Grace Burrowes is in the house!

Holy writer joy! Grace Burrowes is here on my blog and I’m all fan-girl-crazy and unable to really put into words how happy I am that she is visiting my little corner of the world on this lovingest of loving days of the year. As a reader and a writer, Grace has been a great influence for me. So Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! To celebrate, Grace is giving away *drumroll please*

1) AN iPAD! (I know, right? Crazy fabulous.)

2) A 3-book set of The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, Once Upon a Tartan, and The MacGregor’s Lady.

(Both are open to US and Canada only. Please leave a comment below and the two winners will be chosen at random.)

So without any further ado, please read on and enjoy our conversation!

Megan: First, some questions about your creative process. I love your complex heroes and am interested in how you come up with them. When you develop a hero, does he come to you in a flash—fully formed—or do you build him up over time? While you’re writing or beforehand?

GraceBurrowes

Grace: Often, I know my heroes because they tend to lurk in previous books, looking all lonesome and forlorn. They’re certainly not fully formed though. Sometimes I don’t even know their defining wound, and that makes the first few chapters a voyage of discovery (and anxiety).

Megan: Speaking of discovery, do you plot in advance or just start writing when a story idea comes to you?

Grace: I start writing when the first line comes to me. If I sat on a toadstool and waited for an entire plot to drop into my lap… no bookee. Sometimes, I’ll get about 20 percent of the book written, and then I have to wait, staring at those chapters until inspiration takes pity on me. The waiting is beastly hard, which is why it’s good to have multiple projects going.

Megan: With multiple projects going at once, what is your writing schedule? Do you have a daily word count? Weekly?

Grace: I try to write for the first few hours of the day, when those alpha waves are still humming, but I certainly don’t write every day. No daily word count goals, no weekly word count goals. Writing is a privilege, not a chore. It’s something I get to do. A word count goal would be like having a dessert calorie goal.

Megan: (Note to self: Tattoo the phrase “Writing is a privilege, not a chore.” on body.) During the course of writing a book, is there a time you feel really optimistic? Pessimistic?

Grace: My writing process is iterative. The rough draft is like making sure I have 52 cards in the deck—doesn’t matter in what order or which way the cards are facing. First, I need to get my hands on those 52 cards. THEN, I can take a look at ordering the cards to suit my preferences, but that first draft is no indicator of what the final quality can be. My sense of when I’ve written a truly fine book as opposed to a good book has proven generally reliable, but I’m never confident of my judgment in this regard.

Megan: Do you think genre fiction is an art or a craft?

Grace: BOTH.

Megan: Would you ever consider writing a contemporary romance? Why or why not?

Grace: I’ve written a contemporary trilogy that’s coming out early next year. At first, I was I in raptures, because nobody could come along and tell me “taradiddle” wasn’t used as verb until 1828 (I kid you not). Then I realized that every reader is an expert on the present day… We’ll see how this turns out!

Megan: *gets all excited to read Grace’s contemporaries* Speaking of readers, who do you read? I’m on a Johanna Lindsey kick at the moment. Who are some of your favorite Old Skool historical romance authors?

Grace: Judith Ivory is one of the BEST romance writers to EVER put pen to paper. Her prose is scrumptious, her historical details ingenious, her stories brilliant, and her characters unforgettable. She anticipated many trends by years, and will always have pride of place on my Keeper Keeper shelf.

Megan: What do you think is the best advice for an aspiring romance writer?

Grace: Write more than you aspire to write. Workshops and conferences are full of noise about word counts, software, craft books, and who’s acquiring what, but none of that will get your trilogy completed. When everybody else is dropping names of editors and agents, comparing contest judges, and predicting industry trends… you write. When they’re “building a platform” on social media, and “networking,” you write. All that other stuff is only important if you have some good books in hand FIRST.

Megan: *Ironic nod to self: Hear that Megan? More writing, less talking about writing!* How do you define “success” in your writing career? Respect of fellow authors? Sales? Reader interaction? Something else altogether?

Grace: My definition of a successful life is one characterized by kindness and honesty (both), but as a writer, I’m a success if I enjoy the writing—and I do!

Megan: Thank you SO much for being here and for offering such generous prizes to my blog visitors!

