Sunday, October 23, 2011

Expendable Blog Tour

Welcome to Jagged Edge!
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me! This question always makes me wonder what reader’s really want to know. The surface stuff is that I’m happily married, have two grown step-children I adore, live in the Pacific Northwest, do technology stuff by day and build fictional worlds by night.

If you want to go a level down, I’d describe myself as an uneasy combination of computer geek girl and creative world dancer--someone who is still struggling with the perfect way to balance both sides of my personality. My geek girl side gets caught up in logic, and revels in clear yes/no options with easy judgments. My creative side loves the challenge of opening up possibilities and inviting people into worlds of expression that are limitless—world’s that find new options I couldn’t have imagined as geek girl. I’m fortunate in that I’m at a place in life where I’ve found a way to explore both sides from opposite ends of the spectrum. My day job tends to begin with logical yes/no needs but I challenge leaders to step outside of the box and open up to resources that may not only meet their needs but their vision. My writing life tends to begin with unwieldy, grand universal ideas that I need to somehow encapsulate in the actions of characters that just want to make their world a little better.

What inspired you to write?
At a young age, I learned that writing gave me a voice that could not be drowned out by those who talk more, or longer, or louder. That was a power I could wield without guilt or feeling like I was “stepping on” someone else’s need to be expressive. I’ve always been an introvert in terms of keeping my own counsel and not pushing my way of thinking on others. However, writing allows me to express my way of thinking in a way that invites others to explore if they wish.

My first taste of that powerful voice occurred in the fourth grade. All fourth graders, across the nation, were asked to write something patriotic for Memorial Day. Having experienced the death of a younger brother that year, the death of the nation’s president (JFK), and the death of a young cousin, I think the essay assignment spoke to me deeply. At ten years old I already had some deeper understanding of grief and how to move on from that, how to remember those who had died but not be stuck in the past. That essay placed second in a national competition and I was asked to read it at a public assembly where not only students, but my family was present.

I never stopped writing after that assembly. Though to date I also haven’t again received such acclaim. Though my topics and books have crossed fiction and non-fiction boundaries, one thing has remained constant. I always write to learn, to better understand, to help others to do something, to share something I believe in – whether that be something as benign as how to use a piece of software or something as large as love will triumph in the end.

What authors influenced you as a writer?
There are so many, and it changes depending on my own journey through life. So, rather than coming up with THE one or two influences, let me speak more generally to my cross-genre fiction influences. I love the big ideas of Science Fiction—Asimov’s I Robot and the Foundation series come to mind. I love the suspense genre when it shows character’s overcoming amazing odds to beat the bad guy, to survive, to live—ranging from the dark, grief-stricken world of Iris Johansen’s protagonist, Eve Duncan, to the more romantic relationship-centered suspense worlds of Roxanne St. Claire. I love the descriptive power of Historicals (romance or otherwise) where settings and history are as much a character as the individual people who make up the story—Megan Chance immediately comes to mind here. Finally, I love the out-of-the-box thinking and world-building in all the stories that make up paranormal romances. I am always surprised when I try a paranormal I plan to hate, and then fall in love and have to read the whole series. For example, I’m not into the fallen angels and demons craze, yet Jessa Slade’s repentant demons in her Shadows series won’t let me go. I also quickly gave up anything vampire as too derivative, yet Adrian Phoenix’s Maker’s Song series is so well-written and the relationships so amazing that I can’t let it go.

What is your favorite Quote? Why is it your favorite?
Gosh, you keep asking me to only choose one thing. I’m not very good at that. In fact, I keep an entire library of quotes to rotate on my website. Like everything else, my favorite quote is dependent on my mood that day/week/month. At the moment, I have two favorites that match my current journey.

"A writer lives, at least, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes." -- William Sansom

"Rewriting ripens what you’ve written." -- Duane Alan Hahn

If you could jump into a book, and live in that world, which book would it be?
This is a great question, and the answer is I have no clue. Seriously. As a young girl, there are two books that stood out to me and I imagined wanting to live that life. One was Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. The other was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. However, as an adult, I read a book (even fiction) to learn, to get caught up in someone else’s life and understand how she survives and thrives against the odds. But the truth is, I like my own life with all its flaws, its grief, and its mountains of joy. I don’t want to live someone else’s life—fiction or not. Maybe it’s the devil-you-know syndrome. I know how to handle this life. It’s pretty scary to figure out how to truly handle the lives of characters in books I read or write.

