Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Author's Musings

I think it's past time to talk a bit about my writing. I guess you could say it's my primary 'hobby,' though I'd love to turn it into an actual career. I always loved writing stories, even as early as elementary school, but it wasn't until I was in university that I felt the first sparks of actual inspiration (I guess that's when my Muse awakened). I started carrying around a notebook specifically designated for my stories and since then I've accumulated quite a collection of notebooks.

I used to write whenever I could find a spare moment and that's still true today, though those spare moments come far less frequently. To compensate I've learned how to 'turn my brain on,' which basically means that whenever I have the time I sit down and say 'okay Muse, get your butt in gear' and I just start writing regardless of whether I feel creative or not (before I had my little girl I'd usually write only when I felt inspired). That's all well and good but unfortunately I haven't learned how to turn my brain OFF and so there have been a few nights where I've gone up to bed, and then come up with some scene or line or whatever that's too good to forget and I have to get up and write it down. Sometimes it happens a few times before I can finally relax and go to sleep.

My genre of choice is 'speculative fiction,' sometimes called 'urban fantasy.' What that means is that any given story takes place during the present day, in the normal world with (largely) normal people, but there's always an aspect of the supernatural or paranormal involved. Many of the stories I've written deal with regular people encountering the supernatural and having one or more 'wtf' moments. I like to explore the idea of what supernatural creatures or powers would be like in 'our' world and how regular people would deal with them. The example I like to use is this: let's say you're coming home from work and you see a dragon flying around over your house. Normal people wouldn't say 'okay, what we need to do is go to the library and find a book that will point us to the whereabouts of an ancient sword that can kill dragons,' they'd probably either run away screaming or say, 'somebody get me a really big gun.' Often I'll have once character in the story that's used to dealing with supernatural things (or is supernatural themselves) and they've gotta give someone else (who doesn't know this stuff exists) a crash course for their survival.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes it comes from my dreams, and I've been moderately successful in turning a dream into a coherent story. Often I'll grab a concept from a movie or T.V. show or something I've read and put my own spin on it. Other times my muse just 'shits on my head' as Stephen King has said a few times and a story appears from nowhere. And then every once in awhile I'll just decide to write a story about a specific supernatural creature or concept and after working on it for a few hours I come up with something pretty good.

I also have to admit that sometimes I write a story as an excuse to fantasize about a particularly sexy actor. My stories play out in my head like movies and I 'cast' the parts with actors and actresses that I like, with whatever hottie I'm enamoured with at the time (Hubby calls them 'Goo Goos,' as in the guy I'm making goo-goo eyes at) as the romantic lead opposite the main character (which is usually me in another universe).

Inheritance came directly from a dream I'd had, and it's the first dream-inspired story that I was able to turn into a coherent story. It was years ago, before I was married, and I dreamt that my husband-then-boyfriend had gone to class (he was taking evening photography classes) and one of his classmates had turned him into a vampire, and when he came home he turned me into one, too. It was a very short dream but I remember that the vampires in it were very human, but with enhanced senses and whatnot, and came off very catlike (like a tiger or a jaguar).

Stuck on You was another dream-inspired story - I had a dream that I had to share a bed with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson because if we were too far apart we'd die or something. Firstly, I don't know why I had a dream about Dwayne Johnson. He's not bad looking but I don't find him particularly sexy or anything (he's totally not my type). And it's not like I'd recently seen a movie with him in it. Anyway, I came up with a life-threatening reason for why two strangers (one of whom looks a lot like Dwayne Johnson) would have to stay so close to each other that they'd have to share a bed, and I think the story came out quite nicely. This also happens to be the first story where I've described a sex scene (in fact, there are quite a few in there).

The Open Door is based on a ghost story of the same name, written by Charlotte Riddell in 1888. I came across it in a collection of Victorian Age ghost stories, and I loved the concept so much that I decided to modernize it. The story still needs some polishing but it's not bad.

I love Viking Age history and legend and The Valkyrie and the Ring is my take on the mythical character of Brynhild. I love taking mythical characters and figuring out what they'd be like if they were real. Plus I wanted an excuse to think about Blade Trinity-buff Ryan Reynolds.

Remembering Camelot is another of my mythical re-tellings. I'm not a big fan of Arthurian legend but I think it was shortly after King Arthur (with Clive Owen and Keira Knightly) came out and everyone had King Arthur fever that I decided to try my hand at it. I'd seen a few Discovery/History Channel specials on 'The Real King Arthur' and thought, what the heck, could be fun.

Beneath the Surface and Mind Over Matter are two stories that were 'forced,' as I call it. I sat down and said 'okay, I want to write a story about insert-supernatural-thingy.'  Telepathy in the case of Mind Over Matter, and ancient gods in the case of Beneath the Surface. Actually, come to think of it, Beneath was also the result of wanting to tell a story involving either Malta or Cyprus. I'd been watching the Travel Channel a lot at the time and I'd seen something about both islands.

The Sad Man came about while I was trying to watch Nights in Rodanthe (with Richard Gere) on T.V. The movie was just awful and I couldn't sit through half of it, but I absolutely loved the old hotel that was in the movie and decided to steal the setting (and, I'll admit, one aspect of the movie's plot) for a story of my own. I had wanted to write a ghost story for awhile and the big hotel seemed like the perfect place to do it.

Night Watch is another take on vampires, and kind of a writing exercise for me. I wanted to see if I could write something in the first person in a very abrupt style, while also never revealing the main character's name. I also wanted to be ambiguous about the main character's sex so that the reader would interpret it in whatever way they wanted.

So that's it. I've got a few more stories that are finished and could be post-worthy, and then at least half a dozen that are at various stages of completion. My main problem with writing is that I come up with ideas for new stories before finishing the one I'm working on, and in the process of writing an outline for the new story (so I won't forget the details) I get so excited about it that I switch to writing that one... I think my muse is easily bored and has a slight case of ADHD and so I've got like 7 stories on the go at the same time.

There you have it, a brief outline of me as an author and some of my stories. Now it's time to get back to fantasizing-- I mean writing.

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