Time for Saturday blog post! Today is an Author Tag themed around WIPs. I can’t remember what blog I found it on so I apologise profusely for not crediting correctly, I just remember seeing it and really liking the questions so I decided to answer them myself… and then I couldn’t remember which blog I found it on… whoops…
Okay so, here we go!
What is your current WIP about, and what’s its status? (ie. plotting, writing, editing, etc.)
Presently I am working on the second book in the Fragile Love series, Silk Sheets. The first book in the series was the story of Jake Nicholls and Max Christiansen, the second book features Max’s older brother Augustus as one of the two main characters.
Augustus is defending a suspected Mob hitman, Joe Esposito, from a murder charge. The alleged victim is Peter Flynn. Peter died leaving behind only a younger brother, Jamie, whom he cared for most of their lives. Augustus wins the case and Jamie wants revenge on him for helping his brother’s killer walk free. He spies on Augustus and plans to get as close to him as possible in order to find evidence that Augustus is corrupt so that he can spread that evidence publicly and hopefully send the bastard to trial and cast doubt on Esposito’s ‘not guilty’ verdict.
It is still in the plotting stages but I’ve written half of the first chapter. I’m aiming for roughly 75k words, the same length as Paper Flowers. I want to try and keep it within 2k words either side of that goal as I don’t want it to drag but I also would like a certain amount of depth to the plot.
Do you plot things out and/or outline, or just figure it out as you write?
I never used to outline. Outlining was the devil because it used to kill my creative buzz, I just used to let the characters take me on a journey and hope that I could maintain continuity throughout. Now, I outline and I allow the outline to be flexible so that if my characters want to take me somewhere new then there is wiggle room, but I find my writing is usually better when I have a solid idea of how I’m getting everybody from A to B.
What are some book ideas you want to write in the future?
I currently have four more books after Silk Sheets planned for Fragile Love, and hopefully I will introduce more characters whose stories need to be told as I write Books 2-6 in the series, as I am quite fond of writing these breakable, delicate love stories.
I’m very excited about book three, which currently has a working title of China Doll and will be a moving tale of tragedy, heartbreak, healing, and finding love again. I’ve always wanted to write something like that.
There is also the series I’m worldbuilding for, tentatively entitled The Divide. In Paper Flowers, Max writes a fantasy-romance novel called Across the Divide and I had to come up with a vague plot to discuss his book in my own story. As a result I ended up becoming very intrigued by the idea I was crafting and it ended up becoming more in depth than I intended. I realised that the two characters, Galedan and Arun, were asking to have their story told as well.
The idea has the potential to produce a series of love stories featuring different couples, but set in this fantasy world I’m starting to create. That one is pretty far away, as I do have to create an entire world for it, and I don’t like to do my worldbuilding by halves. Keep an eye out for updates on it, though, as I’m very excited about the ideas I’m coming up with, and I’ll probably talk about it quite often as everything develops.
Out of the characters you’ve written so far, who are your favorites?
Hmm, I’m going to stick to Fragile Love and The Divide, as I’ve written a lot of stories and have a lot of favourite characters but this will become too long if I delve into other places. And, in that case, the list is still very difficult to choose. I am gonna pick 5, and that is really hard, it’s like asking to choose between my children or pets.
Augustus “Augie” Christiansen
I’ve become very fond of Augustus over the course of plotting out his novel. I have a soft spot for characters that come across as harsh, unyielding, ruthless, aggressive etc. but when they are with the people they love, they turn into gentle, loving, soft-hearted teddy bears who ruffle their younger brothers’ hair, unload their feeling to their best friend/family, and melt at the sight of their SO smiling at them. Augustus is definitely that type of character. In Paper Flowers, Jake makes several mental notes about the fact that Augustus is rumoured to be this complete asshole who is underhanded, malicious, and awful, and yet the man he meets likes to hug his baby brother, and pull pranks with his other younger brother, and is best friends with his twin.
