Friday, July 11, 2014

In Which My Lady Bibliophile Reveals Her Writing Secrets (Fullness of Joy Tag--Inkstains)

This day, friend and fellow bibliophiles, is a momentous day. I have mentioned novelling here and there in blog posts, but I have kept pretty tight-lipped about it in public forums, and mostly share my work in private emails with friends. Even Pinterest inspiration boards are locked down. Today, however, since I've engaged to answer Joy's writing tag from her Fullness of Joy literary blog party, I must spill my secrets.

I'm just a little nervous. But excited at the same time, and I hope you all enjoy this exclusive sneak-peek at two novels that I hope, someday, to be able to share with all of you.
"It is my vow. It means I have sworn to bring them down. I swear it every time I end a mission, and in the last six times I took it, I have never failed, though I came very close once. I think this will make a second." ~War of Loyalties, by Schuyler M.

 1. For how long have you been seriously novel-writing? What sparked you to move from simply writing in a "dabbling" fashion for fun to pursuing your writing to a higher-level?
Well, my first novel, which I took very seriously, was about a British princess who became an American patriot during the Revolutionary War. That was back at 10, and I've grown a little in my plotting and accuracy abilities since then. :) My current historical fiction, War of Loyalties, I started at quite a young age--the first concept was about the age of 12, but its current plot and cast of characters I started at age 16. So I've grown up with it, you might say.
As for the other novel I'm going to talk about today, Homeschool Diaries, I first had the idea for that book two years ago, and started it in 2013.

2. Do you wish, ultimately, to entertain your readers and make them smile, or rather to inspire, challenge them and move them to tears?
So far I have managed to do both. I am more serious by nature, and therefore my stories are more serious, but I like including comic relief characters. War of Loyalties will probably challenge and move to tears, but my comic relief, Terry O'Sean, is just like a disreputable Irish teddy bear, and so far he is universally loved.
Homeschool Diaries will move through laughter. There are some pains that can only be touched while offering readers the shelter of laughter to cover their vulnerability, and I hope to use that means of challenging people.

3. What are two of your favourite genres to write in?
I like to write historical fiction (not romance historical, but drama) and modern fiction. 
4. Will you please tell us a little about your current writing project (novel-in-progress, short story, novella, etc. . . )?
War of Loyalties is my 600 page historical epic. It has a sequel, and the two of them together will equal the length of Lord of the Rings. I'm on track to take about as long as Tolkien took to write his books, and when I learned that I felt better about how long it was taking me to write mine. :)
Here's the plot for War of Loyalties:
Benjamin Dorroll has just completed his residency year and married his college sweetheart, when his father asks him to consider taking a civilian informant position in the British war effort. He couldn't want it less. A dual-citizen because of his American mother, and a long time resident of the U.S, he's been content to leave the European conflict severely alone. When America enters the war, he finally accepts the position his father wants him to take and moves to Folkestone, England, the current hub of significant secret intelligence activity and a crumbling spy ring in need of fresh recruits. There he meets several things that he wasn't expecting. An Irish supervisor named Jaeryn, who is willing to go to any lengths to find out who is loyal to him; a middle-aged man named Fenton, who acts as a private investigator for the right price; and an ever-pressing necessity to determine when deceit is right for the sake of safety. After a bomb drop and an mysterious shooting, Ben Dorroll's not exactly sure what this new line of work will lead to. And when it requires him to involve himself more and more deeply, he doesn't think he wants to pay the price it will require of him.
Homeschool Diaries will be much shorter, though I hope to pen a couple of sequels for that as well. I'm shooting between 80,000 to 100,000 words, which is average novel length. Here's a two-sentence pitch:
An angel is given a unique assignment--to chronicle the lives of five homeschoolers and give advice to their guardian angels on the best way to guide and protect them. But he's never met a family like this before.
I think most of the difference is that homeschoolers can let their hair down and they don't have to get out of their pajamas or leave the house. That's all I can find, anyway....

Thank goodness Mrs. Van Alstyne can't read this, or she would slay me in the spirit with malicious intent beforehand. Especially as she wouldn't want the Parkers to hear it come Judgment Day.

~Homeschool Diaries, by Schuyler M.

