A few weeks ago my cartoonist-buddy Laura Terry invited me to take a leg of the Writing Process Blog Tour where we discuss things like writing and, well, process. If you are interested in those sorts of things and, more specifically, how I approach them, then READ ON! I also urge you to take a look at Laura’s post and her beautiful work.
So, here we go:
1) What am I working on?
Currently I am finishing up part three of my six-part story The Oven, which is being serialized in Maple Key Comics. It’s a sci-fi story about a couple that leave their bubble-city in order to escape strict procreation laws and start a family. They find their new home, a community of outcasts and outlaws in the sun-baked desert, is not really what they were expecting.
The whole story is already written and thumbnailed, thank God, so really the heavy lifting is over so far as that goes. (If you want to see some preview pages you can check them out here and here.)
I’m also brainstorming and writing snatches of dialogue for the long-overdue House of Women, Part II and occasionally chatting with Jenn Jordan about our follow-up project to Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell. Unfortunately I have a hard time working on multiple projects at once so progress has been slow on most fronts.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Most of my work is science fiction so I’d say… well, it depends on where you’re standing. I don’t tend to focus on the minutia of future technology (AKA: hard sci-fi), partially because I hate drawing machines.
I think I share an interest in gender and the female experience that’s been rich territory for SF authors like Ursula K. LeGuin and Margaret Atwood, but I also have an interest in corporatocracy and consumer culture like George Saunders, Don DeLillo and Neal Stephenson. I feel a sense of genre-camaraderie with fellow cartoonists/idols Carla Speed McNeil, Eleanor Davis and Sophia Foster Dimino.
I’m less interested in thinking about what the future might actually be like and more interested in exploring human experiences and relationships through the lens of genre. I’m a big fan of sci-fi films like Moon, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Timer, Splice and The Robot and Frank. I also enjoy more fun, pulpy fare like Gattaca, The Hunger Games and The Fifth Element.
Basically I’m a sci-fi omnivore.
3) Why do I write what I do?
When I shake the tree this is what comes out. I’ve been reading and watching SF and fantasy since I was little—when I would read literally any book with a dragon on the cover. I guess that must have shaped my imagination in some deep way.
Sometimes I can see in retrospect why I wrote a particular story or what it means in relationship to my own life, but I can never see it at the time. I don’t think it helps the process to try and play critic and biographer to yourself.
4) How does your writing process work?
I get an idea that feels intriguing and exciting and right in a way I find impossible to explain. Then I look at a ton of visual inspiration. In the case of House of Women, Part I it was Aubrey Beardsley and Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, and with The Oven it was pictures of Slab City and its residents in Colorado.
When I’ve procrastinated enough I’ll try to create a story outline and/or write down bits of dialogue and ideas for scenes as they come to me. Eventually those will be knit into a narrative which I’ll thumbnail and (time providing) run past a couple of trusted readers for feedback before proceeding to pencils.
When things are going really well with writing I’ll get sudden ideas for scenes or dialogue or plot that’ll come to me while I’m doing something completely unrelated like taking a walk or driving or trying to go to sleep. Not to get touchy-feely here but I do sometimes feel like it’s a deeper part of my mind that’s doing the hard work and I’m just trying to be patient and make room to let it happen.
It’s not at all like drawing or inking which feel more rote to me. I can listen to the radio or watch/listen to TV while I draw or ink but I need total silence for writing.
It can be very frustrating but also very rewarding.