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Writing Stories in My Head
One of those questions people start to ask you when you get a book published is “Have you always wanted to be a writer?” I suppose that I get a little pucker between my eyebrows as I think about this and answer, “I still don’t.” I never wanted a career where I would have to write all day long, and I’m still a little afraid all my coworkers are going to start asking me to do writing tasks. Writing papers in school was always a burden, and I only became an English major because it was actually rather difficult for me, so I learned a lot.
Being an author, on the other hand, was always something I dreamed of, in the same way that I fantasized about being a famous singer or actor. My sister and I used to have hypothetical “When I am an author someday…” conversations when we were little, though I don’t think we expected them to come true. Occasionally I consider the fact that I am actually having a book published, and I want to squeal like a thirteen-year-old girl.
So where is this disconnect? How can I wrinkle my nose at the writing process but still want to write books and get them published? I think about all those writers who say that they just have to write, even if they are never successful, and I realize I feel the same way, just not about writing. What I have to do, what I will continue to do even if no one ever buys my books, is make up stories in my head.
I’ve been doing this in some form my entire life. When I was young, the other children in my neighborhood and I had complex stories where we pretended to be other people—primarily a family of extremely rich but poorly-behaved finishing school students named after gemstones. I planned to write a series of books about the characters someday, and even wrote one story in 6th grade. I loved this game more than anything, even as we got older and some of my friends thought we should be more mature than that.
As I got older, my creativity started to expand into what I now shame-facedly look back at as fanfic. I would come up with complex stories about my favorite television shows and even write out some of the more exciting scenes.
But sometime in early high school, I started to come up with stories on my own. I had a book I was writing my sophomore year of high school that several of my friends kept up with as I wrote. They were all fascinated by the story, and I anticipated having a multi-book saga spanning twenty years that would one day become a series of blockbuster movies. Now I look back and see that my story was rather ridiculous, but I imagine most authors have a story or two like that sitting in the backs of their closets.
For years after that, I didn’t write at all. I was always too busy or too unmotivated. But I kept making up stories in my head. When I was trying to fall asleep, or on a long car trip, I would think about my characters and what happened to them. I would start with a very basic story and watch it spin out into what I planned to be an epic series. I always said that someday I would write these down, but I got most of the entertainment just by making them up.
It always seemed a little sad to me, though, that I would create these stories, but that no one else would ever experience them. So a few years ago, when I was hit with a bout of insomnia, I found that I had a lot of extra time on my hand. I decided that I would use these hours to finally write down one of the stories in my head.
And somehow in all this process, I have somehow become addicted to the writing too. I spend my days at work waiting to go home to write the next few hundred words of my book, and I have a lot more confidence that I will be able to fill the chapters. But even if something happens to me so that I am no longer able to write a single word, I will not stop making up the stories that keep my idle mind busy.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m originally from near Scranton, PA. I went to college in Carlisle, PA, where I majored in English and Psychology. I went to grad school in Columbus, Ohio, where I got a masters in social psychology. Since then I’ve worked in Ohio and Maryland in the field of public health.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Oracle of Philadelphia is about an immortal woman named Carrie with the power to see into other people’s hearts and minds. She meets a young man named Sebastian who has sold his soul his soul to a demon, and she knows that he is a good person who doesn’t deserve to go to Hell. So she decides she has to find a way to save him. I started out with that basic plot idea, and from there it grew into a novel and then a plan for a series of novels.
How do you create your characters?
I started with Carrie and Sebastian and realized at some point I would need more characters. I got to thinking about Carrie being immortal, and how there would have to be other immortal creatures wandering the globe with her.
Since Sebastian had sold his soul to a demon, I figured there would have to be other angels and demons, and it made sense for Carrie to be close to one of each. I’ve always had a positive image of the archangel Gabriel, so I decided to make him a friend for Carrie. And then she needed a demon friend who wasn’t too evil, so I added Bedlam, the chaos demon.
From there I had to add other angels and demons for Heaven and Hell, so I took angel names from myths and religious history (or just made them up) and gave them my own personalities.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
For as long as I can remember, I have written stories in my head. They start out as tiny ideas and then blossom into longer epic series. But stories don’t do anyone any good when they’re just in my head. It took a while, but I finally motivated myself to start writing them down, and now I have a novel!
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
Most of the time I write at home at a bistro table in my living room. I drink lots of Diet Coke and usually have a cat in my lap. I have a playlist for each book that I play, featuring my characters’ “theme songs” and other songs that remind me of the book. And I constantly take breaks to chat with people on line.
Sometimes when I need to really concentrate, I walk down to the local Starbucks to work. Then I trade my Diet Coke for a white chocolate mocha, and I have no cats crawling on me. But I still take breaks to talk to people on line.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I get my ideas from all kinds of places, but the two biggest are other media and dreams. Sometimes I get ideas from reading books or watching television shows; I’ll see an idea and want to expand upon it. The idea for Oracle of Philadelphia actually came from watching the television show Supernatural. Other times I will have an intense dream that makes me want to translate some of the feeling into a more logical story. Once I have the basic idea, I add details based on what the story seems to need, and as far as I can tell, those tend to be my own creativity.
What do you like to read?
At the moment, I am an unabashed YA paranormal junkie. Almost everything I read is about a sixteen-year-old girl with superpowers. Or, you know, five hundred year old vampires who inexplicably go to high school and fall in love with teenage girls. As a genre, it lacks plausibility, but the entertainment factor is limitless.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Writing a book is hard. From coming up with the ideas to finishing the first draft to editing subsequent versions to getting it published, there are any number of challenges to face. I cannot tell you the number of times I have laid down my head next to the computer and asked, “Why did I ever want to write a book?” but my family and friends could probably give you an estimate. But I keep doing it because the process is also very rewarding. After all the tears and edits, I have a product that I can be proud of that hopefully the world will enjoy.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for having me!