Friday, March 7, 2014

5 Writers on: Inspiration, Rituals, Writing Tools, Fav Authors, Advice for Beginning Writers, Characters like us...

It’s been a while since we’ve done an update on what we’re all up to with our individual writing. Mark decided to take it easy this month and interviewed the 5 writers who make up the Scribblerati—their answers wrote this blog. It's a long post, but we hope it's worth you while. For you fellow writers maybe there is even some shared wisdom here you can use. All is revealed--thanks for reading!

Our Current Writing Projects
Claudia Hankin: I’m still struggling through the 3rd draft of my novel, Ursula Evermore and the Case of the Man Who Wasn’t.  At this point, sadly, there are more hash marks in the ‘challenge’ column than the ‘enjoy’ column. I just want to be done and onto the next step (finding and agent, a publisher). I think every author goes through this, or a version of it. I have so many ideas for new projects, but, I’m stubborn.  As Neil Gaiman advises - “'Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finish...” The question is, when is it time to let go?

Shawn Enderlin: I’m currently working on two projects: finishing up my final round of edits on To Kill the Goddess and working on the first draft of the sequel, which has a working title of Moon Sister. Both are exciting in different ways. On the one hand, I can’t wait to be finished with To Kill the Goddess! On the other I’m having fun exploring and tackling new challenges.

Jon Hansen: I've started a new WIP that I'm about a third of the way through on the first draft. I've got another one waiting for me to start its 2nd draft and a third on the backburner while I think about the intent of the story, plus its goals, purpose, and approach. Right now, at least with the new WIP, I'm really enjoying the freedom and the focus. It's flowing really easily. I have a good idea what I'm going to do for the whole thing and a pretty good half-formed idea of what I'm specifically doing at the end that I'm letting simmer for now. All in all, I'm feeling confident about the final product. I anticipate having a 1st draft done by summer. The most challenging part is just the usual stuff right now: Specific words and a general fear of whether or not it will all come together. (Jon)

Lisa Bergin: I'm working on a series of related short stories that I think of a post-apocalypse utopia. They are my response to a common philosophical position I hear from students: that people are at core egoistic and just out for themselves. I've never really bought that view and this is my attempt to explore it, putting people in a bad situations and thinking through what decisions they would make. And they are always making decisions based not (only) on their own well-being, but the well-being of others.

Mark Teats: I am balancing the polarity of being an MFA creative writing student and being an independent writer these days. The thing I'd most like to work on is my vampire-apocalypse novel, Sunlight. It’s not getting as much attention as I’d like these days. Simultaneously I’m also working on a new required short story for my class, working title Encounter. This has been fun/challenging/different because each week so far we have been asked to rewrite some aspect of the story (including doing a complete re-write from scratch without looking at the original). It’s being both fun and challenging. It’s making me think a lot about aspects of story and how to approach a story differently than I might usually.

Where We Find Inspiration
Other art. Any kind. It all inspires me to make my own creation. (Shawn)

I just like to do it. I also don't wait for inspiration, I think it's a trap. Dedication and discipline are more important, I think. I believe that if you want to get it done, you just have to get to it. Some days are harder than others, sure, but mostly I just sit down and start somewhere and sometimes it leads to something and something it doesn't. Other times I see/read/hear something that I liked the idea, but not the execution, so I try to write my version. (Jon)

This series started with a dream. So that's one place. Also: other stories, science reporting on NPR. I think I often find inspiration just in the act of writing from the perspective of a character. (Lisa)

Lately, reading lots of really phenomenal short stories by other writers (lots of class reading). (Mark)

Claudia: Many sources. I once wrote a play based on a dream. Another play came from a chance encounter with a transvestite. I am a huge movie and TV buff, and even when I see a bad film, I like to rearrange it in my head and make it better. With good movies and television, I pay attention to the writing - I’m not often surprised, but when I am, I take note.
I also am the administrative manager for a theater company, The Moving Company (for you Twin Citians, it’s made up of former members of Theatre de la Jeune Lune). It’s inspiring to being around people who are that powerfully talented. They’ve been creating art so well and for so long, that making something extraordinary is the least of their worries. It’s hard to wallow in Writer’s Blockdonia when you’re around that kind of energy.