5. How long have you been working on it? What is the backstory of how you started this novel?
Backstory. Well, as regards War of Loyalties you aren't the only one to wish to know that question, Joy, but I have sworn to keep it a deep, dark secret. :) I will only say that it was inspired by good literature and probably by a few personal experiences as well.
Homeschool Diaries, however, I can be a little more forthcoming with. I first wanted to write it after reading a Christian comedian's fictional diaries. He wrote from the perspective of a charismatic father trying to get his family all in line so they could be a good Christian family. It's a hoot from one end to the other, but he actually wrote the diaries during a time of great depression, and some of the funniest sections are struggles and problems he hurt deeply over.

I would like to do the same thing with a homeschool version, and put my own twist on it so as not to plagiarize.

At first I was going to have the Homeschool Diaries written by one of the kids in my homeschool family, but then I couldn't respectfully satirize the parent characters. So I tried to switch to a parent, but then I couldn't have them respectfully satirize their spouse. Then one day the light bulb turned on, and the Lord gave me the idea to have an angel write the diaries.

After all, who can argue with an angel?!

6. Have you written other stories/books (or currently writing others)? Do tell us a little about them please!
I've written several short stories, including one based on all the friends in my brother's online Bible study. Those who attend the study get featured in the Princess Chronicles (hint hint). I have a lot of ideas. But I'm a steady kind of girl, and like to keep to one or two projects at a time. :)
Perhaps it was a premonition of dread that fell over them, or merely the mesmerization of the stillness. Whatever the cause, they stood motionless, counting the rumblings to themselves. The silence lasted one moment, perhaps two, when it was broken by a large boom, followed immediately by a second. ~War of Loyalties, by Schuyler M.
7. Out of all the characters you've ever written, who is your favourite?
From War of Loyalties I love my main character, Ben Dorroll, because he takes good care of people. I love Terry because he's the sweetest and most well-intentioned rascal I've ever had the pleasure to meet. And I love Jaeryn Graham because he's complicated and he's Irish. I also like a side character, Fenton, because he's so snaky even I don't know if he has good intentions or not.

From Homeschool Diaries I love Anion because he's innocent, and unjaded, and predisposed to think the best of everyone.

8. When you complete this novel, do you plan on preparing it for publication or rather leave it to "marinate" and start a new work with the hopes of improving your writing first?
Since I've been working on War of Loyalties for several years, my writing has grown along with the novel, and every new thing I've learned I've thrown into my writing process. It's been 'marinating' for a while, so I would like to get it to the printing presses as soon as it's ready. The same for Homeschool Diaries. Thus, why I'm talking about them in depth today, because I would like to start introducing them to all of you! :)

9. Isaac Newton was known to have said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Who do you see as having been the literary giants or "Greats" that have inspired and influenced your writing thus far?
I have been told War of Loyalties is a Charles Dickens meets John Buchan crossed with a little Sherlock Holmes. Since Dickens is my favorite author, that comes as no surprise. I like lots of characters that all twist together, complicated plots, and throwing the worst choices at my characters to see what they'll do with them. So I would say those three authors have had a heavy influence on my spy novel.

Homeschool Diaries stands on the shoulders of one Giant, the aforementioned Christian comedian. But since I can't in good conscience recommend him, I'm going to withhold his name. (Nope. He's not Tim Hawkins.)
Brielle spends a lot of time on one of those backwards, slow devices the humans call computers. If only they could see what we have up here, they would want the rapture to come sooner. Second rapture, I mean--or maybe the only rapture, depending on who you talk to. Calenon has rather strange opinions on the rapture--thinks that  most of the angels' trumpets and seals and things have already occurred. I must have missed them. But anyway, that has nothing to do with the homeschoolers.
~Homeschool Diaries, by Schuyler M.
10. Can you picture any of your novels being adapted into movies? In the stuff of your dreams, who would you cast for your main characters?

Hmm, to tell or not to tell?
To tell.

*rubs hands and chuckles*

Here is my cast for War of Loyalties:

Not all main characters are pictured; must keep some secrets, you know. Sometime I shall explain who they are, but that would make a very long blog post. My main character, Ben Dorroll, is the first person in the top row, and Jaeryn Graham is the fourth person in the top row.

Not all the screencaps are from shows I watch or endorse. For instance, I am familiar with Dan Stevens through Sense and Sensibility rather than Downton Abbey.

