Brilliant author of the romantic comedies Prada & Prejudice, Love & Liability, and Mansfield Lark, Katie Oliver, tagged me in a global blog tour on the writing process. If you didn’t read her post, go check it out. I met Katie nearly two years ago on Twitter through a mutual real life friend of both of ours. I fell in love with her RomCom series on her blog that had me swooning, angry, and laughing in just one post.
What are you currently writing?
I have two manuscripts in progress right now. My focus is the second manuscript because it’s more malleable as it took me a month to write as opposed to fourteen years for the first. It’s the story of fiercely independent Lara Pendergast who grew up in the dangerous part of town and trusts only two people in her life, her cousin and her best friend. Loyal and protective Robin Embry plays bass in a punk rock band and works in a record store. He met Lara in college and they’ve been best friends since. Lara meets genteel Chase Ashton when he comes to the gallery she manages looking for a painting for his house. Chase and Lara are drawn to each other, but Chase has trust issues of his own. Problems arise when Robin declares his love for Lara just moments before Chase picks her up for a date. Troubles continue when the devious Alexandra DuBois, Chase’s ex, arrives on his doorstep with shocking news for him and nothing but trouble for Lara.
This started as flash fiction on my blog that I titled How Long Will I Love You? The story kept needling me before I posted it and took on a life of its own.
What makes your work different?
I have so many answers for this, but the major difference is I’m not a series writer. Series are not a bad thing. I grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia and Nancy Drew. Some my favorite current series are The Mortal Instruments, The Lunar Chronicles, and the Patrick Bowers Files. I read all the Star Wars books, too. But, I also read a lot of stand-alone books. I like my beginning, middle, and end in one book. I want my readers to use their own imagination to come up with their own ideas of what happens next.
Why do you write what you do?
I like the journey of one or more characters broken in some way. Lara thinks re-inventing her persona will push her away from her past, but she falls back into old habits when pushed to the edge by so many stressors at once. Chase falls hard for Lara, but the memories of Alexandra breaking his heart so callously holds him back. In my first manuscript, my main character is horribly abused by her family, which is carefully kept a secret until one day when her father loses control. Her journey of healing that brokenness is not only learning that not all families are like hers, but accepting that she’s not “damaged goods” as she’s been told repeatedly. I like the message that circumstances don’t dictate who you are. They become part of who you are, but you get to choose what you do.
What is your writing process?
I need three things when writing: dialogue, music, and candle light. Whatever fiction I’m writing, whether it’s novel, flash fiction, or serial fiction on the blog, always starts out with dialogue in my head. The current novel started with this line from Lara to Robin: “You don’t get to come in here right before my date and profess your love for me. You should’ve had the fucking balls to tell me before I got involved with Chase.” Once it is firm in my head, I sit down in my writing cave at the laptop or with a pen and notebook. I try to keep my writing hours to the daytime when I’m alone, but when I have that dialogue in my head for scene after scene I tend to write for as long as it takes to get it all out, even if it means walking away to fix dinner then returning to write until 2a.m. This happened a lot the week of New Year’s when I was working on the first draft and I had word counts of six thousand to ten thousand each day that week. When I start a new story I find an album that fits my plot and put that on repeat. Once I have a good chunk of the story together, I compile a playlist of different music that fits my characters and listen to that. Music is an absolute necessity for me. I can write without it, but my writing flows better with it. I started off listening to Ellie Goulding on repeat then built up my playlist for Chase & Lara. Candlelight helps me as much as music does for some reason. It’s a habit that started in college. My dorm-mates knew I was in a serious zone if my door was open and a candle was burning. They called it The Light of Knowledge. It may not be a real need, but sometimes when I’m struggling and realize I didn’t light a candle, the lighting of one changes the game.
You know how when you’re blocked and you know it’s YOU that’s blocking yourself? I felt that a lot while working on this and realized the first time it happened that I needed to confront it head on. Any time I felt stuck or blocked I stared at the screen and thought to myself, what would make my mother squirm? Then I wrote the first thing that came to my head. It worked like a charm every single time.
I kept notes in a notebook on my characters because their attire is a big part of their character and as it grew, I transferred it to another notebook with pictures from magazines of clothing styles for each character, as well as pictures of who I think matches each character. It’s almost like an art journal for my book. I even drew floor plans for Lara’s apartment and Chase’s house.