BLOG TOUR: The Writing Process

Casey Hays photo 2

kandie

Welcome to a Blog Tour where authors answer questions about their writing. I’ve been tagged by my author friend, Kandie Delley whom I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with a little over a year ago. In her blog post last week, we got to see the many-sides-of-Kandie, a woman with talents that extend beyond writing. She is a sweet and smart lady I am proud to call fellow author and friend.    

WHAT AM I CURRENTLY WORKING ON? I’m always working on something. I have files and files of half written manuscripts and short stories saved here and there, patiently waiting their turn to shine in the spotlight. In between time-pressing projects, I find myself whittling out another section of one of my novels to be.  My brain never ceases to create, as most writers will attest. And therefore, I MUST WRITE. So I do. Constantly.Breeder Book Cover color

Currently, the spotlight is on Breeder, a Young Adult Christian Dystopia which made its appearance in January. Since its publication, I have been furiously working on its sequel, The Archer, tentatively planned for release by the end of the year. Once completed, I will spend the rest of 2014 diligently working with my editor to revise and polish the final draft of the novel. It’s been such a fun story to create, and I anticipate that this is going to be a GREAT year of writing because I get to spend it with Kate and the Boys of Eden.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE? I desire to keep my characters somewhat innocent. There has been an influx lately of more mature YA novels– and a demand for them–but my characters oftentimes are unaware of their own identity and/or how they fit into this world. I choose to highlight their insecurities and their growth as individuals on their journey to maturity. If there is a love story, my characters stumble into it along the way. But always, the element of innocence, even in love, remains. After all, when you’re the writer, you can tell any story you want, and it comes true. Book star

Writing is art, and I work very hard to portray a unique artistry that is noticeable in my works. Because of it, I’m a different kind of writer. I attempt to weave the story into the main character rather than weaving the character into the story line. Every emotion,  every event, even the most intricate detail matters to give the story life. A drop of rain on a leaf, the quiet breathing of the boy next to you, a whisper, a crash of thunder on a dark, summer night; it all matters to create a mood that captivates the audience.  It is my goal to provide an experience, not just a story. I want readers to feel as though they’ve lived it. The pacing of my novels is often slower than others  in that I take the time to explore along the way. I never, ever rush an ending. And when the final page is turned, I want my readers to sigh with satisfaction because of my attention to emotional detail. And all of my novels, intentional or otherwise, will hold an element of spirituality and a moral backdrop that represents my faith in Jesus.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO? Keep calmI love fiction.  I love teenagers. I love post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories. I love superpowers. I love characters with strong, moral convictions who overcome the odds. I love dreaming of the impossible. And that’s it in a nutshell.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK? Once upon a time, I just wrote. I created a skeleton plot and called it good. Until . . .  an editor changed my mind. Said I needed to add “meat” to my skeleton. To give the story some muscle and some fat and make it breathe. And then, I discovered myself as a writer.

And so, I never begin with plot. I don’t follow an outline. I usually have only an idea of what the story is about. I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me. See, the first thing I do is meet my main character.  She’s always a girl, and usually won’t leave me alone until I agree to tell her story. So she nags at me, takes over my mind, my life, until I begin to figure her out.

So . . .  my writing process begins in my head. I have full conversations with my characters. I eavesdrop on intimate moments. I walk myself through scenarios. I feel emotions. I quote lines aloud. Through the eyes of my main character, I see her world. And then–when this world and the people in it come into clear focus in my brain–then and only then, do I sit down at my computer. Otherwise, my writing is a mess. So I spend hours and days and sometimes months just thinking, creating, producing, planning before one word is typed. And it’s an ongoing process. I stop writing often just so I can “think out” the next segment of my story for a while.

And always, I concentrate on character–on developing well-rounded, fleshed-out, real people. For me, the writing process begins and ends with giving life to the characters. There is a kind of beauty in creating moments for them to sit back and feel what is happening to them . . .  and to contemplate why. When I take the time to do this, the story tells itself, and  I just follow the character to the next experience.  And pretty soon,  the plot comes along side us, and I have a book on my hands. It’s probably not the conventional way to write, but it works for me.

Casey Hays photo 2Thank you for taking this tour through the Writing Process. And now, it’s my turn to pass the torch to two more fantastic authors. Look for their blogs next Monday, March 31, 2014, as the Blog Tour continues.  

 

Lauren

Daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist father and an Australian doctor mother, Lauren Nicolle Taylor was expected to follow the science career path. And she did, for a while, completing a Health Science degree with Honors in obstetrics and gynecology. But there was always a niggling need to create which led to many artistic adventures. She is now Best-Selling Author of The Woodlands Series. 

kimberlyAward-winning author, Kimberly Pauley wanted to grow up to be Douglas Adams, Robert Heinlein, or Edgar Allen Poe, but has since settled for being herself and writing her own brand of quirky. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband (a numbers man) and the cutest little boy in the world (The Max). Her first book, Sucks to Be Me made the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. 

THANK YOU BOTH FOR AGREEING TO TAKE THIS RIDE. ENJOY IT!

Why in the world did Ian slap Kate??!!?

Chapter 14 has stirred up quite a bit of fuss among my reading audience. The distaste over Ian’s behavior in one particular scene has been voiced not only by my friends but also addressed in several reviews. And so… I’ve decided to take it upon myself to address what I have deemed,”The Slap Chapter.”

