Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday's Children 7.18.13: Inspired by Diversity! An interview with Craig L. Gidney

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!
A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!
Today's post brings you my very first blog interview with author Craig L. Gidney.

 Allow me to detail how Mr. Gidney and I became acquainted.

 Approximately two weeks ago, I became rather interested in observing a movement that has been gaining steam in the writing community.
The issue of Diversity in YA literature.
Needless to say I am a strong advocate for those who would bring characters of various minorities, sexual orientations, and cultures onto the Middle Grade/Young Adult stage.
Not only did I begin to examine my own work, but I begin to notice within the Twitterverse (where I find 99% of my writing/publishing contact) I was one of a remarkably few people of color.
Then I realized that I was the only person of color that I was aware of writing Middle Grade fantasy.
One step further: I was the only homosexual, person of color that was writing Middle Grade fantasy.

Surely this couldn't be, I thought. I certainly couldn't be the only one.

Thankfully (as is often the case) I was right - I wasn't the only one.
I put out a call on Twitter seeking anyone that was aware of a male, homosexual, person of color who writes speculative fiction for Middle Grade, Young Adult...and New Adult.
It took 5 1/2 hours, and many kind strangers Re-Tweeting - but I was finally directed to Craig L. Gidney.

My joy couldn't have been contained.

I found his work on Amazon, I found his Twitter, and from there I made my way to his website.
As the discussion and search for authentic Minority characters intensifies throughout the publishing industry - I fear we may forget that the pool of Minority authors is just as small as the one for Minority characters.
I e-mailed Mr. Gidney. I was hungry for the world to see and to know someone like him, who is - ultimately - someone like me (except Mr. Gidney's prose has a magical, compelling quality that I will never master).
In my e-mail, I asked Mr. Gidney for an interview and he graciously accepted.

Ladies and gentlemen on the other side of the screen please give Mr. Gidney a warm welcome....

The obligatory first question an author is always asked: What brought you to writing? How did it begin for you?

It started in the second grade. I was still learning how to print letters, and we were given a class assignment to write a story. Ostensibly, this assignment was to demonstrate our vocabulary and spelling. For me, though, it was a springboard to create. I think that long lost work was about mermaids. I filled about 10 sheets of that gray, wide-lined paper they had back then. I remember one of the teachers told me, “You will be a writer when you grow up.”

As an aspiring author the publication journeys of authors are a keen interest of mine. What circumstances led you to the method of publication you chose?

Social media was a key component. I kept a Livejournal account, and made the acquaintance of Steve Berman of Lethe Press. He mentioned that he had an anthology he had been editing, called So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction, and he announced a call to submit on his Livejournal. My short story collection arose from that initial contact.

In your new novel, Bereft, Rafael "Rafe" Fannen is a young boy at a religious school struggling with a dark secret about his identity. What was your inspiration for this story?

My older brother had a book in his room, called Black Skin, White Mask by Franz Fanon. The cover of the book a picture of a black man wearing a white half-mask. That photograph terrified me! Later, when I was in college, I read some Fanon, and as a response wrote a draft of the story that would eventually become the novel. Rafe’s last name, Fannen, is a direct homage to Fanon. The novel is opened up with a quote from a William Blake poem that gave the novel its title.

Now, it's a very crude, broad-stroke faux synopsis to say"a young boy at a religious school with a dark secret about his identity." Bereft is so much more than that; the layers and nuance wrapped in your lyrical prose are magnificent. From your perspective what sets Bereft apart from the other Young Adult LGBT fiction out there?

Bereft is a novel that’s “in conversation” with a number of cultural narratives and tropes. Rafe deals with some heavy issues through his rich inner life, which reference everything from fantasy literature to Christian theology. I put a lot of work into the subtext; as readers we absorb messages subliminally, so it was important to me to be aware of that. Rafe navigates a world where his mother’s Angels battle against his father’s African masks. Where the Virgin Mary is also Lady Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. The symbolism in the book was carefully crafted.

