November 8, 2012

Curiosity, Cats, and a Cat Lady

Day Eight!  It is difficult to realize that November is yet young.  We've only been at this NaNo-ing and partying business for a week - goodness!  Anyhow, I thought it was about time for you people to feature.  A number of readers submitted questions, and I was kept very busy during October with answering them.  Today you can read part one and have at least some of your curiosity assuaged.  (Great word, that.)

First of all, however, there is a feature over at the blog of Anne Elisabeth Stengl, cat-lady extraordinaire and the award-winning authoress of the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  She very cheerfully agreed to host myself and Jenny, and gave us each a question to answer.  Mine?

I'm sure you get this a lot, but I know it's what everyone is wondering, so I'm going to ask it anyway! How did you, a busy young high school girl, find the time, gumption, and drive to write and polish a manuscript? And what steps did you take to prepare it for publication?

But I'm not giving you the answer.  You have to stop by her own lovely blog for that.  And don't forget to check out Jenny's feature while you're there! She was asked about the reasons behind her writing The Shadow Things.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the questions the readers of Scribbles sent in during October.  Mirriam asked...

1. What is your workspace like? (This was a popular question.)

It depends on whether I work on my dad’s computer or my laptop. At the desktop, I’m at a computer desk with books (either mine or dad’s) and a scattering of odd papers all around. There’s a window on my right, so I get the sunlight and can see the street. As for the laptop, it gets carted around wherever I feel like being. If I’m in my room, as I am at the moment, I sit on a bed with my cat on my lap (he doesn’t like the laptop).

2. Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies? 

I don’t like to be talked to when writing, I can’t write when people are looking over my shoulder, and I often have difficulty when anyone is in the same room. I’m a picky writer. I tend to murmur snatches of dialogue aloud when having a hard time ironing it out.

3.  Do you have favorite songs you listen to while writing? 

I don’t write well to music; it distracts me, and I find myself singing along or following the rhythm rather than typing. Occasionally I like instrumental music, like Two Steps from Hell, and up-beat music like Owl City. It all depends on the book I’m working on, though. I seem to remember listening to a lot of Manheim Steamroller and Fernando Ortega while writing The Soldier’s Cross.

4. How long does it generally take for you to write a first draft? 

This has been expanding for every book! I wrote The Soldier’s Cross in about six months; it would have been sooner if I hadn’t balked at writing—well, a particularly sad scene. My next novel came in about the same period, but the combined draft of The White Sail’s Shaking took a year and a half. But hey, it did end up being two books!

5. What sort of character is your favorite? 

What sort of character? As in, do I prefer sad and brooding, happy and bubbly, or brusque and sarcastic? That’s a hard question; it takes all sorts of characters to make up a world, and as I look around I’m at a loss to see that any one kind particularly calls out to me. I like fiery characters, but as prominent side characters, not narrators. For my main characters, I suppose you could say I like some stubbornness, some pigheadedness—traits you’ll find quite loud in Fiona. “Bubbly” is not my personality of choice, but I try not to do “brooding” much, either; all the characters from my idiotic early works were brooding, and that rather put me off writing them. Male characters are easier for me to write, and, I find, most enjoyable.

6. What is your favorite character you've created so far? Why? 

You do like the hard questions, don’t you, Mirriam? You expect me to look at my casts of characters and choose a single favorite? Pshaw! It greatly depends on which book I’m in closest proximity to. When I finished The Soldier’s Cross it was Pierre; when I finished Wordcrafter it was Ethan and Justin both; now that I’ve just completed The White Sail’s Shaking, it’s a terribly hard draw between Tip and Charlie. (I’m pretty fond of Josiah Darkwood, too.) I like contrasts. I like to see the sparks fly from two such different personalities as Tip Brighton and Charlie Bent, and to see the give and take on both sides. I love Tip for his rough, uncultured, well-meaning bumbling and the pigheadedness I mentioned before; but I love Charlie for his elaborate elegance, his poise, and his snide arrogance. They’re opposites, and I think that’s what endears me to them both.

Bree asked...

7. The Soldier's Cross is your first book: had you tried writing any other books before it, and if so, what was one of them?

I did attempt a number of books before writing The Soldier’s Cross, but I never managed to finish them—perhaps I simply needed the pressure of something like NaNo (I don’t believe I previously managed to write more than 30,000 words on one story), or perhaps it was because the plots were so terribly lame.  The first thing I put my keyboard to was a sort of fanfiction based on one of Jenny’s own early stories.  It was populated by archetypical Mary Sues and Gary Stus, and I abandoned it eventually.  Then I tried a murder mystery, for at the time I was in love with Agatha Christie’s works, but I was far more interested in the characters than in the murder or the plot. 

Better than either of these, and thus still in existence, was a collection of pieces centered around Stonehenge, a British girl, and the coming of the Romans and the Gospel to Britain.  I wrote no more than five or six pieces, but I still have them.  I think this was the piece that saw me begin to improve.

8. Are you planning on publishing any of your other books in the near future?

But of course!  The White Sail’s Shaking is being shoved across literary agents’ desks now, or into their inboxes.  Since I have decided to pursue traditional publication, the timing is very much not up to me.

9. Has writing been a long-time love or a newer excitement? (i.e. how long have you been writing?)

I’ve been writing for five or six years now.  I don’t think I began, however, because I really loved writing.  I began because Jenny was a writer, and I wanted to imitate that and to be able to capture, as she did, characters and places and far-reaching adventures.  I wanted, too, to be good at something.  I began to write just at the time when young people generally start to get their legs beneath them and make sure of their own bearings, and writing was something that grew out of my own search for a passion.  It’s a pretty good one, I think!

