The Speculative Fiction Blog Hop

Over at KBoards, a couple of indie spec fic writers got together and organised the Speculative Fiction Blog Hop, a variation of the popular Writing Process Blog Tour. Every participant answers four questions about our process and then hands on the baton to the next writer.

I’m up today, taking over from Jessica Rydill, author of Malarat and Children of the Shaman. Here is her bio:

Jessica Rydill writes fantasy and collects Asian ball-jointed dolls. This makes her living room an unnerving place to visit.
Many of the dolls are based on characters from her books. The bad guys stay locked in the cabinet.
Jessica wishes she could write like Russell Hoban. In the mean time, she has got a crossover going on between mediaeval fantasy with warlords, and steampunk adventure with lightning-wielding shamans. Plus Golems, Dybbuks, Kabbalistic demons and other nasties from Jewish folklore.

ETA: Jessica has also been kind enough to assemble the whole Speculative Fiction Blog Hop list, including both past and future posts.

And now it’s time for the questions:

What are you working on?

On the speculative fiction front, I finally finished Debts to Pay, a new Shattered Empire novella focussing on the character of Carlotta Valdez, which is currently going through editing. I even found the perfect cover image, which looks just like I imagine Carlotta. I’m also working on another Shattered Empire novella, Shot at Dawn, which should come out later this year and puts Holly and Ethan into deep trouble.

On the non-speculative front (yes, I work on multiple projects simultaneously), I’m working on Little Girl Lost, part two of my romantic suspense series New York City’s Finest, as well as on a short holiday romance called Lonely this Christmas. Now writing a Christmas story in July is somewhat weird, but you have to start early in order to have it published in time for the holidays.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I believe that our writing is the sum of our influences. Now authors are different people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and preferences. And since those backgrounds, experiences and preferences influence our writing, it naturally follows that our work is different from the work of all those other authors.

According to Amazon’s author rank, there are approx. 22000 speculative fiction authors out there. However, none of those other 22000 speculative fiction authors has had exactly the same experiences growing up, worked the same jobs, read the same books, watched the same movies and TV shows. In fact, approx. 21950 of them don’t even live in the same country as me.

Why do you write what you do?

I read in multiple genres. And since I write what I like to read, I consequently also write in multiple genres.

However, speculative fiction has always been my first literary love, since it was the genre I latched on to, when I grew out of children’s books and made the switch to adult books (there was very little YA in those days and ever less worth reading). In particular, I fell in love with science fiction, mostly Golden Age classics as well as some 1980s works. So it made sense that I would write in the genre as well. Indeed, my first attempts at writing a novel was science fiction.

I like all subgenres of science fiction and have tried my hand at writing many of them, though space opera was always my first love. What is more, there is one crucial ingredient that can be found in all the science fiction I’ve loved in my life and that is rebellion, to the point that “rebellion against an unjust system” was part of my personal definition of science fiction for years. If a book managed to combine space opera, a sprawling galactic setting, lots of female character who kicked butt and rebellion against an unjust system, it was pretty much catnip to me.

Since I really loved space operas about plucky rebels fighting against an unjust system, it was only natural that I would try to write one of my own. And I did, as a teenager making my first attempts at writing. Alas, the result – a massive sprawling mess called the Femla series – was illogical, chaotic and frankly unpublishable and borrowed quite liberally from Star Wars as well as anything else that caught my fancy.

Eventually I grew up and recognized the Femla stories for what they were, namely an unholy mess. I also got on the Internet and found other science fiction fans, for the first time in my life. Alas, I also learned that the kind of science fiction I liked was considered hopelessly old-fashioned and found that I didn’t much care for the sort of science fiction that was considered hip. All this led to a massive creative paralysis, which caused me to abandon the genre I loved most in favour of other genres I also liked. At around the same time, I started selling short fiction in genres other than SF and decided I simply wasn’t fated to be an SF author.

Indie publishing changed everything, because it meant that suddenly I had the freedom to write what I wanted and publish it. And so, after dipping my toes into the indie pool with some backlist stories, I decided to try my hand at space opera again with all the elements I liked so much. Hence, Shattered Empire was born, the story of the Great Galactic Rebellion, told through the eyes of the people who fought it.

Meanwhile, the Silencer series was born out of my interest in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and my admiration for the authors who wrote for them. Because the old pulp authors had a work ethic like nobody’s business. For example, Walter Gibson, the man who created The Shadow, would write a short novel of approximately 40000 words every two weeks. And the results are still entertaining today, almost eighty years after they were written. In pre-indie publishing days, prolificness on the scale of Walter Gibson was pretty much unheard of, though now there are indie writers who come close to matching the work ethic of the old pulp scribes.