You've mentioned the importance of Young Adult readers seeing themselves in the books they read. I heartily agree! What book were you reading when you first saw yourself? much of you is in Rafe?

Andre Norton’s novel Lavender-Green Magic was very important to me. It was one of her YA novels, about a black family who move to a New England town. The kids find an enchanted pillow that transports them to Colonial Times where they end up in the midst of a power struggle between two witches. I was simply enthralled that she included black people in her work.

As for the second part of the question, there is a lot of Rafe in me. In addition to the identity issues, I did go to a religious school, was bullied, and read lots of books. Where Rafe and I differ is that both of my parents were together, stable, and upper middle class.

Can you describe your writing process? How do you "get in the zone"?

I brainstorm on paper. This is where plot points, images, and various scenes are dreamed up. I have several notebooks filled with ideas. When I compose the text, I listen to music, mostly songs without words in the ambient genre. I always have my brainstorm notebooks open, in case an idea for a later section pops into my head. At the end of the writing session, I jot down where I finished and what more needs to be written.

What are three professional goals you hope to accomplish?

I don’t have three professional goals, only one. That’s to be able to write full-time. It’s become increasingly difficult for freelancers. Writing does not pay the bills, and there are horror stories about best-selling authors dying penniless or being unable to get health insurance.

We get a taste of your vivid, fantastical imagination in your collection of short stories Sea, Swallow Me. Do you plan on returning to the fantasy realm in the near future, or can we expect more poignant LGBT contemporary stories? Both?

I am currently working on two fantasy projects. One is a magical-realist novel that may or may not be YA. The second thing I’m working on is a themed collection of fantasy/magical realist/horror short stories that focus on African American characters.

In your blog you mentioned you grew up as a "geek". As a sci-fi fantasy nerd myself I know that Once a Geek, Always a Geek. What are some things you fan-boy over?

I am mostly a book geek, so when a favorite author comes out with a book, I get weak. I also am a music geek. I go to shows when I can afford to. I’ve become more of a film buff, and like everything from angst-ridden indies, cult classics and Hollywood blockbusters. I want to see Pacific Rim so much!

Top three authors (living or dead) you would have over for dinner?

I would invite the fantasy author Tanith Lee, who has been really supportive of me. I managed to get a couple of her obscure books back in print. James Baldwin would be interesting—I understand he was quite the character. And Toni Morrison—she’s so eloquent. I imagine that I would silently eat my meal (at the French Laundry; always dream big, I say) in quiet awe.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Remember that you love writing. Most likely, you won’t be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. You will end up on the midlist or published by a small press, and you will collect rejection slips (or emails) more than you will acceptances. But you will persist, because you must tell stories.

What is the most magical, extraordinary, or exciting thing ever to happen to you?

Picture it: a Brazilian beach, surrounded by surf and sand. The wild sea crashing against a rock where I was standing. An unbridled pony, nibbling beach grass. A sky the blue color that seems to only exist in fairytales. I was alone but I felt euphoric. I felt a mystical connection to everything.

Thank you so much for your time Mr. Gidney, I would have a thousand other questions, but I only allow myself twelve (it's one of my magic numbers). It is my sincerest hope that your audience continues to expand.

For those of you curious to read Mr. Gidney's mesmerizing work you can read one of his short stories, "Magpie Sisters", here. Be aware that Bereft is available on Amazon, and Kindle, it's definitely worth your time. Keep Mr. Gidney in your thoughts (and on your bookshelf) as he is definitely an author to watch!

Until we meet again!

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Friday, July 12, 2013

My Worst Experiences = My Defining Moments, and Where I Go from Here

Next week I'm preparing to host my first blog interview with someone who I consider a role-model.

I don't use the term "role-model" lightly. Being very different from everyone I've been surrounded by in my formative years I've crafted significant portions of my personality from my favorite literary characters.
That may seem silly to some of you, but as an only child with a single, working mother and living outside of the district of the school I attended my peer interaction (until I was 16) was very limited. Television and the books on my shelves were simultaneously my escape and my social education.

