Today we're in the middle of a Blog Ring of Power interview with Cary Caffrey. You can find the first two parts on Theresa's and Emily's blogs; Dean and Terri will host the concluding parts of the interview. For now, let's hear from Cary about his writing process:
Where do you get your story ideas?
It's always the characters that grab me first. I think about people (characters) that I want to read about, and then think about the situations that will really showcase their personalities.
I'm also a huge history fanatic. A lot of the ideas for TGfA came from my fascination with Feudal Japan. The ruling corporatocracy of TGfA is like the Shogunate of old Japan (in my mind); the Lady Hitomi Kimura is very much a Daimyo. I saw the Kimura Academy like some ancient secret compound of a Ninja Clan, hidden away up in the mountains of Alcyone.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I'm working on it!
I don't know if I have a style as much as a goal. I try to write as lean as possible. My goal is always to write a skim-free book. This is probably because I'm such an impatient reader, but also because I'm such a fan of those old 50's and 60's novelists. Those cats all came out of the newspaper business. They were trained to write in a really lean and concise style. Novels from that era were also drastically shorter - a trend I'd like to see come back in vogue.
I'm always happy to err on the side of too little versus too much.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Hmm... When I figure that one out I'll let you know.
How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I definitely don't have a formula. It's different every time. I always set out with a plan, but once things get put into play, the book, the characters, the plot, take on a life of their own. The key for me is constantly working to identify what works, what doesn't and why. I try not to force things. I just let things play out in what feels like the most natural way. Mostly, I always try to stay flexible and not get locked into any one course or idea.
Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser” (do you plan/outline the story ahead of time or write “by the seat of your pants”)?
Definitely a pantser! I always try to plot things out. I write lots of notes and outlines, but once I'm at the keyboard all the notes seem to get thrown out.
Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not?
Definitely beta readers. I don't think critiquing partners are a good idea (I'll get in trouble for saying this. LoL). Critiquing partners are writers, and writers and readers approach reading books differently (for the most part). Their agenda can be quite different. It's hard for another writer not to say, "if it were me, I'd do this...blah, blah, blah." That kind of approach to critiquing can be detrimental to another writer - it's too easy to get pulled off course. It's for the same reason I don't recommend workshopping WiPs.
It's more important for me to learn if what I wrote worked, and if it had the intended affect. That's why beta readers are the perfect solution for me. They're a great way of gauging whether or not my writing is having the impact I intended.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging to write?
I think in almost anything I've written there have always been sexy bits, but I'd never written an actual sex scene until TGfA. I never anticipated having sex in the book. It wasn't something I planned. But when I got to that point in the book it became abundantly clear that it was something I had to tackle. That scene absolutely had to be there. It was so important to the plot and the development of the main characters. I didn't want it to be explicit (I certainly didn't want it to be porn!), but I knew I couldn't chicken out or conveniently fade out to the "crackling fire." It was important to see these characters come together.
I've never sweated a scene so much as I did that one, and I've never felt so personally exposed as a writer. But I'm absolutely thrilled by how it's been received.
Author Bio: I grew up reading vintage science fiction from the 60’s and 70’s, loving the works of Harry Harrison and Joe Haldeman, Ursula Le Guin, Andre Norton and, of course, Douglas Adams. I still think The Forever War may very well be the best Science Fiction novel ever written. If Ridley Scott ever gets off his can and makes this movie, we're sure to be in for a real treat (favourite directer, meet favourite writer. Favourite writer meet... Well, you get the idea. Wild).
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cary.caffrey
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13120464-the-girls-from-alcyone