About My Writing

Stories

I started writing novels in my mid teens. The first was your standard issue big fantasy epic trilogy - the chosen ones sent to find magic thingamabobbies to defeat shadowybigbad. This was a story which I kept changing and rewriting, until the shadowybigbad had become a navy-eyed mad boy, a different main character had taken over the plot, and book three abruptly diverged into alternate worlds and spaceships and ornate moons and it was not very standard issue at all.

Still, I like meeting things in stories that I don't expect.

Certain tropes do pop up repeatedly in my stories. The morality of mages, the bond between a ruler and their land, and people displaced from their own time. And I really like to turn this world's social expectations on their side, construct societies which on the surface aren't so very different, but then do things just a little differently. What, after all, would this world be like, if magic was a real thing? Not business as usual, surely.

Romance almost always creeps in, though I like that to be going on along with the plot, rather than being the primary focus. And I'm as interested in how a couple adapts to being together as the obstacles to them getting together in the first place. I dislike drama which involves misunderstandings or one of the characters tediously denying how they feel. An absolute turnoff is if the romance involves a normally intelligent female getting herself into some sort of mess while her male counterpart keeps an indulgent eye on her and eventually untangles her. I like romances which are partnerships, not babysitting.

Characters

I have a preference for stories featuring smart, sensible people who bring some measure of logic as well as heart to the problems they face. And I write an inordinate amount of stoics.

I don't think I can pick any of them out as favourites.

Process

I am not an outliner. I have difficulty imagining ever writing any kind of story which kept to one - or knowing enough of my story to be able to write the outline in the first place. My stories evolve organically, often from a scene entirely without context, sometimes from a simple concept. I have gone back and taken out the original concept of the story, and I have gone back and added a villain in, when the original candidate refused to play that game.

If a new idea creeps into my head while I'm busy with another novel, I'll jot down notes, perhaps even write the first couple of chapters, and then go back to the original novel. Or not.

Writing is fun for me. And writing is work. I love when it flows, when it floods out, when I finally reach That Scene, the one I've been anticipating since I first thought of it back around chapter three. I love even more moments of beauty and terror which I weren't expecting at all, but which confronted me around a corner.

I like those characters who creep out of the background and try to take over the story, but I'm less than impressed when they mess everything up in the process.

And I just like the stories. I shamelessly re-read my own stories, even the early, badly written ones. Writing is fun.

Influenced By

Diana Wynne Jones


Neil Gaiman's poem about the dedication of Hexwood encompasses something of my own delight with Diana Wynne Jones novels. These are stories which make magic tangible. My favourite changes semi-frequently - I am very fond of all the Chrestomanci novels, and of Howl and Sophie. And many of the early stand-alones, like "Eight Days of Luke" and "Dogsbody". And I like to read the "Tough Guide to Fantasyland" to spot which ones I've used!

Robin McKinley


There is something in Robin McKinley's stories which no-one else ever seems to achieve. A languid, honeyed beauty, with very practical bones. "Beauty" will probably always be my favourite, but "The Blue Sword" rivals it - I so very much like Harry's voice. And I'm in awe of "Sunshine" - such a fascinating world - and can only hope she revisits it.

Joan Aiken


It's the tales of Dido which most draws me to Joan Aiken - such a horrible, ugly, brave and tremendous world. I suppose it could be called Dickensian, but with more heroes and more heart. I am still building my Joan Aiken collection, and love the range and magical impossibilities.

Andre Norton


There is something completely unique about Andre Norton's voice in many of her early novels - those of the "Beast Master" and "Catseye" era - which reads so alien and so right to me. "Catseye" is probably the book I've read the most, and I will fall deeply into the mind of the outcast and downtrodden but never defeated. I've never found another author like her, and she owns a shelf all her own in my bookcases.

Melissa Scott


Such fully-realised worlds. I think "Point of Hopes" and "Point of Dreams" are my favourites, but I'm just as impressed by Melissa Scott's science fiction.

Lois McMaster Bujold


Characters you care about, worlds which surprise you - what's not to like?

Ruth Manning Sanders


Ruth Manning Sanders' collections of fairytales, with Robin Jacques' brilliant illustrations, were some of my favourite teen reads. They were kept in the non-fiction section of my local library, a piece of immense stupidity which meant that I had little competition checking them out.

Georgette Heyer


Heyer's stories sparkle, and elevate, entertain and frustrate. I have re-read most of her novels several times, and love many of them. She has an incredible range, turning certain staples of romance on their head, creating characters that capture your heart and make you care.