As for my role-model? Last week I plumbed the far reaches of the Twitterverse asking my friends and acquaintances:

"Help! Searching for a male, homosexual, POC {Person of Color} author who writes MG/YA/NA speculative fiction..."

It took multiple Re-tweets from kind friends and strangers, but eventually I was directed to Craig L. Gidney.

You see, in the far future when I find my way to (hopefully) your bookshelf a part of me was very scared that I would be alone. I write MG/YA speculative fiction, I am a person of color, and I am gay.

But here he was, my personal Trailblazer. The one who came before, and in my elation and excitement I quickly (with trembling hands) e-mailed Mr. Gidley asking for an interview, and he graciously accepted.

As I perused Mr. Gidney's blog postings - which you should also because they're intelligent, insightful, and beautifully written - I noticed that there were many references to Black and African American culture, and homosexual culture as well.

I'm about to post my personal experiences and feelings which may make me unpopular for some of've been warned.

If you haven't noticed (if you're familiar with my blog or my twitter feed) rarely do I directly take stances on what I refer to as "Minority Issues". I often Re-tweet or reply to things that I agree with or vaguely comment on things that I don't. As for a well crafted, concise essay on why _____ is right/wrong - it's rare to hear my point of view in my own words.

Mostly it's because I had a hard-working, bold, formidable Momma-Bear who protected me from the worst of the world as I grew up. My experience with the evils of the world is limited. For instance, my mother didn't reveal to me until I was twelve that my grandparents were racists before I was born. I had no idea; they took me everywhere and bought me everything that I ever wanted. They were Nanna and Pa. They weren't those awful people that you see in movies. Their love for me changed their hearts before I could even talk so I never got to see the worst of them - thankfully. They are still my Nanna and Pa, and they love me like crazy.
Because of Mom I grew up in a very optimistic bubble full of books, cartoons, and toys.
My first experience with racism didn't come until I was in the third grade.

Mom doesn't even know about this.

To be clear, I knew that I was different. It was a vague, uninterested sort of observation that I came to very early in life. I had been ostracized since Kindergarten for being a "girl". That never bothered me. Girls were my preferred company, and they never called me a girl. The people that called me that were in the periphery of my attention - and most often beneath it.

At my elementary school, students gathered outside the cafeteria before school, and ten minutes before 8am we were lined up and ushered into the building by our teachers.

One morning three young boys - who I didn't know at the time - pushed their way in front of me.

"Get outta my way, nigger," the first one said.

I blinked in surprise.

No one had ever called me that before.

I'd heard it in movies, I knew what it meant, and I knew it was an ugly thing to say.

But I didn't know how to react.

I was raised never to start fights, but always to finish them.

But the blonde boy didn't hit me - he just called me a name, and I had been called names before...just not THAT name.

Then the other two boys turned around.

For five minutes the three of them giggled and called me "nigger" over and over.

They thought it was funny.

At one point they even started flipping me the bird while giggling and saying the word.

I stood there and looked at them.

I memorized their faces.

I still didn't know what to do.

You didn't tattle-tale. They were just being kids, calling names, and doing things that "bad kids" did.

Another boy - who, once again, I didn't know - pulled me back out of my place in line.

"You have to tell a teacher!" Andy told me.

I shook my head, "No, it's not a big deal."

I was scared.

If Mom found out what those boys did - she would hurt them. She would hurt their parents; the world would catch on fire and explode if Mom found out what happened. Those boys didn't deserve the Wrath of Mom.

Since then, I've always considered myself merciful.

"Well then I'm telling," Andy said. He looked as worried and distressed as a fellow third grader could look, he went and found the chaperone, and I disappeared into the crowd.

I saw him point to me, and the parent-chaperone look over at me.

No one came to talk to me.

No one came to find me.