So there you have it everyone! Isn’t she wonderful? And, in case you haven’t already read Grace’s latest release, The MacGregor’s Lady, (why not?) here’s the info:

The_MacGregor's_Lady_Cover

THE MACGREGOR’S LADY BY GRACE BURROWES – IN STORES FEBRUARY 2014

 What if the steps they take to avoid marriage…

The last thing Asher MacGregor, newly titled Earl of Balfour, wants is a society wife, though he has agreed to squire Boston heiress Hannah Cooper about the London ballrooms. When he’s met that obligation, he’ll return to the Highlands, and resume the myriad responsibilities awaiting him there.

…Lead instead to impossible love?

At her step-father’s insistence, Hannah Cooper must endure a London season, though she has no intention of surrendering her inheritance to a fortune hunter. When she’s done her duty, she’ll return to Boston and the siblings who depend upon her for their safety… or will she? The taciturn Scottish earl suits her purposes admirably—until genuine liking and unexpected passion bring Asher and Hannah close. For if the Scottish earl and the American heiress fall in love, an ocean of differences threatens to keep them apart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes hit the bestseller lists with her debut, The Heir, followed by The Soldier and Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal. She has a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish was awarded Best Historical Romance for 2011 by the RT Reviewers Choice Awards. Burrowes is branching out into Victorian and contemporary romances with Sourcebooks, as well as short stories. Grace is a practicing family law attorney and lives in rural Maryland. For more information, please visit http:///www.graceburrowes.com.

To purchase The MacGregor’s Lady:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

iBookstore

IndieBound

Sourcebooks

Discover a New Love 

Ceci n’est pas une blog.

This is not a blog. I am trying to stay on task. To write a blog a week. Sometimes I forget why I made a decision to do such a thing, but I decided, so here I am. So this is really nothing. It makes me think of this:

  Image

I thought of writing a blog called “Let It Bleed” because I am preoccupied with blood lately, in all of its metaphors, but mostly in the way my life seems to “bleed out.” 

I try hard not to perpetuate the negative stereotype of the writer or (gag) “creative type” who is unable to structure her life. I had hoped I would be the type of “creative type” who could drop the kids off at school, run to the coffee shop or library, skip through the butterfly-thick pasture of my giddy imagination for six hours (preferably resulting in three thousand new words each day) and then pull up to my son’s school at 2:20 pm (precisely) and be The Mom. Bey Blade battle, anyone? Tae Kwon Do transportation module? 

I usually make it until about half past six. 

And then I want to get back to the pasture. Then I get a little peevish that people expect food and other incidentals. I have people in my head: passionate, demanding people. Characters. I tell them to wait. I try to tend to real life. And then everyone goes to bed and I usually read someone else’s words. Words. Words. WORDS. I love them. But I need to contain myself. My love. I don’t want to tamp it down, I just want to manage it. I know this is possible. 

I’ve been through the blush of first love before and (even though I may have wanted to) I never charged into Starbucks yelling about how in love I was. So why do I sometimes feel that way about writing? I spoke to an old friend this morning about finding one’s passion. It’s kind of terrifying for everyone involved. My family is occasionally worried by the intensity of my enthusiasm. As am I. 

I have started asking other writers how they manage it. Vivian Arend is terrifically enlightened about all of this and kindly shared some of her wisdom. Productivity is great, but scheduling is imperative. I cannot be writing book six, doing final copy edits on book one, first round edits on book two, fact-checking book three, blogging, futzing with books four and five, and thinking eagerly about the Really Big One (book seven!). Bird by bird. One thing at a time. I know these things. (But the ideas!!! The words!!!)

I actually stood in the shower this morning and missed book six. I started it in December, but had to set it aside to focus on the care-and-feeding of Book One (my first REAL book! Jesus, Megan, FOCUS!) Anyway, it’s all part of the learning curve. Before I had an agent and a book deal I just wrote like Gene Gene The Dancing Machine danced on The Gong Show (with abandon):

Image

I still will write like that…but at a specific time. Scheduling has its upside. Now that I have promised myself that I will write my heart out for the month of March I am in a state of delightful anticipation. I can get all this editing and blog-amassing and really important worker-bee stuff (synopses! author video!) out of the way and then…MARCH! In March, I will write like a…a…a writer.

Will Self And Me

So, I came upon this interview with Will Self in Epigram (Bristol University’s Independent Student Newspaper) via a Twitter mention a couple of days ago. I have been marveling. Endlessly. I am terrified of Will Self. He is so fierce, it made me feel weak just to type his name in that sentence. And his picture is staring at me now. His eyes are so direct. His whole presentation is so bold. Fearless. Unapologetic. Not to mention his vocabulary.

