Rowena Cory Daniells, author of the best selling King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, lets us see what goes on inside writers’ heads.
I’ll let you into a secret…
What really goes on in writers’ heads
I saw a TedTalk recently about introverts. The speaker, Susan Cain, admitted to being shy which was funny, because there she was talking to an audience, being filmed for distribution. But what she had to say was important to her and it struck a chord with me.
Around one in three people are introverts to some degree or another. The quiet ones make the talkative types uneasy. Extroverts are always urging introverts to speak up, join in and go to parties as if their reticence is something that needs to be cured. Susan Cain made a good case for quiet contemplation.
Someone has to stand back and observe, then hold a mirror to the world through the medium of books, film, art etc so that we can see ourselves more clearly. And writers, who by their very nature, love being shut away in a room with a keyboard and the world of their imagination, would have to be some of the most introverted of introverts.
Yet, writers are supposed to promote their books. ‘Off you go,’ the publisher says, ‘be scintillating and entertaining’. No wonder writers struggle.
‘You want me to talk about my book? But that’s why I wrote the book, so I could talk about things via my characters and my world.’ Writers would much rather let the book speak for itself.
Writers would much rather be in the background listening to readers talk about their books.
I like to sit on trains and listen in to conversations. Not in a weird way. People talk and I happen to hear. The other week two teenage boys were doing the conversational equivalent of strutting. One was still in school and was boasting about a fight he’d been involved in. The other one had dropped out of school and was making X dollars a week and very proud of himself. His job? Chasing chickens. Did you know you can hold four chickens in each hand, hanging them upside down by their legs? His friend was impressed.
It’s all part of observing the world and trying to make sense of it. This is what writers are doing and all the while, their stories are simmering away in the background.
You might see us mowing the yard or peeling the potatoes — it’s not like I get to take long walks on the beach, my life is pretty ordinary — but what goes on in my head is not. Because while I’m pushing the mower back and forth across the yard I might be battling aliens on a space station, or down a dark alley dicing with vampires or galloping across a misty moor looking for dragon eggs.
Often I’ll be angsting over a character’s dilemma as I sift through a plot problem.
That’s why writers need quiet time. If you charge straight at a plot hole, it’ll trip you. You need to come at it side-ways and then the solution will percolate up from your subconscious. All this goes on and before you know it, when the time is right, you’ll feel the urge to write.
That’s when the relatives will visit, or the kids will come down with the ‘flu.
That’s when I think fondly of monasteries, where they take a vow of silence and food is slipped under the door twice a day. To be left alone to write, what a luxury.
It’s the dissonance between the empty page and the full head. There’s a story trying to get out. I just have to find the best way to tackle it. Sometimes I’ll write thirty pages, before I hit my stride. I’ve been writing The Outcast Chronicles for ten years now. The characters feel like old friends. Old friends who I put into terrible situations to see how they react. Did it make for an engrossing story? This is what A Fantastical Librarian had to say: ‘In Besieged Daniells has created a rich and complex world and used it as the stage for an engrossing story. So engrossing in fact, that at one point I found myself emerging from the story only to find that I’d lost several hours.’ (review)
We couldn’t write like that if the world and characters weren’t vividly real to us. So that’s what goes on in writers’ heads when it looks like they are staring off into space. That’s why writers are the most introverted of introverts.
And here is what goes on in other people’s heads. Photographer, Simon Hogsberg, went around stopping people on the street and asking them what they were thinking about the moment before he stopped them. He recorded what they said and took their photograph. It’s fascinating. (See here).
Rowena has a copy of Besieged, book one of The Outcast Chronicles, to give-away to one lucky commenter. (Open world-wide).
Give-away question: Do you have a favourite spot where you like to curl up and read, or can you lose yourself in a book anywhere?
Catch up with Rowena on Twitter: @rcdaniells
Catch up with Rowena on GoodReads
Sorne, the estranged son of a King on the verge of madness, is being raised as a weapon to wield against the mystical Wyrds. Half a continent away, his father is planning to lay siege to the Celestial City, the home of the T’En, whose wyrd blood the mundane population have come to despise. Within the City, Imoshen, the only mystic to be raised by men, is desperately trying to hold her people together. A generations long feud between the men of the Brotherhoods and the women of the sacred Sisterhoods is about to come to a head.
With war without and war within, can an entire race survive the hatred of a nation?
Rowena Cory Daniells, the creator of the bestselling Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, brings you a stunning new fantasy epic, steeped in magic and forged in war.
If you are interested in winning a copy of Besieged, leave a comment answering the giveaway question above by the end of the day (EST) on Thursday, August 23. Good luck!