Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 29: Questions 29 & 30

A belated Merry Christmas, to you all, Dear Followers! I hope you’ve had a simply marvellous time eating lots of tasty food, watching tat on the tele and revelling in all the wonderful gifts brought to you by Santa! I for one had a lovely time round my parents’ house with my boyfriend and our dog Lex ♥ Usually my parents go away on holiday so it was lovely to spend time with them; I haven’t spent a Christmas with them in about four, five years!

I’m going to try and post a present haul sometime before the year is out as well, but don’t hold your breath because knowing me I’ll never get round to it and I have a couple of other posts I wish to write as well.

Two questions for the price of one today. I’m starting a new writing quiz in the New Year, crafted by K.F. Goodacre (click here to see all the questions), so wanting to get the tail-end of this challenge out of the way first!

So without further ado, here are my final Writerly Navel-Gazing answers for 2017:

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something in reality that reminded you of your story/characters?

Thinking about writing

I think about writing all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Seriously, what on earth fills the mind of a person who does not write? It’s an absolute mystery to me. I’m always plotting away, scheming and dreaming, thinking of new ways to tackle scenes, develop characters and enrich the world they live in. For example, just before I sat down to write this blog post, I was playing Assassin’s Creed Origins (a Christmas present from my boyfriend), which is a video game set in Ancient Egypt. The city of Kintaro in the world of The Mayor is based upon Egypt, so naturally I started thinking about Kintaro, the culture and its people, and how I might go about fleshing it out for a potential story I have planned there (or just to help better inform my understanding of world of the The Mayor).

If I’m not thinking about writing my book then I am at the very least thinking about the act of writing itself. I plan my social life around the times I would like to be able to sit and write, and get irritated stressed out super grumpy when things spring up unexpectedly and stop me from writing.

Today for example, I’ve kept my diary deliberately clear so I’m available to write all day. It will be glorious. I AM HOME TO NO ONE. DO NOT BOTHER ME.

As for things in reality that remind me of my characters… I once went to a Voltaire gig at the Purple Turtle (31st October 2014). Voltaire swaggered on stage, cracked dirty jokes, swore like a sailor, sang about pirates and swigged rum straight from the bottle. All I could think of throughout the whole gig was “It’s John. It’s John. It’s John.” John doesn’t even look anything like Voltaire, but the resemblance in mannerisms and demeanour was strong!

30. Question day! You ask, I’ll answer.

I’m fully expecting the sound of chirping crickets and the sight of rolling tumbleweeds, but I would certainly be interested in answering questions about my writing, my inspirations, my process and my book… Just leave your question below in the comments and I will endeavour to answer!

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading my responses to this challenge as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Take care, my lovelies,

 

S.E. Berrow

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Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 28: Questions 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28

What week are we even on? Have I really not done one of these posts for a whole month?? Oh boy, have I got some catching up to do…

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Incredibly willing, to the point I have to reign myself in. I am not even joking when I say that most, if not all my characters have had their heads on the chopping block at some point. If your favourite character makes it to the end of The Mayor, you’ll have K.F. Goodacre to thank for it; she has stayed the fall of my axe on many occasions!

As for the most interesting way I’ve killed someone… there are certainly a couple of very interesting deaths in The Mayor, but I don’t want to spoil them for you!

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Yes! Though sadly these pets don’t show up until Book Two…

Old Dickiehas a cat called Bill (short for Bilge Rat). She’s a ship’s cat, so she’s employed to keep the rat population down. Friendly and affectionate, Bill is mostly black with a white chest,  polydactyl paws and a fleck on her nose. She enjoys sitting on everyone’s laps — especially those who don’t wish for her to sit on them — and is a good mouser despite her pint-sized self.

Jaspher reluctantly acquires a wolfhound named Bonny, won by an employee in a game of cards. She is stubborn, introverted and intelligent and, though enormous, relatively small for her breed. She’s grey-brown in colour, barrel-chested, slim-waisted and shaggy-haired and, as a bonus, hates William Kale. Very much a case of a pet resembling their owner here!

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your original characters and post your favourite picture of him or her.

You can see artwork of all my characters by clicking here. They were all drawn by the very talented Brettarts, whom I cannot recommend enough.

