California and writes urban fiction, flash fiction and dark fantasy. She recently self-published her first novel, Girl Without Borders. She publishes flash fiction, nonfiction and poetry on a daily basis via her blog.

Guys, you're up next.

Q. Wouldn't it be a good idea to close the blog post with a video of you reading something from JIHADI: A LOVE STORY so people could get a sense of your style?

A. That's a great idea. I'll put it at the end.

Q. So can I go outside now?

A. No.