On The Last Day of Being Something Other than Writer…
A Guest Interview with Jodi Cleghorn.
Jodi and I have been writing partners since January when we began Post Marked: Piper’s Reach.
On the eve of June 1, Jodi and I are standing on the precipice of a new adventure, doing something neither of us have done before: write a novel. I must say part of the feeling is pure dread and fear, like throwing yourself from a cliff and hoping you miss the ground. Another part of it is excitement at trying something new.
Glad to say I’m wearing clean underwear.
For Jodi writing a novel is also about claiming her position as a writer, not just as editor and publisher.
We are swapping blogs to preview our respective works in progress. I asked Jodi a few questions about her forthcoming novel. You can click on the link at the bottom to find out about my novel.
Tell us a little about your novel eagerly waiting in the wings? Can you give a blurb of your novel and it’s genre?
BYRTHED is a birthpunk* novel set in a ‘medicratic’, semi-futuristic New York City. Reproduction, considered the founding principle of society, has become a Government controlled process, beginning with microchip contraceptive implants and ending in a surgical production line of compulsory Caesarean Sections.
Outlawed in raft of draconian laws a decade earlier, natural birth is consider the festering wound of society and the few advocates and practioners left alive, exist as a secret, semi-militant deme in the bowels of the City. They serve, at risk of death, the women who refuse to hand their lives, and the lives of their babies, over to Government control.
In The Dead Zone (the former Central Park) survivors of a biological massacre thirty years earlier, plot revenge on the City’s residents and officials, spurred on by a prophecy that “a baby will be born to heal the past”.
Caught between worlds disconnected and at loggerheads with each other, five people stand on the cusp of social upheaval, each with their own part to play, each with their own demons to face.
Will Brian capture the City’s most feared terrorist? Will Joseph protect his wife? Will Sylvie navigate hell and gain her freedom? Will Marcus betray those who place their trust in him? Will Taleia unleash her biological fury on the city?
How would you encapsulate each major character in your novel in a single sentence?
BYRTHED follows five major characters.
SYLVIE: a feisty young midwife, living in The Underground, yearning for her freedom and a different life.
TALEIA: an embittered former activist and haematologist, living in The Dead Zone, plotting retribution for a massacre the rest of the city has forgotten.
JOSEPH: a powerful systems analyst, willing to do anything to save his pregnant wife from dying.
MARCUS: a supernatural being unable to succumb to his fate because of a blood bond with a mortal.
BRIAN: relentless head of a secret Government task force, obsessed with achieving his dead mentor, Gustave White’s, goal of eradicating natural birth.
How did you prepare for this novel? Do you have a particular word count or goal you’re aiming for?
How long has this idea been kicking around your head?
I’m lucky in some ways. BYRTHED came out of an unfinished novella from 2009, so I already had the core of Marcus and Sylvie’s story… with a peripheral understanding of where and how Taleia, Brian and Joseph fitted into the picture.
What I’ve done, using the start of Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Day is isolate and tease apart all the potential narrative threads then expand each. I’ve beefed up each character, focusing especially on understanding their motivations. And while I did my skeletal plotting, I scribed all the research questions pertaining to the novel—everything from knowing what’s in a basement in New York (and if you could live temporarily in one during winter) to how you might perform blood magic!
At this moment, I have pages and pages of scrawled notes, colour coded, in an A4 spiral bound exercise book—my first effort at conscious plotting!
In March I signed up for Year of the Novel. It started three weeks ago—and outside of doing a brief introduction and listening to the first tutorial, I’ve been too busy tying up editing projects to really dive in (though I think having written the answer to the first two questions I’ve just satisfied the first fortnight’s requirements).
When I wrote BIRTHED (the short story) I did it on a mental timeline of less than 12 hours—start to finish—and compiled a kick-arse playlist of high-octane songs to fuel the action (and me). So I’ve got a basic soundtrack to write, music being just as important to me, as knowing my characters.
I also accidentally secured a beta reader with books published by the publisher I have my eye on to submit BYRTHED to. I say accidentally because I hadn’t even started to think about that end of the writing process. It just happened.
I’m kicking off the writing campaign of BYRTHED with a word explosion during The Rabbit Hole this week. The goal for The Rabbit Hole is 30,000 words but there is no way I’ll be able to write all of that for my novel. I’m aiming to write 10,000 for The Rabbit Hole—the opening chapters for each of the characters—bringing me nicely into the 10% word count zone for set up of the novel. I’m angling somewhere toward 100,000 words (or 5 x 20,000 word narrative threads).
At the very minimum I will be spending 10 minutes everyday with my idea book (my very first Moleskin notebook – in gorgeous red!) as per Kim Wilkins’ (creator of the Year of the Novel) instructions. Outside of that I’m aiming to write a 1,000 words or half a chapter a day. Because the Year of the Novel lasts… for a year, I’m pacing myself. Having said that, if I’m in the zone, I’ll be putting down as many words that come to me.
Where will you be at this time in ten days?
I’ll be farther along than I am today, just as I am farther along today than I was 10 days ago.
I’ll be able to stare at (at least) five completed chapters, have a solid outline for each of the five narrative strains and better understand how I can use the Year of the Novel to get ahead. I’d also like to have secured a map of Central Park.
There is a temptation to come out hard, but for once time is on my side and rather than rally against it, I’m surrendering and going with the flow. Plus, I’m mindful I still have plenty of publishing projects pending completion, even if I do step away (officially) from editing tomorrow.
I hope I’m still just as excited, but less terrified having made the unknown slightly more known.
Birthpunk* is a sub-genre of urban fantasy I created to especially to categorise the novel I wanted to write.
Jodi Cleghorn is a writer, editor and publisher with a penchant for the dark and twisted undercurrents of humanity. Her stories have appeared in anthologies in Denmark, the USA, Canada and Australia. Follow Jodi as @jodicleghorn or via www.jodicleghorn.com.