The madness of Mardi Gras has ended here in New Orleans; the streets are filled not with revelers but with very tired and penitent people. So I have put away my pith helmet and wigs for another year, and return to answering your writing questions. Today I thought I’d go over a few “quick answer” Qs, so here we go:
From Bridget H.: What are your favorite scenes to write in your books? Is it the action, romance, day-to day, or sad scenes that you like best?
There’s not really a “type” of scene that I like best. Each of them can go really wonderfully, or be really difficult; it all depends on what else is going on in the story. (Though I have learned the hard way that action scenes take about three times longer to write than any other kind of scene. Making something fast-paced is a very slow process, ironically enough.) If I were going to generalize, I would say that my favorite scenes are the ones where the characters’ most powerful emotions and/or defining traits come forward, where the center of the scene is the most compelling aspect of the character. That’s been different kinds of scenes at different times. In HOURGLASS, for instance, I loved the scene where Dana helps Lucas and Bianca as they leave Black Cross; I felt like so much of Dana’s personality, and Lucas’ deep friendship with her, came through there — and I would call that an action scene. In FATEFUL, maybe that’s the scene where Tess first realizes Alec’s secret; that shifts from an action scene to a very contemplative one. One of my favorite scenes in SPELLCASTER is actually a moment between Nadia and her father, which doesn’t directly impact the central plot but shows a lot of why Nadia is the kind of person she is.
My least favorite kind of scene? Exposition. Sometimes you have to have this. It is NEVER easy to work into a narrative in a clear, engaging way that doesn’t slow down the plot. And if I could say one thing that might spare aspiring writers great pain: The number of characters in an exposition scene must be as small as possible. One or two characters if you can swing it. Several people getting talky in a room = the hardest thing to write, ever.
From Emily: What do you believe is the best line you’ve ever written?
It doesn’t sound like anything on its own, but I really like a chapter-ending line in STARGAZER: “They were dancing.”
From Carrie: Which of your characters from any of your books would you most like to spend the day hanging out with?
I think Vic would be a lot of fun, and Ranulf too if he can come along. Balthazar, Tess, Alec and Verlaine (from SPELLCASTER) would also be interesting (and also possibly less likely to get me into trouble than Vic? Or maybe not, now that I think about the trouble I have in fact gotten all of them into over the years.)
From Latoya: When writing has a character ever done something that surprised you? If so, what was it?
I’ve had a few surprises, though the surprises have tended to be less “things the characters did” and more “how the characters felt.” For instance, in STARGAZER, when Balthazar first began talking about his past, his emotions were much rawer than I’d anticipated — his anger and guilt came to the surface more powerfully than I had thought they would. Understanding that about him played a huge part in how I wrote him (and Charity) from then on. And Tess startled me in FATEFUL by being so determinedly matter-of-fact about what’s going on. Yes, it’s thrilling to be on the Titanic (at least, at first) and terrifying to learn that werewolves exist, but her sense of herself — her trust in her own good mind and instincts — never wavers, and I loved discovering that. As for SPELLCASTER (coming March 5! I cannot say this enough), Nadia was a very mysterious character for me at first, and I felt like I had to learn who she was page by page.
All that said, I just finished writing STEADFAST, which is the sequel to SPELLCASTER and the middle book in that trilogy. That was one of the very few cases where the characters did suddenly do things that surprised me, altering the ending considerably. So anything can happen!
From Sonya: How do you balance family and writing?
This difficult feat is one I have mastered by staying single. Works like a charm, guys.
More seriously, I’m not one of the best to answer this! But I see fellow authors like Aprilynne Pike, Melissa Marr & Kiersten White balancing family demands and writing like champions, so apparently it can be done. They leave me in awe!
Hope you guys saw my first video blog on YouTube and Facebook; if not, well, I should have another up in a couple of days …