My writing buddy, Jessica the Maniac Marmoset, tagged me in this fun 10 questions-style Liebster Award and I decided to play along!
What first inspired your current WIP?
When I first got to Finland in 2010, a friend gave my children a copy of the Canine Kalevala, a hilarious illustrated version of Finland’s epic poem The Kalevala, with the main characters all depicted as dogs. After reading it, I bought a translation of the full version (which is hundreds of pages long) and read it cover-to-cover. I’ll admit it, I’m obsessed with the mythology and the subtle ways it influences modern-day life, from names of companies to street and product names, to people who have named their children after mythological heroes, perhaps even without realizing it. So it seemed natural to write a story about a couple of expat children who discover that some of the mythology from The Kalevala is real.
Are your characters based in any way or did they spring, Athena style, from your cranium fully formed.
The sibling dynamic between Lauren and Henry is very much inspired by my little brother and I. But their personalities are quite a bit different. Henry in particular popped fully-formed (name and all) into my mind about six months ago. Lauren didn’t start talking to me until I’d started writing Henry’s story, so now it’s told from dual POV.
What genre are you writing in?
Contemporary fantasy. My first time writing about magic and I love it! It feels like going back to my roots because I love reading fantasy.
What’s your favorite part of your current WIP?
Now that we’re leaving Finland, this work is, in many respects, a love letter to our host country. I have woven so many little details about the country from the smooth glide of the emerald green trams that run through Helsinki to charming Christmas market to the importance of reindeer and snow to the national image here. I want people who read my book to take an interest in this place and its mythology.
Do you cast your characters? Figuring out which actors would play your characters in the movie of your book. Who would play your MC? Your antagonist?
It’s a dangerous thing for me to even think about this. By the time I get this thing published and sell the movie rights, any middle-grade aged actors I could picture will be too old to play the parts!
Where is your novel set?
Mostly in Helsinki, Finland. But the children take a few side-trips during their adventure, visiting other locales in Finland and even making the trek north to Tromso, Norway.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? What brought you this decision?
Pantser. I’ve even blogged about my five-line outline, which is basically outlining for pantsers. I’m a planning by nature in normal life, but changing plans causes all kinds of pain and anxiety for me, which I learned after a few failed attempts at writing to a detailed outline really impinges my creative work. So I spend a lot of time getting to know the setting and the characters before I start to write (sometimes even for 3-6 months), thinking about them, visualizing them, maybe even jotting some notes down. But mainly, I just let them percolate in my subconscious. Then, when I’m ready to write, I let them tell me where the story’s going. So far, through two novels and numerous short stories, I haven’t run out of steam or gotten stuck using this method, so I’m sticking with it.
How many drafts have you written for this WIP?
I’ve been calling this my first draft because I’m not done with it yet (about 10-15k words left to write). But I have to admit that it’s already in much better shape than my tenth draft of last year’s NaNo project, Finding Gib. Not only because I’ve learned SO much, but because I’ve been submitting it in 10k word chunks to a Writer’s Digest University Advanced Novel Writing class. Getting the incremental feedback has helped me ward off problems as I worked on the story, and having regular deliverables has really helped me keep on schedule (I should finish the whole thing start to finish in 12 weeks!). Such a different revision history than Finding Gib, which was written in 30 days, but has been completely rewritten twice, and significantly polished over the course of about four major rounds of editing.
Do you set up some sort of reward system to keep you motivated through the long, arduous process of writing a novel length work?
This may sound cheesey, but I love the writing so much that it hasn’t felt arduous. The slower pace of a 12-week first draft is a lot less frantic than NaNoWriMo and feels a lot more comfortable to me. Even my husband has commented on how stress-free this drafting process has been compared to past efforts. Querying is another situation entirely. I’m using this fall’s crazy contesting schedule as a motivation/reward system to keep me distracted during the endless waiting. And honestly, the WIP is a welcomed distraction as well.
Do your characters talk to you?
Although I’ve been writing fiction for the past twelve years or so (with a pretty huge break to have children), I always thought it was a little weird when other writers claimed their characters talked to them. I think I was expecting some sort of hallucination or out of body experience, and that just wasn’t happening for me. But this past spring, a full six months after I finished Finding Gib, I sat down one day and, instead of the third person, past-tense I’d been writing all along, this first person present voice bubbled up in my mind and told me a whole different version of the story. As soon as I showed this new stuff to my critique partners, they agreed that it captured Elias’s voice so much better than the other version. So I guess I had to find my voice as a writer before I could hear my characters. It’s still not an out of body experience for me, and it’s not like they address me “Hey, Julie, don’t forget to tell them I did XYZ…” but when I write now, I hear them in my head in a way I never did before. And when I revise, I can see pretty clearly when something out of character has happened. No matter what happens with my querying, I feel good about this shift in my work.
I nominate Sara Eastler, Kimberly VanderHorst, Jilly Gagnon, and Olivia Bright to play along and answer the following ten questions about your work on your blog.
- Can you share one example of how you came up with the idea for a story?
- What’s your biggest challenge as a writer?
- What genre do you write? What age category?
- Do you think you’ll ever vary from that?
- What’s the best book you’ve read in your genre recently?
- What inspires you as a writer?
- Do you use visuals (photos, paintings) or audios (voice recordings, music) to help form the characters in your stories?
- What does a typical writing day look like for you?
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
- Tell us about your current work-in-progress!