Monday, October 26, 2015

More behind-the-scenes on OUTREMER

NaNoWriMo is coming soon, and I'm excited! This is the first time I've participated in National Novel Writing Month since way back in 2009. It hasn't fit into my writing schedule for a while, but this year, as I chew through the first draft of OUTREMER, I decided to jump in. If you're joining too, feel free to friend me on the site!

And in the meanwhile, I've been tagged for Curious Wren's Behind the Scenes writing tag. And Cait of Paper Fury is sharing a linkup for authors wanting to share about their NaNo projects.

Beautiful Books

Or, More Behind-the-Scenes on OUTREMER

How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

One day I'll have to tell this story in fall. For now, I'll just say that the first seed for Outremer came way back in January 2012—so nearly four years ago, when I read Ronald Welch’s Knight Crusader. I knew then that someone ought to write a novel about the Crusader States, but I was still hopeful that someone else would do it, not me. It took me two years and a mental image that dropped into my mind when I heard Greg Wilbur's setting of Psalm 102 off My Cry Ascends to convince me that I needed to do it myself.

Why are you excited to write this novel?

So many reasons! One is that the history behind it is stunningly epic. Another is that while Crusader history is turning up fascinating new research all the time, the popular conception is hopelessly ill-informed; I'd love to do something to bring the latest scholarship to modern audiences. And finally, even within Crusader history and historical fiction, the overwhelming emphasis is on the expeditions from the West, those who travelled to fulfil a vow in the Holy Land and promptly returned home again. By comparison, it's hard to find material from the point of view of the native Frankish nobility, those who settled in Outremer, and their unique perspective and experience.

What is your novel about, and what is the title?

Ahem. It’s about Outremer, from a native point of view, and the title is Outremer.

Sum up your characters in one word each. (Feel free to add pictures!)

I’m...going to try to make a short list.

Lukas: Visionary
Marta: Cutie
John: Loyal
Saint-Gilles: Autocrat
Balian: Peacemaker
Beaujeu: Spymaster
Miles: Confusing
Khalil: Hubristic

Which character(s) do you think will be your favourite to write? Tell us about them!

The list above may give away the fact that I’m already thrilled to bits with Saif, whose character arc is pretty epic. I’m also super excited to write about Marta. I’m not telling you anything else about them for now, because I want to surprise you.

What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?

I hate giving away plot details too early on. OK. The protagonists want to preserve their family, their way of life, and their land. They meet 300,000 words’ worth of obstacles, including wars, assassins, evil overlords, and power-hungry princesses.

Where is your novel set? (Show us pictures if you have them!)

All over the Levant, from Constantinople to Mecca to Cairo, from about 1097 to 1293. Here's a picture of a setting on the Red Sea which I was writing about recently!

Known in 1183 as Pharaoh's Isle

What is the most important relationship your character has?

I actually have about three major protagonists and three ancillary protagonists. The most important relationship the first three have is with each other.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

By the end, all of them have changed dramatically, some for the better, some for the worse. Some of them are dead, some of them have turned their backs on everything they once held dear, some of them have been broken almost beyond repair.

*rubs hands, cackles*

What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?

I want them to feel thrilled and harrowed but ultimately deeply hopeful and inspired to do great things. My themes are about family, multigenerational vision, building the Kingdom of God, the usual. This was what caught my imagination in the history, and I want to communicate that to my readers.

BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.

Well for a start, don’t try to get 300,000 words done in a month!

  • Put together a plot outline and do some basic research on appropriate places and customs. You don’t want to get writer’s block this month, and writer’s block is simply a fancy name for not knowing what to do next.
  • Decide how many days you’ll realistically be able to get some writing done, and set yourself a daily wordcount allotment based on that number.
  • Resist all urges to go back and fine-tune. You’ll have plenty of time to do that later. For now, just get words down on paper, no matter how imperfect.