Until now, only Andy, those three boys, and I know what happened that morning.

Andy and I became friends when we were in high school. More accurately - we were part of the same large group of friends. He's married to a wonderful woman with a beautiful little girl. He never stopped being a Good Guy, and he'll never really know how grateful I was to have an advocate - even though I didn't reach out when he offered his hand.

Two of those boys I actually became casual friends with as well. They both currently serve in our armed forces, and one has a family of his own now.

None of us have ever spoken of that morning in line outside of the cafeteria.

I doubt any of them except me remember it.

Maybe Andy.

But because Andy is good and polite I doubt he would ever mention it if he does remember.


It wouldn't be until 7th grade that I fired the shot heard 'round the school.

I was one of the academically recognized students able to leave class five minutes early to go to lunch.
We left Mr. Smith's English Class, and a well-known "bad kid" happened to be walking down the hall with his sister. His sister was in my homeroom the previous year, and we got along well - she thought I was funny (which was how I won most of my friends).

One of the faux-trees caught a breeze that blew through the atrium we were walking through and fell on her shoulder.

The tree weighed all of 5 pounds.

It caught the six of us in the hall by surprise.

I chuckled, "Be careful!"

"Shut up, nigger."

The boy, her brother, said it.

At this point in my life, my temper and sense of indignation had started to develop. I was far less peaceable than I was as a child, and there was no fear of Mom's retaliation. I was 12 and an invincible know-it-all. Think of a sassy, brown Hermione with a penis.

"What did you say?" I asked calmly. My hands were shaking, and my chest and face could have cooked an egg they were so hot.

"You heard me," the boy replied.

"Yeah, I did."

Without preamble or fanfare I punched him, and immediately turned around and walked the rest of the way to lunch.

Little did I know the woman who would be my 8th grade science teacher saw (though didn't hear) our altercation from down the hall.

She followed me into the cafeteria and pulled me out of the lunch line.

When we made it to the Assistant Principal's office I was already in tears.

I was Colten! I never got in trouble! I never hit anyone! I was never mean! I wasn't one of the bad kids! I didn't break rules!

Mom arrived seven minutes after I made a weeping phone call.

Mom never leaves the house without make-up. When she burst through the front doors of the school her normally pristine cosmetic mask was streaked and smudged 9 ways from Sunday.

She was so proud of me.

My teachers were so proud of me.

Since I did punch the boy I got 2 days In-School-Suspension (ISS)...The boy got 5 days.

My teachers sent me cards, brought candy into the tiny dungeon-like ISS building, and my theatre teacher was the only one who gave me an assignment. She provided me with a radio and headphones, and instructed me to list my top 10 favorite songs that played on my favorite stations.

I knew the boy wasn't a racist. He used The Word to get a rise out of me. He wanted to start a fight. He had black friends, his sister was a casual acquaintance of mine; he was just trying to be what my family would call a "Billy Badass".

I never harbored any ill-will towards him. I knew that's all he was trying to do, but by the time I was 12 - I had deemed such behavior Unacceptable.

 I found out seven months ago that he died.
I came across his sister's facebook and she posted a "RIP Baby Bro". I looked up the newspaper article from my hometown. He died in a high speed chase from the police in 2011. He lost control of his vehicle.

Now homophobia I am more familiar with...but not the ugly "we hate gays" kind, but the ignorant, reckless-with-words kind. I was a "girl" until 5th grade when everyone learned the word "gay", and it never really bothered me.

But three years ago when I was twenty-three I had my first disturbing taste of true, ugly homophobia.

I had gotten a speeding ticket in Canyon, TX.

It's the 12,000 person town where my former University is located.

I was working a job for barely above minimum wage and the ticket was more than I could afford.
I went to the appropriate city office to determine a payment arrangement.
There was a young, brunette lady sitting behind the desk.
Typical, moderately attractive West-Texas girl. She was my age.
I had engaged with her earlier and she was overtly hostile.
So this time I turned on the voice recorder on my cell phone. If she stepped out of line, I would have proof.
She and an older woman who also worked in the office took me to a small room so we could discuss the details of the payment arrangement.
At one point I had to go back out to my car to retrieve the original ticket.

