I was really wishy-washy about whether or not I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year. On the one hand, I really need to finish editing my book from last year because I want to start querying agents (I went to a writing conference at the beginning of November and got some really valuable information on what I need to fix). But editing is sort of agonizing work, and I’ve realized that most authors edit and work on a new book at the same time for exactly this reason. You actually sometimes need to take a break from editing to write and vice versa. Of course, I haven’t really managed to do much switching back and forth—I’m basically just hanging on at this point, trying to get my words in for NaNo!
I did NaNoWriMo in 2014 and technically “won” (wrote my 50,000 words), but I didn’t come anywhere close to finishing my book, and I didn’t end up continuing it after NaNo. In 2016, I actually finished my NaNo book, and I was pretty darn happy with it. This year’s book will be more than 50,000 words, so I doubt I’ll actually finish it in November, but I have a solid concept and a decent outline, so I’m hoping I’ll be motivated enough to KEEP GOING once NaNo is through!
I once again decided to participate in Beautiful Books 2017 (which is hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In) and I’m answering their questions here! (Though I’m combining parts one and two and not doing ALL of the questions since I’m behind on posting this.)
A MEMORY OF MAGIC
Charlie’s family might be magical, but she certainly hasn’t lived a charmed life. Even though she was only one at the time, she still has vivid memories of the day she lost her hand. Even more prominent in her memory is the night her beloved older sister Rylin disappeared, when Charlie was just twelve years old.
But when Rylin’s body is discovered five years later, questions start to arise about what really happened to her that night. And Charlie can’t seem to put the pieces together in a way that makes sense. She loved her sister, idolized her even, but the picture that emerges of Rylin isn’t at all what Charlie remembers. And, worse, Charlie starts to wonder if she’s hidden the horrible truth, even from herself.
Charlie scrambles to uncover the mysteries behind Rylin’s death, but she’s not the only one who wants to know. The evidence is piling up and people are starting to question whether or not Charlie is truly the innocent girl she’s always seemed or if something sinister might lurk behind the surface. Only Ben, a boy who knows absolutely nothing of magic, seems to believe that Charlie is innocent. The last thing Charlie wants to do is pull Ben into her world. Especially if Charlie herself might be a murderer…
What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
The idea for this one popped into my mind just a couple of months ago when I read a really interesting article about the faultiness of memory. I suddenly got this great idea for a contemporary thriller, but I’m not all that into contemporary thrillers, so the idea got less and less exciting to me as time went on. That is, until I decided to add magic! The addition of magic got me excited again. And the stuff with memory has me fascinated.
I’m reading The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory by Julia Shaw (the original article I read was about her research) as inspiration and research, and I’m engrossed in every page! (Yep—I’m engrossed in a non-fiction book. What sort of sorcery is this?)
What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
See my Pinterest board. I haven’t got as much in this one as I had for my last book since I haven’t been planning it as long, but there are some really cool magic and memory pictures there!
As you can see, I also took time out to create a really awesome cover (pictured above). I think it turned out pretty darn good, considering I’m not particularly design-savvy. I got two photos from Unsplash (one from Jeremy Thomas and one from Christopher Campbell—you can click on the links to see the original photos) and I merged the girl from the one picture onto the starry sky from the other. The mountain setting behind the starry sky is perfect for the book too. The results were even better than I imagined!
UPDATE: Okay, I’m ashamed to admit this, but it wasn’t until after I wrote this post that I noticed a major flaw in my cover design—the girl in the image had two hands! I was so wrapped up in finding an image that represented the magic that I kind of forgot that it actually needed to represent her! Even though this is a completely fake book cover, I couldn’t leave it with such a glaring error—especially since it sort of seemed insulting to anyone with a missing limb or other disability. I updated it so that her left hand is missing. I still don’t know that it’s perfect, but it’s a lot better.
Ironically, I’ve been going back and forth on whether to leave this aspect in the story in or not, but for now it’s there, so I can’t show the cover with such a big misrepresentation!
Introduce us to each of your characters!
