For this relay blog tour, I am to answer four questions. You can see Stephanie's answers on her blog last week. Next week I pass the baton to a writer friend you can meet at the end of this post. (Okay, it was supposed to be three writer friends, but all the people I asked except Shirley had either already been tagged or were too busy this week. You will meet some of them in future guest blogs on this site.)
One of the beta readers of Honddu Vale, second in my Glastonbury Grail series set in King Henry VIII’s Britain, wrote that she was excited to find out more about Teg. Wonderful, right? Only I hadn’t planned to write more about the old witch who lived in the hills above Colin Hay’s Welsh home. But the more I thought about it, the more Teg’s story of being pursued by grace (and the mysterious cup Colin brought home from Glastonbury) grew in my mind. It seemed to illuminate the rest of the story I had planned to tell. Like Glastonbury Tor, the first in the series, it’s a book I really want to read—but I have to write it first.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have trouble fitting into any genre. The Glastonbury Grail series is set in the sixteenth century, which makes it historical, doesn’t it? I work very hard to research the period and maintain historical authenticity. But it also contains elements of mysticism surrounding the Holy Grail. That makes it “fantasy” to secular readers or “visionary” to the Christian market since I include nothing that is not theologically within a Biblical worldview.
My earlier YA novels are mostly set in countries where I have lived like South Africa or Mozambique and involve cross-cultural issues that are confronted daily in other parts of the world, but rarely in American books.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Even as a child I was bored by books about children “just like me.” The whole point of books as far as I was concerned was to experience a life that was completely different. I have lived primarily outside the United States most of my adult life so “foreign” settings come more naturally to me than suburban USA. And I’ve always loved tales of ancient and medieval Britain—Rosemary Sutcliff, Mary Stewart, Edith Pargeter. As a Christian, I find it impossible to imagine my characters without asking where they are spiritually. Invariably my stories have a spiritual dimension even if faith is not the primary plot line.
I know you are supposed to start with “what if”, but I usually find my stories coming to me when I ask, “What would it be like” to live in a certain place or time, or to be stuck in a certain situation. I do a lot of research for my historicals, and everything I read adds elements to the plot that make the time and place come alive as something completely different from the ordinary. (I tried writing a futuristic dis-utopian once, but it is way harder to make it up and stay consistent than to look up the facts.)
I take notes on 3x5 cards that I can easily shuffle (although I am experimenting with virtual cards with the Evernote app.) My digital camera is a great help for researching the place as it appears today. As the story takes shape I write it down in a Word document, telling the story instead of trying to show it as the final version will do. That document eventually grows into an outline.
And then there is the writing in my office over the garage where I enjoy “going to work” even though it is only a couple dozen feet from my front door. Critique groups and beta readers are indispensible for me as I revise.
So that's me. On Monday, May 12 my friend Shirley Corder will post. Shirley is my colleague at International Christian Fiction Writers. She is a retired registered nurse, pastor’s wife, cancer survivor and freelance author. She lives near the sea in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where my husband and I once met her and her husband Rob for lunch. Published internationally, Shirley is the author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Revell/Baker 2012) and is contributing author to eleven other books to date. On the rare occasion when she is not writing, you will find her making music on various instruments, or being taken for beach walks by her lively Jack Russell. Monday, May 12, you can read Shirley’s answers to these questions on her blog.