As writers, so often we talk about our success stories (publication!) and our laments (rejections, pesky punctuation, the bottom of a good bottle of wine…); I love the idea of taking a moment to talk process. Thanks so much to Ellen Boyers Kwatnoski for inviting me to join the #mywritingprocess blog tour. You can see Ellen’s blog here.
John Updike once wrote, “We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings… Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
It’s up to the writers. It’s up to us. And there are so many possibilities.
What am I working on?
Isn’t it odd that passionate American politicians of the early 20th century fought for the legal sterilization of certain “lesser” individuals employing the same morality language that politicians of the early 21st century use about prohibiting abortions? This dichotomy of social thought drives my novel Sterile, where neither my protagonist’s past nor her paint brushes have kept her hands clean. She may have lost her baby, but she has to fight not to lose her life.
I’m juggling a few other projects as well:
- An essay on the feminist powerhouses that are Ukrainian women
- A guest blog to accompany the Virginia Repertory Theater’s production of Other Desert Cities
- A short story/novel tentatively titled “Doll Baby” that is a reimagining of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway; however, my Klarissa (intentionally misspelled) is an American supermom picking out birthday party decorations instead of flowers.
I’m leaving out my K. S. Writing client projects here, of course.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
While I write suspense novels, they are driven by sociological observation. Complex characters and fine-tuned language are important pieces of the whole. If “literary thriller” is a sub-genre, that’s what I do.
Why do I write what I do?
The books that made me want to become a writer are the books that changed my perspective about the world we inhabit. My reading of Lois Lowry’s The Giver in 6th grade was a turning point for me. Others along the way had similar impacts – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, John Irving’s Cider House Rules, Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book… Stories can entertain, enlighten, record the word we live in, expose our flaws, and enrich our futures. What better calling is there if I can make just one person reconsider the way he or she has been thinking about his or her life?
How does your writing process work?
I always begin with a concept that intrigues me; characters and plot come later. I like to think of it as chasing the white rabbit. Alice only falls down the rabbit hole because she’s curious; I tumble into my own writing adventures in roughly the same fashion.
Once I have my subject matter, the fun begins. My research isn’t just via Google. I like to travel to the site of my story; talk to people whose lives are immersed in the subject; dig through physical library archives. There’s a thrill in holding documents no one has touched for a hundred years. People underestimate the stillness of libraries. In that stillness, surrounded by stacks of historical archives, you can discover comedies and tragedies long-ago forgotten.
When I have a loose idea of a plot point or two, then I finally get to my characters. Sometimes they take some time in revealing themselves, but once I find them, the story comes alive.
This was particularly true during my work on Sterile. I had my first rough draft finished before my protagonist completely emerged. Then one day, I was standing in a CVS checkout line and a display of nail polish for some reason caught my attention – particularly a dark purple color that I would never have chosen for myself. My protagonist would wear that color, I thought. I was so struck by the revelation that I bought that polish and painted my toes that afternoon. Sylvie finally emerged from her hesitant shadows, whispering her dark secrets that enriched the story as a whole. She just needed time. I just needed time. Yes, writing is a slightly crazed process.
And what better way to do crazy than surrounded with friends. I cannot emphasize enough how important the central-Virginia writing community is to my creative life, specifically James River Writers. If you are a writer. Be sure to find your brethren. They make every success more exciting and every lament more surmountable. And hey, they might even buy that next bottle of wine.
Stay Tuned for Next Week’s Post:
Rebekah L. Pierce is an avid playwright and author with her works focusing on contemporary women and their search for purpose and identity. She received her MA in English with a concentration in Literature from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2002, which is where she wrote her first play, The Myth. Mrs. Pierce placed as an alternate in the 2006 Virginia Commission of the Arts Playwriting Fellowship for her works, Perfect and The Myth, which were produced and staged in local theaters in Richmond, Virginia. Her short play, That Woman’s Child – the story of a confrontation between the love child of an affair and the wife – also made its New York debut in the 2012 Network One Act Festival at the Barrow Group Theatre. Her most recent publication is the self-awareness resource book, Kryptonite Killed Superwoman: Trading in the Cape for an Authentic, Purpose-Driven Life, which features a collection of inspirational blogs and journaling activities designed to empower and encourage women to live and work in their purpose.
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