Last week, Peter Watts tagged me in something called “The Writing Process Blog Tour”. I’m going to be lazy, and let him outline the terms: “It’s kind of an authorial chain letter. An author receives a series of questions (presumably of interest to the reading public); answers them on their blog; passes them on in turn to three other authors downstream.”
I’ve settled on two authors for tagging, rather than three, since I’m fairly sure this won’t impede or impoverish the exercise.
What Am I Working On?
I’m finishing up the sequel to The Door in the Mountain, which was published last month. The sequel is nameless, as of now—pretty typical, as I tend to take a couple of years to churn out hundreds of thousands of words, then agonize for what feels like almost as long over the very few words that will make up the title. My deadline for this one’s rapidly approaching, though, so I’m going to have to rely on relatively quick thinking—mine, or someone else’s: my publisher’s running a “Name this Book!” contest. So if you love Greek mythology, have a thing for Minotaurs, ancient Crete, and/or beautiful, bitchy princesses: e-mail your ideas to doorcontest
How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?
This is a hard one. I’m always profoundly irritated when authors say things like, “My book’s going to turn fantasy on its head, because it’s SO dark/edgy/bracingly anti-epic/in every way unlike anything ever written in the history of the genre/etc.!” My irritation has to do with the smug, self-conscious, self-indulgent tone, and the certainty that difference means superiority.
So I’ll let some readers weigh in. I know: it’s unwise to turn to Goodreads reviews for trenchant, considered critique, and certainly for ego boosting or cheering up. But many of the readers who weigh in there have identified elements of my books as unique or different—and I figure it’s okay to quote them. Several of them: not just the ones who say these unique and different elements are fabulous.
To wit, re: my first book, A Telling of Stars:
“The plot is very nearly anti-fantasy. It’s beautifully written, it’s thoroughly imagined, and it messes with the reader’s expectations. So much will depend on your tolerance for being messed with.”
“The plot-minded part of my mind got bored because it felt like nothing was happening.”
Re: The Door in the Mountain:
“I really liked Caitlin Sweet’s writing style, because it brought to life Ancient Crete. The style of writing is not like that of a typical YA novel; Sweet’s writing really brings texture and vividness to the classical myth of the Minotaur. Detailed and clear, the world building in The Door in the Mountain was really enjoyable.”
“There is a strong focus on imagery that makes the story almost come alive as the reader can easily imagine being in the fictional world that she creates. Unfortunately, all of this lavish detail is ultimately a detriment to the actual story as there really is very little that happens in the story and the action almost seems like an afterthought.”
“Cool! Ouch! Cool!” Ah, Goodreads…
Why Do I Write What I Do?
Co-workers at every one of my day jobs, including the one I have now, frequently say, “Oooh: you’re a writer—are you going to put me in one of your books?” or “Oooh: I bet you’re going to write about this place, because it’s so crazy!” Then there are the people who say, “You write fantasy, huh? So when are you going to write about something real?”
In part, I write fantasy because I have a day job, a night job, kids. I’ve always written fantasy, because even before the jobs and kids there were schools of various sorts, and all the other obligations and associations of “the real world. ” “Ah—so it’s all about escapism,” some would say (or sneer) to this—and yes, that’s true. It’s simply more fun to imagine life in a desert palace in a place called Luhr than it is to render life in a government cubicle in a big North American city.
But it’s more than that.
I tried once, in a fit of “maybe all those genre detractors are onto something and I won’t be a decent writer until I produce something real”, to work on a contemporary story. It was set in an old house near the wonderfully funky Kensington Market in Toronto—but within twenty pages the house had turned into a mini-Gormenghast, and its lone inhabitant into a sort of sexy Radagast the Brown. (Am tempted to work “ghastly” in here somewhere, but won’t.) I remember that birds fluttered amongst the ivy that covered his living room walls, and alit on his head and shoulders… I just couldn’t stick to the “real” plan, and this was so stupidly crushing that poor sexy Radagast and his birds, and the heartbroken young woman who’d wandered into their Gormenghast, simply ceased to be.
Wonder, awe and magic have proven to be the only paths to fiction, for me. Not as a reader: I read all kinds of genres, from Jack Reacher (yes, I believe he’s his own genre, at this point) to Borges to Austen to Stephen King. As a writer, though, it’s always been fantasy, always impossible places and people that allow me to get to those things that are real: struggle, transformation, the torment and beauty of creatures trying to fumble their way through the same world.
How Does My Writing Process Work?
And now for the blog baton-passing. I’ll huff and puff up alongside A.M. Dellamonica and Kelly Robson, whom I met last year when they decamped from beautiful Vancouver to Toronto (for no reason my pining former Vancouverite husband could comprehend). Like Peter and I, they’re married. Like us, they both write: Alyx full time (like Peter), and Kelly whenever she can, depending on her day job (like me).
I want to hear how they do it.