Augustus loves his family, and beneath his hard exterior there is a very vulnerable, wounded man. Augustus is gay, just like Max, but unlike Max he has never been brave enough to say the words out loud. Not even Julius, his twin brother, knows he is gay. Growing up he has pastors that preached the evils of homosexuality and that ‘f*gs will burn in hell’ and he became frightened of his growing attraction towards other boys. When Max came out in college and was disowned it justified his fears and so he continued to bottle up the feelings. He had multiple mental and emotional breakdowns through college and his late twenties because he would fall off the wagon, so to speak, and sleep with a man and then have a ‘gay freakout’. By the time he reached his mid thirties, however, he developed a system that works quite well for him. He avoids any mention of being gay and only sleeps with somebody when his stress levels are high: his way of dealing with his stress is finding a scene partner at an anonymous BDSM club and finding his release through Domination.
Basically, he avoids emotions and introspection like the plague and hides his true self from everybody he cares about. And I’m enjoying the prospect of going on his journey of self-discovery until he finally accepts himself and loves himself for who he is. And, not to forget, discovering how good it feels to love somebody else and have their love in return.
Jake fits into a specific category of characters that I don’t think there are enough of: the badass male characters who are both strong and sensitive. Jake has had a rather hard life (read Paper Flowers to find out what he has gone through) and it’s hardened his heart against allowing people in, but underneath that pain and those scars, is a lonely boy who just wants somebody to accept him for who he is and love him for every part of himself, even the broken bits. Jake expresses his emotions through floriography – the secret language of flowers – and takes great pride in his skills as a floral arranger and floriographer. He excels at helping people tell their story or their feelings with flowers and he gains great satisfaction from being a small part of people’s lives in that way.
He fits the mould of that sort of man who is underrepresented in fiction, the type of man who combats toxic masculinity by fighting his own toxic masculinity and allowing himself to be who he is. Jake’s father is a terrible man and has instilled great insecurities in his son but when Jake begins to fight those, he finds comfort in being emotional, in accepting people’s love and affection. He no longer feels ashamed for needing that affection and wanting to express his own in return.
Jake is a soft-hearted man who hides behind a veneer of bravado but it doesn’t take much to crack through that layer and find the gentle, loving man beneath who is bursting with affection to give the people around him.
I’m looking forward to all of Jake’s future appearances in Fragile Love‘s other stories.
Jamie. Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. Oh, Jamie, you are so much fun to create.
Jamie’s not a fully fleshed out character yet, he is being developed in conjunction with the plot of Silk Sheets and my gosh, am I already deeply besotted with this kid. He’s a 21 year old hacker who has been sheltered his entire life by his big brother.
Jamie, Peter, and their parents, migrated to the USA from Ireland when Jamie was three years old. Shortly after, their parents died in a house fire and Peter, already 18 was left to care for his baby brother. Jamie grew up spoilt by his brother but also rather isolated so he’s not particularly socially apt, and he’s kind of a brat. But he’s a cute brat. He also has a bit of a fiery temper and he and Augustus are going to have some raging spats, I imagine.
So: adorable, bratty, sassy, fiery, super intelligent, and outspoken. Basically the recipe for an awesome character and I am having a lot of fun with him. I really hope you guys are as excited about Silk Sheets as I am from these character descriptions because it is going to be loads of fun, I swear.
Kalina “Kalli” Ephron
Kalli is an African-American, lesbian, hacktivist. Do I need to explain more to make you realise how incredible she is?
Well, if you insist.
Kalli’s an uber nerd, her favourite show is Star Trek and every year on Valentine’s Day, Jake (who is her best friend and roommate) gives her a bouquet made up of allium and sage – allium means prosperity and sage means long life so the bouquet essential means “Live long and prosper”. She attends SDCC every year and occasionally drags Jake along and forces him to cosplay with her, and they sometimes spend their weekends LARPing together.
