Why am I doing the Writing Process Blog Tour again? Because my friend Sonya Craig tagged me to do it and I like to think I’m a good friend. I met Sonya through a mutual friend on Twitter. He included me in a #FollowFriday tweet and she followed me, no questions asked and tweeted me that she followed me because our friend told her to. I was sold. Sonya writes sci-fi, tweets about Fat Cat, and advocates for proper mental health care. A woman after my own heart because I love sci-fi, cats, and access to needed mental health services while breaking down the stigma.
What are you currently writing?
Since finishing Saving Grace and sending it off to beta readers, I returned to Family Ties, a story I started fifteen years ago and finally finished last year. I’ve spent the last year tweaking it to the point where I’m happy with what I have and also couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, shoving it into my first reader’s hands for now.
Sara Parker spent the first fourteen years of her life without friends, living by strict rules, and keeping secrets. Arissa Jericho moves in across the street and befriends Sara, to the dismay of Sara’s parents. The first day of high school, the girls meet Jason Waters. Now Sara has two friends and learns why her parents didn’t allow her to have friends in the first place. When you keep everyone at a distance, no one has to know a thing. Sara is convinced she will lose her friends if her secrets ever come to light. When Arissa and Jason stand by her instead of leaving her, Sara learns the true meaning of family, bravery, and love. She accidentally reveals her last secret when she gets too comfortable, setting off a series of events out of everyone’s control, starting with ripping Sara away from the only stability she’s known.
What makes your work different?
It’s not often you read a general fiction book with teenagers as the main characters. I originally meant for this to be general fiction. Then I decided to go in the direction of Young Adult. However, the first third of the book is unnerving and disturbing and I don’t think it would do well in the Young Adult genre unless I tone it down, which I will not do. So now I’m back to general fiction and I feel more comfortable with that decision. Sara has a dark and discomfiting story. One that people may shy from. It is a completely fictional story, but it is also real. There are young people just like Sara in the real world needing a way out and supportive people to help them.
Why do you write what you do?
I used to work in the mental health field. When I started Family Ties, I was doing direct care work with teenage boys in a psychiatric residential treatment facility. I told myself when I started at the agency I would leave work at work, but doing that is easier said than done. The boys I worked with came to us from all over the state, each with their own story no less horrifying than the next. I’ve always found writing to be therapeutic and Family Ties was my way of dealing with the stress of work. There is a piece of each of those boys in Sara. A thought. A glance. A fear. A hope. A smile. An act of bravery. A piece of resilience. In time, Family Ties became just as much for the boys as it was for me. Even if I told myself I was okay if I never published it, I realized I needed to for the boys and every other child like them.
How does your writing process work?
The way I wrote the bulk of Family Ties was much different from Saving Grace. I started with brainstorming my characters and their personalities on a legal pad. I had an idea of how I wanted it to end, which gave me my working title – Lily. Then came the writing…on the same legal pad…while listening to Goo Goo Dolls’ Dizzy Up The Girl CD on repeat. More specifically, “Acoustic #3”. This was before mp3 players and iTunes were around. I listened to the CD so much, it ruined it. Luckily, Chaz had a backup of it. I wrote in whatever free time I found, which wasn’t much. By the time I was doing case management at the agency, I was on-call 24/7 for my in-home clients which meant a lot of crisis calls. Most of them requiring me to drop what I was doing and drive out to the home. Yes, including turning the burners off the stove while cooking dinner. There were times where after writing a scene I had to walk away from it because it was so emotional I found myself in tears. Not just take a break and do something for an hour. Set it aside completely. Sometimes for months at a time. I finally came back to it last year without needing to set it aside because of the emotions and used the same process I did with Saving Grace.
I’m tagging two friends of mine, Johnna Perry and Theresa Hernandez. I met Johnna in person two years ago at a retreat hosted by a mutual friend and fellow gluten-free blogger. We both knew of each other but didn’t know each other, as often happens in the blogospher. After three days we were fast friends and we share giggles a lot with each other through Facebook, Twitter, texts, emails, and in person. We both love bourbon and will brainstorm recipe ideas (many of them containing bourbon) while we’re drinking (bourbon) together. She’s just one of the friends who convinced me to read Fifty Shades of Grey (a book I picked up off the shelf to see what the hubbub was about and promptly put it back) and I think I’ve more than returned that favor. And yes, it took several friends to convince me I should read it. I’m hoping she’ll share a bit of the cookbook she plans on doing. Theresa and I connected through our gluten-free blogs years ago then fell out of touch when she let her gluten-free blog (she had some really yummy recipes). We re-connected through Twitter recently and our writing. It’s been fun talking to her about subjects other than recipes. Theresa writes in the Young Adult genre and posts lots of book cover reveals, excerpt teasers, and reviews for other authors on her blog. So many books to read, so little time!