A huge thank you to my wonderful friend, the talented writer Jo Chumas for inviting me to participate in this terrific blog hop on the writing process. Check out her thought-provoking entry from last week right here. Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my post, I want to tell you how Jo and I met.

A few months ago I was sprucing up my biography and wanted to make the bold claim of being the only contemporary author to have written a commercial thriller set in non-ancient Egypt. Thank God for Google and Amazon, because not only was that claim entirely false, but in the process of verifying it, I stumbled upon Jo, who had not only done just that, but had also won an award for it. Jo Chumas was the winner of last year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, in the thriller category. Her excellent winning entry, The Hidden is set in Egypt in the 1940s and was the starting point of a conversation between us, which quickly blossomed into a wonderful friendship of kindred spirits. We now write long emails to one another about the writing process, the challenges of being a writer, fascinating insight into what makes us tick creatively, and our freakish similarities and connections such as our link to Australia, shared heritage, nomadic roots, and much more. If I make it sound that Jo and I are equals, take it with a grain of salt. Jo is a far more seasoned writer with plenty of experience in the business side of publishing, having in the past run her own press. I am fortunate to consider her a friend.

This invitation to provide insight on my writing process couldn’t have come at a better time, because there is plenty happening in my world now. After less than a year as an indie published author, I have just been offered a deal from a major publishing house seeking to option the sequel to my debut international thriller, Terminal Rage. This comes at an interesting time where sales of my book and short stories are starting to soar by the day, providing me with increased confidence that I can really do this on my own. On the other hand, the buzz now is all about hybrid writers who are indie for the most part, but take on traditional publishing deals that are fair and in line with the changing world of books. I will keep you posted here and through my newsletter about how my writing adventure pans out this year.

Now let’s get this party started.

What am I working on now?

My primary writing project at this time is the sequel to Terminal Rage, tentatively titled Terminal Deception. If I do accept the deal referred to above, my prospective publisher has given me a deadline of December 31, 2014. That’s quite generous by any standard, but still a deadline per se is daunting for someone who’s been their own writing boss from the start. I’ve never written to a calendar, but maybe a pinch of discipline is not such a bad thing.

I am also working on a novella called The Iraqi Nurse, which is the fourth and final entry in my series on strong women battling terrible men to stay afloat. Although much of my writing recently has been characterized by unexpected twists in the plot, this story is different in that the premise itself is quite unexpected.

I have also written introductory chapters for two stand alone novels I am itching to write if time was infinite. The first is a young adult international thriller, set in Egypt during the immediate aftermath of the fall of Mubarak in 2011, with a working tile of Camel Wars. And the second WIP is my foray in science fiction, tentatively called The Bunker. While post-apocalyptic narratives depicting dystopian futures seem to be all the rage now, I am intrigued by what happens in the pre-apocalyptic setting. As in the things that lead up to the ‘you know what’ hitting the fan.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Secretly, I see myself as a literary omnivore. But I also understand that genre characterizations are important book-selling contraptions. A necessary evil. Most people hear my name and are surprised when they discover my primary genre is heart-stopping international thrillers, rather than slow-paced, culturally-steeped literary fiction with an anthropological Middle Eastern flavor. With that said, my so-called “commercial” fiction is about as far removed from the icons of the genre as you could get. Your work as a writer is a product of who you are as a person and your life-journey to date. I am fortunate to have had a unique international upbringing which at the very least has enriched my story-telling pallette. I have a lot to draw upon. And that makes me a bit of a chameleon, not limited to one cultural perspective or voice. I’d like to think of my main body of work as “up-market international commercial fiction.” By the same token, my shorter works to date have essentially been what you could loosely describe as literary fiction with elements of suspenseful story-telling  and intrigue, usually associated with commercial thrillers. Confused much yet about what sets me apart? I certainly am!

Why do I write what I do?

As an avid reader and lover of cinema, my main compulsion to write stems from my desire to invoke in other people the same impact my favorite books and films have had on me. I live for the goosebumps you get when the overall logic and master design of the story architect becomes apparent and everything makes perfect sense. Or not. As a writer of commercial fiction, I see no shame for a good book to be your escape vehicle from your daily routine and provide you with pure entertainment. Conversely, there is nothing inherent in commercial fiction that prevents a writer from provoking dialogue on sensitive ‘big’ issues or indeed introducing readers to worthwhile ideas and new and exciting worlds. I hesitate to say a writer should educate readers as there is something decidedly patronizing about that. But as a writer, it’s important to give a part of yourself to your readers. Ultimately, writing is a free and legal narcotic. I can’t live without it.

How does my writing process work?

I am both a pantster and a plotter. It all depends on how the story comes to me in the first place, and the overall length. For the most part, a story idea is hatched in my head fully formed from beginning to end, with the main characters in place. But that’s hardly ever enough to fashion it into a finished work. For my shorter writing, it’s easy to bulldoze through the bulk of the narrative without an outline. But for longer works, some kind of structure is necessary to start, especially if you don’t have many years of experience under your belt, as in my case.

What I do think is important for a writer is not to get too hung up with any ritual. Writing is like love-making, I find, the less impulsive it is, the less satisfying it will invariably be. Any time I’ve tried to stick to a writing routine, I’ve never been able to achieve much. But when I’m obsessed by a killer story, nothing can keep me away from writing. And I will write anywhere if I have to. I’ve written on airplanes, in parked cars waiting for my wife to run an errand, in wide open fields, and in places I am too polite to mention. I’ve written on phones, tablets, computers, old school paper, and I regularly write ideas on the shower screen. I love writing to music and have written a full posting about that here. By far the most effective writing tool for me has been the “cloud” or its Google Docs iteration to be precise. Because I travel often, and live in multiple cities I have more than one writing terminal. With Google Docs, I access my files wherever I am and don’t have to worry about different versions on different machines. I do the final edit in Microsoft Word to make use of some of the advance export functions that are not yet available in Google Docs.

TODAY, check out my fellow inductee, Jennifer Kincheloe who will also be posting her entry in the same blog hop series on the writing process. Jennifer Kincheloe writes light-hearted, historical mysteries inspired by the real-life police matrons of 1900’s Los Angeles.

NEXT WEEK, you’re in for a rare treat. I’ve tagged two fantastic writers to carry the baton and reveal their writing secrets, my friends L.J. Sellers and Peg Brantley. Up until a few weeks ago, all three of us were co-contributors to the hugely popular Crime Fiction Collective blog which we had to lay to rest because of our increasingly insane writing schedules. But check out the archives, there are some amazing article there.

LJSellers medL.The TargetJ. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mysteries—a two-time Readers Favorite Award winner—as well as the undercover Agent Dallas series and provocative standalone thrillers. She’s also one of the highest-rated crime fiction authors on Amazon. L.J. resides in Eugene, Oregon where most of her novels are set and is an award-winning journalist who earned the Grand Neal. When not plotting murders, she enjoys standup comedy, cycling, and social networking. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

 

pegsacrificeA Colorado native, Peg Brantley is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors’ League, and Sisters In Crime. She lives with her husband southeast of Denver. Peg’s third book, The Sacrifice, is a finalist for two 2014 Colorado literary awards. You can learn more about Peg at http://www.pegbrantley.com or meet up with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pegbrantleyauthorpage or follow her blog at http://www.suspensenovleist.blogstpot.com