The Next Big Thing: My Current Project and Three Awesome New Writers

I’ve now written two stories for Eric J. Guignard‘s fantastic anthologies, and so last week when he invited me to take part in The Next Big Thing, I immediately said yes. It’s a simple exercise, really, just a fun little combination of a questionnaire, self-promotion, and promotion of others, too.

To start off, I’ll answer ten questions about my current project. Then, I’ll tag three other up-and-coming authors, folks who I think you’ll be hearing more from in the next few years. All of them have plenty of novels and short stories under their belts, and may very well end up becoming The Next Big Thing.

I’ve written a fair amount about my first novel, which is on hold pending editing (and coming up with a better pitch). My second novel was largely written as a lark during last year’s NaNoWriMo, so today I’m discussing my third novel, which is my favorite concept yet. It’s still in the early stages of planning and writing, but the ending is stuck in my head, which bodes well for me actually finishing it.

So to start off, some Q & A:

1) What is the working title of your next book?


2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea came at the Rainforest Writers’ Retreat last March. I was doing some brainstorming, when the idea came to me of a siren (a la the ancient, mesmerizing singers of old) living amidst the ruins of a post-apocalyptic world. But as I fleshed out various characters, I realized the origin story of the siren was more interesting, and from there it sort of lost the siren part entirely (although maybe it’ll reappear in a sequel).

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Post-apocalyptic Science Fiction, with an eye toward the Young Adult audience.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Fallon Ravensong: Isabelle Fuhrman

Regulus: Idris Elba

Ezra: Dakota Goyo

Antares: Vinnie Jones

Warlord Staern: Ben Kingsley

Fallon’s Mother: Charlize Theron

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In a bid to gain her freedom from the court of a post-apocalyptic warlord, Fallon flees South across the harsh landscape of a dead America, encountering fellow survivors as she flees for her life and chases stories of a place known only as The Green.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be exploring options, but my preference would be to find an agency.

7) How long will it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I false-started on the original draft, and have been doing some additional planning in order to find a better beginning and overall arc. In the New Year, I’ll be hitting the first draft hard and hope to finish it within a few months. At which point it will have been… a little over a year since I came up with the original idea. Here’s hoping I can stick to plan.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

My uber-short pitch for this novel is that it’s The Wizard of Oz meets The Road.

It’s in the same genre (and shooting for the same target audience) as The Hunger Games, but that’s about all they have in common.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Well, the original story was the result of a fairly straightforward brainstorming session. I pictured an interesting character, in an interesting situation, then tried to imagine how she got to where she was. That in turn led me chasing down a tangled web of ideas and themes until I ended up in a comfortable little nook that bore only a vague resemblance to my original starting point.

There are other inspirations, too. I love ravens and crows– they’re some of the most intelligent birds out there, despite the fact that they often get cast as minions of evil or bad omens. So I wanted the main character’s loyal companion to be a raven. Hence the name of the book (and Fallon’s last name, which she earns in the course of events).

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Even though it’s post-apocalyptic, I want this story to be optimistic, to speak to the ability of people to help each other out even in dark times. My goal is to write a story that combines an epic physical journey with an epic emotional one, and to tell the story of a girl who finds her place in a world that seems as if it has no place for anyone.

If all goes well, it will be the first book in a trilogy. Fallon’s scattered family, and the rest of the world, play a bigger role in the later books.

My Three Tagged Authors:

Luna Lindsey

Mark Andrew Edwards

Stephanie Herman

Look for their entries around Wednesday of next week, when they’ll answer the same ten questions about their own upcoming projects.

Writing, and Weather, in the Rainforest

Yesterday, I got home from the Rainforest Writers Village, on the shore of Lake Quinault in Western Washington. It was pretty awesome– for five days, I got to hang out with thirty-seven other writers and focus almost entirely on writing.

For my own part, I was actually doing more brainstorming than writing. In this (relatively) distraction-free headspace, I felt like I was more able to to follow ideas where they led, to flesh out various characters and worlds, and search for the potential plots and stories within them. And without day-to-day life constantly pulling me out of that headspace, I felt like the ideas came much easier.

That’s not to say that the Rainforest Writers Village was entirely distraction-free. A couple times a day, some of the more established pros among us would host workshops. So we got to listen to Jennifer Brozek talk about the intricacies of writing and editing anthologies, and Mary Robinette Kowal, who is also a professional puppeteer, talk about how to read out loud an audience. But because the workshops were about writing, I feel like I never really lost the creative vibe, even when I occasionally took breaks from staring at the computer screen.

Another side effect of being in a place with thirty-seven creative, awesome people is that you inevitably want to talk to them. So there was plenty of socializing, and long chats over meals, as well as a few “after hours” workshops on the intricacies of certain Scottish malt beverages. Many of my writing role models and heroes were there– Mary, the Inkpunks, and plenty of other awesome folks.

Side Note: You know what’s great about being a writer? Once you get involved in the community, there develops a large and ever-growing overlap between your role models and your friends.

Side Note 2: Social anxiety still sucks, and I get it worse among writers than most. I think it’s because even though you’re not supposed to care what other people think about you, the fact is, I do care, very much. I love the writing community, and the vibe I get from hanging out with creative people is addictive, even if I’m just standing to the side of the conversation and listening. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of things that keeps me working at this.

The other big distraction from writing was the rainforest itself. On Thursday the Sun came out, which meant that the hiking trails proved too tempting to resist, and I spent plenty of time traipsing through the woods. I hadn’t done any hiking in the woods since going to Yellowstone in September, so this was definitely overdue. And in the evening, when the sun set on the far side of the lake– magnifique.

On Friday, the clouds and rain came back with a vengeance. This place gets over 130 inches of rain a year, so needless to say, sunny days are rare, especially outside of the summer dry season. And yet, for all the rain, the place was not actually any less beautiful. The forest glistened, and the creeks running through the woods seemed revitalized, and each morning, when the clouds lifted off the hills of the far side of the lake, it was every bit as cool as a sunset.

So, the setting was distracting, but eventually I turned it to my advantage and wrote a piece of flash fiction that took place on the very trail I had been hiking on. The idea might work for a longer piece, as well, so I’m happy. Even if the starting point did happen to be “were-faeries.” (Don’t ask.)

To those folks who were there: It was great meeting everyone! Look me up on Twitter, and if you’re a local Seattleite, hopefully I’ll see you at Norwescon. If not, hopefully I’ll see you at another con in the future, or barring all else, at next year’s Rainforest. Thanks for a great weekend.

(Pic below: Mark and Keffy, on Sunday morning at about 10:30, engaged in the final heated word count showdown. Keffy won with 42,087, but it was a close thing. I lagged slightly behind them at 5,636, but I’ll content myself with the brainstorming I brought home.)