Monday, September 08, 2014

Speculative Fiction Writing Blog Hop: Carole McDonnell

Hi all:

I'm up today for the spec-fic blog hop:
Thanks to  Jessica Rydill, author of Malarat and Children of the Shaman  for telling me about this blog hop.

 Here's a review of one of her books: 

The person who came before me in this blogpost was Harry Manners. Harry Manners is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. A Physics student and obsessive reader, his debut release is the epic post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy, theRuin Saga. He lives in Bedfordshire, England with his family. When he's not writing, he studies Physics at the University of Warwick, reads a ton-load of books, and generally nerds out—for which he is staunchly unapologetic.

His book is Ruin (Ruin Saga 1) and here's the blurb:
It's been forty years since the End. The world lies in ruins; empty, and quiet. Famine is rife, society is on the brink of failure, and the last survivors are dying. When a barbaric horde bands together to conquer the British Isles, those determined to save the remnants of civilisation must stand against them, as the last war of mankind begins. Here is his post from last week

Thanks to all for including me in this blog hop.

My name is Carole McDonnell

1. What am I working on?

I'm currently working on several fantasy novellas and a YA contemporary fantasy called My Life as an Onion. I've been working on Onion for ages. I tend to write epic fantasy. But this urban-fantasy novella popped up and I couldn't turn my attention from it. Onion is my dumpcake novel. I'm dumping all my neuroses and issues into it. I'm also working on a few novels.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work tends to be rooted in Christian cosmology and are about tribal and racial dynamics. Folks who have never read me often think my stories would be exclusionary because I am so concerned with race and religion. But after they've read my stories, they find them very universal. My stories are pagan, anthropological, multicultural, and Christian epic fantasy. Yet they transcend race and religion. My characters are Black but my stories are not really afro-centric, although they have racial concerns. My genre is called sword and soul. Even when I write steamfunk -- the black equivalent of steampunk-- my stories transcend race.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I've always found the world to be quite magical. To write anything that is purely mainstream or which happens in a closed universe seems false and untrue to me. I thought Christian fantasy was too European and white. I thought black scifi was too African. I wrote Wind Follower because I wanted to write pagan epic fantasy. I wrote The Constant Tower because I wanted to write a fantasy that didn't use European archetypes.

4. How does my writing process work?

Sometimes I dream of a character or characters. Sometimes an idea looms in my mind and won't go. Sometimes I get a vague, dimly-seen setting or premise that persists. If the idea persists, I just write and see where the story goes. In the beginning, I trust my subconsciousness, serendipity, coincidence, and whim, to bring everything together. I only start taking control of the story in the editing/rewrite phase...which is after I see how the story is presenting itself.

My stories present themselves in little snippets. Usually at night. I go to bed and thoughts come to me about what else to add into the plot. Corrections also come this way. Even if I'm not thinking about a story, my mind often is. I suddenly get informed by my mind that something needs to be clarified, changed, added. I end up with a mental list of stuff to do on all my WIPs.  Sometimes I keep paper and pen by my bedside so I won't forget (and so I can sleep.) In the mornings, I get up and work on a story with the intention of clearing this list. I try to clear my mind of everything that came to it during the night. Usually, the list has ideas for all my current WIPs.  So after I've finished updating one story (with the stuff on my list), I go to the next WIP and then the next...whether a review, a religious nonfiction book, a short story or a novel. After my mind is emptied of all the new twists, plot advances, review commentaries, I continue writing because the new stuff usually has opened new avenues in each of the stories. If I'm writing a novel or story, I often listen to music. I also fill my day with watching korean dramas or listening to sermons on the internet.

After a story has advanced about five or so pages, I go back to see what kind of world i have.

I love worldbuilding. The truest worldbuiling is to make the world similar to ours: for instance re: religion: some areas will be very religious and some areas very scientific where some scientists might believe in magic/spirits and some don't. It's best to make it a world where folks behave similarly to those on earth:

The people to be found in any country include: indigenous population, newly-arrived immigrants, descendants of sojourners/immigrants, travelers on business, travelers for pleasure, slaves from other races/cultures, descendants of those slaves/servants, descendants of conquerors (if the indigenous population aren't the majority population), outlaws/refugees/fringe people/illegals fleeing other countries. Then there are people who are part of these groups but who create a subset all their own..such as the disabled of all races, the poor of all races, the outcast from all races, classes, caste, and status. And, yes...there are also other (non) human races to deal with: spirits, faes, malevolences, things inorganic, organic, living, dead, material, spiritual, in between.

Technology often connects to wealth as well. A poor fisherman in a village might just have a little boat, a rich merchant in a large town: The fisherman can afford a boat that runs on steam... and both would have different or maybe similar ceremonies when going out for long voyages. Depends on their culture, their wealth, their legal status.

I write until the story sorts itself out. I tend not to lay clues, hints, foreshadowing because i really don't know what's going on in my stories. But if I see anything that needs amplifying or correcting or streamlining, as I discover the world I'm building, I tweak. I always try to present all aspects of a culture so when i figure out the religions, castes, clans, class, technologies I try to put in people from all permutations of those castes and religions.

I tend to go where the love is. If i find my heart leaping when a character is mentioned, then I go with that as a main character. Sometimes I realize a character is also a main character or an important character because i love him so much. That's what happened with Ephan in The Constant Tower. Originally he was a warrior, but after I described him I fell in love with him. And when I discovered (in the fifth or so draft) that he was an albino, I realized that this culture treated albinos differently than warriors. But it was Ephan's personality that caused all that.

I also drop into my story whatever might serendipitously pop up in the day. So if i discover a curious fact on the news that day, I slip it into the story, trusting everythng will all come together. I also try to write down every thought that comes to me about the story ...even if it's out of order. So I end up using a lot of placeholder scenes. If a placeholder scene takes place in the "future,"  i write the scene in the end of the document or find a place in the latter part of the story where that scene might take place. Then on that sme day I go back through the draft to plant little references to lead to the placeholder scene. I try to link everything I'm writing to stuff already written, and stuff that is supposed to be written. It keeps me from forgetting plot threads and characters.

In the editing phase, i often reassign dialogues, characters, even chapters because I realize they belong elsewhere. I turn infodumps into dialog, description, internalization. If I've made any generalizations about a person or a world or a situation, i try to make scenes where the generalizations are shown in a specific manner. I try to see if there are missing scenes, or a missing chapter, missing plot threads, or a missing sentence. If I discover lost threads or missing threads, I find a point in the story where I can fix that. Then I layer the new plot-thread into the story, fusing it into the rest of the novel and interweaving it.  I like finding these great moments when the new layer merges perfectly well into the old WIP. That always feels like destiny, as if the layer I discovered had always been there --and was just waiting for me to find it.

After i've written a story, i send copies to beta readers. While they crit the story, I make sure all pronouns are used properly. Words like he, his, this, that, there,  are made more specific so there is no confusion about pronoun referrents. I try to make every setting, person, description clearer.

That's about it.

Next up Dean F Wilson  whose blog  will be up on 

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11 and has published an epic fantasy trilogy called The Children of Telm (The Call of Agon, The Road to Rebirth, and The Chains of War), in addition to several poems and short stories. He is currently working on a new steampunk series. Dean has also worked as a journalist for TechEye, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer.

Previous Posts: 

Jessica Rydill:
Jamie Maltman:
Marilyn Peake:
Nic Wilson:
David Pagan:
Travis Hill:
Cherise Kelley:
RJ Crayton:
Sandra K. Williams:
S. Elliot Brandis:
Elle Chambers:
William D. Richards:
Michael Patrick Hicks:
Cat Amesbury:
Heidi Garrett:

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