Charlie is friendly, sweet and popular (yes, those things can go together), though she does sometimes verge on being naive—she always wants to believe the best about people!
Rylin was Charlie’s older sister, who Charlie always put on a pedestal. Her disappearance when Charlie was twelve has haunted her.
Aishah is Charlie’s vibrant best friend. She’s Bengali (her parents are from Bangladesh). Aishah is charming and athletic and dreams of a basketball scholarship.
Elaina is Charlie’s cousin. She’s a bit stiffer and more aloof than Charlie’s other friends, but she loves and supports Charlie in ways that no one else can.
Ben is the only non-magical main character, though his Native American roots make him more open to the idea of magic and mysticism. His stepfather is heading up the investigation into Rylin’s murder.
How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
I had a pretty good outline for the first and third acts of this book, and some ideas of where I need to go during the second act. I’d say my preparation level is somewhere between where I was for my 2014 and 2016 novels—hopefully it works out well for me!
What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
Charlie’s goal is to discover who killed her sister. Her lack of memory about the night her sister disappeared is one thing that gets in her way—she’s afraid to learn why she’s repressed those memories!
How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Charlie learns two major lessons in this book: First, that our own minds cannot always be trusted. Second, that sometimes people are not who we imagine them to be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love them anyway.
AND NOW FOR THE UPDATE ON HOW WRITING IS ACTUALLY GOING:
Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
It’s going pretty well. I had a rough week personally last week, which made it hard to get up the mental energy to keep writing, but I’m not all that far behind and I think I should be able to make it up.
The biggest issue I’m having right now is feeling like I can get everything in without feeling rushed or skipping over too many details. When I go back through the editing process, I know I’m going to have to flesh some things out—add more magic, more of Ben (who is barely even a side character at this point—maybe he won’t be as important as I thought?), more references to Charlie’s missing hand (though I don’t want that to be a major focus of the book, it’s always there and it informs her thoughts, feelings and actions). Basically, I feel like I’m getting characterization and plot at this point, which is what I need for bare bones story, but I’ll need to do some major filling in of details.
What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
Memory is a funny thing. Our lives are full of beautiful days that we want to hold onto forever. Days that we wish would never end, full of carefree freedom, love, joy. So often, the details of those days seem to disappear all too quickly, fading until there’s nothing left but a mere shadow of that happiness—a butterfly that wisps across our skin so lightly that we almost can’t tell it’s there.
And then there are days that you wish you could forget. The days that haunt us and taunt us and make us cringe each time we bring up the merest recollection of them—which seems to happen far too often. Sometimes it seems like these are the days that stand out in our minds in most vivid detail.
At least that had been my experience.
Who’s your current favorite character in your novel?
I think it’s Aishah. She’s just fun to write.
How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
There’s a FB group that I post my word count progress on, but other than that, I’m pretty solitary. Though I will say that I’m at least talking to my family more about the concept for this book than I did for the last book (where I basically refused to utter more than a few words about the book at any given moment). 🙂
And, you know, I’m putting it here. Which makes it more real somehow.
What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
That word count really helps me. And I’ve been encouraged lately by some authors talking about how they got a late start with writing. Previously, I’d always felt like I’d kind of missed the boat and it was too late to take writing seriously. Suddenly, I feel like I could really do it—but I have to keep writing!
How do you find inspiration when you’re stuck?
Apparently, I do all my best thinking in the shower. Seriously, there have been three or four times during this book where I felt like I was stuck and had no idea where the next scene was going, and then I take a shower and by the time I’m done, I have the whole scene planned out, often in detail.
Warm water apparently stimulates my brain.
I told my husband this morning that if he finds me especially clean this month, that’s why. I basically need to spend all of the hours that I’m not writing in the shower, and I will be a brilliant author. A little waterlogged and kind of wrinkly, but utterly brilliant.
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo as well, feel free to add me as a writing buddy! My username is nmhewitt.
So, what do you think of my NaNoWriMo 2017 book idea? Are you planning to participate in NaNo this year? I want to know!