Or perhaps you’d like to see some ~*~eXcLuSiVe~*~ artwork? Here’s some art of my characters my friends have drawn for me in the past, before I got them drawn professionally:

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

I’m quite a visual person so I do try to convey what a character looks like in my head to the reader. I’m not a big fan of writing “blank slates”; a character can have a distinct appearance and still be relatable!

The appearances of my characters changes over the course of the story in The Mayor. They get older, dirtier, put on weight, lose weight, get scars, lose hair, lose teeth, get tattoos, change the way they dress… If I didn’t write about that then that’s effectively an entire element of storytelling lost.

As to how I go about designing characters… I don’t know really! They just kind of pop into my head and then I get to know them properly on paper, hashing them out as I go along and making changes when necessary. Even at this very late stage, I’m still updating characters, appearances and all. For example, after consultation with one of my Beta readers a couple of months ago, I decided to give the Carson family some Dontaran heritage, which made their skin darker.

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

~ Warning! Minor spoilers for The Mayor below ~

Physical disabilities: the Carsons’ father, Jeremiah, is debilitatingly ill. I’ve had to do a lot of research in order to portray his condition correctly, and have been drilling my friend who works as a nurse on the NHS!

Mental disabilities: Jaspher Carson suffers from severe anxiety and depression (completely untreated of course, because The Mayor is set in the 18th century which wasn’t exactly the best time to be mentally ill), John and Melora suffer from PTSD, and  William Kale is a psychopath (this has been especially fun to research).

Phew! Up to date at last. Just one more week and only two more questions to go…

S.E. Berrow


Artwork credit for question 26: for Vitriolic-Harli’s deviantART, click here. She is also known as The Cerebral Hedonist — click here.

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 24: Questions 22 and 23

I’m aware this post is very, very late. Apologies. I’m about to have a mental breakdown trying to finish The Mayor and sell my house at the same time (my timing, as always, is impeccable) so please bear with me…

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

 22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before, serious or not.

This is an impossible question to answer, because talking about scenes I have not yet written would be spoiling the book, and I pretty much tell K.F. Goodacre everything before I write it anyway. If I haven’t told her about it, it’s because I haven’t thought of it yet. So we’ll all just have to wait and see! Seriously, a lot of my book is a complete mystery to me…

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

I do not post my work. It would spoil the surprise!

I started getting ideas for The Mayor around April 2009, then began putting words to paper late that May. That was 8 years ago! I only had a (very) vague outline of the main plot when I first started, which is something I’ve come to seriously regret because the original draft is an absolute mess; I developed the characters, themes, setting and story as I went along, which shows. I got completely lost about halfway through the first draft (I spoke a little about this in my previous post) and didn’t touch it for several years.

Fortunately, I made an effort to pick everything up again at the beginning of this year, and since then have beasted through the second half. I’ve written just over half a book within the space of a year, which is more progress made in the last 9 months than in 2-3 years when I started working on it. Though I’ve fallen a bit behind these last two weeks, there’s still a very good chance I can make my 31st December deadline for a complete first draft.

S.E. Berrow

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 21: Questions 19, 20 and 21

Happy First-Day-of-NaNoWriMo 2017 everybody! Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? If you are, add me as a writing buddy! We can cheer each other on. My profile is here.

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

19. Favourite minor that decided to shove themselves into the spotlight and why.

To answer this question I must tell you a story (speaking of NaNoWriMo…!):

This time last year I was feeling super mega low about everything in my life: my weight, my fitness levels… and of course, my writing. At the time, I hadn’t written anything for about four years. This was because the last thing I’d written in The Mayor was so incredibly distressing, so immeasurably unpleasant and bleak, that it had taken everything I had in me to write and than some. Once it was down on paper it I found I didn’t really have the emotional fortitude to continue, so I decided to spend some time away from my book to gain some distance.

When I eventually came back to it all a few months later, I realised something awful: I’d written a pile of absolute crap.

What the hell was I meant to do? I’d written so many words… Poured in so much effort and love… and for what? To produce a book broken beyond all repair? I couldn’t edit what I’d already written because the book wasn’t finished. I couldn’t continue writing because what I’d already written no longer made any sense. It was so disheartening, so depressing, that I stopped writing altogether. I realise now that this was the Depression talking, but back then I didn’t know any better. I was a proverbial mess.

Time passed. I got better. I went to see a counsellor, found a wonderful new boyfriend, bought a flat, changed jobs and ditched my zombifying medication. Achieving all of these things freed up a fair amount of space in my head, so I decided to make some further changes to my routine. One of these things was to get back into writing again, but how? Picking up from where I left off seemed insurmountable at the time.

