I met Adrienne Kress through the Toronto MG/YA Author Group (Torkidlit). She's smart, funny and passionate about her craft, and I've appreciated her advice and encouragement over the years. I interviewed Adrienne about her middle grade novels last year, and I can't wait to buy her new YA steampunk novel, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY (Dial, Dec/2012). More info on her website: AdrienneKress.com.
If you're in the Toronto area, I encourage you to go to Adrienne's book launch on Fri. Dec. 7th at the Gladstone Hotel. Check out this VERY cool event launch poster (click to see the bigger version):
Summary of the plot from a starred Quill & Quire review of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY: "The steampunk adventure novel, set in Edwardian London, follows the lives of three very different teenage girls, each of whom works for an important man but also maintains a life of her own. The three strangers – Cora (the lab assistant), Nellie (the magician’s assistant), and Michiko (the Japanese fighter’s assistant) – find themselves thrust together as the result of a horrific unsolved murder and quickly discover that, by combining their special skills, they can accomplish more than they ever thought possible."
Above: BookEnds interviews Adrienne about steampunk fiction, writing & THE FRIDAY SOCIETY.
Q. What was your creative process for The Friday Society?
The creative process for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY was very similar to the process for my writing in general.
It starts with thinking. Normally I get a cool basic idea. In this case it was a team of female Steampunk superheroes. Then I start to problem solve: how many should there be? Who are they? How do they meet? What is the basic plot that drives them? What are the supporting characters? Etc. The more I think, the more comes to me. It's all a bit of a logic exercise, "If they are like this, then this means that. If this is their job, that means that they probably live here. . ." and so on.
I really do just think about it for a good while. If the idea sticks with me, if it gives me butterflies still a week later, I take that as a sign that the idea has staying power. That's the key with writing for me. The act of writing is not glamorous. It's hard work. You aren't always inspired to write. In fact many days you feel a bit like a little kid who doesn't want to get up in the morning: "I don't wanna!!" So you need to have a project that you are completely passionate about. That you are willing to work through the rough patches for. At least I do.
Then comes figuring out the voice. This usually begins by jumping into the deep end and just starting writing. For THE FRIDAY SOCIETY it took a bit more effort than usual coming up with the voice. I started out writing it oldy-timey - a bit like the voice I used in my short story in the anthology CORSETS & CLOCKWORK - but it didn't really suit the light irreverent tone I was going for. Eventually the idea of writing the book in a contemporary voice came to me, and it made SO much sense. After all, the key to Steampunk is that it is anachronistic - a story set in the past but with futuristic technology and attitudes. Well why couldn't the actual act of telling the story be anachronistic too?? (if you want to read a post on the subject of anachronisms in Steampunk and why I chose the voice I did, check out my blog here). Once I had the voice, I could really get going on the story.
Now back when I was younger when I wrote just for fun, I realised I was the kind of person who enjoyed starting to write and seeing where the story took me. If I planned something out too much I got bored. I would feel, "Well, I already know what happens, what's the point in me writing it?" But I quickly learned that if I didn't do any planning whatsoever I would paint myself into a corner that I just couldn't get out of. So what I tend to do is a combination of both. I come up with a very basic plan, and then I fill in the blanks in the moment as I write. I also tend to plan in phases. So I'll plan the first fifth of the book, and when I'm coming to the end of that, I'll stop and plan the next fifth. Etc. As an example: with the beginning of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY I decided I wanted three chapters of introductions per girl and then I wanted my girls to meet up at a gala where they would come across . . . something mysterious. Seriously, that was it. Not much to go on, but still enough that I knew where I was going.
I should add at this point that I do tend to have a very basic idea of what the novel will be on the whole. This is part of what I think about during the thinking phase. But again it's very basic. In the case of TFS it was, "I want a Steampunk superhero origins story where my three girls defeat someone intent on destroying London for some reason. Also there will be subplots." :)
As I continue to write my book I, of course, come across bumps in the road and face difficult problem solving. This is always tricky to manage but I have learned that if I just stick with it I can get out to the other side. Sometimes it means moving onto something else or just going for a walk to clear my head. Sometimes it means sitting there and figuring it out one word at a time. And it's kind of amazing the direction your brain can take you. The characters of Hayao and Dr. Mantis were meant to be small one offs, but as I wrote them they just took on a life of their own and became integral to the story. This is why I enjoy not planning every little thing as I write, I love being surprised by my own story.
Now my method is simply mine. It certainly does not work for everyone. The most important thing is for a writer to find what works for him/her and be confident in that technique. So many blogs will tell you absolutes. But here's a secret: whatever works for you, works for you. Try different methods, see what sticks and discard that which doesn't. Don't be afraid to fail, and don't second guess when something is working for you.
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Unfortunately my advice in not particularly glamorous nor original. It is: Read and Write. Ta da! To elaborate. . . Read. Read a lot. Read every genre and every medium. Read novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, graphic novels, picture books etc etc and so forth. Everything you read will inform what you write. It will teach you the writing rules, it will teach you how to break those rules. It will teach you what you like, it will teach you what you aren't a fan of.
And then you have to write. You just have to write. A lot. You never really learn until you do. And you never really improve until you do a lot.
Q. Any upcoming events or current projects you'd like to share?
I am also doing a Steampunk event at Words Worth Books in Waterloo on December 12th with the wonderfully talented Morgan Rhodes (author of the upcoming FALLING KINGDOMS).
Related links where you can find more info about Adrienne:
Some related interviews:
The Friday Society: A Chat with Adrienne Kress (The Book Smugglers)