Not only is she a nerd but Kalli is a super liberal activist and fights the good fight online with her hacking buddies in organised groups. It’s not entirely legal, but nobody needs to know that.
She’s a strong, loyal, kind, individual woman who I enjoy writing. She’s a wonderful friend to Jake and was the first person he was able to open up to. Kalli’s the kind of friend you want when you need somebody to have your back, or to give you a kick in the ass when you need it. The reason she and Jake get along so well is that she grew up in and out of foster homes so she has commitment issues but once she considers you a part of her life she’ll never let you down.
Elijah “Eli” Glott
Choosing my fifth character was hard (choosing just 5 was hard, I love all my babies) but I ended up choosing Eli over Galedan because Galedan is not fully constructed yet and I know what Eli’s story is going to be and I am looking forward to writing it. His book is going to be Book 5 of Fragile Love, tentatively entitled Rose Petals and it is going to be sickly sweet and cute followed by heartwrenching. The entire book is going to have a feel of bittersweet yet hopeful and I love that sort of story.
Eli’s story is rather tragic, like most of the characters in the world of Fragile Love. He’s had a hard life followed by a number of difficult years as a Navy SEAL. The things Eli has seen and done have left him scarred and with the feeling of blood on his hands that he can’t seem to wash off. He believes he will stain anybody that comes close to him and so he keeps his distance, refusing to allow anybody in further than becoming a good friend. He has walls in place so that he can’t allow his darkness to contaminate anybody who is still good, and light.
Eli’s one spot of goodness in most of his life is his brother’s daughter. His niece Elizabeth is fifteen years younger than him and he has been like a second father to her most of her life. He doesn’t believe he should ever have kids with his history, both his military past and his alcoholism, and so she is the closest he will ever have to being a father.
I love Eli because not only does he appear like a tough badass, but he is a tough badass. He’s a tough badass who doesn’t allow people close often but he’s loyal to a fault, and incredibly protective of the people in his life.
What’s your writing routine, if any? (ie. snacks, music, time of day, location, etc.)
I don’t have a set routine but I always have snacks and tea when I write. Where I write depends on my mood. Mostly I write in bed or on the lounge, but sometimes I’m in the mood for something different and I’ll go to a café or a mall food court, if I am in need of some background noise and people watching to keep me inspired (also hot chocolate, iced tea, smoothies, cakes etc – as I said, I always have snacks and drinks when I am writing).
I tend to write drafts on my computer but I outline and plot in notebooks so it’s easy for me to have beside me while I’m writing and I can look everything over. I also tend to write anything that pops into my head and sometimes that is a section for later in a story so I write it down either on a computer or in a notebook depending on when inspiration strikes and where I am when I write it down. So, writing sessions usually involve many notebooks and scraps of paper and pens surrounding my computer as I type.
Show your WIP’s aesthetic in images or words (or both)!
What (or who) motivates you to write?
I love to tell stories. That’s the main motivating factor of my desire to write. Telling stories is my greatest passion and the desire to share the stories that I have brimming inside my head pushes me to get them down and put them out for people to read.
I also love my characters. I love them as if they were real people and I feel that I would do them a disservice if I didn’t write their stories down for people to enjoy. They deserve to have their stories told and for people to read their stories and join them on their journeys.
What do you find is the easiest part about writing? The hardest?
The hardest part for me is editing. I’m a terrible editor when it comes to typos, grammar, paragraph length and coherency. It takes me dozens and dozens of read throughs to catch everything I don’t like or that is incorrect. I can edit other people’s stories just fine but when it comes to my own, I have such trouble with editing.
The easiest part is characters for me. They often appear to me as fully formed people, just requiring me to flesh out bits and pieces of their personalities and backstories. They tell me who they are, what they want, and where their story should go. I’m able to flesh out anything that’s missing when they show up in my head and we work together to tell their story.