On “Sacred” Writing Spaces and/or Ritual(s)
No. Sometimes I write at the dining room table. Sometimes at this little TV table in front of the TV. Sometimes at the coffee shop. Mostly I just need to be left alone and sit at a table/counter comfortably, then I'm all right. (Jon)

Not sacred so much - but I'm usually sitting cross-legged on my couch with my laptop.
Tho' when I'm first trying to find my way into a story I often have to write with pen and paper.

Sacred is too strong a word, but I do have a bit of a ritual. I like to write in the mornings, which means I start out by making a cup of coffee and then sequestering myself away in my room, with my standing workstation, iTunes banging out some good house/trance, and my voice translation software listening to me ramble away – and doing the typing for me! (Shawn)

Not really. I flit around. Maybe I should get myself one of those! (Claudia)

My writing space is in my man-cave, nick-named "The Fortress of Solitude." Most Friday and Saturday mornings are mine for writing, so on those days I head to my writing desk (framed in by walls of books, fantasy arts and loads of D&D and other gaming figures), light some candles, incense and write in the dark with all but my computer and a couple desk lamps turned on. If I'm editing/re-writing sometimes some heavy metal music is needed to set the tone.

Favorite Writing Tools We’d Recommend
voice translation software. I loooove not having to type! (Shawn)

Laptop (Jon)

Scrivener! (Lisa)

... computer? (Claudia)

My Mac computer, a paper notebook I keep near me at all times, and for managing larger manuscripts, Scrivener. (Mark)

Authors We Admire
I love Joe Abercrombie's imagination and storytelling. I love Cormac McCarthy's prose and descriptive powers. I love Stephen King's easy flow. And I love Truman Capote. But then, I try not to emulate anyone in particular. (Jon)

I default to my favorites, Ray Bradbury for his poetic descriptions, Dean Koontz for his pacing and Stephen King for his ability to write characters that I want to know and spend time with. Harlan Ellison can craft some damn fine sentences and short stories with loads of attitude. (Mark)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is kind of the gold standard for me. His use of language is exquisite- but honestly, I’ve never aspired to be the Great American Novelist. I love authors who effortlessly  ground the fantastical in solid characters and stories. I’m fond of wit. Jonathan Lethem, Connie Willis and Michael Chabon leap to mind. And P.G. Wodehouse makes me laugh until I snort. True confession. (Claudia)

There are a lot of authors I admire, but none I really want to write like. I want to forge my own style and my own way, to have people like my writing for itself, not because it reminds them of someone. However, if I may be so presumptive, I like to think my writing style is most like a blend of Dan Simmons, Judith Tarr, and Stephen King. That sounds totally snobby! (Shawn)

Ursula K. LeGuin. I've been reading a lot of her lately. I've always liked authors who on the surface write very sparsely and without a lot of flourish and yet manage to convey more depth than seems possible with that seemingly spare language. (Lisa)

Something That Advanced Our Writing We’d Recommend to A Beginning Writer
Writing group! Just doing it. Reading great fiction. (Lisa)

The thing that’s most helped my writing in the last few years is hiring a professional editor – hands down. But I wouldn’t recommend that to a beginning writer. What I would recommend is sharing your work with other writers, to get their feedback. It’s tough to learn how to see your own flaws, much less accept them. (Shawn)

Take some classes and some workshops and interact with some successful smart writers in real life. Find a supportive and healthy writing group. Learn to listen to criticism. But mostly: sit down, shut up, pen to paper, repeat. (Jon)

Classes at The Loft are great, if you live in the Twin Cities.  If nothing else, it’s a terrific way to meet other aspiring authors, and start a writing group, which I can’t recommend strongly enough. The Scribblerati is the best thing that’s happened to my writing. (Claudia)

Form a critique group. Having to submit my writing to a group of like-minded peers and also reviewing their work regularly has helped me grow a lot as a writer. Also (as a student) I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say, “Take a writing class” or attend a writing conference. The Loft is great. All these things have helped me grow my writing skills. (Mark)

Which (of our) Characters We Are Most Like:
I'd like to say Black Magic Jack, but Noelle Easter's sarcastic voice is probably the closest to my own. Also, I'm expecting Bill the Minotaur might hit a little close to home. (Jon)

All of my characters are a part of me, but I can’t say that I’m really most like any one of them in particular. (Shawn)

