I was driving down the motorway today feeling a little more relaxed than I’ve felt in a few weeks since I sent Borrowed Ember (Fire Spirits #3) off to the editor on Friday. Don’t get me wrong the work is not over yet, and there is always the anxiety that comes along with releasing a new book. But… it’s nice to have the meat on the bones of the book, even if I’m not quite finished with the dressing. As my mp3 player shuffled through my tunes, picking out one of my favourite songs of all time, I started thinking about why I write and also ‘how’ I write. The song was ‘All I Ever Wanted’ by The Airborne Toxic Event. The lyrics get to me. They feel real and almost brutal in their honesty, but no less beautiful for it. There are two lines that wow me in particular and I actually used them as my ‘theme quote’ for Blood Past (Warriors of Ankh #2). What do I mean by theme quote? Well, you may or may not have noticed that I pick a quote from something (a lot of the time it’s song lyrics) that I feel sum up what the book is all about and I put this just before the beginning chapters. The two lines from that particular song are:
“All I could think is that it must be a kind of rebellion
To arm your fears like soldiers and slay them.”
They bowl me over. I can’t even articulate why they make me feel so much, but I love the imagery, I love the meaning, and I suppose I believe in them. I believe it’s hard to turn your fears on their heads and fight them. I believe that sometimes every day is a battle against those fears. And mostly I just think this a beautifully poetic way to put something people say every day in such an original way. Isn’t that what writing is about? To say something so ordinary that nearly everyone can relate, but say it in such a way that makes them actually stop and listen… and feel.
Words have always had power over me.
It’s funny because I find it difficult to cut myself open to people. If I was really honest I’d probably say there are less than a handful of people who really, really know me. I don’t like talking about myself and I keep things to myself until breaking point and even then I only ever break down with a person from the aforementioned handful.
Writing feels easier. Since I was kid, I’ve been able to pour all that out onto the page. Even if it was just for me. And to be honest it usually was. Even then, I wanted what I had to say, these ordinary, every-day things that people go through… I wanted to say them beautifully.
Writing a novel is completely different from jotting down pretty little comments. Yeah, of course, I still love my depictions to have a sense of lyricism and poetry, but too much of that in a paranormal or urban fantasy adventure and the reader will fall asleep with artsy fartsy boredom. So ‘how’ do I write? If someone has never read any of my books, what can they expect from me? Well, no matter what I set out to do, perception is everything. We as readers bring our own experience to the page and we take things from a book that the author may never have intended. I’ve certainly read reviews in the past and been surprised by what a reader has taken from a situation. Sometimes that’s enlightening for me. Interesting and exciting even. Sometimes (as a person not a writer) if I’m really honest I have to switch off. There are some people who will never understand that everybody reacts differently to different situations. They can only imagine how they themselves would react (we all know people who are like that), so anything else is wrong. I’ve been criticized for making characters react to a situation in a certain way… and it’s a situation that I myself have been in so I understand the varied things that can run through a person’s mind. I may not have reacted in ‘action’ the way my character has done, but I certainly knew it was possible to be driven to act that way. That emotion, that grief, can make us people we never thought we would be. I suppose, in a sense, that’s my way of letting my readers get to know me a little. Whether you agree with me or not, understand or not, sympathize or not, you got to know me. For a while we were friends. And hopefully we have stayed friends.
If you are wondering what to expect from my writing… expect the truth. It’s true… I love happily ever afters - I’m a bit of a girl that way. But I also understand the impact of reality, of a tragic ending, of a bittersweet ending. That’s powerful. Often more powerful than the HEA. It can stay with you for days. And there’s a reason. It feels real to so many of us because for so many of us that’s, unfortunately, what has been real. So I mix the two. Expect adventure and action and romance. Expect an HEA. But the journey won’t be an easy one because it never is. My heroines, though strong, will fumble. They will make mistakes. They will not be all-knowing. My heroes will fumble. They will make mistakes. They will not be all-knowing. Friendships will be lost, beloved characters will die, and the romance will get pulled under by the larger plot. It will get chewed at and spit on, and my heroine and hero will have to work damn hard to make sure they make it out together in the end. Why? Because writing paranormal and urban fantasy needs to have some base of reality otherwise why would my readers care? They’d have absolutely nothing to relate to. I want the reality there. There’s no story without it. And the truth is… it’s personal. We’re surrounded by a celebrity culture where marriage and relationships are like the latest technology: when something more user-friendly comes along we dump the old and pick up the new. It’s a horrible attitude. It’s so unromantic. And I don’t think of romance in the terms of roses and teddy bears and saying I love you all the damn time. In fact I find it the complete opposite. I hate Valentine’s Day with an utter passion! I think constantly saying I love you devalues the meaning somehow. Roses… okay, roses I do like. But I don’t want to be given them because society told you to. I want to be given them because something inanely stupid happened that day that made you think of me when you just happened to be passing a florist with a half-price sale on. If I’m really honest, I think real romance is about grit and toil and hardwork… All you romantics out there might be gasping in horror at me but… I do. I honestly believe that. Because it means you really bloody love the person if you’re willing to go through all that shit to be with them. It demonstrates strength of character, of loyalty, of honor. These are old-fashioned traits… but man do I ever believe in them. My parents have been married for 32 years and have been given some of the most impossible, heartbreaking things to bear together. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t perfect. But they’re still standing. They’re still best friends.
Now that’s romance. That’s real.
I think that can be said for any relationship and I bring this ideology to the friendships I create in my books as well. All friendships are full of ups and downs (although I’ve been lucky to be blessed with a few very good friends with lots of ups and little downs) and I write that into my books too. If you’re a reader of mine, you may also have noticed many of my friendships consist of quite brutally honest camaraderie. That is personal too. Somehow, almost subconsciously actually, my own friendships have fed into my characters and their friendships. My friendships are close, they’re honest (we have little tolerance for bitchy gossipers), and they’re comfortable enough where teasing (lots of sarcasm… I’m surrounded by people who are world class masters of irony) is dealt out and reciprocated without being taken the wrong way. We are who we are with one another without fearing judgment. That’s a very freeing thing. I believe it’s a precious commodity.
It’s friendship. It’s real.
So to sum up my little ramble… that’s what a reader can expect from me.
A little truth in all the fiction.