I thought I would do a running commentary of what went through my mind while I read this article. Of course, it is mortifying on one level: my ignorance is vast and now right here for your amusement. On another level, it is liberating and a relief. There is always more to learn, more to know. It is only when I think I’ve heard it all or have that creeping feeling that words are empty wrappers and none of us will ever connect or understand one another in the slightest that I am truly depressed.

As I am wont to do, I have put my comments directly into the text and highlighted them. I am MM. The Interviewer is FP. And Will Self is WS. Enjoy!

———————

Title: Will Self
MM: even his name is aggressive…Will! Self! Self Will! Monosyllabic. Final.

Title: interview:
MM: Wow! This student from Bristol got to meet Will Self*

Title: ‘The Olympics Suck’
MM: I don’t know if I think the Olympics suck or not, but I bet Will Self will make it sound fantastically obvious.

Author: Faye Planer (FP)
MM: Lucky student from Bristol who got to meet Will Self *

January 30th, 2012
MM: Why did I not see this until like six days after! (As if the student newspaper of Bristol would be at the top of my to-do pile).

MM: Holy fuck. Just look at him. Even his dog is looking at me like he knows I don’t really know what ontogeny means. Is that shirt meant to look like that or it it the result of a bleach accident? That’s what my black t-shirt looked like when I splattered bleach on it. Why did I throw that out? It looks pretty cool. Hmmm, Will Self has a big hand. And I like the way he is holding that dog…I wonder if it’s a pure-bred Jack Russell…it’s kind of cute…I wonder if Will Self is cute with his dog…British people tend to be cute with their animals…should Abigail (the heroine of my third novel) have a dog? It might soften her a little bit…she’s coming across as a bit of a hard-ass.

Faye Planer probes
MM: Odd choice of words…sounds like an alien medical inspection

…the nation’s angriest wit
MM: Now that Christopher Hitchens is dead and probably Hitchens would seem milquetoast by comparison anyway and maybe Hitchens wasn’t even British anymore…did Hitchens ever become an American citizen, I wonder.

…on his views of the upcoming Olympics, and on what on earth ‘psychogeography’ is all about.
MM: Oh, a new word! Psychogeography. Probably something to do with how fucked up people are by where they live or something. Thinks briefly of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.

FP: I hear that you are unenthusiastic about the prospect of the Olympics this summer. In your eyes, what is the greatest folly of this whole affair?

WS: Rather unenthusiastic is putting it waaaaay mildly…

MM: Are Faye and Will sitting in a cafe in Bristol when he says “waaaaaay” like that? It sounds sort of Valley Girl-ish.

WS: I think the Olympics suck dogshit through a straw.

MM: YAY! There’s the Will I love. Dogshit through a straw. Must remember to use that (to myself only, of course) when thinking of that book I forced myself to read while I was on the cruise with my mom over Christmas…because that book sucked dogshit through a straw. I hate myself a little for not being able to say what I think on my own blog about a book I read that I thought sucked dogshit through a straw…(re-reads last week’s post about not being properly prepared to ignore what other people think of me)…some people loved that dogshit book and who am I to rain on their diarrhea-swilling parade?

WS: People believe they encourage da yoof…

MM: Momentary fond memory of the first time I saw Ali G in the late 90’s when he interviewed Professor Sue Lees, and I clung to my husband’s arm and laughed so hard I cried as Ali asked Prof. Lees if she thought all girls should try feminism at least once (Video here: http://youtu.be/pyRfJDcNdb0)

WS: to take up running, jumping and fainting in coils…

MM: Makes note to look fainting in coils

WS: – but this is nonsense. They’re a boondoggle…

MM: Why do I always misuse boondoggle? It sounds like it should be a fun junket…a boon, with a dog along for company. Like a trip you win to go to Hawaii for a week. Avoid future use of word boondoggle.

WS: …for politicians and financiers, a further corruption of an already corrupt self-appointed international coterie of Olympian cunts…

MM: DAMN IT!!! Why does Will Self get to say cunts out loud and I don’t? I love to call people cunts.

WS: …an excuse for ‘elite’ athletes to fuck each other, …

MM: I wonder if he means that literally…do Olympic athletes shag like minks?

WS: snarf steroids…

MM: Is snarf still slang or is it in the OED now?

WS: and pick up sponsorship deals, and a senseless hitching of infrastructural investment…

MM: I like this use of the word hitching.

WS: if there’s any reality to this anyway – to a useless loss-trailing expenditure on starchitectural bollix…

MM: Have to look up starchitectural…and I thought bollix was bollocks.