Because of my cancer thingee I guess I'd have to say I'm most like my character, Clayton Jaeger. Granted, he has brain cancer vs. my neck/throat cancer, and I did write him years before I ever got sick. But getting sick really made me question a lot of things in my life and made me come to terms with what it is to be mortal. I think this is a big part of Clay’s character. Unlike Clay I have not started to see angels. Yet. (Mark)

Hmmm. I think I'm like them all. Especially the protagonists. I think I'll have matured as a writer when I can stop doing that. (Lisa)

Hmmm... The first play I ever wrote had two main characters, and they really represented two sides of me at that time. Confident, cynical wit; and  shy, romantic doormat.  I think as my writing matures, my characters become less like me. I wonder if that’s true for most writers. Of course there’s a piece of me in every character, even the nasty ones. (Claudia)

When Not Writing, We’d Rather Be…
Fishing, reading, seeing an action/fantasy movie. (Mark)

Listening to live traditional jazz. Watching movies, reading, playing games. I’m crazy about any group game that utilizes intelligence, creativity and humor. (Claudia)

Reading a book or watching a movie. I like my stories. (Jon)

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, at work, or hanging with the Lovely Leann. But I’ll go with drinking beer at Republic or Dangerous Man, or going to a Minnesota Golden Gopher football game. (Shawn)

Reading, doing yoga, crafting, cooking, working in my garden, (those are the g-rated answers....) (Lisa)

Why You Should Check Out Claudia Hankin’s Writing and Characters
She’s the berries. Everyone’s going to say MacGreggor, aren’t they?  All of my beta readers liked him a lot. I’m thinking he’s going to need more scenes, to keep up with his fan base. I hope it doesn’t go to his head.  (Claudia)

Her vocabulary (that's mostly just a joke). She's got an amazing handle on humor and dialogue. Ursula of course - time-travelling, dixie-land jazz aficionado. (Lisa)

Claudia does a fantastic job of blending the old and the modern. (Shawn)

Claudia has done some exceptional research to make her 1920's setting come alive. From clothing, music, terminology, she provides enough details--and the fun, interesting details--to create a world that I believe and want to hang out in. Her vocabulary and word choices are superb--even if I do give her grief about that, sometimes. I think Ursula is my fav character of Claudia's: tough, sexy, funny and quirky in just the right ways. (Mark)

Claudia has a great sense of humor and scene and can really draw distinctive characters. Ursala is my favorite. She's a classic hero. She's both smart and quick and capable, but she often ends up in situations a bit over her head because of her own stubborn nature and fiery temper. She's fun to read. (Jon)

Why You Should Check Out Jon Hansen’s Writing and Characters
Jon’s writing is clean and to the point. Most of his stories have a "gritty" quality combined with humorous observations. He brings the horror and the visceral reactions. His main characters are great, and often his secondary characters are just as much fun and easy to visualize. “Noelle” from his Gunslingers’ novel is my favorite of Jon’s characters. She’s witty with lots of spirit. She copes well with the tough and terrible world around her. (Mark)

Jon’s writing is vivid. You can see everything as if you were standing there yourself. (Shawn)

Oh man... so many to choose from. He's my favorite writer, so I don't know if I can pinpoint any one thing, all I know is: That guy is pretty awesome. And he has impeccable taste. Good kisser too. (Jon)

Jon’s descriptions: working with all 5 senses and his characters, all unique yet recognizable.
Favorite character is hard with Jon - he's got so many great ones - of the recent ones, I really liked Juniper Silverbell. (Lisa)

Jon is a superstar. He’s great at description, and uses sound really well - also, funny. Very, very funny.  Perhaps my favorite thing is that he writes terrific female characters, which sadly seems to be a rare gift in a male sci-fi/horror writers. I like the combo deal of Jack and Noelle, from his zombie novel. They have a believable and touching relationship, very down-to-earth, lots of clever banter in the midst of, you know, the apocalypse. (Claudia)

Why You Should Check Out Lisa Bergin’s Writing and Characters
Lisa's writing is very lyrical and smart. Plus, she has such a unique imagination, but such a clear and consistent vision. I really enjoy the way she'll decide to portray things. Beryl is an easy choice for favorite, a close second for me, but my favorite characters are the three philosopher kids: Tommy, Momo, and P Boy. They were good stuff. (Jon)

