Bas Bleu marketing associate and editor Sarah Madsen (SM) recently released her debut novel, Weaver’s Folly, and we thought it would be fun for those of us who aren’t published novelists to hear a bit about her writing process and how she juggles her creative endeavors with her day job, family responsibilities, and life in general.
Weaver’s Folly is an urban fantasy—a story set in modern times but with fantasy elements—based in a near-future Atlanta, Georgia. Much of the setting of Weaver’s Folly is familiar, but the technology is much more advanced (want a computer in your brain?) and elves are “out,” so to speak, and trying to integrate with human society—or some of them are, anyway. Our heroine, Alyssa, is an elf trying to live among the humans. She owns a struggling antique store in the city and, to complicate things, she’s a Weaver, an elf with particularly strong magical abilities.
Oh, and she’s a cat burglar on the side.
Sometimes non-writers assume that a book springs forth fully formed from an author’s mind, but for me that was far from the truth! Weaver’s Folly was born out of a combination of things. I love playing tabletop games (like “Dungeons and Dragons”) that are creative and immersive. Alyssa, the main character for Weaver’s Folly, was originally created for a tabletop game that I never got to play, but I loved her so much I wanted to tell her story. Everything sprang up around her…one of Alyssa’s essential elements is that she’s a magic user in a high-tech world, and that magic and technology do not mix, so I knew the setting had to be futuristic. It was so much fun imagining what a near-future Atlanta would look like, both aesthetically and culturally (and how it contrasts with the separate Elven society/cities).
One fun book-building exercise for me is writing character sketches. I come up with a rough idea of what the character needs to be, then I search through images online until I find one that speaks to me. Next, I create the character’s traits: their likes and dislikes, brief background, goals, etc. Doing so makes them easier to write, since they each have their own motivations, and sometimes they surprise even me! I’ve had more than one character hijack the plot and take it in a direction I never expected. It’s a great (if somewhat frustrating) experience.
Monsters and supernatural creatures are exceptionally fun to create. Did I mention there are monsters in this book? Because there are.
To get in the right headspace for writing, I need certain elements to be just right, or I become easily distracted and accomplish nothing. If these three things are in place, I can get tons of work done…usually.
- Music: More than anything else, I need the right music playing and a pair of headphones to block out everything around me. I love creating playlists for my books, but when I’m actually writing I tend to listen to instrumental music that’s thematically relevant. Video game and film scores are my favorite, since they create mood without becoming a distraction.
- Coffee: I know the saying is “write drunk, edit sober,” but coffee helps me far more than booze, which tends to make me scatterbrained and sleepy.
- My writing space: Right now, my writing space is Starbucks, which gets me out of the house and away from its distractions (I should clean! I should take the dog for a walk! The kids need me!). Also, though it may sound contradictory, I find that the low hum of humanity in the background at the coffee shop helps me concentrate.
The Balancing Act
In addition to being an author, I work part time at Bas Bleu and have a family (a husband, two character-building sons, and an adorable but bratty dog). It can be a challenge at times: As much as I prioritize my writing, it often takes a backseat to more pressing day-to-day commitments. Because of this, it takes me a bit longer to accomplish what a full-time writer could do. Publishing already works in a timeline of years, not months—after a book is written and purchased by a publisher, it usually takes one to two additional years for the final product to hit shelves—so every speed bump along the way adds to that exponentially.
I started writing Weaver’s Folly for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2010. I finished it in 2014. It went through several rounds of heavy revisions before it found a home at Curiosity Quills Press last year, and it finally came out in March of this year! That’s eight years from concept to publication. During that time, I was going to school full time, raising two kids, and working, so all in all I feel like eight years is pretty good!
I’ve always struggled to call writing my “passion.” Passions are reserved for higher callings, for earth-shaking works and for people who strive to better humanity. Some writers have done that, writing books that made an impact on a society, changed the way we look at things, or exposed a secret part of ourselves we’d thought buried. But I’ve never been that kind of author. I don’t see into the deepest cracks in the human condition or delve into the darkest corners of the heart. Simply put, I tell stories that I’d want to read. But at the same time, when I look back on my life, writing has always been there (I recently found spiral notebooks full of stories from middle school—yikes!). Writing is something I can’t ever imagine giving up. I’m in it for the long haul.
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