WS: The stadia themselves are a folly.

MM: I don’t think he means this like the Temple of Apollo at Stourhead.

WS: The new Westfield is a temple to moribund consumerism – in ten years time they’ll all be cracked and spalled;

MM: Have to look up spalled.

WS: a Hitlerian mass of post-pomo nonsense.

MM: Must try to use post-pomo in a sentence…why wouldn’t that just be po-po-mo?

FP: If the Olympics did not exist, would it be necessary to invent them?

MM: I think Faye is trying to be cheeky here…I don’t think she is in a coffee shop with Will Self. I think she is on the phone in Bristol. And Will Self is somewhere dank and abandoned in a fug of smoke and ideas.

WS: They didn’t exist for thousands of years. The modern Olympics is a fatuous exercise…

MM: Try to use ‘fatuous’ today.

WS: in internationalism through limbering up and then running down to entropy…

MM: Great use of the athletic metaphor (or would that be synecdoche?) only to arrive at chaos.

WS: The modern Olympics have always been a political football – nothing more and nothing less – endlessly traduced…

MM: Have never used the word traduced. At least I know what it means.

WS: and manipulated by the regimes…

MM: Are all governments regimes? Probably yes.

WS: that ‘host’ them.

MM: How did he indicate that the word host was to be put into quotation marks? Was that to suggest that they are like a host-body with a contagion? Or just the idea of a regime hosting a cocktail party? Whichever is more damning, I suspect.

WS: This one is no different, presenting a fine opportunity for the British security state apparatus and its private security firm hangers-on…

MM: Love that.

WS: to deploy…

MM: I love martial language.

WS: the mass-suppression and urban paranoiac technologies…

MM: Love.

WS: in the service of export earning.

MM: Repeats to self softly: Export. Earning.

WS: Some peace,  some freedom.

MM: A little bit of Rita’s all I need.

FP: Assuming we will always have the Olympics, could you suggest a better way of doing them?

WS: Why assume that?

MM: Yeah, Faye, why? I imagine myself scraping my metal chair legs across the unfinished concrete floor and moving closer to Will Self in the dim basement where he and I are taking Faye’s call.

WS: If you want to run and jump, go do it in a field for free.

MM: Fuck yeah.

WS: If you want to run and jump with a Kenyan or a Croatian, go out and find one – there are plenty around my way – and go and run and jump together in a field.

MM: I don’ think there are many Kenyans or Croatians around my way…why do I live in Florida?

WS: Costs nothing.

MM: True enough.

WS: You may even make a few bob by charging people to watch you.

MM: Wait. But isn’t that what the Olympic hosts are trying to do? But since it’s the individual and not the security state apparatus, we’re good with it. Got it.

FP: You walked around the Olympic site a few years ago. What were your observations? Have you been back since?

WS: I didn’t see much of it – there wasn’t much of it to see. I joined Sinclair…

MM: Hope they tell me who Sinclair is later in the article.

WS: for part of his circumambulation…

MM: Does Will Self really say circumambulation in a random sentence? Does he also say postprandial and diaphoresis?

WS: of Hackney for his book.

MM: Okay. So Sinclair must be writing a book about the Olympics. Or Hackney.

WS: I can’t remember a lot about the walk at all, except that Iain…

MM: And Sinclair’s first name is Iain.

WS: held forth a lot – but that’s OK, he’s good at holding forth.

MM: I also like people who are good at holding forth.

WS: He and I agree on most things Olympic and consensus is a big barrier to keen observation…

MM: Oh my, if that isn’t the truth. So much easier to just all share the same opinion than it is to really look at something afresh.

WS: – ask Lordy-Lordy Coe and Tessa Jowls.

MM: For some reason those names made me think of Gertrude Jekyll. They must be poncy Olympic organizers. I might name a future fictional butler Jowls.

WS: I haven’t been back – it’s not my manor, thank God.

MM: ‘It’s not my manor’? Is that like ‘I don’t have a dog in this fight’ or more ‘not in my back yard’?

FP: Could you explain the principles of pyschogeography and do you think it’s something that can only be applied to urban spaces?

WS: Ooh, big question.

MM: Is Will Self making fun of Faye?

WS: I take my lead on matters psycho-geo…

MM: Is this hipstellectual talk? “Yo, Psycho-geo! Po-po-po-mo psycho-geo, yo!”

WS: from the Situationist fons et origo.

