Getting inside a Writer’s Head


Now, if that title doesn’t scare you, it should – the venue can be a crowded one. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on The Flying Pony Blog about my writer’s process. Pamela Cook knows how to ask some great questions. Welcome to Part 1 of that interview.

What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?

For me, creativity has a lot to do with carving out a space where silence reigns. I need alone time and quiet to allow my thoughts to percolate.

Walking has always been the time when I mull over ideas. For years, I thought of this as nothing more than daydreaming. When I started to write my first novel, the daydreaming became extremely focused on a group of characters (and, believe me, I’m still asking myself where they came from) and how they might handle being tossed into a variety of situations.

On a more abstract scale, I think my creativity comes from my curiosity. I’m always wondering – what if? This trait has made me a people watcher and every observation becomes more grist to the mill.

What kind of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or irregular, focused or easily distracted?

If I’m on my own, I can write twelve hours at a stretch. I might spend the whole day in my PJ’s, eating over the keyboard, and forgetting to allow the elderly dog out until she makes her needs rather vocal. I wouldn’t say this equals discipline; it feels more like obsession. But it is what it is.

When I’m alone, I feel extremely focused. I can dislike the dog, the ringing of the phone, and the need for bathroom and stretching breaks. When other people are around it’s easy to get distracted, but I am also thankful for a good reason to quiet the voices in my head for a time.

When I’m actively writing, I write every day. But I can’t maintain a pace like that for too long. I need extended breaks every couple of months. It’s necessary to leave the seclusion of a cabin by the lake and go out into the world, if for no other reason than the need for new material.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?

I am happy to say that since I started writing fiction, I have rarely had a serious writer’s block. I did have the experience many times with academic writing, and it was excruciating.

When I get in a tangle with fiction writing, it’s because I’ve strayed off course. I’m zipping along the writing freeway and whiz down an exit ramp I wasn’t planning to take. The writing bogs down. I have to stop and figure out where I’ve ended up in terms of where I thought I wanted to go. This doesn’t always mean retracing my path – sometimes it means rethinking what has come before or what I have envisioned for later.

Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?

Hands down, I love the experience of being caught up completely in the lives’ of my characters. Having them become so real to me that I can’t let them go. I actually dream about them. They become part of my life. When this happens, the writing flows. It’s as if I can’t take down what the characters are doing and saying fast enough. I hear their voices. I know what they would say in a given situation and how they would say it.

What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?

I’ve been influenced by Canadian authors whose novels are firmly rooted in a specific place. Reading these novels gives me a felt sense of what it would be like to live in that area of my country. There is also the sense of understanding how people are formed by that particular environment. Some of my favourite Canadian authors who write in this way are: Alistair MacLeod (Cape Breton), Eden Robinson (Pacific Coast), Timothy Taylor (city of Vancouver) Jane Urquhart (rural Ontario), Elizabeth Hay (city of Ottawa, the Canadian North and the prairies), and Wayne Johnson (Newfoundland).

I think it has been this influence that made me strive to provide the readers of my novel with an understanding of what rural life, on the Northern part of Vancouver Island, on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, might be like and how that geographical area could affect the people.


The Next Big Thing–Disappearing in Plain Sight is Now Available


Cover (2)

I was tagged by S.J. Main on the blog – Diary of a Novel – A Writer’s Journey for the Next Big Thing Award. I received a nomination for this award a few months ago and this post is an update on a previous one. So, here goes – I answer the following questions and then tag a few other people to do the same.

What is the title of your book?

Disappearing in Plain Sight, my debut novel, was released for Kindle on Amazon yesterday. (Yippee – I still can’t stop going to the site to just stare – you can stare too by clicking on the book cover on your right and going from the Friesen Press website directly to Amazon.)

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I’ve always mulled over writing ideas while out for my daily walk around our cabin. There’s something about tramping along the trails that gets my creative juices flowing. When the idea for the novel came to me, I was supposed to be writing my PhD candidacy papers. For some reason, instead of doing my research, all I could think of was this handful of characters I had created in my head and how they might react to being thrown into certain situations. Soon the characters were interacting with each other and dictating what would happen next. I just sat at my laptop and took it all down. It was absolutely impossible to drop the idea of writing the story once it got started. At the time, I compared it to being in the grip of some sort of virus – it had to run its course.

What genre does your book fall under?

When the first draft was complete, I described it as a woman’s romance. As the novel developed through subsequent drafts, the genre shifted. A reviewer said I would be short-changing the book to limit it to romance – this reviewer described the novel as Dramatic, Literary Fiction. I’ve also had a reader say that the book has appeal for men as well as women. I guess time will tell on that issue. I chose Fiction – Literary; Fiction – Romance/Contemporary, and Fiction – General as my Book Industry Shelving Codes.

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

I’m going to skip over that question because I think it’s important for the reader to form their own image of the characters. Within the novel, I weakened on that resolve by having one character describe another as looking like a well-known movie personality. As I gain in maturity as a writer, I realize this type of thing isn’t necessary. The biggest thing I have learned about writing is that I need to trust the reader to follow where I lead.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m going to cheat a bit here and give you my book cover synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.

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

I’m self-publishing with the help of Friesen Press. This has been my first experience with any type of publishing – self or otherwise. I’m learning a lot and I have a clearer idea now about what I will do differently the next time around. (Yes – you heard that correctly – I am busy on the sequel to Disappearing in Plain Sight – the tentative title for the next novel is The Light Never Lies.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft of the novel took about one summer to write – oddly the same amount of time and season of the year that the main action of the story takes place within. The first draft was shorter than the final manuscript turned out to be – a bare bones treatment of the story I wanted to write. I often think about going back to read that version. I’m sure I would be stunned by how much the story evolved over the various rewrites.

What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?

I wouldn’t put Eden Robinson’s book, Monkey Beach, in the same categories that I’ve chosen for my novel. I also wouldn’t put myself in the same universe as Robinson in terms of writing talent. But for some reason, whenever I think about this question, Monkey Beach is the book that pops into my mind. Perhaps it’s the West Coast setting or the blue of the jacket cover.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think my first inspiration was the place where I live – the isolation and the beauty of the area. I’ve also been inspired and informed by my life experiences. I’ve been an educator and a counsellor working with young people and adults for years and some of the stories I’ve heard inspired my writing – not in actual details. It is more like I’ve gained an understanding of how people might react under challenging circumstances.

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

You will be drawn into a unique and beautiful setting – an isolated lake on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In this place, you will meet characters who deal with hard-hitting life situations – bullying, trauma – both past and present, death, grieving, and sexuality. The characters have problems to deal with – but their lives are also light hearted and funny. I believe the novel achieves something rare – handling complex and challenging life issues in the authentic voices of both young people and the adults who act and react to them.

If you’ve ever felt like life disappeared you, a little or a lot, then you will enjoy this novel. If you are a parent, or someone who works with or provides care for young adults, if you were young once yourself and remember the experience, you will get something from this book. If you’ve ever had to work at rebuilding your life after the loss of a friend or loved one, you will identify with the struggle the characters in this novel go through.


So – there you have it – the next big thing is my novel – Disappearing in Plain Sight. Seeing the book out in the world is a big, big, big thing for me and my supporters. Open-mouthed smileOpen-mouthed smileOpen-mouthed smile

Part of being nominated for this award is to nominate others. I am going to follow the example of a couple of other bloggers and invite anyone who follows me and feels they have The Next Big Thing to feel free to consider themselves tagged.