I left my cell-phone - still recording - on the table.

Once I left, having made the payment arrangement, I got to my car and back-tracked on the recording to see what I had missed.
The older woman said something that was muddled.
The young brunette, who was sitting closer to my phone replied to whatever the older woman said:

"It just makes me sick that he takes it up the ass!"

She was vehement. There was an exclamation point at the end of her sentence.
My hands are trembling even as I write this.
I felt my stomach shrivel, and twenty minutes later when I arrived at work my co-workers commented on how flushed and pale I looked.
I explained to them what happened.

"You have to do something!" they pushed.

I didn't know what to do.
Who do you call?
What do you say?
It was so shameful, and it made me feel - for the very first time in my life - Wrong.

I ended up doing nothing.

Would it make her homophobia worse if I retaliated? Was she not entitled to her own beliefs? She didn't say it TO me she said it to a co-worker ABOUT me. My co-workers said awful things about her once I told them the story - Fair is Fair.

It was (and is) a terrible reminder of the world we live in, and the kinds of people we inhabit it with - and I'm sure she feels that exact same way about me.

But here's the thing...this is why I don't draw attention to those moments in my life...and why you may find me ...irritating.

We are all discriminated against. Fat-shaming, slut-shaming, racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, protestants-vs-catholics, etc... No one crime is greater than another. As a brown person if I cry "Racism!" at every encounter I feel may have disadvantaged me in some way then I am a victim. And there are people in the world who are REAL victims.

I am intelligent, creative, I live with a beautiful man who loves me, I have friends who I adore and who cherish me...I am blessed. That is enough. The people who Don't have those things are victims. The people who are prevented from attaining those things are victims.

Those kids grew out of whatever phase they were going through when they taunted me. They don't hate black people any more than I do.

That hideous-hearted girl from Canyon will never be able to achieve success outside of the bubble of West Texas without a tolerant attitude toward those who are different. And frankly, that's fine, because as far as I can discern she has nothing to offer the wider world.

I don't mention my stances on issues because more often than not I've observed that taking a stand creates an issue instead of solving it.

Never start a fight, but always finish it.

That's how I was raised.

But I was also raised to Pick My Battles.

Is that brunette in a position of significant authority? Did I not recieve the payment arrangement I went to make because of her attitude? No.
She said something nasty and hurt my feelings, but ultimately I still got my way. It all ended well.
It wasn't unjust for her to speak her mind to her colleague.

I'll fight injustice tooth and nail, and down to the grave.

But I find we have to be very careful to not limit the freedoms of others as we (minorities in general) pursue our own. Tolerance is a two way street, and sometimes that road can get narrow.

My interview with Mr. Gidney will definitely touch upon diversity in literature. The world thirsts for it. I would like to think that my friend's children wouldn't blink twice at an epic fantasy series set in Austrailia with an Asian heroine when they are old enough to read Young Adult books. (That's not my story, but you get the drift.)

We didn't have that growing up. Conscious Diversity is something new, and I think those of us who have endured any type of injustice should lace our stories with the wisdom we've learned from our encounters. So that the kids like me, who build their souls from pieces of other's imaginations can learn things like charity, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and love without being preached at, or scarred...but entertained.

The world is what we make of it. Because I've seen ugly human hearts and minds I can recognize virtue much more clearly. So it is virtue that I cling to and cultivate. I would rather create beauty and harmony than fight fire with fire.
I write because I want to create good things. I want to foster open minds, and warm hearts. I want others to cherish and pursue idealism and innocence.

I've only fought when the time was right. When someone tested the boundaries and pushed too far. It was a small battle...and I think - in the end - people like that always end up defeating themselves one way or another.