 As for Homeschool Diaries, the only people I have cast are the three angels; the humans I have not found, and since it's a satire, that might be a good thing. :)

Anion is Frodo from LOTR:

Calenon is Legolas:

Haldir is their supervisor angel with a name that nobody can pronounce, so I'm likely going to change it:

You may laugh, if you like, at my HD casting choices. I already have. But whatever it takes to get it done is what I do, and elves make very good warrior angels. :cheekygrin:

11. As you write, how often do you find yourself learning any of the lessons or going through any of the journeys/struggles of your characters?
Oh, often. So often that I think some people can recognize my own struggles through my characters, which is a frightening thing. But authors write books in the hope that their experiences can benefit someone else. After all, how can you write about someone else's struggles with any kind of authenticity?
I once asked Anne Elisabeth Stengl if it was wise to put personal experiences/struggles in books, and I very much appreciated her answer:
Ultimately we are our own best resources for understanding humanity. But to really write well, we have to write honestly. And that can be difficult and even embarrassing. It's so much easier to write caricatures or great big, epic Heroes....because they aren't us. And we know they aren't us. And our readers know they aren't us. These kinds of characters are masks; they aren't mirrors. To write real people is to be so much more vulnerable. Not everyone wants to do that. ~Anne Elisabeth Stengl
I'll say from personal experience that it is much more vulnerable. But I wouldn't want to write any other way.
12. As a Christian, how does your faith affect your writing generally? Is your current novel overtly Christian or more subtly under-girded with your faith and worldview?
My faith affects my writing in a great many ways: for instance, I start from a biblical worldview of right and wrong, I don't use swear words, and I try to resolve situational ethics wherever possible.

However, due to the subject matter I chose, that of a spy novel, I'll admit that I'm struggling with how to resolve spy ethics. War of Loyalties is much more subtle as to my faith and worldview, but though I don't use outright mentions of God and theology, you'll still find themes to chew on. Themes such as multi-generational faithfulness and unfaithfulness, loyalty, friendships, and viewing people through their individual heart rather than their national citizenship are all themes. All of my characters are flawed, because I want to show that all people have strengths and weaknesses.

As for Homeschool Diaries, that's much more overtly Christian. You can't have a book written by an angel and not have it Christian. Church, God, prayer, and theology will all be part of it--undergirded and sometimes taught through satire, of course. Also, my own personal theological leanings may become evident (I ascribe to pre-millennial, reformed theology.) but I try to give people a good laugh and not be dogmatic. (Evidenced by the angels having different views on eschatology. :P)
13. In one word each, how would you describe each of the main characters of your novel?

War of Loyalties:
Ben: Dutiful
Jaeryn: Enigmatic

Homeschool Diaries:
Anion: Innocent
The Van Alstynes: Insecure
The Parkers: Perfect.  As Anion says, "They're the closest thing we've gotten to riots in Heaven since Job."

14. Are there any aspects of your novel that have taken you by surprise?
Yes. Characters for one--I wrote this nice, angelic young Irishman in War of Loyalties who would have been a candidate for sainthood. But in the next draft he took off running and I'm trying desperately to pull him back by his collar. He dumped in two crooked fingers and a string of Gaelic, as well as a complete carelessness for lying and a master manipulation of people. You see, he's the type that will gently rub your shoulder with one hand and pin your weaknesses on his mental cork board with the other. He's very interesting this way, but not at all what I originally planned...

Writing is full of surprises--plot twists, characterizations, how hard it is, how fun it is. The rewards and struggles are beyond anything I've ever dreamed.

15. How do you think the main characters of your novel would react if he or she were introduced to you?
Me: How do you do?"
Ben Dorroll: "Very well, thank-you. Can I help you with something?"

Me: How do you do?"
Jaeryn Graham: "A pleasure to meet you, Lady Bibliophile. Coffee, perhaps?" All the while he's thinking: Secrets. She must have some. If I take her out for coffee we might get a chance to talk. She seems to like good literature, so even though I hate to read I could probably get her off her guard by talking about that and lead into other subjects....

"Sure thing. I must be going doc, but I'll see you around." Terry set off down the street before stopping and calling over his shoulder, "You have a pretty little acushla for a sister."

Ben smiled at his cheerful demeanor....Then he thought of the bomb drop on Tontine, and Pearl, and realized that was the second time this man Terry had called her by a love name.
~War of Loyalties, by Schuyler M.
16. Do you plan, Lord-willing, on pursuing the traditional mainstream route of finding an agent, etc, and waiting it out, or do you consider indi publishing (self-publishing) a healthy alternative?
Ideally I would like to pursue traditional publishing, and hope to start querying an agent later this year, if editing works out as I have planned. (It rarely does.) However, due to my book's size, its lack of a main romance plot, and its writing style, which, though not classic, isn't mainstream either, I forsee some difficulties. I do consider self-publishing a healthy alternative, and may seek that out. But I'm hoping for traditional, and will have to see where the Lord leads.

