And now for something…completely different! I was invited to participate in this writing process tour by Emmy Z. Madrigal. Emmy Z. Madrigal is the author of the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and the artist spin-off Anime Girl. Her love of music and the Jazz masters of the Big Band Era have always inspired her life and her writing. She also writes horror and vampire fiction under the name Emerian Rich. To find out more, go to sweetdreamsnovel.com
Emmy asked me to answer the following four questions:
1. What am I working on?
I’m in the home stretch of completing my third book for Harlequin Pop!, It’s About Power: Bella, Buffy, and Katniss Take on the World. In this non-fiction book, I talk about three iconic female heroines and how they deal with power. All three of them are attacked and threatened by individuals and by institutions, and the three women respond very differently and with very different outcomes.
The most challenging part of writing this has been trying to figure out what tools Bella Swan uses in Twilight. Much of her power seems to stem simply from the fact that the author likes her. There’s a disturbing message of passivity in Bella’s story, paired with an intoxicating message about the ability of an ordinary person to inspire adoration. I was also struck by the fact that Bella is the only one of the three women to achieve an unambiguously happy ending. This is partly because she is also the only one of the three to have a simple goal that never changes. At the start of their respective franchises, Bella’s goal is to be with Edward, Katniss’ goal is to protect her sister, and Buffy’s goal is to have a normal life. Katniss and Buffy develop more complex goals. Often they have multiple goals and their goals are in conflict with each other. Bella never wavers in her focus on being with Edward. While there are some other things that she wants, they are always secondary to her main goal. This makes her successful in the sense of achieving happiness but frustrating to write about.
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I write in a funny, approachable, conversational tone but I also include a lot of depth. I want a reader to feel like they are hanging out with me in my living room while I wave my hands around and get all excited about feminism and literature and history and politics. I want the reader to have fun. But I also include in-depth analysis in my books. I want my reader to come away from the experience with a lot to think about and I want the reader to look at material in a new way, or be willing to try something they haven’t tried before.
My two books to date for Harlequin Pop! (Pride, Prejudice, and Popcorn: TV and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre and Romance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are both works of literary and film criticism. My online writing for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Geek Girl in Love involves a lot of reviewing. It’s important to me that my reviews be honest and tough, but at heart I’m a huge fan. Since I don’t write fiction, I have a huge appreciation of the courage and imagination of people who do. Your worst fiction is better than my best fiction, which is nonexistent. I want to convey a love of art and of artists in everything I do, even when I’m pointing out the flaws in a specific work of art. I think that this passion for art, both written and visual, is the strongest part of my work.
3. Why do I write what I do?
When I find something I love, I become an evangelist for that thing, and when I find something I hate, I want to understand why it was created in the way it was. A good book brings me joy, and it makes me feel excited to share that joy with others. There’s nothing as satisfying as matching a book to their perfect reader. I also love examining the layers in a a book (or TV show or film). I love how something like Pride and Prejudice is a romance, a political tome, a satire, a social commentary, a romantic comedy, and horror, all at once. I love how stories challenge us to see through other perspectives and grasp an experience that is both different and similar to our own. It’s not surprising to me that Buffy the Vampire Slayer makes me emphasize with a vampire slayer but astonishes and delights me that it makes me empathize with a girl who longs to be a cheerleader.
I’m also increasingly interested in using my writing as a way to let other voices be heard. My favorite features on Geek Girl in Love are my interviews with other people. The world is full of so many voices and I want to help share the voices that are most often marginalized (people of color, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBTQIA). As I’ve made a more conscious effort to read diverse authors I’ve discovered so many exciting books – and we’re back to me being a book evangelist again!
4. How does my writing process work?
Inefficiently! I’m usually writing either late at night or during the afternoon, surrounded by kids. I’m convinced that buried in at least one of my books is the phrase, “No, you can’t have a cookie right now”. I’ve written at roller skating rinks and science centers and water parks. I’ve written at my kitchen table while simultaneously helping my daughter with her homework. It’s not serene. To make matters worse, I have a terrible habit of jumping over to Facebook and Twitter constantly while writing. I have an app that I can use to block social media on my laptop, and that helps me focus.
Other than my problems with concentration, the biggest challenge I have is getting started. No matter how much I’ve written something out in my head, there’s always a moment when I open a new document and both the page and my mind are utterly blank. Once I type something I can usually get some momentum going. Once I got so blocked that I typed the alphabet – sure enough by the time I got to the letter ‘M’ I was able to make actually words come out. I enjoy writing short pieces because they usually come with tight deadlines, and I require deadlines to motivate me to move writing to the top of the to-do list instead of the bottom. When I don’t have externally imposed deadlines I invent some in order to keep things moving.