So I had a conversation with myself that went a little bit like this:

Brain: What do you want to write?

Me: I want to write The Mayor. But I can’t do that, because it’s broken. How can I fix it?

Brain: Start writing where you left off and pretend that the first half is perfect. At least finish it. Then go back and edit it once it’s done.

Me: O… K… but I’m still pretty rusty. And I’m not really in the mood to write about money, politics and embezzlement fraud right now.

Brain: What are you in the mood to write then?

Me: Sex. Torture. My villain at his most deliciously sordid.

Brain: You have The Brothel Scene…

Me: I DO HAVE THE BROTHEL SCENE.

So for NaNoWriMo 2016, rather than attempt the (quite frankly impossible — for me anyway) goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I instead turned my attention to hammering out The Brothel Scene to get me back into the habit of writing… and it worked! As soon as I completed it (admittedly a couple of months later, not by the end of November — it clocked it at about 10,048 words in the end), I realised I didn’t want to stop, so went back to writing The Mayor from where I left off, just like my brain originally advised. Now I’m just 7 chapters away from completing my first draft and on track for my deadline at the end of the year… Huzzah!

But that’s not all, because from The Brothel Scene (and the whole point of me telling this long, rambling, self-indulgent story) came Liz Moore — a fairly minor character I’ve since developed into a major player based on some very positive, excitable feedback I received from my friends.

Liz Moore

Aside from the fact she is a totally badass straight-stalking, no-nonsense prostitute who injects some much needed va va voom into the life of one of my characters, I also have a particular fondness for Liz because she was part of that wonderfully productive NaNoWriMo where I found my creative voice again.

So thanks, Liz ♥ and also my friends Kim and Cassie who encouraged me to develop her in the first place.

 20. What are your favourite character interactions to write?

To quote my villain, William Kale:

Torture has a way of revealing the true nature of a man… I wonder what such exquisite suffering will reveal about you?

… I am William Kale.

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

Melora is the daughter of Craven and Anabel Winship, and Jaspher and Jonathan are the sons of Jeremiah and Sofia Carson. I should hope I write the three of them pretty well; they’re the main characters after all!

Melora is the youngest at just 15 years old. She’s the most childish of the three and incredibly immature. John meanwhile is a little older at 16, whilst Jaspher is older at 23, so he’s not a child at all.

I plan to introduce a 14-year-old ship’s boy in Book 2 of The Mayor, but I haven’t written anything about him yet; who knows how he’ll turn out? His name is Nathan Flynn.

S.E. Berrow

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 18: Questions 16, 17 and 18

A WILD BLOG POST APPEARED!

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing?

I do, yes. I absolutely love enthralling, exciting, well-written romances. I especially love slow build-ups, ‘will they won’t they?’s, bad timing, heartbreaking misunderstandings and sex scenes that make you feel hot under the collar. If the author can keep the magic alive long after the chase is over, that’s a win for me too. I also adore cute, long-established relationships where each half of the couple makes the other stronger. So expect to see some of that in my writing — it’s what I’m aiming for (although you may be waiting a while, seeing as there’s very little romance in Book One of The Mayor; the book I’m bashing out at the moment).

As to how ‘far’ I’m willing to go, I presume this means how explicitly I’m willing to write said romantic relationships? The answer is I am prepared to write very explicitly, but within reason. For genuinely romantic scenes I prefer to write poetically and metaphorically, perhaps with a fade to black. This is because in these instances, explicit descriptions might detract from the emotional impact of the scene, and… well… the romanticism of it. If the scene is not meant to be romantic however (e.g. assault, onanism, non-sexualised nudity), then I’ll tend to go more anatomical.

Above all when writing romantic relationships and sex scenes, I want to be honest. The very last thing I want is for a reader to feel as though they’ve stepped into one of my sexual fantasies.

Everyone’s pretty sniffy about romance — especially as a genre of literature — but some of my favourite books are romances, or have some degree of romance in them. Indeed, some of the most highly praised books in the world are romances! Let’s show romantic relationships some love, shall we? And stop disliking them on principle just because they’re considered ‘girly’.

Outlander Season 3 2017
One of my favourite books is the historical romance novel Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. All hail Claire and Jamie Fraser!