Behind The Scenes Writing Tag

Or, The Creative Process as It Looks From Here
(for which I was tagged by Hanne-col of Ain't We Got Fun and also Schuyler of My Lady Bibliophile)
(and I was also tagged by Anna of Don't Forget the Avocadoes as a Very Inspiring Blogger, and invited to share seven hitherto unknown facts about me. I think these are fairly unknown.)

Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?

I drink copious amounts of tea, which I take without milk or sugar—current favourites include vanilla chai, rooibos, licorice, earl grey, oolong, and Russian caravan. Sometimes I go for 90% dark chocolate, nuts, or cheese.

When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?

Afternoon is my most productive time. I usually can’t afford to write at night because it’s too exciting and I can’t sleep if my brain is buzzing too hard—but sometimes I’ll be on such a roll in the afternoon I won’t be able to tear myself away.

Where do you write?

At my desk in our spare room, always.

How often do you write a new novel?

How long is a piece of string? If I count up all the novels I’ve done at least 50,000 words on over the course of my life, I’d say that on average I’ve started a new novel once every three years or so. As for finishing...well, Pendragon’s Heir took me ten years?

Do you listen to music while you write?

No, I almost never do, and if I do, it’s got to be something I can listen to without really hearing it—so some Lindsey Stirling or Hindi music, nothing too attention-grabbing. I usually only resort to this when something distracting is going on in the background. Music itself is a distraction to me; it uses up parts of my brain that I need to focus on my writing, especially rhythm and cadence. Most writers I know use it, but I’ve never been able to.

What do you write on? Laptop or paper?

PC. It’d be nice to have a laptop but that’s not possible for me at the moment. I use paper mostly for note-taking, although I’ve been known to jump out of bed in the night and scribble a beginning scene on paper.

Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?

Nope. Not really.

What do you do to get into the mood to write?

A lot of the time I’ll start by going over what I worked on yesterday, getting into the feel of what’s happening in this part of the story, and doing a little editing. Then I can jump back into the flow of things from there.

What is always near the place you write?

Stacks of research books—usually poetry and fiction that captures the mood I’m trying to reproduce, and history or non-fiction books to refer to. My atlas. My timelines, if I’ve made them. Pens, paper, and scribbled notes about what I want to see happening in the story, including page number references to fascinating tidbits I found in my reference books. My cuppa. My phone. Sometimes a candle or incense or an essential oils burner to make things smell nice.

Do you have a reward system for your word count?

Not much beyond “Yes, you can check Twitter/go for a walk/answer that email, but only once you’ve finished another thousand words.”

Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?

Umm...well, I love little wordcount counters. I just got an app on my phone, Write-O-Meter, which helps you keep a log of daily wordcount, and tracks it over time, and tells what you’re averaging and how long it’ll take you to finish at this rate. It also has a rewards system but I don’t pay attention to that. The wordcount tracking is particularly thrilling. I can sit in a happy trance staring at that thing for hours. The only thing I can’t do that I’d love to be able to do is friend others and be able to compare wordcounts with them. For that, I have to Google-chat-message Schuyler!

So there you go! Are you participating in NaNo this year? Don't forget to pop over and friend me on the site!


Hanna said...

Wow. Sounds interesting! I'm afraid I'm not nearly as familiar with the history of the Crusades as I ought to be, but your more recent book reviews and these sneak peeks of Outremer are making me curious. :)

Suzannah said...

Don't worry, Hanna, I knew barely anything about the Crusades before getting interested in OUTREMER. And I imagine my friends are going to learn oodles more before I'm done with them!

Alina said...

I'm so excited for this! I love your snippets and I love historical epics (have you read the Lymond Chronicles? Not perfect, but some great moments in there) so Outremer sounds right up my street.

Suzannah said...

:D I'll hope not to disappoint, Alina! It's a bit of a daunting task--I've been second-guessing myself all the way--but I'm thrilled to be attempting it.

Andrew of the house of Lacey said...

Can hardly wait! Outremer snippets have me drooling in anticipation. I know that you can't rush an author, but, but, but!.....

Suzannah said...

:) I am determined to let this project take as long as it needs, Andrew! But hopefully it'll be all the more worthwhile when it finally is finished.


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