10. Which do you prefer writing: fantasy or historical fiction?

Unlike many, I have to say I lean toward historical fiction.  I confess I’m not very good at stretching my mind to the fantastical, and world-building from the ground up is a great undertaking indeed.  Of course with historical fiction there is also an element of world-building, but at least you’re given the mud and the straw before being told to make bricks.  Besides, I love the richness of history.  I love historical figures like Edward the Black Prince or Simon de Montfort, Stephen Decatur or Alexander Hamilton.  I love time periods like the Age of Sail.  I love the unfolding saga of humanity, chilling though it often is.  Writing stories that live and breathe among such characters, such times, is a thrilling vocation.

11. What author(s) inspire you?

Many authors inspire me.  Close to home, there’s Jenny—but most of you know that.  Then there are authors I’ve known a long time, like C.S. Lewis (for his way of getting down to the glowing heart of a matter); Rosemary Sutcliff (for her richness and the bitter-sweet flavor of her writing); Jane Austen (for her wit and romance); and Charles Dickens (for his amazing skill at weaving together immense casts and plots).  I also enjoy James Fenimore Cooper, especially The Last of the Mohicans, even though it did rip my heart out.  More recently, I’ve discovered Robert Louis Stevenson, and something about his writing speaks to my heart: maybe it’s the spice of adventure in the words. 

For inspiration, however, I have to say that I can glean inspiration from whatever I happen to be reading, or watching, or listening to: things as far-flung as Sherlock Holmes and Owl City.  Perhaps it’s the trait of any artist to be stimulated by life in general.

12. Do you prefer hot chocolate, apple cider, tea or coffee while writing?

Tea!  Twinings, preferably Ceylon, though I’ll drink anything black (except the Greys; I can’t stand the Greys).  I like coffee to wake me up over office work, but I don’t drink it while I write.  Apple cider and hot chocolate tend to flay my throat.  So when I do need a hot drink, it’s tea for me.

There are a number of questions still waiting to be answered, but they shall be "got to" soon! Stay tuned for Part Two, and maybe Part Three, as well.


  1. I love the picture at the top. This was great, and I loved hearing all your answers to everybody's well-though questions. Your work space sounds pretty pleasant! Mine is in front of a wall at a old, neon colored desk. :D At least I stay focused, right?

    I can't stand the greys either! If you've never had Bigelow's Spiced Chai Tea, I suggest you do! ;)


  2. Oh, gracious, I can't stand writing when someone is looking over my shoulder. I can't stand writing when everyone is in the room and possibly looking over my shoulder (I can manage, though, if I am sitting on the couch the laptop on my knees and leaning against the wall--a most protective piece for blocking out all looking-over-shoulder criminals).

    You will let us know if you find an agent for White Sail's, won't you? Do say yes! :)

  3. Lovely, lovely, lovely! I really enjoy when writers do questions like this - it is so interesting and enjoyable to read.

    I don't like it either when someone stands over my shoulder; perhaps there should be a penalty for it! My writing area is at the dining room table at my spot and chair. Yes, my lifelong dream of my own old fashioned writing desk has yet to become reality! :-) But I also have a place upstairs in my room where I can set my laptop and have peace and quiet. Plus, its by the south window, so I can see the fields, sky, trees, road, and scenery...

    Oh, yes, please keep us informed on the state of White Sail's!

    A fellow writer,


  4. Great questions and great answers!
    I loved how you described how historical fiction fits you better than fantasy. Those are my sentiments exactly. I find world-building hard work (though I may buckle down and try it sometime), whereas I love going back in time into the sagas of history that are already there.
    I do best writing with complete silence - no music, no talking, and definitely no one standing over my shoulder! : ) I find a window nearby quite nice, too.

  5. "With historical fiction there is also an element of world-building, but at least you’re given the mud and the straw before being told to make bricks." I loved that!

    You're submitting White Sail's Shaking to agents? How fearfully exciting! Do keep us posted!

  6. Well this was downright fun. Thanks for sharing all these answers, Abigail!

  7. My apologies. That would be stash's, not Bigelow!
    And I can't write modern very well either! I want to try it though, because I think it is always good to try something you think is too difficult.

    _ Becca (Aka: B.)

  8. Becca - I've heard good things about Stash's, but I've not tried any. Assam tea is good; I really like their Number One. It was as good as Twining's Ceylon, which is another favorite.

    Emily - I can be writing along wonderfully, but as soon as someone enters the room, all of my inspiration goes poof! out the window. It's a troublesome state. And I will most certainly let you know when I find an agent or an agent finds me; I'm sure I'll be too delighted to keep quiet!

    Patience - I've been writing a little bit at the dining room table, now that I have a laptop. It's semi-private, and having the table keeps my posture a little better. The spot in your room sounds lovely; it's always nice to have natural light and something of a view.

    Kelsey - History is so intricate; I get a thrill out of being able to work my story in so that the designs line up and the threads intertwine. The freedom of world-building in fantasy is definitely enjoyable, but I find it even more rewarding to use the elements already in place.

    Miss Dashwood - Yes, 'tis the anxious time for query-submittals! I try not to think about them once they're out the door, though, and have been concentrating on writing Tempus Regina. Work, work, work...!

    Rachel - I'm glad you enjoyed it! The questions were a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to sharing some more answers soon.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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