Thank you to the wonderful, talented and very funny Clémentine Beauvais who has tagged me for the next leg of ‘My Writing Process’. Think for the first time in my writing life I’ve missed a deadline here and this should have been posted on the Monday - but there you are, sometimes life conspires to put too many balls in the air. More on this below. (And Clémentine , I don’t know what this says about my narcissistic self reflection…)
I’ll answer as truthfully as I can and then tag the next runner. (Though my younger son describes my job as ‘telling lies to children for money’.)
1. What am I working on?
Like an ungainly - and not very big - colossus I seem to be straddling two trilogies at the moment. Which is a way of saying I’m between contracted work. Just putting the very last touches to my Mysterium series - in this case writing a bonus story that will be available online after the publication of Book 3 - The Wheel of Life and Death - in July. Also promoting Mysterium at various festivals and schools over the next few months which is great fun as I get to show off and/or make a fool of myself in public.
Negotiations are under way for contract for my next Middle Grade thriller trilogy. Won’t say too much now but it should feature gangsters, Communists and ghosts in a unique setting… Apart from that I’m embarking on a new joint project with my talented, award winning brother - YA, illustrated novel that should appear some time in 2016, we hope!
More speculatively, long term-ly, optimistically (and occasionally pessimistically) Marcus and I are working on a film project that is edging closer to fruition. And I’m bringing an adult novel to completion that has been haunting me now for years - and needs to be done!
And then there’s the day job still as a therapist that can take large amounts of bandwidth at times…
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Tricky question to answer without putting your foot in it. What I hope The Mysterium does is to take some of the standard tropes of MG thriller fiction, (absent parents, action sequences, a buried mystery) and then infuse it with the things that have obsessed me since a young age: the unknowable mystery of time and being here - now, questions of identity and how we end up being who we think we are, the ways that the body and the mind react and respond to each other. My Philosophy degree and lifelong interest in Eastern thought and culture forces its way into a lot of what I write. But not didactically, I hope!
3. Why do I write what I do?
Over the past ten years I’ve written screenplays, picture book texts, adult literary novels and YA. All with promise, but a promise that often faltered at the final step. When I switched to MG it seemed that something clicked - presumably because I was writing for an audience that matched my own emotional age. Or because that target audience (9-12 ish) matches a time in my life that I found very difficult and very intense. That said, I try to put in as much nuance, quality writing and reference as possible to sustain older readers that come to the trilogy.
4. What’s my writing process like?
I wish I had a steady routine! But like so many writers I have to balance the writing itself with my job as a therapist, being a parent, promoting existing books. Writing time can tend to be the time that gives way when conflicts arise…
But I’m lucky to be self-employed in both my jobs, and that does mean that technically I can accept as much - or as little - of any of the competing demands.
Ideally I like to write first drafts in the morning, starting as early as possible. For some reason I can never make new sentences post lunch! I write quickly - up to 4000 words on a good day, and worry about revising later. Sometimes I enjoy those early stages of telling the story, but more often than not it’s the editing and revising that really excites me: shifting text around to find better ‘fit’, deleting words, sentences, paragraphs. I love that feeling of honing and sharpening - when it’s going well.
And then there are the days when it feels like you’ve taken an engine to pieces and all the bits are lying on the floor in a pool of oil and you can’t work out how they go together.
For the thriller trilogies I plot major points in considerable detail - both across each book and the trilogy as a whole. That then gets physically cut up and pasted on a large A1 master sheet. Then I scribble all over that and loop arrows and have another think. When that looks right I now I’ve got a book and then I dive in…
That sounds more organised than it feels to be honest. And I bet Rebecca Westcott, author of the wonderful Dandelion Clocks and whom I hereby tag, knows a thing or two about balancing wiring and work and parenting…?!