A Post of Readerly Questions

September 1, 2012

Okay, guys, Life as a Fairy Thrall is back to its usual price. Thanks to all the people who made that sneak-sale such a success. Hope you enjoy the wingsex!

Now, for something a little different. Lovely reader Kati emailed me just now with some great questions--questions I have asked others many times, myself. So I thought I'd put them and my answers here in case this sort of thing amuses others, too.

Do you know from the start who your characters are or are you figuring it out as you go?
I definitely know who they are--as in what they ate for breakfast level of scary pointless knowledge. But that doesn't mean they won't surprise me.

That sounds absurd, so I'll give an example: 

There's a bit in Riot Boy where I thought Etienne was going to finally just lose his shit on Brady. But when I tried to write it, it was horrible because Et just would not go there. Which is to say that I realized that, no, this is not in his character, and for him to do this makes zero sense, so why did I ever think it would work?

[For the curious, it's the bit where Brady says: “I don’t know. You want to fuck or something? Least a guy can do.” Et's not happy at that point, but I went into it expecting him to flip a table or something. Dude just looked at me, crossed his arms over his chest, and went, "Nope."]

I love when they do that to me.

What comes first? the story idea or the characters?
I want to say characters, but it's sort of a bouncing thing. I already knew by the time I'd finished  Equilibrium that (if anyone published it, which I was not actually expecting to happen at the time) I'd do a book about someone who was kidnapped by witch hunters. So that basic idea was in place when I came up with Jody Aguirre, who'll eventually be the hero of that book. But it's Jody's character that influenced what kind of story he'd have and how it'd unfold, if that makes sense.

Do you plot your stories before hand? or doing worldbuilding?
With a new series or stand-alone, I start out with a really basic story element and go into worldbuilding from there, but I'm way heavier on the latter than the former when we're talking about the pre-game. Especially writing fantasy, I really, really want the framework to be there before I get too attached to what's going to happen. It's not totally inflexible because stuff might have to change for the story, but with something like the superpowered books, the science of it was in place from the very beginning and is totally rigid.

A lot of times I'll come up with weird worldbuilding stuff and set it aside for deeper exploration in later books where it will actually be plot-relevant instead of a random distracting aside/infodump--which is pretty much the entire story of the superpowered love books. But I like having everything at my fingertips so I can be sure to drop hints, even if they won't matter until five books down the road.

Pre-plotting is basically just the character arc for me. I know who they are and where I want them to get to by the end. The stuff in the middle to get them there is pretty vague until I actually start writing, though I usually have a few key scenes in mind.

And how many years have you been writing now?
I've always written stuff, like all night long every night through school. My best friend still has my first completed "novel" from when we were 13 (1993, oh god, the horror of that novel...). I've also written a lot of fanfiction since undergrad, and still do. *X-Men fandom fistbump*

I started seriously trying to write things that others might want to buy a little less than a decade ago. It's a ridiculous story:

I dropped out of grad school, moved around looking for a proper job for a few years, and around 2005 realized what I really wanted was some mentally untaxing work that'd provide me with health care and let me stay up late to write all night. Decided that probably indicated the sort of job I should really be working toward, and so I worked my ass off to get better. My first short story was picked up in 2008.

Which is extremely weird to think of now, but hey. Rad.

How many words do you write per day?
Oh man, that varies wildly, but it's rare for me to write less than 500 words at a time. I've been know to go up to 15k and more though, which blows a gasket in my brain, but I have trouble stopping once I start.

How long does it take you to write them?
There are times I'll write whole first drafts in a weekend. This habit is the butt of many jokes from my friends and family. The editing and rewriting bit before submission is the longest part, but I'm lucky to have amazing writer-friends who help me out with betas and all that good stuff.

But I also have a few books that I've been tinkering with here and there for a few months. Those are usually the books where there's some element missing and I can feel it, but can't put my finger on what it is yet. Once I shake it loose and have a deadline free week, I'll probably eat them whole.

Do you write every day?
Usually, but this summer I've been trying hard to take it easy and have for the most part succeeded.

... except that I've been RPing (which is basically collaborative fanfic, for anyone unfamiliar) all summer so I kinda failed there, too. Whoooops.

When is the next superpower book coming out?
It has been said that I will know shortly. I can tell you that my editor has two superpowered books of mine right now, tentatively titled Losing Better and Reentry Burn. The former is about a cranky FBI agent and a would-be superhero, and the latter is about Malory from Riot Boy. So hopefully the coming months will see them both come to life. I'll definitely keep everyone in the loop.
tracykitnreads said...

Yay Malory! I've been hoping he was just a bit lost and not completely irredeemable! :D

Katey said...

Yeah, I mean, I know he won't be everyone's favorite character, but Malory is the way he is (and did the things he did) for good reasons, at least. And he's... sorta redeemable. Kinda.

I'll ask you what you think after the book :D

tracykitnreads said...

I totally get his reasons (I think. I mean, unless you spring some really random shit -- he's got all that family pressure from his dad, & I can get how that can make you make some dumb-as-a-rock decisions sometimes).

And I totally love bad-guy-with-heart-of-gold...sorta stories.

I can also put up with characters being complete douchenozzles for a while, as long as there's sufficient grovelling and some fairly compelling evidence for changing ways.

So, yeah, I'll just be over here quietly expecting you to fulfill those expectations...

...but, hey! No pressure! :D

Katey said...

Oooh I fucked up that link and it led to a pic of some random dude. Trying again!:

Actually, that comment made me feel a lot better about the book, so yay!

I really hope to hear about it soon, but I think the other one will be first, since I turned it in first. Something to keep us busy til then?

(Also, I dunno if I've shown you this, but this is Malory as of his book. Hee!)

tracykitnreads said...


I do like looking at pretty pretty pictures.

J.A. Rock said...

Awesome post! I love character surprises. Especially when characters refuse to do things. Cuz I'll be like, "But it would be so awesome and dramatic, and - and -" And they're like, "Dude. No."

Also I love Malory. Just throwin' it out there.

Katey said...

OMG RIGHT? It's like the best part of writing, when you think you know and then they're like, "Nooooooooooooope." I knew you'd understand <3

Oh Malory. Poor kid. At least someone loves him!

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