Well, it’s my turn on the The Writing Process Blog Chain today. Thanks to Ruth Hull Chatlien for tagging me in this. Do pick up her novel The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. It’s an amazing read about a very strong woman in an interesting time period.
1) What am I working on?
In order of priority: my novel, currently titled The Sailor’s Daughters (which, you know, is so different from other historical fiction titles with an occupation and “sister” or “daughter” or “wife” added). I’m in the middle of the fourth draft of this story. Hopefully, four will be the charm. It’s the first historical fiction novel I’ve seriously tried to write, so it’s been a learning experience, to say the least.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmm. Well. Historical fiction is a pretty wide genre–wide in terms of historical era, level of historical detail, whether or not an author is writing about a historical figure or fictional characters, or particular incident. There’s historical romance, historical mystery, historical thrillers, etc.
My characters are fictional. They don’t interact with historic figures. The era they exist in is the Georgian Era, basically Jane Austen’s time, which has certainly been covered in movies and books for ages. But what makes this different is the subject matter–it deals with race and slavery, being sisters, learning how to be a good father, but it’s mostly about being mixed race in a time and in a society where nobody looks like you. One of the daughters of the main character is half black and half white.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Who knows? Usually it’s because I’m drawn to a character and I want to write them. Or I get an itchy “what if?” thought and I go write that.
I spent my adolescence reading mostly historical romance, historical fiction, and history–I went through a Romanov phase and a Tudors phase. Social studies was consistently my favorite and my best class in school, even more so than English. My dad, a history buff, and I have spent a lot of time watching history documentaries over the years and I’m a self-confessed costume drama addict.
But it started to bother me that there were no people of color, no people of other socioeconomic classes, or of other religions, depicted in what I was reading. I can’t point to most historically-set novels and go, “That would be me in those days.”
I wondered about what life would have been like for a biracial person in England in the nineteenth century. I haven’t read very many biracial characters in historical fiction at all. But mixed people existed–and have existed–and being biracial myself, it’s important to portray them within the context of whatever era I’ve plopped them down in.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said:
4) How does my writing process work?
The character comes first. I let them percolate for a while, then something–the plot, backstory, their issues–start developing. I used to be a panster and just dive right in to a first draft. These days, I actually outline. I’ll let you know if it works for me or not.
My first draft is always, always shitty. Always. Without fail. I’m not a natural plotter. Characters and their backstories come much more easily to me than actual plots.
As for the actual writing, for the early stages, I go by the NaNoWriMo philosophy of just getting it down. I write in sequence. I can’t write with people around me, so I type on my laptop in my room, usually at night. I’m a slow writer and a master of distracting myself with the Interwebs, so if I want to get some serious word count down, I turn off the Internet. When I finish a draft, I edit, then either send it to a beta or let it sit for a few weeks before going back to it. I haven’t gotten to a point where I felt a piece was finished enough to submit anywhere, except a couple of contests. But hopefully soon!
I was supposed to pass this chain along to three other writers, but things fell through, so I’m passing it on to one. Look for her post next Monday!
Karla Gomez graduated with a B.A. in Literature and Writing. She obtained an internship with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and shortly thereafter started working at law offices and as a freelance developmental editor for a boutique publishing house. She is currently working on her WIP which she hopes to self-pub later this year.