Thursday, April 23, 2015

Five Things I Learned Writing Sacrificial Lamb cake, a guest post from Katrina Monroe

1. Being a woman doesn’t make writing a female protagonist any easier.

My protagonist, Rain, and I have a lot in common. We’re both a little aggressive; we’re of the vagetarian persuasion; and we like our ranch dressing. But for a long time, she was a mystery to me. Writing Rain (previously Michelle, Kristin, and Rochelle) was like going on a series of blind dates that never saw any action apart from the slurping of a few margaritas. She had her walls up—had she been burned in the past? Was she looking for some casual fling rather than the long term commitment I wanted? It wasn’t until I let her come to me—in the middle of the night, mischievous grin cut across her face—that we were able to make it work.

2. Don’t push for the obvious jokes. Writing comedy is more delicate than that.

I knew I wanted to write comedy ever since I read Lamb by Christopher Moore. That guy can smack you across the face in a way that you laugh rather than cry. My first book, Reaper, was on the right track, but at the time I didn’t have the tools to make the chuckles happen the way I wanted. In Lamb Cake, because I had such distinct and starkly different characters to work with, I discovered the secret to good comedy in fiction is to let the characters be themselves.

3. A good title is ALL THE THINGS.

When I started doing events for Reaper, I already knew when Lamb Cake would be published, so I put a bug in anyone’s ear that would listen. The reaction every time I told a stranger the name of my forthcoming book, they smiled. Sometimes, they even laughed. Even better, they asked what it was about. These people hadn’t even seen the cover yet (which is also ALL THE THINGS) and they were intrigued.

Lamb Cake’s title came from a short series of emails between myself and my Aunt Cauline, mostly me whining about how horrible the book was (oh, and back then, it was—we’re talking 2004, ignorant-noob-awful Katrina) and how I couldn’t even come up with a title. It took her seconds to come up with Sacrificial Lamb Cake—a play on a childhood traditional Easter dessert—and I’m forever grateful to her for it.

4. Plot is important, but characters are too.

I hate being late. I’ll leave early and avoid highways to get where I need to be on time, if not a few minutes early. Such is the way with early drafts in my writing—I’m anxious to get from Point A to Point B, with the right number of stop-offs along the way to form a solid plot. It isn’t until I’m looking at the turn off sign for Point B that I remember to let my characters take the wheel. It is, after all, their road trip. Genre writers, I’ve noticed, will sometimes let this little detail pass them by. I make sure to read awesome literary writers like A.M. Homes, Kate Atkinson, and Janet Finch as reminders.

5. It’s not wrong to ask for what you want.

This bit is meant for the publishing side of the process. It wasn’t until recently that I learned when a publisher asks for your opinion, GIVE IT. No one knows your book better than you, so when the opportunity arises for you to let others behind the curtain to better understand your vision for the story, the book, the whole shebang, TAKE IT. I was lucky enough to have an awesome design consultant work with me on the cover for Lamb Cake who took my thoughts seriously. The end product is a culmination of my direct requests and the creative brains behind cover design at Red Adept Publishing. It has made me feel empowered to push for what I feel best represents my characters and their unique paths.

But this piece of advice can go for writing, too. It’s not wrong to ask for a few extra hours in the evening away from friends, family and whatever daily life distractions get in the way. It’s not wrong to disappear into the world you’re trying to create during that time you’ve designated as SUPER COOL IMAGINARY FRIEND TIME. It’s not wrong to pass on an invitation to a party you really didn’t want to go to anyway but felt obligated because this person did a favor for you ONCE a really, really long time ago and who really remembers it anyway… *breathes* In fact, I insist.

Get your copy of Katrina's latest book, Sacrificial Lamb Cake, from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.
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Mary Smith said...

Great post. Really enjoyed it.

Rebecca Forster said...

Great post. I can connect on so many levels. Thanks for the post.