First and foremost, I don’t want anyone to think that I condone what Ian did. I don’t. In fact, I don’t condone any of the violence that takes place in the book. But from a creative and literary standpoint, certain things have to happen. The “slap” had to happen.

So. Why in the world did Ian slap Kate?

Here’s a look from the author’s perspective:

Let us first consider Ian’s situation. He’s a prisoner, dealing with less than adequate living conditions (and that’s an understatement). He doesn’t know how he got here or how long he’s been here. He’s scared and desperate, and even in those moments where he seems to be doing fine, readers can’t forget that he isn’t fine at all. Each time we leave that Pit with Kate, Ian stays put, lonely and full of despair, and more than likely longing for his mama. For us, as we travel through the novel–with only Kate’s thoughts as our guide–it’s easy to forget Ian from time to time. Out of sight, out of mind. But he’s still there, and we have no idea what might be going on in his mind unless he vocalizes it to Kate.

Now, based on what I’ve just said, picture where Ian’s emotions might be by the time the “slap” takes place. Three weeks have crawled past, as slow as molasses,(a little Breeder imagery for you there) and Kate has not returned as promised. In Ian’s mind, which has already been tainted by a slow slide toward a claustrophobic kind of insanity, Kate has deserted him, and there is no hope. Because of this, he gives the phrase “pent-up anger” a brand new mascot.

So when Kate makes her appearance, all smiles as if only a day has passed since her last visit, Ian has already reached his breaking point. Due to this, he doesn’t give her a chance to explain herself. In previous chapters, this side of Ian was foreshadowed, so his actions here are not so out of character. His moods shift so often from hope to frustration to despair–and everything in between–that Kate has no clue what she may find. Frankly, I think we should give Ian the benefit of the doubt. Of course, I know what’s coming next… and you don’t, so it’s much easier for me to say that. 🙂

One conclusion I don’t want readers to jump to is the idea that this is the beginning of a domestic violence situation. I can assure you, it isn’t, and for the record, Ian is in no way justified for what he did. I’ve seen comments to the fact that Ian shouldn’t have hit someone he cared about so much. The fact is, Ian shouldn’t have hit anyone, period. But did he really care at this point in the novel? Although he and Kate have shared some moments and do development feelings for each other by the end, it’s very hard to know how Ian feels about Kate by this chapter, so fixated he’s been on gaining his freedom and getting home. Everything is filtered through Kate’s mind. All we know is what she thinks and feels and what’s in her heart. But she’s confused as well by how Ian makes her feel versus what he says and does, and her confusion is only magnified when he finally reveals his true feelings for her.

And really, what I hope readers see, for the first half of the book anyway, is the friendship, albeit sometimes rocky, that develops between the two characters more than the romance.

Now, for the flip-side. Kate’s reaction to the slap is much more significant than the slap itself. First, she’s used to violence, even if, until recently, she’s not been a target. And although it infuriates her, she isn’t as surprised when Ian’s hand springs out as she might have been otherwise. But the greatest insight I want readers to gain is that by the end of the chapter, she’s managed to get the upper hand despite the slap, and her message is extremely clear: Ian’s life is in her hands, and he’d better take a quick lesson.

The contrast is in the fact that Ian’s violent, anger-filled desperation that causes him to strike out is heavily weighted against Kate’s humility sprinkled with resolve. In that moment, she is angry, hurt, and slightly afraid, but she’s also, resilient, compassionate and understanding of Ian’s plight. She doesn’t play the victim because she never has–even when she is most definitely the victim, mostly at Mona’s hand. And let’s not forget the rest of the chapter. The slap is miniscule compared to the forgiveness and mending that takes place in Kate and Ian’s conversation afterward. And in this, we can see Kate’s growth. Nothing breaks her. And the slap? It’s never mentioned again by either one of them after the chapter ends. And it never happens again, either.

I haven’t been able to decide whether I want readers to like Ian or not, but I suppose they will make up their own minds. Sometimes I don’t like him myself, but most times, I love him. Because I know the real Ian underneath it all. The one I hope the rest of you will come to know and love even better by the end of the next book.

A letter from the author about Breeder

It has been quite interesting to see the different perspectives from my reading audience when it comes to my latest publication Breeder. The ratings have ranged from 5 to 2 stars, the average being 4s and 5s, but what I find most  intriguing are the comments themselves. Some readers have loved everything about the book, while others have found some or all of it quite “disturbing.” I welcome both insights with open arms, as my goal in writing this book was to cause people to feel alarm, to long for a happy ending for the characters, and, if possible, to recognize the spiritual drought presented. As a reader myself, I understand that the like or dislike of a book can be attributed to so many things. But today, I want to share my insights on what I have seen from my reading audience.

Readers should be disturbed by the ways of the Village in:

1) The complete disdain or lack of regard for men.

2) The act of reproduction and the beauty of intimacy as a dreaded process where it would be revered and praised in another context.

3) Forced breeding

4) Imprisonment of an entire gender

5) Violence

6) Selection (Survival of the fittest)

These should be gravely contrasted by the description of Eden as a place of:

1) Love

2) Home

3) Family

4) Child-raising

5) Marriage

6) Security

7) Respect for individual well-being

8) Sanctity of Life

It has been exciting to see the outpouring of opinions. I look forward to hearing more from my fans and followers in the coming months. Keep the good conversations flowing!!

 

Casey Hays