Author Josh Vogt tagged me in this continuing series of writer’s blog hops. I’m posting this on the last day of my paternity leave, as I know headed back to the ad agency is going to be crazy. Hundreds of e-mails to read, massive projects to get caught back up on, then come home to my wife and daughters. Today’s likely the last chance I have before I sleep even less.
First up: props to the tagger. Josh Vogt & I met via social media through a mutual writing friend. We formally met at AnomalyCon earlier this year. At the convention, people told us we looked alike. I don’t see it. He’s clearly wearing metal-framed glasses as opposed to my thicker frames. Not to mention the fact that I have a tie on.
Regardless, Josh Vogt is a full-time freelance writer and editor. He has sold fiction to Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales, Grey Matter Press, the UFO2 & UFO3 anthologies, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Shimmer, among others. He writes for a variety of RPG developers. His debut fantasy novel is forthcoming in April of 2015. You can find him at JRVogt.com or @JRVogt. He is made out of meat.
Now, on to the hop:
- What am I working on?
I’ve got three projects in various states of motion right now. My first novel, Current, is in the submission process right now. I had previously received four rejections on it. The funny thing is the first two basically said, “Love the characters, struggling with the action and setting.” Since they said the same thing, I revised. My next two rejections roughly stated, “The science is believable and the action sequences are thrilling, but I’m not invested in the characters.” As a result, I’m calling this final edit “The Merger,” in which I believe I found the happy medium between the two. Unless I get multiple rejections that are very specific concerning the same reason for rejection, this puppy is done until an agent or publisher says, “Let’s do this.”
The other two are smaller projects I’m taking on while I gear up for the second draft of the second novel. First is a non-fiction to help writers establish their marketing brand. I work as a Broadcast & Digital Producer at Vladimir Jones, an ad agency in Denver. I think that I have a unique voice by holding an MBA and working in advertising to help authors market themselves.
The final project is a passion-project. It’s a Middle Grade fiction work called “The Woodpecker Fiasco” about a family’s road trip to help get their oldest daughter to win a scholarship. It’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” meets “Little Miss Sunshine.” Totally off-brand from my normal writing. It’s a gift for my two daughters, Grace & Emma. I’m writing it almost as a prediction of what our family dynamic could be in 10-12 years.
This is all happening while I’m in the throws of writing my seven book series. First book in the series is done, but only a first draft and I’m completely reworking the beginning to get to know the characters better. I hit the gas a little too fast and want the reader to get to know them a bit more first.
- How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My first degree was a BA in Theatre Arts. I did improv and sketch comedy the entire time I was at UNCO. I love performing and strong character work. So my author voice is incredibly influenced by that. I can’t write until I can visualize a scene and put it together. When I’m in the early phases of development I often act out scenes, improvising dialogue and creating character sheets as if I’m casting the role. I really invest a ton into upfront research and character work. My experience in theater and film helps to inform a tight narrative and well-defined characters. If you can’t see the world I’ve created and visualize these moments, I didn’t do my job.
All too often in Sci-Fi/Fantasy you can identify the “body bags,” the characters you know who are going to die. You disinvest in those specific characters. So I strive for every death to have relevance to the narrative, whether it is motivating a main character to fight harder, or a cathartic closure of a character arc. I never want someone to say, “I saw that coming” with the loss of a character. Even if they did predict it, I want them to be invested in their demise emotionally. It should never be a shrug your shoulders moment. I have no problem if they saw it coming, logical storytelling can be the better route at times. The key is I want it to be emotional and cathartic at all times.
- Why do I write what I do?
When I was 12 years old, “Jurassic Park” hit theaters and I saw that movie 5-6 times in theaters. I was blown away. Later that year, my school did a weeklong trip to a cabin for woodland discovery and learning about older cultures that lived in Colorado. Really cool trip, but I had the book by Michael Crichton and wanted to go nowhere. My perception of what was out there in fiction was altered forever. I soaked up all the Crichton I could.
I loved that it took scientific elements, and then cranked the technology up to eleven. There were ethical and political statements in the narrative as he explored the darker side of Walt Disney. If you didn’t want it, it was fine. Velociraptors weren’t far away. But if you wanted to, there was this incredible discussion available to be had. I try to tap into my 1940’s sense of idealism passed on to me by my grandfather. My book deals with current issues in renewable energy, the US political systems and big business. They are all cogs to help keep the wheel moving. Meaning that it can open a discussion on the topics. However, if all you want is a claustrophobic narrative of a rag-tag crew struggling to survive at the bottom of the Pacific, it’s there.
- How does my writing process work?
Research, research, research.
I knew I wanted to create a claustrophobic story set at the bottom of the ocean. I didn’t know much more than that. So I did research as to what was going on in new technologies and such, discovered that Scotland engineers were testing underwater turbines that harnessed the power of the ocean current. I thought about a station at the bottom of the Pacific and had my setting. It would be a station that the crew would inhabit on the ocean floor.
From there, I created my roster of who would be needed in such an environment, your engineers, medical technicians, director of operations, turbine specialists, a corporate liaison, etc. I called people who worked in comparable fields, spent three hours aboard a decommissioned submarine, visited a wind farm, spoke to submersible drivers. Then I outlined the story and created a 288-page manual for new employees at the station. I knew if I created the station in its entirety, the action and science would come naturally.
Funny thing is once I write my outline everything goes a different direction. Characters who lived in the outline are now dead, an incident had to be written out because it muddled up what the reader focused on. I don’t fight revelations.
Then it’s editing and getting it in front of respectable eyes. I joined a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Critique Group, found an editorial consultant, all people who had no problem telling me when I screwed something up or made a bad choice. I should not that it was one year of research and outlining, 18 months of writing, then the remainder of the six years has been editing and refining. Incredible moments have emerged because of that careful work put into the book. It’s been a grueling six years of late nights, but I’ve loved the fight and have written a book that I really want to see on shelves. If I found this in Tattered Cover, I’d buy the hell out of it.
Tag, you are it.
Tamar Hela is an author and writer from California who loves to travel. Since the age of ten, many of her teachers have encouraged her to pursue a career in writing fiction. Tamar has always had a knack for words, loving the art of storytelling. As a musician and artist, she understands the importance of captivating an audience through various mediums, but especially loves using words to create visual images for readers. When she’s not writing, singing, drinking coffee, or traveling to someplace cool, she can be found curled up with a good book.
Tamar released her first novel in 2012: Feast Island. The novel is book one of a five book series and has been published through Epic Books Publishing. Feast Island was re-launched in 2013, with some new additions that are sure to grab new and old fans alike.
Book two in the series, The Wrong Fairy Tale, has just been released September 9th, 2014.
Stephanie McDonnell is the author of the novel Warring with Emeralds. She currently devotes her time to her site, Newly Mynted, an entertainment lifestyle blog about her life in North Carolina as an at-home mother of three with a love of fashion, entertainment, and craft.
Nathanial Corres is a Pirate Poet, Limy and general all-around layabout. He lives where he hangs his hat and his cat finds agreeable to sleep. He has two books of poetry published on Kobo and is working on a series of Sci-Fi/Steampunk/Action Adventure/Comedy/Romance send-up of early silver screen heroes called: Camden’s Follies.