Despite the fact that this site is only a “blog” in the very loosest sense, I am participating today in a writers’ blog hop. I was inspired to do so by a request from my dear friend Tim Susman, whose far more articulate answers to these questions can be found on his website.
What am I working on?
Several projects, though at the moment I am focusing on the final edits and promotional material surrounding my upcoming story collection, The Thing About Great White Sharks. This collection is slated to be released early in 2015, so there’s at least a deadline on that distraction. During lulls in the revision I am dabbling with a couple of newer, orphaned short stories (they didn’t quite make the collection deadline) and preparing to plunge (back) into my next large project: a YA novel told from the point of view of a teen dad whose son isn’t quite…human. I have an outline and five chapters of this novel written, but work on the collection has diverted my attention for a while. I plan to attack the YA story with more gusto in a few months’ time.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
That would depend on how you categorize my work. I consider my stories to be “speculative fiction,” which is the closest I can come to conveying in few words that I consider my work to be intimate, character-based, and rooted in the natural world (elements of narrative which often characterize so-called “literary fiction”) as well as defined by some fantastical element–ghosts, time travel, advanced robotic pets, aliens, far future living, etc.
My work may stand out from the fiction of other writers blending or bending genres in that it is simultaneously humorous and humane–or it may not. A number of genre-fuzzy writers combine those elements nicely. My work has a dark streak, too, however. And a lot of animals. Just as placing current events in a science fictional context can help a writer get away with bald social commentary, I sometimes feel that wrapping deep emotions around animals–pets, mostly, but also wild creatures–allows me to speak more freely about troubling human needs and desires.
Why do I write what I do?
Some of my answer is explained above, in why I so often find myself writing about human relationships to animals. As to why I write fantastic, character-based fiction, well, it’s just so much more interesting to me personally to say “sure this marriage is going south, but what if that’s because the wife is a bird who really, physically, HAS to fly south? For the winter?” than to write about a crummy marriage mimetically. All stories are made up to some degree, and all “reality” is suspect. I find that I am best able to access emotional truth as a reader and writer through speculative fiction.
How does my writing process work?
Until recently, I had a fairly structured writing routine: most days, I was at the computer by 8:30 or 9:00 every morning, writing for a few hours before heading off to my secondary job. I would spend a half hour or so each day reading over previous writing, make a few small (small!) edits, and then pen anywhere from 250 to 1500 new words. Now that I am caring full-time for my young baby, however, routines are out the window–at least for a while. These days I write whenever I can–while my daughter naps, or, more reliably, after my husband comes home in the evening.
As to how I treat a manuscript: first comes the rough draft. Then, if I read through this initial draft and decide that, no matter how messy, the story has some potential, I meddle with the sentences and plot until I have draft number two (or three, or four, if draft one was particularly rough). At this stage I send the story out to my husband and to a small pool of incredibly helpful first readers. Once they’ve read and followed up with me, I pen another draft that takes into account their best criticism. Depending on what they have to say, this new draft may be nearly identical to the story read by my first readers or may appear almost completely different. I read this draft out loud in order to catch every typo or nonsensical bit that I can. Then I send the story out into the world and cross my fingers. After that, it’s time to move on to the next project.
Stay tuned here for answers to these questions from Kodi Scheer, a talented friend who has been published in The Chicago Tribune and the Iowa Review and who recently released an amazing story collection, Incendiary Girls.