What genre will you never try, and why?
Horror. I’m not good at writing scary things. I’m better at adventure, romance, a little bit of funny (I’m not terribly funny, I have a weird sense of humour), and all aspects of fantasy and sci-fi. But I can’t do scary so I doubt I’ll ever try my hand at horror or thriller style stories.
Share a tiny (or large) snippet/excerpt of your writing, if you’re comfortable!
Here’s a piece from Chapter 2 of Paper Flowers, Jake and Max’s first meeting
Two weeks later, Jake is manning the main shop on his own. Eli’s off on a delivery run and he’s sent Amy to lunch since it is fairly quiet. He’s rearranging the books underneath the counter when he hears the bell over the door chime. He doesn’t get up right away even though he knows it’s unprofessional to keep a customer waiting but his head is in the cabinet and he’s trying to reach the books that somehow were pushed into the back corner where nobody can get to them when they’re needed.
Jake startles violently and whacks the crown of his head on the roof of the cupboard.
“Fuck, fucking, fuck, fuck!” he curses as he crawls out.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. I couldn’t see anybody in here.”
Jake’s rubbing the top of his head and if it wasn’t throbbing so badly he thinks he might have begun drooling a little as the sound of that deep, rough voice speaking from above. He tilts his head up and meets a pair of startlingly intense blue eyes beneath a tousled mess of blond hair. The man has to be the most gorgeous person he has ever laid eyes on. He has an angled face with strong features, a five o’clock shadow that emphasises his jaw line, beautiful eyes and mouth, and a straight nose. What was he going to say again?
“No worries…” Jake eventually mumbles. A smile begins on the man’s face.
“So, I need some help,” the man states and Jake flushes, realising he is still kneeling behind the counter, staring at his customer. He scrambles to get up and the man backs away. Jake notices he’s wearing a very nice tailored suit. He’s dressed like the dickbags Jake usually deals with but has none of the assholishness that goes along with the suits.
“Sure, right, sorry,” Jake says, oh so coherently. “Uh, what can I do for you?”
“I’m on a wedding mission.” The man’s eyes flicker down to Jake’s chest and then back up to his face. “Jake… you would be the owner?”
“That’s me, Jake Nicholls.” He manages to put his hand out for a handshake without knocking anything down so Jake counts it as a win. Especially when the man accepts his handshake with another small smile, his hand slightly rough and fitting wonderfully around Jake’s.
“Maximinus Christiansen,” he introduces himself. He releases Jake’s hand after a moment too long and Jake subtly flexes his hand against the warm tingles flowing through it. “My sister, Lucy, is getting married. Unfortunately for myself and my brothers she has decided she wants the wedding to be in early April and thus has given us all jobs to assist in the planning.”
Jake feels a smile growing on his face, imagining a very stressed bride ordering her brothers around to make her big day perfect.
“And you got stuck with flower duty?”
Maximinus nods, smile growing a little as he studies Jake. “It was mostly my own fault. I refused to go cake testing with Tiberius as I was originally supposed to so Lucy gave me this job instead.” He hesitates slightly and leans towards Jake. “I have to confess, I don’t know anything about flowers or weddings so I really need your help or she’s going to murder me.”
Jake’s startled into a laugh. “That’s why I’m here, man. We do a fair few weddings every year. It’s uh…” He feels his cheeks heating up again in embarrassment. “Weddings are kind of my favourite. I get to go a little fancier for those arrangements than for any other occasion.”
Maximinus gives Jake a very warm look. “Good. That’s great. It was actually her fiancé, Marcus, who recommended you to me.”
Jake’s surprised. He remembers Marcus and finds himself pleased that the proposal obviously went well. And now he’s about to get a wedding job. He’ll actually get to make something particularly special and weddings are always profitable.
“Right… just let me…” Jake gestures down and Maximinus nods, looking amused as Jake ducks down under the counter to locate his catalogues.