My friend and mentor Tananarive Due asked me to take part in this excellent blog tour about writing process. It was passed to her by another friend of mine and fellow VONA alum Serena Lin. Here’s Serena’s post and here’s my contribution:
1) What are you working on?
I’m juggling! About to start edits on Half-Resurrection Blues, the first in the Bone Street Rumba series which comes out from Penguin’s Roc imprint in January, and Shadowshaper, a Young Adult novel about a Nuyorican girl that brings her murals to life with spirit magic in Brooklyn, that comes out from Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine imprint next summer. Both are winding up edits at the same time.
I’m also right in the middle of writing the (still untitled) sequel to Half-Resurrection Blues, Bone Street Rumba Book 2. I got right up to this pivotal halfway point and then stepped away to jump into these other projects and I’m almost aching to get back already, but I know I will when the time is right.
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Well, Urban Fantasy has, in its mass-market published form anyway, been a very white genre, and I write work that actively degentrifies it. Of course, people of color have always told amazing, fantastical stories about The City, but they don’t get published or boosted or supported. I think it matters that we tell stories not just with characters of color but that we allow our sensibilities and voices and complex truths to be absorbed into the very narrative arcs, the rhythms, the mythologies of our work.
3) Why do you write what you do?
To continue from Question 2, I write like I do so that others can too. When I read great works of fiction written in voices that are familiar to me, that are Home to me, I’m given permission to do the same. So I hope my work tells other writers that yes, our voices matter, our voices are exceptional and crucial and we will be heard, loud and clear and true.
4) How does your writing process work?
I love the creative process. An idea shows up. Sometimes it’s a situation; usually it’s a character. The character is so alive, I can’t help but play the story out. It thrives and surges forward and I wrastle it one way then another, let it flow then steer it back towards plot, a turning point. It’s so much fun. At some point, I know: it’s time to write. Sitting down too early can be fatal. That’s when you just sit there staring at the screen like an asshole and feel like shit. You gotta know when to strike. So I walk with it, dance with it, move and sleep and sometimes even draw it out, and then at some point I know it’s time so I sit and pour it out onto the page.
For the actual writing process, I like to have a cup of something hot to drink while I sit there mulling it and listening ot music, then I just really focus on flow – not grammar or sequence or anything else but getting those words out into sentences that flow into paragraphs and push the story forward. Flow is the kind of thing you can’t fake – it’s almost performative, not in the sense of acting or putting on a ruse so much as an action that happens in the very moment. Other things you can go back and fix: plot and character development, word choices, clarity. But flow is magic. You can’t explain it or teach it. So when I’m writing, flow is what matters. All that other shit gets handled in editing.
NEXT WEEK: Sofia Samatar and Sofia Quintero write their process posts!