Technique, or Technically Crazy

It’s late, I’m tired, and I may be crazy, but I’m going to put this out there anyway just for kicks. Do what you will with it.

booksAs a novelist, part of my writing process involves reading completed scenes aloud in order to ensure that the dialog is realistic. That is nothing extraordinary. Many authors do it. But the conversations are often worked out in my head long before the words ever hit the page. This usually involves finding a quiet place to sit and… well… talk to myself. Now, I have heard people say that you can talk to yourself as long as you don’t start to answer back. Even if that’s the case, I’m still in trouble. I frequently talk back, yell back, and even swear back—all in a British accent. I don’t suppose it will help my cause to admit that I was born in Toledo, Ohio to parents of German and Polish ancestry.

As if what I have just told you is not enough to question my sanity, this morning I came to the realization that I may be truly certifiable. As I said before, I have to find a quiet place to talk, and often that sanctuary is in my car. So, this morning, as I drove to work, I began playing out a particularly emotional bit of conversation. I didn’t notice any of the other drivers staring at stop lights. They probably just thought I was talking on the phone. (Yes. I’m sure that’s it.) But, I did notice that about ten minutes into it, I was forced to remove my glasses and wipe tears from my eyes. Yes. That’s right. While driving to work, I allowed myself to get so worked up over my characters’ conversation that I actually made myself cry!

I’d like to tell you that it’s all just a completely natural part of the creative process, but I’m not so sure. I mean, really… I was so wrapped up in the stories in my own head that I broke into tears in my car on the drive to work. Can that possibly be normal? Can you imagine walking into the office with red puffy eyes and having to explain it to your boss—or in my case to a bunch of teenagers?

“Ms. Thompson, are you okay? Did you have an accident or something?”

“No, Billy. I was just imagining that I was a forty-five year old British woman who finds out the love of her life is…”

I’ll just stop right there because there is no way that conversation is not going to end badly!

Friends and fellow authors, cast your vote. Can I chalk it all up to technique, or am I technically crazy? Just for fun, click “like” for technique and “share” for technically crazy. We’ll see who wins.

Oh… What is your book about?

This is a question I get asked a lot. So, here it is in a nut shell. This is the pitch that took Once in Love with Lily to round two of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2014.

Lily Josephson is a choreographer living in LA with her long-time husband, movie mogul C.S. George. She has settled into a comfortable, predictable, and fabulously wealthy lifestyle. Thanks to her husband’s connections and resources and the help of modern technology, she manages to maintain a successful career as a Hollywood choreographer, despite the fact that she hasn’t danced in front of a live audience in over seven years due to a tragic accident that nearly left her paralyzed.

When Lily’s brother calls seeking her help with his fledgling Broadway show, the idea of returning to New York and the live stage seems almost impossible. Even if she can ignore emotional and physical scars left by the accident, she will still have to convince the cast to put their faith in her and her untraditional methods. Unfortunately, her no-nonsense husband, more interested in protecting his investment in the show than protecting her feelings, doesn’t leave her any choice. Upon arrival in New York, she runs into Tony, the one person from her past she never intended to see again. Suddenly, the thought of professional failure pales in comparison to dealing with the man who walked out on her and all but destroyed her over a decade before.

A series of twists sends Lily and Tony on an intercontinental journey, filled with humor, romance, and betrayal. Old secrets are revealed and new ones created as the two of them begin to unearth the shards of their broken relationship. Torn between the husband who has given her the world and the man who once was her world, Lily must weigh the importance of faith, trust, and commitment. She must choose sides between love and passion and moral responsibility and decide if recapturing the past is worth risking her future.

Lily cover

Once in Love with Lily is available in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.

View the book trailer.

 

 

And The Award Goes To…. (If I’m lucky!)

The Ohio Arts Council awards grants biennially to Ohio poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. When submitting material for the award, artists are asked to write a short narrative of one page or less. How in the world do you summarize your process, motivation, and subject matter of a 282 page manuscript in a page or less?  After some thought, here’s what I came up with.

The idea for this novel was born out of my curiosity for celebrity biographies, my love of soap operas and theater, and my personal history in ballroom dance. I wrote the first draft as part of a challenge issued by my husband to participate in National Novel Writing Month 2011. I then spent the next year and a half working on subsequent drafts, further developing characters, adding details, and improving the story structure. Some might say that’s going about the process in a completely backwards fashion, but I am not a planner or a plotter. I am what many writers call a “pantser.” I didn’t start with a story arc or a character arc. I sat down and started typing, simply allowing my characters to dictate the direction the story. In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine I would have enough story to fill a book. As I developed my characters and told their story, they came alive in my head. Before I knew it, their romance filled nearly three hundred pages. It began as a fun little story about two estranged people unearthing an old friendship and recapturing a lost love. Along the way it became a statement about the importance of friendship, faith, and trust in a relationship. That same faith and trust allowed the protagonist to rediscover her own self-worth and overcome her fears. The love story challenges readers to choose sides between love and passion and moral responsibility, due to the adulterous nature of the relationship. Secondary characters confront societal norms and show support of marriage equality and gay adoption rights. These characters made me laugh, made me swoon, and, at times, brought me to tears. They led me across the globe from LA to New York and the on to France and England. Thankfully, my British characters also spoke French, even though I don’t! I’m extremely excited to think about readers enjoying the same journey.

If I’m lucky, the grant committee with like what the see from me. If I’m very lucky, you will too! Look for Once in Love with Lily by Cathryn K. Thompson  coming this fall!

Why didn’t somebody tell me?

Why didn’t somebody tell me that writing a novel was going to be so much fun?  I would have done it sooner!  No, that’s not sarcasm.  I have had more fun writing than I ever imagined possible. My imagination has been allowed to run wild, my flare for drama has finally come in handy, and I’ve been getting away with talking to myself fairly frequently. If anyone catches me I just claim to be testing lines of dialog. “Um….” I say, ” According to Judy Blume, you have to hear the dialog out loud in order to see if it really works.”

Of course, no one ever told me how frustrating it would be either. It’s not that I expected it would be particularly easy. I just didn’t realize that I would be driven made by the conflicting opinions of my editor and beta readers.  The editor tells me to add more detail. Reader A says there are too many unnecessary descriptors. Reader B tells me a character needs to be more villainous. Reader C claims he’s not sympathetic enough. The list goes on.

I do appreciate their feedback. Multiple perspectives are a good thing. But now I have to figure out which pieces of advice to take and which to ignore. In the end, no matter what everyone else thinks, I have to decide what story I want to tell. Better yet, I have to tell the story of Lily and Tony. It’s not my story anymore. It’s theirs.

Once I’m finished… whenever that is… I only hope that it’s a story readers will enjoy and won’t regret paying for!