A week or so ago, I made a solemn oath to my dear friend Valya Dudycz Lupescu, author of The Silence of Trees and founding editor of Conclave: A Journal of Character. Why yes, says I, I would love to join the Writing Process Blog Tour! I can totally have that done before Monday!
What neither of us took into account is that I am A. apparently a big fat liar, B. a pathological procrastinator, and C. would be going on a weekend trip with enough delays and re-routings to tire out a meth’d-up hummingbird. So Monday came and went and I missed my deadline. Because I’m an asshole.
But I am doing it right now, because, while an asshole, I’m an asshole that keeps my promises. Eventually.
1. What am I working on?
Nothing solid enough to be classified as anything other than gas. My pulp novelette, And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead, should be coming out at Lightspeed Magazine some time later this year, as well as another story in an upcoming anthology that I’m still not at liberty to announce. As far as works-in-progress go, I’m in the midst of re-writing a story I began at Clarion about a harpy beekeeper, a novel idea that plays like a mashup of Shadow of the Colossus and Where The Wind Blows, and something tentatively titled The Revolution Will Be Televised Before A Live Studio Audience.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That’s not a question I’m sure I can answer as thoughtfully as it might deserve. To be typically blunt: I don’t know. I’ve always been terrible at assessing my work’s merits. Like every author, I am the only me that exists, and the stuff that I write comes solely from my own unique experiences and world views, which I suppose counts for something. You are getting pure, undiluted Brooke Bolander, a species with a wild population of one. When I die, I will be extinct; there will never be any more. I AM SIGNIFICANT, cried the dust speck.
… Unless some alien consciousness is beaming thoughts and memories directly into my skull, in which case oshit.
3. Why do I write what I do?
My friends have posted lengthy, noble, beautiful responses to this question. My answer is much more pragmatic/selfish: I write what I want to read.
Now, there is nothing new under the sun, and I am well aware of that fact, and occasionally the knowledge makes me want to drink antifreeze, especially when I get what seems like a fabulously original idea and no, no, that was already done as a three-book series that sold ten million billion copies. But sometimes that enormously popular three-book series sucks, or you feel the plot could have been executed in a much more interesting way. Sometimes the idea is new enough that nobody has done it in awhile, all glory to the Muses, and you really really really want to read it, and the characters will not stop breaking shit inside your brain until you provide them with an outlet.
Images and voices lodge in my mind’s eye, and I’ve gotta dig them out (you can’t just walk around all the damned time with a plot jammed to the hilt in your retina; it gets uncomfortable). Nobody else can write those scenes (unless they crack open my skull and feast on the goo inside), so it’s up to me to do it.
4. How does your writing process work?
It always starts with a single image. I see a scene sticking out of the ground, like a pot sherd, and the archaeologist in me won’t stop until the entire thing is uncovered and re-assembled. Which means making up the plot as I go along, which may explain why I’ve never managed to write anything longer than 20,000 words. It’s admittedly a problem. I suppose either I’ll learn ways to deal with it or, y’know, I won’t.
Music is also pretty important to my process. A good song can act as a metronome for the language in a story. The rhythm of a novel’s prose is ridiculously important to me; if a word falls in the wrong spot, it’s as jarring to my inner reader as a singer hitting a bad note. Funnily enough, I can’t listen to music while I’m working, so I listen to the song first and go from there.
Alyssa is a 2013 graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Her story, “The Fisher Queen,” appears in the May/June issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. She is rated A for Awesome.
Bonnie lives in Texas with her partner and two literarily-named cats: Gimli and Don Quixote. Her fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in magazines such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and Goblin Fruit. You can visit her on Twitter @BonnieJoStuffle or through her website: www.bonniejostufflebeam.com. She is rated B for Beautemus.