(You can also read this article on my official website: skkeogh.com)
The “writing process” blog hop continues this week. I follow on the heels of Alaric Bond who invited me along. At the end of this article I, in turn, tag two other writers who will be posting their articles next Monday, March 31.
What am I working on?
I’m about to start final edits on the third novel in my Jack Mallory series, entitled The Fortune. The Fortune picks up where The Alliance left off, and among many other plot threads, the overall personal arc of Jack Mallory’s search for the truth about his mother’s life with James Logan will be resolved, as will his on-again/off-again romance with Maria Cordero. Different from The Prodigal but similar to The Alliance, the story will take place equally on land and sea, with the latter setting bookending the land-based story. There is plenty of action and intrigue, and a new point of view character that I think the reader will really enjoy. I know I did!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Two key things led me to write The Prodigal: 1) I wanted to write an Age of Sail novel that deviated from the overly-used narrative of the Royal Navy, and 2) I wanted to write an old-fashioned action/adventure novel, the kind that had a clear beginning/middle/end and a clear-cut objective for the protagonist and thus the reader. So many novels in this genre have loose plots; typically the hero just going from battle to battle with no real overall story or character arc.
I also found that many novels in the Age of Sail genre are long on action but short on character development. Besides beautiful prose, what appeals most to the readers of Patrick O’Brian’s best-selling nautical series are his main characters, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. O’Brian’s character development is the key to that series longevity and commercial success, not his knowledge of the era or how many battles are fought in the stories. It is this same depth of character that I strive for in my series. Readers don’t just know what is happening to a character in my stories; they also know what happened to a character before the story even began and thus what motivates them in their current situation. Human beings are all about emotion, and characters in a novel should be, too.
Why do I write what I do?
Whether we are talking my Jack Mallory series or a graphic novel or my Civil War novel, I write what I do for one reason and one reason only: because the subject interests me. In other words, I will never write what is considered “popular” in order to sell my writing. So don’t look to me for zombie or vampire stories or stories about English royalty in the Tudor era. For any writer to be convincing and compelling in their writing, they must be passionate about their subject matter. My Age of Sail novels are the result of me wanting something more from the nautical genre than the majority of material out there. Perhaps that’s not what the reading public wants, but I write first and foremost for myself. It has to be that way or the writing will not ring true.
How does your writing process work?
Generally with any idea for a novel, I know the beginning and the end, but the middle is always fluid because of character development. Like the reader, a writer doesn’t necessarily know everything about a character at the start of the novel; it is a journey, just as any real life relationship is. We learn about people as we explore them over time.
When it comes to research, generally I have done some of it beforehand, but I prefer to do the real detailed research after I have the rough draft done. By doing so, I can focus on specific areas, instead of wasting time on things that may never make it into the story. This saves time and money (and, trust me, research is not cheap, not if you want to do it right).
If I am able to, I will always travel to places that figure prominently in my stories. While writing my Civil War novel, The Edge of Hell, I traveled to historic sites and battlefields in Tennessee and Georgia. No amount of reading, whether primary sources or secondary sources, can give the writer the same sense of “being there” as standing on the actual ground over which your characters have walked, fought, and bled.
While researching my Jack Mallory books, I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, and the Outer Bank of North Carolina. Leighlin Plantation and Wildwood Plantation were directly inspired by the real life rice plantations of Drayton Hall and Middleton Place.
Going to any of these historical places is not only informative but highly inspirational and motivating. It helps me see and feel not just the setting but the characters who inhabit these settings. Visits such as these help me flesh out the subsequent drafts of my stories, filling in holes and often changing certain directions of the narrative as well.
I hope you have enjoyed this look into my writing process. Please check out next week’s articles by two of my writing buddies, Michelle Hauck and J. Lea Lopez.
Michelle Hauck (michelle4laughs.blogspot.com) lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.
Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.
J. Lea Lopez (jlealopez.blogspot.com) writes character-driven stories that don’t shy away from the bedroom. When she’s not doing that, she’s usually attached to a pair of headphones and typing furiously as part of her transcription business. She blogs about all sorts of things at Jello World, and she attempts brevity and (occasionally NSFW) sass on Twitter and Facebook.