My sincere gratitude to Donna W. Hill, author of The Heart of Applebutter Hill, for her invitation to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. She afforded me this opportunity, and then took her kindness and generosity a step further when she offered her own blog site as a home for my post. Donna’s goodness, like her talent, is limitless.
in her Writing Process Blog Tour post, Donna discusses transitioning between reality and fantasy as well as the social justice issues which motivate her. Read her post at: https://donnawhill.com/2014/06/16/writing-process-heart-applebutter-hill-author/
The Heart of Applebutter Hill, an educator-recommended diversity, inclusion and anti-bullying YA fantasy novel, is available in print or Kindle at: http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/1483948226
Follow Donna on Twitter: @dewhill
The following are Amy’s answers to the four standard Writing Process Blog Tour questions.
What am I working on?
I recently began to transition these persistent characters that were occupying both my waking and sleeping hours, from my head to my hard drive. Their stories are rapidly evolving into my fourth novel. I have an odd little working title for it, which may or may not stick, so I’ll keep it under wraps for now. However, since I’m a big fan of titled chapters, the completed ones are named and because I went all super-secretive on the working title, the least I can do is to say that Chapter One is called “Exotic Flowers of Fargo”. This latest project will focus on multi-racial characters removed from their Native American culture, either by circumstance or by design, and the impact that can result from denial of one’s heritage.
Right now, I’m also in the process of querying literary agents in hopes of finding representation for my previous manuscript, Dancing in Concrete Moccasins, while availing myself of speaking engagements so that my published babies won’t feel neglected. There’s that delicate balance that all authors must have between the time they devote to creation and the time they devote to promotion. Like most artistic personality types, I prefer the former, but recognize the importance of writing’s business end, so I grit my teeth, take deep cleansing breaths, and just do it.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I do not write within a specific genre. I would say that the majority of my work, would be categorized as literary or multi-cultural fiction. I largely explore themes that involve the juxtaposition of Native American and modern American culture. I do this most often by placing my Native characters in the setting where the majority of Native people, including myself, reside today. I take them off reservations, out of the 19th century, and put them in urban American cities, where they not only face all the contemporary challenges of their non-Native neighbors, they must grapple with an environment that stands in harsh contrast to traditional Native values at every turn.
I also think that blindness has provided me with an acute awareness when it comes to tapping all the senses with my word choices. This is perhaps particularly true when I’m attempting to show my readers a story’s visual elements, which may seem counter-intuitive to some, but blind people often rely upon the visual descriptions of others to experience and fully function within the real world. When I am weaving words into fiction, I think of all its future readers as blind, regardless of their actual visual acuity. Based upon that logic, I consider how the right word combinations have served my needs, both inside and outside of books, and then I strive to depict people, places, things, and sometimes, even thoughts and feelings, with enough descriptive power that all may “see”.
Why do I write what I do?
A strong commitment to my Native American (Lakota) ancestry guides me, and because this cultural connection lives at the very core of my being, there is nothing about which I am more passionate. I write fiction because I think it is a wonderful delivery system for fact, and when I include actual historical, cultural, and philosophical information, threading it through my fictional characters’ lives, I feel as if I’ve delivered something educational hidden in the pockets of something entertaining. Because type 1 diabetes and blindness have also played a huge role in shaping who I am and how I view the world, they often come through as aspects of my characters and their conflicts, too. It’s always said that writers should “write what you know,” and these are, through experience, observation, and study, the things that I know best. These are the sparks that, along with writing itself, light the fires in my belly. I think that, for me, the act of releasing the stories onto paper, is tending those fires; not letting them smolder out, while at the same time, keeping the flames from consuming me.
How does my writing process work?
Creation is a sacred act and because I see it as such, I approach writing in a somewhat ritualistic manner. Morning is my favorite part of the day and my life partner Gabriel, our German Shepard Bella, and I walk every dawn, usually just around the time the sun is breaking the horizon. We go a couple of miles along the bay, meet up with neighborhood human and dog friends, greet the same water birds, hawks, and parrots that we have seen each morning for over a decade, and, of course, as would be expected from a couple of strolling authors, Gabe and I talk “writing”. It’s a time to share what we’ve worked on the previous day and discuss new ideas we plan to pursue, while drawing upon all the natural beauty that surrounds us. This beauty not only purifies the mind and energizes the senses, it often later becomes our stories’ settings, descriptions, and motivation. There is a certain place along a stretch of seawall, where Bella stops every day and sits to look out over the water, watching for dolphins. We cop a squat on either side of her and this is the point at which Gabe will ask, “Dream anything last night?”
I’m a life-long, Technicolor, five part mini-series, elaborate plotline kind of dreamer, so the question usually yields some juicy tidbits to feed into the mouth of one of our writing projects. Back home, after one, two, three cups of coffee, I retreat to our shared home office. It’s a small room, but Gabe and I manage to work peaceably together from our separate corners. It is our sacred space and we have filled it with those special things that remind us of why we write, inspire a feeling of serenity, and let our minds ripen with possibilities. Favorite paintings, family photos, diplomas, awards, and a small cross-stitched plaque; a gift from a former creative writing student, adorn the coral colored walls. On the shelves above my desk, I keep the polished stones that once belonged to my great grandmother, small carvings of owls, buffalo, wolves, and a black bear, and a medicine bag. At those moments, when I am flailing, searching for the words that will deliver the greatest clarity, and I’m feeling that I alone, can not move my meaning forward on the page, I pick one of these objects, hold it in my hand, appreciate its shape, its design, its symbolism, and I remember the person or the moment that granted me the particular gift. In this simple gesture, I often find the elusive line I need to pull me forward.
All of my projects begin with a central idea, but I’ve never sat down with an entire book or even an entire short story, for that matter, bouncing around inside my head. Because of this, you won’t find piles of index cards with Braille notes that contain character sketches or plotlines or complicated fictitious family trees, scattered on my desk top. I start every new project with the faith that the story will unfold if I put myself in the chair, lay my fingers on the keys, and let my mind open to whatever enters that sacred space.
I’m rarely a night writer, so I reserve evenings for reading. I’m a firm believer in the notion that a good writer must be an avid reader; therefore, I view my time spent with other authors’ books as just another part of my writing process. I have this split-brained approach when it comes to experiencing a book: part of my brain is just in it for the pure joy of it, the other lasers in on technique and flow and word choice and interesting descriptions and powerful uses of dialogue and all those other groovy elements that trip writers’ triggers. If only I could write novels as quickly as I read them…now that would be an impressive process.
For more about Amy Krout-Horn and her books: http://www.nativeearthwords.com
Next Monday’s Writing Process Tour: Amber Hart, author of Before You
Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of Before You, After Us, Until You Find Me, and sequel to Until You Find Me (untitled as of yet). She’s represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.
Catch Amber’s Writing Process Blog Tour post next week at: http://www.amberhartbooks.com
Follow Amber on Twitter: @AmberHartBooks