15 October 2007

On creating, birthing and parenting... a BOOK, that is.

This is my friend, Sandi.
She's a brand new parent. Again.

Here's her new baby's portrait.

Isn't this a darling little bundle of paper, glue, ink and creative energy? Well... isn't it? Actually, this little baby had me clenching my teeth and tensing my shoulder muscles. This very same little baby had me turning pages and riding a roller coaster of emotions. And it was this little baby that caused my family to feel the pangs of hunger when dinner wasn't served up quite on time. I was a little busy with the new baby. (Sorry, guys!)

Sandi shared a few thoughts on conception, birth and parenting (of books):

What was the very first story you ever birthed?
The earliest I remember was in the second grade. Frogs on a space ship crashed into earth, survived, and invaded. I still remember Miss Fikan (she was so great) laughing out loud when she read it. Made my day! You’d think I’d be a fantasy writer after that, huh?

Tell us about your creative environment--do you listen to music? Do you have a sacred space set aside for creating or just write wherever you happen to find yourself? Candles? Incense? Belly dancers?
No music. No dancers. I’m an audio learner as much as a visual one, so I have trouble tuning out any noise. I need it absolutely silent.

As for the “where,” I have an office in my house, but I never write there. I prefer the bedroom, where I have a big, stuffed chair with matching ottoman. I sit there with my laptop, which is linked to the network. My husband calls my corner “mission control,” because I have a TV remote, a VCR remote, a DVD remote (I need a universal remote!), a CD remote, and my laptop. Oh, and the cordless phone and my cell.

Take us through your process of birthing a novel—from conception to revision.
Once I have a germ idea, I come up with the beginning, middle, and end. Then I figure out the in-between points. Next, I create the main characters. I have four pages of questions I answer for each. About thirty percent of novel-crafting for me is the pre-writing imaginative work on the plot and character sketches. Then I choose a setting. I ask myself how I can use setting to communicate something. Where was Jezebel when she stole the vineyard? In Jezreel. Where was she years later when dogs ate her? Jezreel. The setting tells more than a place. It says something about the character of God. So I try to choose a setting that communicates on a deeper level. All the time I’m making these choices, I deliberate about the best way to tell the story. First-person? Third-person? Who will be the main POV character? Why?

After that I craft a proposal. It starts with a one-paragraph synopsis. While my agent shops it around, I develop the summary into a chapter-by-chapter outline. And then I make a file for each chapter and start dumping in ideas. When my agent has some success, he calls. Here’s what happens from there…Editorial person really likes it
He or she takes it to the marketing meeting
I wait forever for that meeting to happen
Marketing approves it
I wait for them to agree on an offer
They issue an offer
I reel from the shock of how low it is
I negotiate
I wait for them to draw up the contract
I receive and sign the contract
I write the book
I send the book to the publisher
They send the first half of the advance
I spend it all in one place
I wait for them to edit it
I wait a while longer for them to edit it
They send back the manuscript with lots of changes needed immediately
I edit it again
I wait
And wait
They send a galley proof, which they need back immediately
I edit it yet again
I watch helplessly as the release date gets delayed--again
I wait forever for my progeny to arrive in the mail
Finally, I hold my masterpiece in my hands
I find a typo

Gee, that's SO much like parenting humans. (Sometimes the typos are kinda funny though.)

What is your favorite thing about creating and raising books?
I love it when the muse flows and I lose myself in the world of my characters. Three hours later I’ll look at the clock and marvel at how time has flown. It’s like going to a good movie and seeing a story you don’t want to end.

Least favorite?
I loathe the page-proof stage, where I get the stack of questions or suggested changes from the publisher. I don’t mind the feedback—it’s always been great. But actually making the changes…talk about tedium.

How was Informed Consent conceived?
The story had a thousand or more “what if” moments. I’m pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies, and I worked on the setting, characters, a lot of the plot, as well as my narrative voice during three novel-writing classes taught by a novelist who writes fiction reviews for Publishers Weekly. And I got some great feedback from fellow students who don’t believe in Christ about ways to address faith issues more naturally. I also took a Dante class, which influenced my choice to give my characters five of the seven deadly sins. (I’m saving the other two for a future work.)

What is Informed Consent's personality? What is this baby about?

Jeremy Cramer, the next Einstein of research, is a medical resident specializing in infectious diseases. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes surprising discoveries, while also living with massive guilt over incidental infections that occur (which he could have prevented). Even as his marriage teeters, his career continues to skyrocket. Then, with a few twists along the way, he finds everything he has fought for threatened by the most personal, most heart-wrenching, choices of all.
I love exploring bioethics, and this book allowed me to consider end-of-life issues, patient rights, a compassionate response to HIV-AIDS…lots of edutainment.

Leave us with a glimpse of your book family tree.

Man, that's a lot of good-lookin' kids there. And that isn't even all the older siblings.

Welcome the newest arrival! Informed Consent, by Sandra Glahn

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Blogger nikongirl said...

Erin - how do you know Sandra? Also, how did you get music on your blog?
VERY well written interview! Creative.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Sandra and I went to church together for about 8 years. Then sadly, someone's job and someone's else's family beckoned us away. (cough cough, ahem ahem ahem) I still don't think Sandi forgives me, him, them, us.

Music on my blog? Ah, what a thorn in my side. I love that MP3 player, but doggone it if I don't HATE it too. Music moves me so much and enables me to make some great spiritual connections. I get so attached to an idea of posting a certain song with a certain blog entry, that when it doesn't work (which is more often than I care for), I'm ready to hit the roof. I feel like that piano playing Muppet from Sesame Street- the composer. Banging my head against the keyboard moaning, "No, no, no! It's all wrong! It'll NEVER work! I'm a failure!"

Dramatics aside, I use filden.com to upload and store my music files, and I use loudfusion.com as my music host site. That's where the MP3 player comes from and what actually cranks my music.

The MP3 player is a suh-weet thing when it works, huh?
If you want a specific, how-to, I can E-mail you.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

When's the baby shower? I'd ask if she's registered at Baby's R Us or something, but I guess when a new baby has so many older brothers and sisters, the baby has more hand-me-downs than she knows what to do with.
Just remember: take as many pictures with this one as you did the first.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Christianne said...

This was a great blog tour interview! Very creative. Great job, Erin! And congratulations to Sandi on this new book.

12:18 PM  
Blogger San said...

Erin, thanks much for hosting me. Tomorrow I'm on to Kelley's blog at geaux2girl.blogspot.com. By the way, I do forgive you, but I would forgive you more if you would move back home. :) (Subtle, huh?) I MISS YOU!

10:08 PM  
Blogger gramarty said...

Look, I never INSISTED that they move back...it's not insisting if you only ask 'when', even if the asking is consistent for 10 years. And since you've just birthed a new little one, I'm sure you wouldn't want to deprive this grandma of her precious little Ruth, Naomi nor the one who runs away!

11:52 PM  

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