Hi, Brooke. Thanks for joining us. Tell me… What is your novel “The Clockwork Giant” about?
Thanks so much for having me Lindsey! I’m happy to be here.
My novel, The Clockwork Giant, is about Petra Wade, an ambitious clockwork engineer who dreams of being a member of the Guild, an elite organization of scientists and engineers who are at the forefront of technological advancement in the late 19th century. Because she is a girl, she cannot apply to the Guild-controlled University, so she has to find another way. When Guild engineer Emmerich Goss asks for her help constructing a new automaton for the Guild, she sees an opportunity to get in the Guild’s good graces, but as they build the clockwork machine, she discovers that the Guild is planning something sinister. She and Emmerich are right in the middle of it.
What is your writing process? Do you plan ahead, outline each scene? Or do you prefer to let the story unfold on its own? Do you stick to a daily word count, etc?
Before The Clockwork Giant, I never plotted anything. That ended with only one completed novel (and it was crap), so I decided to change my methods. Now, I spend anywhere from a week to a month brainstorming, researching, and plotting. I outline the entire book scene by scene before ever writing a word, and sometimes, I may have several different drafts of outlines before I find the one I like best.
Once I have the outline, I start writing. I try to write 2000 words a day. Some days, I meet that goal. Other days, I don’t. I keep track of my daily word counts in an excel spreadsheet in the shape of a calendar. It helps me see the big picture of when I wrote a lot, when I edited, when I didn’t write very much at all, etc.
And here’s a weird part of my process: once I reach the end of Act I—could be 10,000 words or 20,000—I start over. Whenever I reach that turning point, I usually have a better idea of my characters and the story I want to tell. Things come to light that I didn’t think about when I wrote the outline. So, I reevaluate the outline, add new scenes, remove ones I don’t like anymore, maybe change others just slightly. Then I go back over what I wrote and streamline the beginning to match the new story. It maybe be slightly counter-productive, but it works for me.
Now that the beginning is a bit more solid, I write and write and write until I’m done. I’ll take a week or two of “vacation” somewhere in the middle of the first draft just so I don’t get totally burned out. As I write the first draft, sometimes, I’ll realize I made a mistake somewhere and go back and fix it. That sometimes means cutting scenes, but usually it just means I forgot to add a necessary element to an earlier scene.
But eventually, I reach the end of the first draft. At that point, I put the manuscript away for a few weeks or months, however long I need, and then I’ll start the editing process. Which is another beast of its own.
You are the editor of Hogglepot Magazine. What draws you to editing?
I used to hate editing, but that’s because I didn’t really understand it. Over the course of my study at university, I learned something very important: editing is not merely improving the words on the page, it’s turning the story you wrote into the story that you wanted to write. Once I realized that, I started to enjoy editing, both my stories and others’. There’s something about turning a good story or a decent story into a great one.
What are the top three things you look for in stories published at Hogglepot and why?
Assuming the writer followed submission guidelines and their stories are in the right genre (science fiction and fantasy), the three things that are most important to me are:
1) An engaging story
2) Good writing
3) Characters that make me feel something
I have two readers who help me make decisions on stories, but for me, those three things are what I look for when reading a submission. First, the story needs to grab my attention. Concept is very important to me for a science fiction or fantasy story. I like to see things I haven’t seen before, or twists on things I have seen. It may be a vague explanation, but I’m tried of the same old fantasy stories that seem like they were churned out by a fantasy story generator. Orphaned hero prophesied to kill the dark lord of the land with some fabled magical item anyone? That said, you can pitch a traditional fantasy with fantastic writing, and I won’t care. Great writing is a must for me. First of all, it means less work on my end whenever we publish the story, but more than that, great writing can turn an ordinary story into something spectacular.
Last is the feels. If a story makes me laugh or cry, it’s pretty much an auto-accept. I want stories that make me worry about the characters, that make me want them to achieve their goals. I want stories that make me forget that I’m doing this as part of a job. Having those three things—an engaging story, good writing, and the feels—that takes great skill, but every once in a while, we get one of those stories, and I’m reminded why I love editing Hogglepot so much.
What genre do you most often read for personal pleasure, and what are you currently reading?
I’m a fantasy girl at heart. Most of the books I read are fantasy, but I do read science fiction, historical, and contemporary young adult on occasion. At this very moment, I’m not actually reading anything. I know! Terrible of me. I tend to read less when I’m editing novels. But I have several books that are on my list once I have the time: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Crown of Embers, Equal Rites, and Accidental Sorcerers to name the ones I have bought but haven’t yet read.
If you could invite any five authors from any time period to dinner, who would they be?
The first three are easy: Diana Wynne Jones, J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman. I would love love love to be in a room with the three of them. The last two however, I can’t really decide. J.K. Rowling would be an obvious choice for most, or C.S. Lewis, but I’d rather not put Lewis and Tolkien in the same room. They’d be arguing all night, and I think the rest of us would tire of it quickly. Perhaps Ray Bradbury and Jules Verne? They were men ahead of their time when it came to their fiction. I find them both incredibly inspiring. Of course, there’s Shakespeare and Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer, and several other writers from well before our time that I would love to sit down with as well. I suppose I would have to draw the last two out of a hat, but if I must pick, definitely Bradbury and Verne.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of editing at Hogglepot.com and writing. What are your hobbies? What inspires you?
I have too many hobbies and not enough time to do any of them justice. I love sewing, and every year, I make costumes for me and my husband for our local Renaissance Faires. I also draw and paint. Art was my first love as a kid, well before writing, and I wanted to be an animator when I grew up. That didn’t exactly work out as I found out that I liked writing much more than drawing. But I still keep up with it some. I do other sorts of arts and crafts as well. Paper-craft is a favorite of mine, but I like doing pretty much anything that allows me to create. I also enjoy playing piano. I don’t have a piano of my own, so I don’t get to play often, but it is something that I like to do.
What type of music do you listen to?
A little bit of everything. I listen mostly to film scores and video game soundtracks when I write. When editing, I listen to techno—Daft Punk and Deadmau5 primarily. But sometimes, I like to mellow out and listen to actual artists: Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, M83, Damien Rice, Bon Iver. If I feel like jamming, I listen to Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit, Justice, Scissor Sisters, LCD Soundsystem and others.
How do you come up with new ideas?
That’s a tough question. I generally don’t go looking for them, so they’ll come to me randomly—in dreams, snippets of overheard conversation, a painting I see, a stray thought. I write all of them down. Some turn into stories. Others wait to be combined with other ideas. I got the idea for The Clockwork Giant when I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep one night. I had this odd thought: A machine is truth. And I wondered who would think such a thing. That’s when I came up with Petra and her story.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
Oh, yes. It was a short chapter book that I wrote when I was in second grade. I think it might have been six pages, illustrations and all. It was about a boy named Tommy who came back to life after being murdered. That was back when I only read Goosebumps novels. I still have the story somewhere, probably at my dad’s house. I’d like to find it again and put it in a safe place so I don’t lose it.
What are you working on at the moment?
At this very moment, I’m editing Le Theatre Mecanique, a spin-off novella set in Chroniker City (the setting for The Clockwork Giant). It follows Petra’s brother Solomon on his journey to become an actor instead of a lowly laborer. But I’m also in between drafts on another project, The Wizard’s Heart, a fantasy inspired by ancient Persian culture and mythology. Both books should release this year.
Where can we find you on the web?
The best place to find me is Google+ or Facebook, but I also keep a sometimes-updated blog, a website, and a vlog.