Lisa makes you think. It’s not just the obvious allusions to her philosophical background, but rather the style and tone, which challenges you to pay attention to something altogether special and different. (Shawn)

Lisa is the Queen of voice. Her characters all sound unique, and use words, terms that show (not tell) what is going on in her world(s). This is more apparent than ever in my favorite character of hers, Beryl, the girl lead in her novel, Once We Were Bears. Beryl has a charming voice that is both endearing and thoughtful in the way she approaches a world of humans that she is trying to understand. (Mark)

Lisa has an incredibly unique voice. I couldn’t emulate her folk tale/fairy tale/post apocalyptic style if I tried. Her stories are very warm, but take place in very harsh worlds. Her characters at first glance are very simple, but ultimately are nothing but. I love the animal characters from her books. She captures what a goat, bear, chicken and squirrel would say, what they’d sound like, their senses of humor (or not) - and it all somehow makes perfect sense. (Claudia)

Why You Should Check Out Mark Teats’ Writing and Characters
Heart. Mark’s writing has heart, even when the subjects are thousands of years old demons. (Shawn)

Mark was my first fellow writer I met who shared a similar vision/interest and was also going through a lot of the same situations as I was. I like how Mark's writing usually concerns darkness and horror and blood and all that, often in some pretty cool ways, but it is also full of heart. For all of its edge, there's still a classic sense of good and evil. I like that. My favorite characters are probably Blackheart and Noel, especially when they're together. I love their chemistry. (Jon)

His skill at pacing - and making sure the reader always knows what's at stake -
Blackheart, because he gets built back from death by creature's carrying his bits in their mouths - he's invulnerable, and yet is dependent on these tiny animals. (Lisa)

In my latest writing class people critiquing my work said that they thought I was imparting a lot of data in short, descriptive sentences, and that I was clearly a genre writer. I was happy with this summary. In the past I've always felt some of my descriptions have been "too thick" (I've been working on it) so maybe I am making progress? Blackheart is hands down my favorite character. I think I've spent the most time with him. He is probably the toughest yet most sympathetic character I have. When I write him I can always hear his voice. (Mark)

Mark has a way with a turn of phrase, he rocks at the similes - and he creates striking visuals. One of my favorite of Mark’s creations is the Psychopomps. When his main character dies, whatever little creepy creatures happen to be around - scorpions, crappies, etc., travel to Hell to retrieve his flesh, one little nibble at a time, and reassemble his body.  Horrific and terrific.
My favorite character of Mark’s is Blackheart, definitely Blackheart. Cursed for eternity in a human’s body, unable to die - a character worthy of his own Dark Horse Comics series.

Why You Should Check Out Shawn Enderlin’s Writing and Characters
Shawn is a great world builder. He is not afraid to take on a huge host of characters, and a vast world (worlds!) with a long history. His mythology and use of magic are excellent - he takes some of the great tenets of high fantasy and makes them his own, as well as adding to the genre.
I love Kaytlyn in To Kill the Goddess. She becomes possessed by an evil entity, and her struggle to free herself is very intense. What she becomes after the struggle is even better. (Claudia)

Shawn thinks big and complex. His stories are epic. I like how he balances lots of different plots--all full of interesting characters and all in their own exciting stories--and how he keeps them all moving and brings them together. I also like the way he mixes science fiction, horror and fantasy. He has a lot of good characters, but I think Cassondra and Colt are my favorites. (Jon)

My favorite thing about my writing is that it is so fucking much better than it ever used to be. Way to go, me! (Shawn)

The scope of his work - spanning worlds and multiple points of view. It’s a lot to balance and he's done impressive work at it. I’ve always had a soft spot for Tea Leaf - even tho’ she's a minor character. I’ve always loved her - I think her name really clinches it for me. (Lisa)

Shawn is the King of world building. Faeries, unicorns, saurians, druids, lasers, elves and space travel all in the same story? Shawn does it and does it well. Mana-use in his TKTG series is awesome! My vote for his best character is Katelyn (who has to deal with some dark shit, like being possessed by and alien being). She is compelling and convincing (a great female character written by a male). Second place goes to Tea Leaf the faerie. Best. Faerie. Ever. (Mark)

Thank you!
If you made it this far, you're our number one fan. Thanks for taking the time.

~ Mark/@manOwords on behalf of Shawn, Lisa, Jon and Claudia
aka The Scribblerati

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