A few times, though, she creates wonderful women and then undercuts them. Smart, self-willed women who behave like idiots and need to rescued. I no longer re-read those books.

My favourites are "Frederica", "Devil's Cub", and "A Blunt Instrument", which is one of her mysteries and gloriously upturns every expectation.

Ngaio Marsh


Roderick Alleyn is not nearly so well known as he should be. One of the classic detectives, ascetic, a quiet gentleman. His relationship with Troy is one of my favourites.

Agatha Christie


I'll re-read these end to end every few years. I love watching the world change around the stories, and I can but admire the range of stories. I am by no means a mystery writer, but Golden Age mysteries are practically comfort reads to me.

Margaret Maron


A more modern mystery writer, and a brilliant one. Again - in two different series - we follow the life of the 'detective', as well as unravelling the current mystery. Margaret Maron just makes everything so interesting!

Josephine Tey


Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time" is one of the books which changed the way I looked at the world. Its premise sounds anything but interesting - an injured detective in hospital, researching history. What is revealed says so much about how accepted history is constructed, and I recommend it to anyone who comes my way. Tey's other novels are also excellent - "Miss Pym Disposes" never fails to amuse, and make me sorrow, and those two things together show the calibre of her writing.

19 comments:

  1. Hi Andrea,

    I read and enjoyed your Stained Glass Monsters a while back and now I'm on a GR group where we are submitting books by authors along with a picture of something from the book. :>) For example Under Witch Moon, a book I wrote, has a bobcat in it, so I submitted a picture of a bobcat. Some others have submitted roadsigns that happen to have the name of a city that is in the book. Frank Tuttle, lucky guy that he is, had fan art (drawings of his main character) to submit. I wonder if you might have something you can send to me that I can upload into the group?

    Thanks.

    You can contact me at www.BearMountainBooks.com -- my email is in the sidebar on the left down a ways. I couldn't find a contact button her on your blog. Maria

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  2. I really enjoyed Stray and had to immediately procure Lab Rat One, which I started right away. Well done, and keep up the good work!

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  3. Hi just finished rereading Stray, Lab Rat One, Caszandra, and the Gratuitous epilogue. I must say I love your writing style. There have been many times I have read a novel and hoped for a little more detail or a specific scene using thing that we have been told that never happens. In your stories they almost always happen ^^.

    I wish many more authors would do what you did with Gratuitous Epilogue. There are so many stories have read that I wish the author had done their own gratuitous epilogue. Though I must admit to wondering what would happen if diplomacy ever opened up with Earth =p.

    Now to see how many people I can get to read your books starting with Stray ^^.

    as Jessica said "keep up the good work!"

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    1. wow fastest reply I have ever gotten ^^. Thanks =p.

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  5. I'm so happy to have found your books; it was a great move making "Stray" free. I was less than half way through when I knew I'd have to get the other books in the trilogy!

    I love the richness of the worlds you've created and the wealth of characters. I'm looking forward to checking out your other books.

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  6. PS My comment originally started with:

    "I've just finished the Touchstone series and I'm now reading the Gratuitous Epilogue and loving it"

    only Blogger lost that bit of the comment somehow.

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  7. I finished the Touchstone trilogy and tried to make The Gratuitous Epilogue last longer because I knew it was the last one. I LOVED them!!! I'm hoping sometime in the future you'll start up the series again when Tyrian is a teenager. That would definitely be something to look forward to:)

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  8. I finished the Touchstone trilogy and tried to make The Gratuitous Epilogue last longer because I knew it was the last one. I LOVED them!!! I'm hoping sometime in the future you'll start up the series again when Tyrian is a teenager. That would definitely be something to look forward to:)

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  9. Andrea,
    Thank you so much for your stories. I love your worlds, your characters, and your take on romance. Got hooked with stray and have now lost multiple nights sleep devouring your books. I'm having to pace my purchases so I'm still functional. I also love several of the above authors and will have to check out those I'm not familiar with. Appreciate the depth and the detail of your writing. Looking forward to reading more.
    -Brenna