17. Out of the many themes and messages, what would be the one closest to your heart that you should like to share through your writing?
I do have a few themes that keep recurring: for one, right is an absolute standard of truth, and I like to preach that in my blog articles, and hope to show that eventually in my stories. For another, God can work through broken relationships, no matter how fractured, a heavy theme in War of Loyalties. In Homeschool Diaries I want to use the humor to help homeschoolers overcome the self-condemnation and comparison to others that they often struggle with.
"We agents are experts at the steady eye, the firm hand, the calculating toss; even tucking cards up our sleeves in a way that brands us as con men. And along with the skills we learn the delight of the heady wine of Chance. The luck--the stakes--the win--they feel exhilarating after you grow more used to them." ~War of Loyalties, by Schuyler M.

So there you have it, folks! Thoughts and questions are all welcome, and I hope you enjoyed today's sneak-peek into my writing world. Would you like to see another one sometime?

Lady Bibliophile


  1. I would love to see another one sometime!
    Wow, Schuyler, this was, I have to say, one of the most remarkable posts I have ever read on your blog. ; )
    I loved the book quotes you had around here and there, they were quite intruguing and very good choices. I am so glad that you shared this with us all; I can't wait for it to be published! And the poor innocent Jaeryn from the former draft...he didn't mean to do it, you know. :) Oh, and I really liked your synopsis of War of Loyalties, I think you did a good job with it. : D
    But my dear...who is that, pray, fourth from the left? Not Jaeryn, I hope; he would never look so--odd. Well, well, my girl, what have you done?
    And Homeschool Diaries sounds intriguing as well; I'll have to ask a couple questions later.
    Your tag was excellent!
    E.H. ; )

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! <3 And did I tell you about the 'most remarkable' in Martin Chuzzlewit last time we talked? Because all the American characters are introduced to Martin as the most 'remarkable men in our country', and I wondered if you were doing a pun on it. :)

      Glad you liked the synopsis! It is not easy to summarize WoL, but I rather like it.

      Oh. That fourth from the left is Jaeryn, my dear. Didn't I say? :P Sister and self laughed for a good long time after reading that part of your comment. :D

      Questions most welcome on HD!


  2. Lots of fun! I loved all of the quotes you incorporated into your blog post! :D And you captured the descriptions of your characters very well, I thought.
    One of my favorite questions you answered was #11. I liked your answer on that and I think being vulnerable is important to writing. You want to make the characters real. Even sometimes characters can be created for the specific purpose of working through a struggle the author has in their life.
    Lovly post!


    1. I'm so glad you liked the quotes. <3 That was a wee extra that I couldn't resist adding. :) And Homeschool Diaries cracks me up every time I read those.

      I liked number eleven, too, especially Anne Elisabeth's comment. We were discussing it on Joy's blog, and that really helped me as I thought through that aspect of writing myself.

      Love you, my precious Public Relations Consultant. ;) <3 <3


  3. "Do you wish, ultimately, to entertain your readers and make them smile, or rather to inspire, challenge them and move them to tears?" Congratulations, Schuyler. Doing both of these is an accomplishment (not to mention producing a Dickens/Buchan cross the length of The Lord of the Rings. That's no small feat either.

    I can't wait to see your books published. I have a feeling your blog readers will be among your most devoted fans. ;) And yes, of course we want to hear more about your writing.

    I enjoyed seeing the pictures of your "cast"! And I loved the quotes.
    "It is my vow. It means I have sworn to bring them down."
    "You have a pretty little acushla for a sister."

    the Philologist

    1. This has been such a fun post, both to write and to talk about with all of you. :) Secrets unveiled...

      I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures and the quotes. :) I love those two you mentioned, as well as the bit about Terry being 'a disreputable Irish teddy bear'. If ever a phrase described him, I think that would be it.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement in the writing process. I could not have carried the Ring to Mordor--er, written good old WoL without it.


  4. I know, it feels like carrying the Ring to Mordor, doesn't it? ;P

  5. Oohh! What fun! I didn't know half of these things, you know!

    Your Homeschool Diaries sound like SO MUCH fun. "Slain in the spirit with malicious intent"! Oh my word! It sounds almost as bad as the Left Boot of Fellowship!

    1. I think you'll like Homeschool Diaries. It's great fun to write. XD I can't wait to be able to show it to you!


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