17. Favourite protagonist and why.

Bit of a pointless question this one, as I’ve only written one book so far! The answer has to be Melora, as she is The Mayor‘s protagonist.

18. Favourite antagonist and why.

Again, like the question that preceded it, the answer has to be Kale. Whilst he is not the only antagonist in The Mayor, he is the main one. And because the other antagonists — people like Roger Bellamy, Renwick Jarvis and Rourke Marks — are all horrible, horrible people, Kale is also my favourite. At least he has some redeeming qualities (some may disagree…).

And that’s it! At last! I’m all caught up! See you again in another fortnight or two (probably)…

S.E. Berrow

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 16: Question 15

Forever late. Forever behind. Forever apologetic. This time I actually have a pretty good excuse, but I’ll leave that for another blog post…

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, professional or not.

I harp on all the time about my writing partner K.F. Goodacre, and with good reason. She writes all manner of weird and wonderful things, however her current project — a Middle Grade Fantasy entitled The Elder Throne — centres on a one-handed ten-year-old schoolgirl called Anna who discovers that she is actually the secret daughter of a missing faerie prince. It’s a wonderful story about everyday heroes in extraordinary situations, filled with a wonderful, diverse range of characters and packed full of well-researched Irish folklore, magic and murder. I love it, and I hope you will too! Now if she’d just finish her bloody editing…

img_3113_edit2

As for professional writers, I’ll talk about a writer I’ve discovered relatively recently. Her name is Victoria Schwab (she writes under the pseudonym V.E. Schwab for her adult novels) and she is just wonderful. At the time of writing she has produced a staggering 13 books at just 30 years old. Her writing is crisp, clean and inventive — something for me aspire to — her characters are beautifully drawn, and her stories are just so quirky and effortlessly cool.

Victoria Schwab

The thing I admire most about Victoria though — beyond the fact that A Darker Shade Of Magic immediately made it onto my list of Favourite Books Of All Time when I read it earlier this year — is that she keeps it real about the writing process and the publishing industry. If I’m having a bad writing day, I only have to glance at her (excellent) Twitter account (clicky) to find reassurance from a professional voice. She makes no bones of the fact that writing a first draft is fucking hard. She is entirely open about the myth of ‘overnight success’ (see here). Time and time again she stresses that if you cannot cope with rejection, writing is not the career for you, because she still gets story ideas shot down by publishers even as a New York Times Bestseller. She is entirely supportive of new voices and celebrating small successes, and she refuses to sacrifice her integrity for the sake of commercial success. Most recently, for example, she withdrew from a contract with a Russian publisher because the translated text omitted a romantic relationship between two male characters (you can read more about this incident here).

On top of all this, she loves cats, loves tea, and has literally reduced me to a broken sobbing mess in the middle of my work’s kitchen with her beautiful, heartbreaking words. Have I mentioned what an incredible writer she is? Seriously. The way she picks and chooses words and structures them in a sentence is about as close to perfection I can possibly imagine.

S.E. Berrow


For more information on K.F. Goodacre and Victoria/V.E. Schwab, please visit the below links:

https://kfgoodacre.com/
http://www.veschwab.com/

 

 

Writerly Navel-Gazing ~ Week 14: Questions 13 and 14

I’m not late. You’re late. Ner.

Part of the 30 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

13. What’s your favourite culture to write, fictional or not?

I’m very much of the opinion that I need to be into whatever I’m writing at the moment, so for that reason I’m going to have to answer “mid-18th century European” culture. Rigid class structures, advancements in naval trade, colonial expansion, socio-political enlightenment… I find it all absolutely fascinating. We only ever studied the abolition of transatlantic slave trade (1787-1807) and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1797) at school — both of which take place towards the very, very end of the 18th century, practically the 19th — so everything I end up researching for my story I find new, fresh and exciting.

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I alluded to this briefly in Week 13. Geography is one of the things I seriously wish to address in my second draft, particularly with regard to the town of New Hardway itself. I absolutely suck at drawing maps, but I do I have really vivid images in my head of what certain locations look like and where abouts they’re situated… I’m just less certain of how it all fits together.

Below is a very early map of the Taro Isles, which provides much of the backdrop for events in The Mayor. It was drawn by a very talented lady named Shannon Hawkes, whom I sadly don’t talk to anymore. I will however treasure her beautiful artwork forever ♥

The Taro Isles

Take care,

S.E. Berrow