When I created the Silencer, I initially wanted to try my hand at writing like the old pulp authors did, loosely connected series adventures with a single heroic protagonist written at a fast pace. So I created a character patterned after the pulp heroes of the 1930s like the Shadow, the Spider, Doc Savage, Operator 5, etc…, only with a twist cause in his civilian identity the Silencer actually is a pulp writer. Of course, I didn’t manage to write as quickly as Walter Gibson, though I consider myself reasonably prolific. But I still enjoyed creating the Silencer and his supporting cast.

There are similar stories behind all of my works. For example, my crime shorts were inspired by the short crime stories that could be found in the backpages of many German magazines when I grew up. My historical romances were inspired by reading Anne Golon’s Angelique saga in my teens and watching a whole lot of French and Italian made historical movies on TV. New York City’s Finest was inspired by the sexual tension laced crime dramas that were so popular in the 1980s. Rites of Passage and Cartoony Justice feature characters I invented back in my early teens.

How does your writing process work?

I am what is commonly called a pantser. I usually have at least a vague idea of where a certain story is going, but I don’t use outlines. Most of the time, I have a flash of inspiration – a scene, an image, an idea – and simply start writing and see where it takes me.

For more complex stories, i.e. novella and novel length, I sometimes create a rough outline, when the story is approx. three quarters finished, by scribbling brief scene descriptions on notecards and shuffling them around to determine which order they go in.

In case of a continuing series like Shattered Empire or New York City’s Finest, I also have a rough series outline as well as a sort of series bible listing characters, settings, plot highlights, etc… The Silencer is a bit different, because the individual adventures are self-contained without an overarching plot. But I still have a series bible to collect information on characters, setting, equipment, etc… as well as notes for future adventures.

I write every day, including weekends and holidays. The absolute minimum wordcount goal I’ve set myself is at least 100 words of new fiction per day. Since I started tracking my wordcount back in 2005, I’ve missed my 100 word goal only once, when I was sick with the flu. However, these days I aim for writing at least thousand words every day, divided between several projects. I frequently exceed that wordcount goal, though sometimes I fall short as well.

I used to think that I needed a solid block of at least half an hour free time in order to write. Eventually, inspired at least partly by Dean Wesley Smith, I started writing in shorter bursts. Whenever I have a few minutes of free time, I write, even if it’s only a sentence or two. Cause even these few sentences do add up over time. I also carry a pen and a notebook wherever I go and use dead bits of time – waiting at the tram station or the doctor’s office or some downtime at school – to jot down a few sentences. Using every bit of free time to write has boosted my productivity enormously.

As I said above, I usually work on several projects simultaneously and cycle through them, so that if I get bored or stuck on one project, I can jump to the next one. This approach usually works quite well for me, though it can take longer for an individual project to get finished. However, earlier this month I found myself finishing several stories in quick succession and thus ran out of projects to work on. The solution was going through my folder of unfinished stories and picking one or two to continue.

 ***

Okay, that’s it from me. Next up is Kevin Hardman who writes some kick-arse superhero fiction. Here is his bio:

Kevin Hardman is an avid reader who made the mind-boggling decision to cross trade lines and become an author about a year ago.  He is the author of the Kid Sensation series and the Warden series.

Make sure to check out his blog on August 4 for the next stop on the tour.

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9 Responses to The Speculative Fiction Blog Hop

  1. What a fun post. It makes me want to go look up some of the pulps you mention. I’ve read some of the old SF but none of the crime (assuming that’s how The Shadow would be classified).

    • Cora says:

      Glad you liked the post, Sandra.

      The Shadow is definitely crime with the occasional hint at the supernatural and/or SF. The Spider is more of a thriller often with big threats and massive bodycounts. Doc Savage is a curious blend of adventure and SF.

      Coincidentally, vintage pulp fiction was some of the first e-books I ever read, long before the Kindle was but a gleam in Jeff Bezos’ eye. The Vintage Library is a site that offers authorized e-book editions of vintage pulps. There also used to be some sites which offered unauthorized e-book editions, but I have no idea if they still exist. However, The Pulp Net should know.

  2. Cora, your commitment to daily writing is inspirational! Only one day missed in almost nine years, WOW!!!! Heidi

    • Cora says:

      I was stunned myself, when I checked my records and found that I had been tracking my writing since 2005.

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