What’s your writing playlist?

shutterstock_121057780I love playing music while I’m intensively writing. Years ago when I wrote a Christmas movie, I blared Christmas carols for four months straight. To this day when I hear certain Christmas songs I start having the itch to grab a pen.

But when I was writing Into the Dark, I received a different kind of inspiration from one song on my playlist, Viva la Vida by Coldplay. The song is about someone who falls from power, and the mood of the song subconsciously became associated with one of the characters I was writing. Suddenly his personality was just like the song, bittersweet and self-reflective. I didn’t completely understand what I was doing until I was listening to the song in the car one day and imagining key scenes from the character’s life in association with different verses.

Realizing how affected I am by what I’m listening to, I make very specific, tailored playlists based on which scenes I’m writing. Sometimes I have to make purely instrumental playlists so the lyrics don’t distract me.

What’s your writing playlist?

Vote on Cover Art for Into the Dark

The time has come to refresh the cover image for my young adult fantasy novel, Into the Dark, which is the first book in The Conjurors series. Below are the three options that I am considering. Which image would make you want to pick up my book and learn more?

Option A

Option A

Option B

Option B

Option C

Option C

Thank you for your vote!

Attempting to Channel the Bard

NEW121I was 13 when I discovered William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it changed my life. I had always loved writing, but when I encountered his words and saw how poetry and fantasy could merge together, I knew I found something special. It’s been almost two decades since then, but Shakespeare remains the biggest inspiration in my life. The best thing about Shakespeare is that you never run out of angles to analyze, from word choice to character development to plot.

When I developed the Globe, which is the world in my YA fantasy series The Conjurors, I named most of the major countries after locations from my favorite Shakespeare plays. The atmosphere of the play that the location came from inspired how I felt about the people who lived there.

Arden is the capital of the Globe, named after the forest in As You Like It. It is the home of my main character, Valerie, when she travels to the Globe from Earth. In As You Like It, Arden is a forest, a place of possibility, where the rules that apply to the civilized world can be bent. It is a place of art and philosophy and love, which is why I made it the beating heart of the Globe.

The mountains of Dunsinane are where the villain of the story, Reaper, lurks. Dunsinane is where much of the action in Macbeth occurs, and that play has such a heavy darkness to it that I felt it reflected the depth of evil that Reaper is capable of. To me, just hearing the name “Dunsinane” sends chills down my back, and I think of ruthless ambition and decaying morality.

Other countries inShakespeareclude Messina, from Much Ado About Nothing, a land where the people have forbidden the use of magic, and Elsinore, from Hamlet, where royalty and betrayal are the obsessions of the people.

Using these plays as inspiration gives me a sense of place when the characters in my stories travel from land to land. The countries are strongly differentiated in my mind, which makes it easier to create cultures that are unique, but somehow fit together enough that it is realistic that they could all inhabit the same world.

What makes a fantasy world feel real to you?

Let the plotting begin…

A course more promising / Than a wild dedication of yourselves / To unpathed waters, undreamed shores ~William Shakespeare Winter’s Tale, Act IV, Scene 4

Life is never more interesting for me than when I’m plotting out a novel. Suddenly, everything I encounter feels like inspiration. Watching my husband beat a video game, a news article on an exciting archeological dig in Egypt, or a friend’s work horror story all fill my mind like puzzle pieces begging to be put together to show me a bigger picture.

The characters come first – a name, a face, a mannerism. Soon I’m wondering what advice they’d give me about a coworker who is trying to sabotage me, or thinking about how they would react if they woke up in a completely new world. Would they panic? Or would they relish the adventure?

Next, I sense connections between the characters, how their personalities fit together. Romance and rivalries start to emerge, and I find myself empathizing with one character above the others. I’m rooting for that person to win and be happy, logically aware I’m rooting for a figment of my own imagination, but emotionally invested anyway.

Last comes the action. This is my favorite part. On the outside, I’m living my life as usual, driving to work, sitting in meetings, cooking dinner. But as my body goes through the motions, I’m really watching a movie unfold in my mind. The movie stops and starts, rewinds and zips to the end, only to wind up back where I left off. I start to feel like I’m living two lives, one in the real world and one in my head, but I know one thing for sure. Life is thrilling and full of possibilities.

When you are writing a new story, how does your creative process begin?