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  10. Hi, or maybe good morning, or good evening.
    I write from Poland, from Bialystok - from the other side of the Earth;).
    I have thought long time about writing to You and now came the time.
    I think, that reading is kind physiological thing for me. I'm simply addicted to reading.
    When I was 8 my mother read me and my younger sister A Wizard of the Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin aloud. For me it was love from first word. I read each of her books, which have translated into Polish. Then I started looking for similar books. I read many, many of them and others. I already stopped counting.
    Recently I thought: I have read many, many books, everything what had to be read, everything what is important or it seems to be. No i can read these books, which I really like ! And it is a real pleasure!
    I like good stories. They can be simple, but if they are well told I take it.
    Few years ago I discovered books of Diana Wynne Jones and her Howl's moving castle. Sophie, that's the heroine! But my favourite book of Jones is Fire and Hemlock. How beautiful there penetrates reality and magic! And one day I discovered Margaret Mahy's books. I like books for children and young adults. I think, that good books for them, are simply good books. In Poland books for young adults are underestimated.
    And one day I bought Stray from Amazon... Yeah, it was everything what I like. I bought all pieces of tetralogy and devoured them. I like the way of narrative, form of diary and this kind of heroine. In general I have weakness for strong female protagonists... And thank You for the great respect for the reader and his intelligence! Reading this series was a great pleasure for me, really, really! And lack of drama, if we speak about romance, was refreshing!
    Then I reached for And All the Stars. I have always liked science fiction, it is a kind of costume, another way of talking about human beings. About human condition, choices, history. And in this book we have a border situation and something like study about in what way people will be behave.
    For me And All the Stars was book about choices and prices of them. And about mature love, which made the choice. The story still works in my mind.
    Reading is also a kind of therapy, at least for me. I collect stories, they act as a filter for my mind and often they help me find the answer, or name the emotions that make me tired. Books were and are my rescue team, something like that.
    Now I'm reading Hunting. One girl and many of men - I like it!
    I sincerely regret that Your books have not been translated into Polish, I would like to read them for my children. But one day they will be able to read them in English, I hope so.
    I'm grateful to You for Your books. Meeting with them was amazing experience. Thank You! Thank You!
    Greeting from Bialystok.
    Marta

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    1. Thank you Marta - I hope your children one day enjoy them!

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  11. I love your Touchstone series. I loved the epilogue but would still love more. I just simply love Cass and her family. I would love to find out if they are ever able to find a way back to Earth more frequently.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Unknown! I still definitely intend to continue with at least some short stories in the Touchstone universe.

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  12. Hi Andrea,

    I’ve stumbled onto The Silence of Medair during one of my “buy one book from each of these authors to see what I discover.” Thank you for a wonderfully written book and a very enjoyable universe, not to mention a new author for my must read list! I really enjoy the depth and complexity of the main characters, and I look forward to discover more of their voices. By now I’ve read both Medair books and the Touchstone trilogy — and I’m trying to ration the rest so they last through the next couple of months :)

    I hope this won’t sound presumptuous, but I was looking at your list of favorite authors (to see if I can poach someone new) and based on some of them, especially Wynne-Jones and Bujold, I was thinking you might like P.C. Hodgell as well (if you’re interested, I’d suggest looking at God Stalk). It’s fantasy though — so if you’re not writing science fiction right now, I apologize for the suggestion. :) I don’t generally run about trying to inflict books on strangers, but I truly love your books, and I guess this is a clumsy attempt at trying to say thank you and share something back.

    Thank you again for writing amazing, fun, enjoyable books whose characters surprised me :)

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  13. Hi Andrea
    I've looked around your site but I can't find any information about whether any of your books have been translated into other languages.

    If they haven't been translated, may I respectfully suggest that the chance of getting them made into a Japanese animé would increase if they were available in an Asian language? I'd LOVE to see the Touchstone p trilogy made into a tv show (or movie would be second best) any any language... and the Medair series too...and Rose etc.

    You're a perceptive, well balanced and creative writer who touches all my favourite themes (and more). You'll always have an audience in me.

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    1. No translations as yet, I'm afraid. It is something I'd like to do, but represents quite an investment and workload.

      The absolute ideal adaptation for Touchstone would be anime - particularly given its cast of thousands - and I hope to raise my profile in Japan eventually.

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  14. Hi Andrea,
    Just finished In Arcadia-then I had to go back and read the whole Touchstone series again! I loved the Laura POV and will miss the characters so much. Have you thought of maybe adding another book from maybe Sue's perspective? One small incident electrified my imagination and sense of romantic justice and that was the scene where the whole family and some of the Setari are hanging out waiting for the Ice skating to start and they are discussing a boy who had been upset and lifted (telekinetic) a bunch of boulders it was a small incident that Shon was staring at Y's back--a possible future connection? They would be well suited I think.

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    1. Hi Daisy - I'm glad you enjoyed In Arcadia! There will definitely be an Aunt Sue story, and also an Ys story - not this year, but eventually!

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