So Tina Mailhot-Roberge asked me about my creative process. "How do you come up with ideas for books? Do they come up naturally, from beginning to end, assembled in your mind? Or do you need to brainstorm a while before a story forms? What's your creative process?"
Well, let's see. I strip naked and climb on my neighbor's roof and, flinging my post-babies boobs (they look more like shaved rabbit ears), swear at the sky both in Russian and English until either a bird craps on me and makes me shut up, or lightning strikes me and I go up in in flames, or an idea falls out of a cloud on my head in the shape of a brick and I end up writing from hell. You know, dead, but still writing. Really, this is my creative process. Okay, I forgot to say I drink hedgehog blood every morning. And at night I sleep in a sock drawer. Socks keep my skull warm, because there is no brain there, as you can see from all this nonsense I just wrote and you read. Why you're reading this, I have no idea.
Okay, okay! My creative process. It's rather dark, so choose wisely. Either continue reading and find yourself biting elbows, or go do something else, like paint your toe nails or buy a pet monkey or something.
MY CREATIVE PROCESS
1. THE IMAGE
It all starts with an image. Like, women's cut off hair strewn over frigid hoary landscape, passing by the train window. Lovely picture, no? That is what popped in my head for TUBE, and started from there. For Rosehead is was a nightmare involving an old man luring in old women to his house and scalding them with hot water "by accident", then snuffing them out. I had this nightmare after calling my mom in Russia and finding out that her dad, my grandpa, scalded her with boiling water on purpose. He is senile, and she is taking care of him and her mom. Another time she told me he broke their cat's legs in the doorframe. So, you see, not a week goes by without some horrendous picture forming in my mind, and, of course, I have to write it out, to get rid of it.
2. THE FIRST PARAGRAPH
Once I have an image, I'm hooked. I can't get it out of my thoughts. Usually an opening sentence comes after it. Or a few. Or a whole paragraph. This can cook in my head for a week, or a few weeks, depending on how busy I am with my current writing project. I keep pushing it to the very bottom of my mind, like, under the floor, until it ripens and bursts. Then I write it down and save it for later.
I haven't started writing TUBE yet, but here is that paragraph for it:
She heard it breathe. The train. She could've sworn it took a slow inhale. Her toes pulsed, reminding her that they hurt from practice. She cast a quick glance around the compartment and continued unwrapping her foot. One pointe shoe lay sprawled on the carpet like a squished moth. “Bleeding again,” she sighed, peeled off the fabric and threw the shoe next to the first one. The carpet seemed to sniff it.
Here is one for JANNA:
I’m a bad girl. I was born a bad girl. I killed my mama. With the size of my head, I killed her, at birth. She was the only woman I killed. The rest were men. Are men. One every month. Rapists. Pedophiles. Perverts. I cut off their dicks, hang them around their necks. That’s my signature. By a thread. Black thread. Black, like me. I’m black like night. So black, I’m a little blue, almost shining. When they see me, in the night, in that moment, when they know what’s coming, they think of me as nothing, I’m so dark. Only my eye whites are white, they flash, when I roll my eyes. Makes them piss themselves. This. I like it. I like the smell of their urine, their fear, their blood. It excites me.
One for MARQUIS:
I'm a cat, although I was supposed to be a dog, but the universe got tired of puppy production precisely on May sixth 2012 at three twenty-two AM in the morning, so I was born a kitty. Not that I regret it.
And one for CUPID:
I don't feel divorced, not really. Twenty five years is half of my life, with the word clitoris never having entered my vocabulary. Well, maybe when studying anatomy in school, but that was a long time ago.
I have more, 12 total, for novels already planned out. I keep a document with all these images/beginnings to start working on as a soon as I'm done with the previous project. If I don't do this, they might die. And I can't start writing them, because once I do, I can't stop.
3. THE PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE MUSIC
Once I get the paragraph down, I start thinking about the mood of the book. What do people and places in it look like? How does it sound? I know it's nothing like what you typically hear. I don't plot the story, I search for emotions. So, TUBE will be quiet horror. It feel quiet and creepy to me. No loud exclamations, no screaming, just silent blood-chilling terror. When I'm ready to start writing, I search for the right music to complete the mood. And pictures I save on my Pinterest or just post them online, sharing what the book feels like. You know, on Twitter and Ello and wherever. (I'm spending more and more time on Ello now.)
4. THE BOOK TITLE
Around this time the title comes to me. They all feed off each other: image, music, title. Also, I have to throw up the page for the book on my site, and I have to name it something. My only criteria is, come up with a title that doesn't exist in Amazon or doesn't come up as a book in Google search. This is for branding reasons. The more unique my book title is, the better is the chance of people to find it once it's published (it won't have to compete with other search results).
5. THE READING LIST
Next I start thinking about what kinds of books I need to read while writing a particular book. Since I know the mood of it now, I can imagine the style and the atmosphere I want to create. For TUBE Anna Karenina is on the top of my list. I want to soak in the Russian drama and the torment and the misery and the romance as seen by Tolstoy. I do this to complete the world of the book. Once I start writing it, I disappear into it. The writing is about it, the music I'm listening it about it, the books I'm reading are about it. Everything is about it. At times my boyfriend can't even snap my attention to dinner because my eyes are glazed over. I'm gone. To keep myself in this place, I write every day, without breaking for weekends or holidays.
6. THE SILENCE
Once I start writing, I minimize distractions to zero, if possible. That means, I write first thing in the morning before checking social media or email or making calls. It takes me about 2 to 4 weeks to write the first draft, and during this time I don't go anywhere (sometimes I don't get out of the house for days), I don't see anyone (no lunches, no parties, no meetings), I don't engage in anything that might disrupt my carefully constructed world (no traveling, no big family events, no changes in routine). When the draft is done, I take a two week break and do all my meetings and other little things in those two weeks, then it's back to silence and the second draft (about 4 to 6 weeks), then another break, and the next draft and so on, until I'm done.
That's it. What else do I do? I drink tons of coffee, exercise every day on my bike, stand on my head when stuck (for real), eat, sleep, make love, write, read, repeat.