What is at least one thing that every writer needs to have or do?
I think that in order to create, every writer needs to have a very stubborn, take-no-prisoners belief in her own vision. If you don’t, you are too easily buffeted by the well-intentioned advice you get from others. Certainly, a writer should listen to craft advice (strengthen words, cut passages, increase pacing, etc.). But when it comes to the story and how to tell it, the writer must jealously guard it and not let anyone change its essence.

On the practical side, the one thing every writer must do is write. I know that sounds trite and writers hear it said at every conference they attend. However, I’ve met hundreds of good writers who aren’t published because they simply won’t finish a book. If you don’t set aside time to write, and rewrite, and then a time to stop and send it out, you will never get published. Your voice will never be heard.

Are your books different from your personal favorite books by other authors?
I believe every author’s book is unique, even though it is categorized in a genre and uses the tropes of that genre. The work is unique because each author brings herself to the writing and that can’t be copied. I think most authors find they have certain themes, certain philosophies that are explored again and again—because those are what is most important to their lives. From a craft perspective, I try to incorporate things I have learned from reading my favorite authors—a nuanced description, the way relationships are built, the use of setting as character, how to increase the pacing—but ultimately my approach and completion of a story is unique to me and who I am.

As I said earlier, I approach my fiction from the big idea first and then find characters to struggle with it. For example, in Expendable, I have two big ideas—one external and one internal—that play off each other. The external one is how do we balance the need for human subjects research against the reality of potential harm. Scientists in medicine and nursing face this question every day, and we depend on them to face it in an ethical manner. The internal big idea relates to the psychological reality of cognitive dissonance—the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. A doctor must “do no harm” yet must cause pain to heal. Soldiers who have been raised not to kill throughout their lives must kill in a war and find a way to live with that. In Expendable, each character experiences dissonance. Each character has a strong believe about himself/herself but is forced do something against that belief.

What led you to writing in this genre?
Romantic Suspense allows me to do two things that are important to me. First, it allows me to set up a romance where love triumphs over evil. I truly believe this to be the case, and it is why I write romance. The second is that the suspense part allows me to write about big ideas and to test that love immediately and continuously. And for those who don’t want to go to the depth, the suspense element provides an entertaining ride for readers.

The truth is that love and relationships are incredibly complicated and take a lifetime to make work. However, books must somehow encapsulate the essence of that relationship and come to some conclusion in about 300-450 pages. The fast pacing of romantic suspense provides the perfect vehicle for that to happen by putting characters into situations where they have to act on instinct and not overthink it. (There goes my geek girl side again).

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I have two favorite parts. You know by now I can’t choose just one. Right? I love the initial 50-70 pages. This is the truly creative part for me, where I get to explore the big idea and get to know the characters who will live with me and tell the story. The second part I love is the editing. Truly love it! When I know I’ve chosen the exact right word, or expressed the emotion I needed in a scene, I smile so broadly my face actually hurts.

Least favorite part of the writing process?
My least favorite part is the times when I question my ability to make the story work and the subsequent fear that I have failed. It happens with every book and it happens in the same two places every time. It first happens in what’s commonly called the “muddy middle”—that place where I’m past the creative fun part and lost in the morass of how to get to the end. The second time it happens is at the end of the book, before the deep editing. Whenever I finish the first draft, I feel dissonance. I am excited and happy to be done, and I feel it is probably not nearly as good as something else I’ve written. Fortunately, the editing process helps to assuage those fears.

What are you currently working on?
I am involved in two projects at the moment. I am in deep edits on a YA urban fantasy that has requests from three editors, and I’m in final production on an adult romantic women’s fiction—the second in my Sweetwater Canyon series—which will be available in October.

Where can readers find you?
I’m lots of places on the web, and welcome readers to check them out and keep in touch with me.

Twitter: @maggiejaimeson
My Behind the Book blog where I interview other authors:

Was there a question you wish I would have asked but didn't?
No, I don’t think so. One of the things I love about blog tours is that I don’t have to think of the questions. <smile>.

These were great questions, and most of them were ones no one has asked me before. Thank you for being so thoughtful in selecting them and giving me a chance to share a part of my writing life.


sweety said...

hiii.nice one!all about writing n writers....

winnie said...

I find interviews with authors about their writing and writing process interesting because it can vary greatly from author to author.


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