I’ve read a lot of great fiction over the course of my lifetime; having the urge to experience those tales for the first time again can sometimes be the start of an idea—a beloved book might provide a setting, a concept, or the beginnings of a character, and then I’ll pull it apart, try to understand what really grabbed me and make it my own, to write what I want to see on the page. The same process can start with a book I wanted to love, but just didn’t. If a story left me wanting, then I might just pick up the pieces and write the story that I hoped for. I hoped for deeper character development in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D series, for example, but I’ve read over a dozen of those installments, and nothing changes. So I stopped waiting for someone else to write what I thought was an “ideal” story. I took the concept of a vampire hybrid, and gave him all the things I thought such a character was missing. Luca has a family history, weaknesses, a love interest, a purpose. I gave him a life, one that I think will resonate with people in the real world, but with all the adventure, passion, and danger that we crave in great fantasy fiction.
My current project, Bog Body, had a similar trajectory. Its seeds came to me when I was reading Anne Rice’s The Mummy. That book had so much potential, in my mind. It was dark, and sensual, and features a revenant. That’s about all that book and mine have in common. I scrapped everything else, because it didn’t work for me. In reality, I was wishing for a whole other kind of story, so I crafted something that met my expectations.
2. How do you handle writer’s block?
I don’t get writer’s block that often. Writer’s block would imply that my mind is empty, and needs to be filled with something—ideas, solutions to plot problems, or what have you. I’m an A-type, so my mind is never empty. I have a daily, hourly, almost to-the-minute-urge to write. So when my hand hurts or I run out of blank pages, I think about my story. And think about it and think about it and think about it until I have to get it out on paper or I’ll go batty. And the vicious cycle starts again. Lots of writers talk about how they’ve been telling stories since childhood. I suppose that’s true for me too. I’ve always been a more fantasy-minded person, but I would never have recognized that as a sign of my writer-ness. I was convinced that historical nonfiction was my writing forte, and my daydreams were just that. It’s only been a few years since I wrote the first draft for A Vision in Crimson. Now I can’t stop, like I’m making up for lost time.
3. What inspired you to write this book?
I started writing right around the time when I was beginning a shift in my career, from historian to baker. I was also a new mom, and discovered I was about to be a mom of two. My world was full of change, and I think I felt the possibility of trying something new, and seeing where it might lead. I haven’t looked back, and the first draft of A Vision in Crimson was down on paper in less than three months. It certainly isn’t what you’d get if you picked up a copy today, but I knew I had done something worthwhile, had sparked an interest that I could nurture for a very long time. It takes up a crazy amount of mental space, but aside from family time and reading, it’s the most rewarding part of my day.
4.What’s the hardest part of being an author?
Time management. Being a novelist is not a career—not unless you’re Stephen King. But it is a full-time job, and I already had, let’s see…two careers, two kids…a husband…a never-ending itch to travel…
Lots of authors talk about the struggle to “find” the time to write amid the world’s very real, very strict demands upon not just our time, but our mental energy too. If you’ve been doing a nine-to-five or more, who wants to come home and think, to sit down for hours and create, when you could just prop your feet up, binge a show, bounce your kid on your knee, and slide into unconsciousness until the next morning, and then do it all again? But the chances are low that you’ll regret sacrificing your lounge time for creative time, if you have that urge. It’s a way to fulfill yourself, to pay attention and rejuvenate your mental and emotional wellness. You’ll never find the time. You have to make it. One sleepless night and forgotten load of laundry at a time.