Questions on The Book

It was several months (in fact, three weddings and a house move) ago that I wiped the nib clean and screwed the lid back on the bottle and sat staring at the words:

End of draft 0: 62.585 words (approx)

After months of writing, interspersed with many more months of ignoring it, the story hardly anyone knew I was writing was finished in its infant form. So I thought it might be nice to introduce you to it with a few questions I stole off of another blog (at least NaNo is good for something).

Introduce your WIP:

It’s a fantasy/adventure (of course) which has never had a title. There are a few possibilities but none of them really fit, perhaps because it isn’t finished yet. I did put a shoddy first writing of the first chapter up a little while ago, you can find it here.

Why does your protagonist tug at your heart strings?

I don’t like this question, it doesn’t feel like it’s worded right. Anyway.

Although her involvement is not entirely random, Nina ends up embroiled in the goings on without ever wanting or meaning to. She’s also keenly aware that she’s just not a hero.

Paxton, on the other hand, takes a while to warm to but as you get to know him through the story, you find yourself gradually coming over to his side.

How do you get to know your characters?

Write. It’s that simple.

Although, it can also be frustrating. There was one who I wrote as a very minor character but I just couldn’t get rid of them, no matter how hard I tried, and eventually it turned out that they were in fact a pivotal character. There was also a bad guy who wasn’t who I thought he was. But yes, writing is the best way.

Share a line about your premise:

Paxton steals something from a Duke but it turns out to be a whole lot bigger than a simple robbery. A simple premise, I know, but any more than that would contain spoilers.

How easy was this WIP to write?

It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever written. There were some parts I wasn’t sure about but took a step back and let it simmer and it all came clear in the end. There were elements of the story that puzzled me even as I wrote, making me wonder what was going on or what certain characters were up to. It was difficult to begin but once the pen hit the paper, it wrote itself, as though it was already there and I was just recording it.

Which character was hardest to write?

Probably Paxton because I was getting to know him through Nina’s eyes. I didn’t know a whole lot about him when I first began.  Although Titus had his uncooperative moments, making him a hard one to keep track of. I wanted Titus to do certain things and act in certain ways but he turned out to be a very different character.

Tell us about you and your work:

I prefer to write by hand (it flows better, there’s less distraction, and it takes about the same amount of time — I do it for the blog too). Once I have an idea I can run with, things need a little time just to simmer in my mind till they start to take form then when pen and paper meet, it writes itself. On the whole, I write one thing at a time but I have a paper notebook and I have Evernote on my phone in case any ideas pop into my head on the move.

Who’s your protagonist’s best friend?

Nina, being a maid and away from home, doesn’t really have one although she was close to her brothers, Lucas (who her parents work for), and the Young Duchess, Maia (who she now works for, sort of). Over the course of the story, she and Paxton become good friends though.

Pax was close with his little sister and a wee girl from the village they grew up in but  by the time the story opens, it’s just him. He’s good friends with Lucas because he’s known him most of Lucas’ life and he becomes good friends with Nina eventually.

How did the main characters meet?

Nina was trusted (by the Young Duchess) to help Paxton steal something from the Duke but it goes wrong and the two of them end up on the run together.

Is anyone suffering from a broken heart?

Titus isn’t because he doesn’t have a heart…

Romance isn’t really a big thing but Paxton’s heart is still hurt in a non-romantic way from past events. I think probably everyone has lost someone or something but that’s normal.

Share a line about love or hate:

Bear in mind it’s a first draft: He was her father, he was meant to help her but you could have carved him in alabaster, she thought, and no one would have known the difference.

What was your protagonist’s past like?

Nina grew up on the Whitebirch estate but when the Duke forbade Maia (his daughter, the Young Duchess) from ever going there again and cursed Lucas, Nina was sent to Sanguine (the Duke’s city) partly to serve Maia and partly because her parents thought the city might be better for her education.

Paxton grew up as the son of the King’s stable master but at the Fall of the Monarchy (that will all become clear) he, his sister, and their friend fled and he has never really settled since.

What’s a message about relationships in this book?

That you can have a platonic boy-girl protagonist combo??

Which characters get along worst?

Lord Semper Vanitas (because he’s not very pleasant but he is very arrogant and entitled) and Titus Nagar (because Semper resents that Titus isn’t bedazzled by his charm– it’s just not natural).

At best, my WIP’s dialogue is…

In need of a lot of work.

I like how I describe things when…

There’s enough to be clear about what’s going on but little enough that the reader has to imagine the details themselves.

I like how I depict characters because…

It leaves a lot of physical description to the reader to decide. Mostly the depictions are thoughts, attitudes, speech, and actions rather than height, weight, and colouring. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy or perhaps it’s because the charm of a book is that it requires the imagination of the reader to make the writer’s words anything more than letters on a page.  I think that spoon-feeding your readers detailed descriptions of everything is a little condescending. It’s better to give them a little more free rein.

Share an example of your best prose:

My best prose contains serious spoilers. So here’s some OK (for a first draft) prose instead:

The latch closed softly and Nina found herself alone again, more confused than ever. She lay awake for a long time afterwards, trying to puzzle it through but an answerless sleep took her.

It was a troubled state, full of dreams of wolves chasing her through a dark forest, picking her family off one by one, and just as she thought she had lost them, Titus Nagar came riding out of the shadows on the back of a giant, snarling white lion.

Nina surfaced in the darkness, trembling and gulping in the night air. She rolled over, remembering where she was. A shadow moving across the floor startled her but this cat was only the normal size and her banded tail reassuringly familiar.

Hester sprung up onto the bed and curled up in the crook of the girl’s arm, purring softly until the shaking stilled and the warmth of her body lulled Nina into a more easy slumber.

I like my world/setting because…

It could be anywhere. It’s mostly forest and farmland although there’s the Fenn mountains and we know that there is a country called Antalia somewhere to the North, the Riverlands to the West, and a warm, desert-y country beyond (where Paxton came from). We also know that there was a monarchy a long time ago and that it fell but why or how isn’t clear. I like that most of what happens, happens in a small section of this world and the majority of it lies unexplored and undiscovered…

The relationship I root for most is…

Probably Nina’s parents. I just like that they are this middle-aged married couple who are somewhere between butler/housekeeper and parents on this comfortably sized estate and they love each other and their family and friends and are practical, wise, and level-headed. There are too many orphan/broken home protagonists.

Although, I felt bad for Maia too, I wrote her through some harsh stuff.

I’m most impatient to hear the readers’ reactions to…

Ok. Three things:

  1. Burgundy
  2. The sheer twistiness of the climax (I just like messing with you)
  3. “One.” whispered Paxton Chrome.

That is all.

How long do you expect to be working on this WIP?

The first draft is done. I’m about 10% through typing it up and I’m editing as I go. It’ll need a good number more passes before it’s ready for a first reading but I’m getting through it. Optimistically, I’d like if a couple of initial readers could read over it at Christmas but realistically, it’ll be at least Easter, I think.

What do you hope touches your reader most in this story?

Several of the characters are more complex than they first seem. I want you to feel strongly about them, one way or another. A lot of sacrifices have been made by a lot of characters in different ways and it would be good if that was appreciated, it adds depth. Most importantly though, I want the reader to come away with hope.

Lastly, just for fun, who’s your favourite character?

Titus. He deserves a story all of his own.

* * *

So there you go, that’s my story. Here’s a bonus fun fact for you though since you actually read to the end:

Nina’s character never actually had a name. In the preliminary butterflies I scribbled down, she was just ‘Girl’ but I substituted it for Nina (meaning girl) because it was less impersonal and it would do until I came up with something better. As it was, Nina stuck.


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