I was tagged to write about my writing process by the amazing Kristine Wyllys
who is my Plus One in all things and has written the fierce NA book Wild Ones
which is out and you should all totally buy.
We’re super cool and take down cities together after going to festivals and stomping around to banjos then desperately crying about how bad our bones hurt after, but still we’re cool and if she tags me in something, I have to do it.
WHAT AM I WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
No, let’s see. One thing is a maybe sequel just because I couldn’t help but wonder what comes after 18. What comes after headstrong teens who pretend to be adults and then find themselves older, rustier and taming ghosts while acting out like kids under the supposed guise of genuine adulthood. I think most of us can relate to the fact that 23 felt grown up and miles away from us at 17, but when you’re actually 23 it feels like you’re never going to kick being 14. That weird, emotional math is fun to write about. None of us know how to adult, but we think everyone else does.
There’s also another series I’m working on about three diversely nerdy girls with one foot in their imaginations and another sinking in the expectations of adulthood. I like to call it a southern Mystic Pizza meets Amelie. I may or may not have a Peter Pan complex.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?
I think there’s so much fantastic stuff out there and I’m just running through the library trying to read it all. I love words and books with strong bones that are fat with story. My first love is a really good romance, whether it’s YA, NA or Adult, but I need that romance to matter. To take up so much room inside me I can barely breathe around how much I care. That happens for me when I’m wholly invested in the characters and their goals, voice and what they bring to the page. The relationships they have outside of the romance and the hundred different things that shape them and move the plot. When reading the story is so much more than just hanging up posters of a new book boyfriend. Sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s a burst of hope, but no matter what it sticks. A song will play, I’ll find a picture or look up and see a girl on a bench and all of a sudden I’m remembering a scene like it was my own memory because that book carved me that deep.
My hope is for my stories to always carry an emotional shovel.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
I write love stories, because they’re the lifeline for everything else. I write them the way I do because of two reasons.
The first is because my love for storytelling came from my Cuban father and Colombian grandmother who both offered me literature that was bursting with magical realism and folklore. Fantastic things were spoon fed to me as fact and it gave birth to the way I write and imagine stories. The nerd girl who obsesses and needs to search out what might be possible if I just look closer and believe.
The second biggest influence was simply growing up in the south. When it came time to weave my own strings I did so while tapping along to gritty, twangy, heart wrenching folk and Americana songs and falling for boys who drove trucks and called my mother “Ma’am.” I went out and discovered Johnny Cash, Scout Finch and Coach Taylor and fell into a deep love that was all mine.
My voice being shaped by southern storytelling goes beyond my accent and has been thoroughly mixed into the alchemy of who I am as a writer and reader.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
My writing process used to be off the walls erratic and just sort of shoved to wherever I could fit it. The first book I really finished and planned on querying was written in a closet and finished in a garage. I was living back at my parent’s freshly graduated from college, 23 (maybe this is the root of my new adult angst) a wife, and a new mom. It kind of sucked for my ego and sense of direction to take that step backward, but at night I crammed into my little closet with my computer and wrote a YA story about a girl who worked on cars and the new guy with an Irish accent across the street. It was 2008 and I started looking up publishing and thought I was totally ready.
I never pulled the trigger on it, because it was never meant for publishing, but it did seal my relationship with my forever Plus One who became my CP and honestly, writing that book helped pull me out of a pretty deep, Garden State sort of funk so I’m forever grateful to that story and the time it let me put into writing it.
Now my writing is a little more structured around the morning hours with the revising party going down at night. HURRICANE DAUGHTER came to me while I was staring out the window of our car while my husband drove me and my parents to the house we thought we wanted to buy. I was thinking about finally leaving my parent’s house (for the second time) which made me think of the orange blossoms on the tree outside my bedroom window and then Daisy crashed into my head. And then Beau walked in more quietly. He was Tim Riggins of FNL season one who was forced into becoming the season five version of himself in a blink and I pulled out my phone and wrote it all down on a note I still have saved. I wrote the first chapter (that is no longer the first chapter) and it stayed like that on my computer for three years.
Until I was ready to drive back down that dirt road and go back to that orange grove.
I write a first draft in about three months and then revise either in quick, but numerous bursts or in longer, lingering trips depending on the notes and ideas. I love the revising. I could eat it up I love it so. The way it makes my brain work and stretch and pretend. Firing up my playlist and going back in swinging a crowbar while making new messes with pieces that have become more familiar each time. I love inviting someone else in and the back and forth of working off their notes. It makes a super isolating thing feel communal. When I did Pitch Wars this year it was the biggest rush of excitement and reaffirmed how very much I loved the process.
I’m a lovesick fool for the work and the writing. The rebuilding and crashing.
The waiting and sighing. The chair dancing and daydreaming.
The total mess of it drew me in and carved me deep.