What am I currently working on? I am just finishing up a deepening revision of a historical YA adventure romance, THE LIES AND ILLUSIONS OF LUCY SPARROW. Set in San Francisco in 1876 on San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast, it’s a story about a proper young lady named Lucy who arrives in San Francisco on her own, hoping to find her twin brother, but when everything goes terribly wrong she does the only thing she can to survive—dress as a boy and join a girl gang of ex-prostitutes who dress as boys and pick-pockets for a living. Of course, there are many complications including a fun mistaken-identity-romance triangle that nods at Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
There are no other YA stories set in San Francisco in the late 1800’s (that I know of) and it was such an amazing time and place! In 1876, the young city was bursting with new wealth from the influx of gold and silver and was cultured, glamorous, wild and full of extraordinary characters, many who have woven their way into the fabric of Lucy’s story including Jeanne Bonnet, Emperor Norton, Miss Piggott and Herrmann The Great. San Francisco’s notorious Barbary Coast was the city’s criminal district, home to hoodlums, depraved denizens and vicious criminals, earning its well- deserved reputation for vice and iniquity. I bet you didn’t know that he word ‘hoodlum’ was coined on the Barbary Coast in the late 1860’s and popularized in the 1870’s, as was the word ‘shanghaied’ which referred to the common practice of drugging and kidnapping unsuspecting young men into forced labor on ships bound for Shanghai. Of course, shanghaiing hoodlums make their way into Lucy’s story as well!
Whether I’m writing contemporary YA, fantasy or historical fiction, the beginning is a flurry of ideas, with a setting, a character and a circumstance. I try to get down all the possibilities, all the ideas, then start connecting the ones that have the potential to be causally linked scenes. At the same time, I start developing my character and she (so far my MC has always been a girl) usually invites other characters that also get profiles. Then I take a big (BIG) piece of paper and write down all the possibly connecting scenes with the characters surrounding them. From there, I start to put together what might be vaguely (very vaguely) called a plot. I’m a very visual person, so I need lots of visual aids—I draw maps, cast my characters and print out their photos, find pictures in books, old albums, online and in magazines to cut out use as visual references. And then I start writing. The story never ends up following my initial pretend plot, but thinking I might have a story with a real plot gives me the false security to keep going and allows all the wonderful surprises that happen along the way to happen.
I’m not one of those writers who can just whip out a shitty first draft. I labor over words, sentences, passages. It’s not very efficient, but I can’t get up until the writing feels right. I do allow myself to write some bad dialogue, knowing that it will come out better in later drafts once I know more about my characters. The same for getting the emotion just right on the page. That comes with time over many, many drafts.
So who’s next? I’m tagging super blogger and author Debbi Michiko Florence! She’ll be blogging at DEBtastic Reads about her writing process on June 3rd
Debbi is the author of two nonfiction children’s books, Japan: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book and China: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book (Williamson Books), and also writes children’s fiction. She interviews authors and shares book buzz on her blog DEBtastic Reads! A native Californian, she has lived and traveled all over the world. She currently lives in coastal CT with her husband, rat terrier, and two ducks.
Also, be sure to watch for Tam's writing process post here next week!
In the meantime, while you wait for Tam and Debbi’s post, you can read other posts on this writing process blog tour at: