First, I must send a big thank you to Jess Wells for tagging me to join in this fascinating discussion about the writing process. I am a great admirer of Wells, and if you are unfamiliar with her work, you should start with The Mandrake Broom, and then move on to A Slender Tether. I have sat in one of her lectures at the Saints and Sinners conference, and I remain in awe.
1) What am I working on? I don’t use titles for my manuscripts, other than the file name, which in this case is the imaginative “Ideas for the Next Book.” This current work is a generational saga, following the stories of two families, set of course in the Deep South, from the decade just after the Civil War to the present day. I got started on this by researching my own family history through ancestry.com. No good book is without mystery, and so I weave storylines through these families, as seen through the eyes of a special person in each succeeding generation, one who is set apart, made to feel different, and therefore the person who searches the past and really needs to know the family secrets. How did I get to be this way, so unlike and different and outside? What ties me to these people besides blood? Think Gone with the Wind meets The Beverly Hillbillies, meets Peyton Place, with a little Tom Sawyer thrown in, and the resulting mix is a conglomerate mess, the stew pot in which my next book slowly comes to a boil. So the answer is I am writing a family history set in the South that in no way resembles my own. That is my official answer.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? I can’t say that it does. Historical fiction mixed with lesbian fiction is an existing subset where my books fit, I suppose. I could say that my books differ from others in that subset because I grew up in the South, which infuses my writing no matter the genre. My books are different because I have a degree in history which makes reading dusty old history books a passion instead of a drudge.
3) Why do I write what I do? I love writing. I feel compelled to write. All my writing comes from the gut. By that I mean it is organic, and no matter how many writing classes or seminars I attend, if I don’t feel it deep inside, some burning question I want answered, then it just isn’t worth all the time, energy, research, and promotional stuff that is the luggage of every writer.
4) How does my writing process work? Butt in the chair. Seven days a week, I plant myself in front of a blank page. After the reading and the research, after the questions, when I sit down to write, it all starts with a single line or thought in my head, or a single scene, like a still photograph, that I begin to write about. In my last book, What’s Best for Jane, I saw a little girl with an armful of books. I saw an old lady on her back porch, watching the little girl. It gave me the creeps. So I wrote about why that made me feel creepy.
Catch all my work here at Bywater Books.
Up next at bat, on Monday May 5, you get a real treat. Sally Bellerose, one of the writers I rave about when asked, will be your host in the #MyWritingProcess tour.
Sally Bellerose is author of The Girls Club, Bywater Books. The manuscript won the Bywater Prize, the Rick Demarinis Award, the Writers at Work Award and an NEA Fellowship. Excerpts have been published in Sinister Wisdom, The Sun, The Best of Writers at Work, Cutthroat, and Quarterly West. The Girls Club was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, a Golden Crown Literary Award, and the Bellwether Prize.
Bellerose’s current project is a novel titled Fishwives which features old women behaving badly. The title story won first place in Saints and Sinners fiction contest an excerpt appeared in BLOOM Literary Magazine. Bellerose writes about class, sex, illness, absurdity, and lately, growing old. In her work, she loves to mess with rhythm, rhyme, and awkward emotion.
Please visit her at http://sallybellerose.wordpress.com and ask about her granddaughter or her garden.
And, yippee, Sally just learned that a second excerpt from Fishwives won another first place in the 2014 Saints and Sinners fiction contest.