MM: Definitely going to need to get the dictionary out on this one. No clue about the Situationist, but I like the sound of it. Can sort of deduce that fons et origo are something to do with font and origin…beginnings…and not with Happy Days and/or Iris. Am so relieved my 12-year-old has taken a shine to latin. She will have such a better grasp of language than I ever will. I wonder where she will go to high school?

WS: It’s part of the tearing down of the Society of the Spectacle…

MM: Ooooh, I like the sound of the tearing down of the Society of the Spectacle. The Super Bowl confused me.

WS: mandated by late capitalism; unstructured dérives…

MM: Back to the dictionary.

WS: or drifts across the urban landscape cut across the predetermined routes of commercial necessity which were best defined by a graffito I once saw on a supermarket wall outside Yate in Somerset: ‘Work, Consume, Die’.

MM: Now, that is something I can totally get my mind around. (Tries not to think to hard about how true that is. Momentarily hates all humanity.)

WS: What I think of as ‘the man-machine matrix’ wants you trammelled on EasyJet…
MM: Oh my god! Remember that time we took EasyJet to Nice and what a fucking nightmare it was? I had totally forgotten about that.

WS: watching a six-inch screen implanted in the back of another human’s head,…

MM: Borg. Borg. Borg.

WS: wants you stuck in a car coughing out lead particulates, wants you staring at a VDU,…

MM: Dictionary. Probably British for monitor.

WS: doesn’t want you on foot, transgressing.

MM: Oh, how I want to be on foot, transgressing. Get me back to New York or London. I want to wander in strange patterns along streets where I have neither purpose nor destination. Thinks momentarily of Ford Madox Ford.

FP: I went to a talk you gave about J.G. Ballard. What do you think he would have to say about the Olympic transformation of the east end of London?

MM: Have never read J.G. Ballard. I did see Crash and Empire of the Sun. (Makes note to read J.G. Ballard).

WS: He’d probably have loved it! He loved modernity, he loved big things – he was ambivalent of course, but it gave him a sort of visceral thrill that he connected to his wonderstruck childhood in Shanghai…

MM: Thinks of Shibumi.

WS: which at that time – the 1930s – was one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.

MM: Was Will Self personally acquainted with J.G. Ballard? Hmmm. I want to be given visceral thrills, too.
FP: ‘Really, one may say that the whole Olympic process was a pasteurisation of the city… the microbes disappeared and from a hygienic point of view maybe that was positive, but really what happened is that the variety was destroyed in the process…’

MM: I was in Barcelona in 1999 and I thought it was varied.

FP: Manuel Vázquez Montalbán said this about the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Do you believe that London is being pasteurised too?

WS: No, I’m quite confident that London is too big and too anarchic to be seriously pasteurised by the games.

MM: Whew. I always want London to feel on the edge of falling away.

WS: It’s so big, so filthy, so nasty that it could probably eat twenty Olympiads for breakfast and spit out the Ferroconcrete bones.

MM: Dictionary. Ferroconcrete. Probably Brit for rebar.

FP: Iain Sinclair believes that cities aspire to be like an airport departure lounge. How do you envisage cities of the future?

MM: I think I will be reading some of this Sinclair person. It’s not just cities. I think most of America is an airport departure lounge already.

WS: Declining in the West, certainly. With no industry and an ageing population – except for Gastarbeiter –

MM: Dictionary. Visiting workers. Interesting. Reminds me of husband’s Swiss boss who always put the emphasis on awkward syllables. He pronounced foreigners like fuh-RAY-nerz.

WS: the cities will decline into monumental care homes rather than departure lounges.

MM: Oh. Please, no.

WS: No one will want to go anywhere because their private health insurance provider – which is what the Government will become –

MM: No. No. No.

WS: will make them stay here. The colours will be muted pastel, the building will be soft and foamy, the food will be puréed.

MM: Florida. Florida. Florida.

FP: You are the ringmaster: what sport would you make Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP enter in the Olympics?

MM: I think I have heard of this Hunt fellow. Sounds like Fay and Will Self are about to have a bit of fun at his expense.

WS: Something equestrian – he could be the show pony.

MM: Um. Dirty mind thinks of pony play.

FP: What would be your sport of choice?

WS: Riding him – hard.

MM: Hey! I ended my last blog with the word hard. Still thinking about pony play, with Will Self using a little crop on the Right Honorable Rump of Jeremy Hunt MP. I wonder if they were at Oxford together. Maybe Will and Jeremy have a secret past. Wanders off.

The original interview (sans MM) is here:
http://www.epigram.org.uk/2012/01/will-self-interview-the-olympics-suck/