So now as I prepare to converse with someone whose experience and cultural knowledge vastly outweighs mine, I look to him for guidance. Ultimately looking to answer the questions I always ask I too soft, and I too naive, am I too idealistic? (I've been called a "Pollyanna" more than once in my life.)

This week I get to introduce you to a brilliant author who writes magical prose, and I get to learn about myself in the process. I look forward to us getting acquainted with Mr. Gidney.

Until we meet again!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday's Children 7-11-13: Inspired By FIRSTS

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!
A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

This week on Thursday's Children in honor of the Like A Virgin Contest we were asked to answer 7 questions in regards to our personal lives, and our writing.

I love being interviewed. More than that I love interviewing; getting to know people is one of my favorite experiences.

There was a lot of "adieu" in the rough draft of this blog, but then I decided I love saying "without further adieu" more than I love sharing more weird idiosyncrasies about myself so...

Without further adieu:

1. How do you remember your first kiss?

I had just turned nineteen, and he had just turned twenty-three. Which might seem a little old for a first kiss, but in small-town Texas boys who like boys don't get a lot of opportunities when it comes to romance.
On the first day, in my first class of my first fall semester I saw that the metallic, slate-blue "N" on his gray New Balance shoes matched the blue of his eyes. I was smitten.
Over the school year we became the best of friends; which led up to a conversation in the following  April where we both confessed for the first time in our lives to another person that we were gay.
In July - the wee hours of the morning on July 8, 2006 to be exact - while less than sober, and more than uninhibited we each shared our first kiss.
At the time it was everything I ever wanted.
For 11 months I had wondered what it would be like to kiss him, and be Out There with someone.
My sexual orientation was one of the worst kept secrets of my youth.
Since everyone learned the word "gay" in 5th grade that's what I was called. But growing up in a small town where everybody knows everybody I had more friends than people who didn't like me, and the taunts never really got under my skin because a) I knew it to be true b) I knew it didn't change anything about me as a person, and c) Because I omitted, denied, and avoided claiming that part of my identity for so long I eventually became my own adjective to my friends and relatives: "That's just Colten"/ "That's so Colten!"
I promised myself in high school - when my Baptist upbringing had reconciled itself with my teenage boy desires - that I wouldn't say anything about being Gay until I had Someone (a boyfriend). It seemed useless otherwise. I felt that claiming that kind of label without a reason would lead people to believe that somehow I was different than the person they grew up knowing.
So through the lens of hindsight I remember my first kiss as sloppy, unromantic, and reckless (it wasn't the beginning to a relationship but a very fun and very sad ending of a friendship)...but without that kiss I wouldn't have had the courage to Be Myself, or claim that part of my identity that allows me to love freely now.

2. What was your first favorite love song?

Texas has the University Interscholastic League (UIL) which is an organization that sponsors academic competitions between participating schools. One Act Play is one such competition. I was in "One Act" from eighth grade through my senior year in high school.
My junior year we were watching the first show (we were slated to perform 5th), and I was sitting next to the boy who I would compare all men to for the next 9 years of my life.
We met my freshman year in high school he was one of the tech guys in my theatre class - not a performer, but he liked to help build sets and take trips during competition season.
Dishwater blonde curls, dark blue eyes, he hunted, fished, played baseball, football, and basketball - I also attended his Eagle Scout ceremony. But what sealed the deal was during rehearsal one afternoon I saw him reading Shogun by James Clavell. He's a guy's guy AND he reads historical fiction set in Asia?!  

That's what I thought about men who read for pleasure when I was in High School.

In short order we were best friends (notice a trend?).
Then a year and half later we're sitting in this dark theater in some high school in central Texas. The show was Sweet Nothing's in My Ear.  At one point in the show the husband and wife are remembering the night they fell in love, and conceived their son on a beach. The music the director/sound designer chose for this moment was Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me".
To this day every time I hear that song I think of him.
How it felt to be his best friend, sitting there right beside him wishing that he could feel the way I felt, wishing that I could even tell him how I felt. I've experienced that simultaneous rapture and longing remarkably few times in my life - it's a horrible, glorious feeling. "Come Away With Me" brings me back to that time in my life.

3. First thing you do when writing for the day?

I'm easily distracted. So I have to "get in the zone". I pace back and forth through our apartment. I have to map out and plan exactly what I'm going to write that day otherwise I'll meander through my MS as much as I did answering questions 1 and 2! I'll do this until I have a clear first sentence to the chapter and a final moment. What's in the middle comes on the fly, but I've been known to pace for up to two hours before I actually sit down to write.

4. Who was the first writer who inspired you to write?

Stephen King. No question. I read The Stand when I was 11 years old, and still I wonder what it would be like be one of the last people on earth. I realized that I wanted to make people feel as strongly as I did for his characters. I wanted to make people feel things, and alter the way they viewed certain things. King's work exposed me to varied belief systems and perspectives on issues that I had yet to experience or consider. I knew then that I wanted to do that for people.

5. Does the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?

NO! Hahahaha, and that makes my best friend, Kim, so-so-So happy. She hated the opening prologue from the moment she read it. It's been tweaked, cut, and altered several different times across 7 drafts. How it stands now is about a page and a half, and significantly different from the bloated introduction it was.

6. For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot, or setting?

Characters, and right on the heels of that - Setting. The title is what initially came to me, and immediately when I asked the question "Who" in regards to my title my characters waved politely, and introduced themselves. I had to do very little work with most of my characters. Oliver gave me a bit of trouble in the beginning.

7. What is the first word you want to roll of the tip of someone's tongue when they think of your writing?

I want them to shout "MORE!" ...because - God willing - there will be.

Until we meet again!

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Names are my favorite.

More precisely, naming characters is one of my favorite "in process" points of telling a story.

The other day on twitter one of my favorite, dry-humored Agents mentioned a query he received with characters whose names made them sound "insufferable".

Naturally, I chuckled a wee bit, but then remembered (as I often do when that Agent tweets) that I would be mortified if I recognized my work as something they commented on.

What if the Agent said (if it were my query), "MG character names in this query: Bianca, Scarlett, and Oliver. If these were people in real life, I think they would be insufferable to be around."

*The names the Agent commented on were Dylan, Soren, and Thea. Which - to me - are perfectly acceptable names*

I put a lot of work into naming my characters. My main character's names fell into my head rather easily, but my supporting cast? Ha! I had to discover who everyone was, and then I had to really observe what they looked like in my mind's eye. One character (one of my favorites) her first name changed so many times I was still debating it on my fifth draft.
I take into account where they were born, their socio-economic standing, their appearance, and most importantly what their name means.

My most often used resource is

I put clues into my character names; clues about who they are, or who they're going to become. If not clues then allusions to something else (often a favorite television character with the same name). Otherwise I just have a giant notebook of names that sound really cool to me.

My Bianca could never be a Whitney. My Scarlett could never be a Poppy. Those are acceptable names, of course, but because of their personalities and appearance the names wouldn't ring true to the reader.
Oliver could never be a Trevor, Paul, or Peter, but he could be an Ethan - which became his middle name. He was almost Andrew...but the meaning of the name Oliver sealed the deal. It is perfect, and hints at the future of his character.

I've read a couple of MG/YA book series' where the names of the characters are a struggle for me to remember.
(People who know me will note that I have a near flawless memory.)
Names - for me - indicate a closeness with a character. When I recall those stories with the forgettable character names I can still remember the plot of the story, or names of certain characters. Times like that I think the author and I were in synch. The characters were a vehicle for the author's plot (which I remember clearly) but no more; the character names I actually remember I think the author must have really enjoyed writing.
How close an author is with their characters and how they view their characters is hidden in the name.

How do you name your characters? Is it an arduous process? Is it in-depth? Do you find that your character's names come to you easily? - (I envy you!)

Until we meet again!