A Tale of Three Books

Writing "Wilfair," "Redwoodian," and "Stay Awhile" have all been different experiences. The first two books have one thing in common, and the last two do as well. In summary:

Er. I mean, Summary, Gomery:

 "Wilfair": When I started writing "Wilfair" I had in mind a more traditional book. The self-pub movement hadn't yet broken wide, so I wrote a book that, in my mind, adhered to a more standard form. (And let me stress again: traditional pub has been great to me, so saying the "standard form" isn't a dig at all; it's just that there are general guidelines one wants to follow when approaching a story.) I feel very satisfied when I look back at it (though I do wish I'd added *one more Fair and Gomery moment; dang it.) There are one or two parts where I can see myself wanting to break out, a little, and run. I also wrote it in total silence, with no one knowing, which was rather wonderful but not realistic. But then along came...  

"Redwoodian": It was around the time I started the second book that self-pub broke wide. I thought that might be a fun path for this series. With that in mind I, in effect, let it all hang out with this book. I knew I wouldn't be selling it traditionally, so I let "Redwoodian" be what it wanted to be. Long spates of dialogue, four people in a car for the first sixth (a general no-no in the pantheon of writing rules), a ten-page hug that isn't an acknowledged hug, weird stuff that I don't get around to explaining? Yep. It's all in there. When I revisit it, it feels 1000% what I intended and wanted it to be (to use a "Redwoodian" reference). "Wilfair" is too, of course, very much so, but it was my first. I love and am proud of them both. Not braggy, chest-puffy proud. Just. I put a lot into them and enjoyed the process, very much.

One last thing: I think I might have been *slightly* too shy, Fair Finley-style, to fan the flame on the romance in "Wilfair." Oh, the flame is lit, in the first book. FOREARMS. DAMP LOOKS. But when "Redwoodian" came along, and I saw that our potential sweethearts were going to go in one direction regardless of my hemming and hawing, I had a very big "oh hell" moment. And that's when I threw my hands in the air and was like, "Hey, Fair and Gomery? So you say there's going to be the slow peeling of evening gloves and the pressing of shredded cheddar cheese onto each others' chests? FINE. Let's do this, people!" Then I attempted to high five them but they totally ignored me (they're pretty into each other, those two).

The upshot? I owned the fact that, shyness be damned, I could be as stomach-flipping as I cared to be.

What the first two books have in common is I wrote them without anyone knowing. Which is not the case with the next one...

 "Stay Awhile": The third book has been a very different writing experience from the first two because of one reason: you. Suddenly, after "Redwoodian" got picked up by Forever Young Adult (thank you x 1000, FYA), and they interviewed me (so nice), I started getting blog visitors. (FYA also very kindly reviewed "Wilfair" but things began to heat up 'round this blog after the "Redwoodian" write-up.)

I met my blog visitors, and they became, to me, friends who'd leave great comments or offer insights. And suddenly, as I was writing, I would think "oh, I hope Carly likes this" or "wealhtheow is SO going to figure out what seed I'm planting here" (she actually will, with one line, which I've already semi-told her about).

And the specter of possibly disappointing people I now know and enjoy haunted me, a tad. But the bigger presence was an exciting one: The thrill of possibly delighting people who are hoping to be delighted. That was my engine all summer, and it served me well: I love and am proud of "Stay Awhile," too. It's a more ambitious book than the first two, and I'm asking readers to take some bigger leaps of imagination.

You guys are totally up for it, I know.

It hasn't been a totally different experience, though: "Redwoodian" and "Stay Awhile" are kindred spirits in their mutual sheer juicy homina love sparkle, sparkle I shoveled straight into their hot hearts with abandon. I once again stayed true to letting my personal freak flag fly when and where I wanted to. I believe in form and structure and following the golden arrow of the story through a book, but I didn't hold back on my mad enthusiasm with "Redwoodian" and I didn't on this third one, either. There's probably more of it in there, in fact. We'll see if that's a good thing or not!

Anyway. Musings today. Ladies who haven't had your song dedication up yet: I think I'll finish those out next week, after Thanksgiving, because I have a few thank-y posts I want to do over the next few. Can't wait for '80s week to resume! Such fab suggestions from y'all. Woot woot.

* About that missing Fair and Gomery moment: Maybe I will write it. I'm going to take a couple of weeks off before I start "Fairwil," which is actually already unofficially started. Perhaps I'll write it then!  

** And THANK YOU, all caps, for letting me talk about this process. I'm always afraid to come across as overly proud of what I'm up to if I say I'm happy with it. I see the quirks of the series, but I'm pleased with it, too, overall. Probably like any us feel during a major undertaking or project! In the end, I have a lot of abiding enthusiasm and affection for the Wilfair world. I hope that's contagious. Wait. Is there a nicer word than that to end on? You know what I mean. Uh, catching? Uh. Not that either. I hope you're feeling what I feel. How's that? :)


Chiara said...

This was interesting to read, I love reading about what goes on behind the scenes so to speak.

I read both Wilfair and Redwoodian when they were both out (found them through Forever Young Adult) and in all honesty I can say that I liked Redwoodian better (and after having reread both I still like that one a bit more, not to say that I don't like Wilfair because I do!). What I want to say with this is that I think this is probably exactly because what you wrote, you did what you wanted to do and went your own way with Redwoodian. For a moment I thought that maybe it was also me getting used to the style of writing or the story but as I said when I reread the books, I felt the same way.

About writing rules and such, in my opinion, in every art form people should be allowed to do what they want to, that's when the best of people comes out. Rules or no rules! Art shouldn't have any rules, art should be felt. Not to say that one shouldn't follow any rules because things could end up messy obviously but you know what I mean I'm sure :) I'm happy you went there and went your own way! Besides the story of the books which is different than anything else out there, I think this is part of what makes them appealing as well, a writer who's completely behind what she has written.

I'd be interested in reading about how others perceived Wilfair and Redwoodian!

Also, I'm looking forward to Stay Awhile even more than I did before! Besides enjoying the story obviously, I'm now curious to read it from a more objective point of view as well with an eye towards what you wrote about in this blog post. I wonder if besides not writing in silence anymore will have affect us as readers as well?

Wilfair Book said...

Chiara, all very interesting points! I'm wondering about your last paragraph, too. I do like sharing on this blog, but I don't want to spoil anything, either. I try and walk a fine line between talking about behind-the-scenes stuff and what's already known.

And thank you on your candor. That seems to be the case with a lot of readers: they like both books but "Redwoodian" flowed better for them. I can get behind that. Sometimes I call "Wilfair" my TV pilot. :) Living in Hollywood, as I do, I often turn to entertainment references. And the TV pilot, which I'm sure you know is the very first show of a series, has all of the elements of the series but some things might still be gelling a bit. That's fairly common in pilots and I think there's a bit of that to "Wilfair."

Love the honest feedback, in the end! I'd never want this blog to be an echo chamber of "yay you!" because that's not why I do it. (I'll be writing a post on why I blog soon, in fact.) I don't think that's why other writers blog, either, but I just want to stress that this does not need to be a place of yay-you!-ism. If I'm going fishing for compliments, I vow to plainly state "I'm fishing for compliments." ;)

Of course, I adore positive feedback, like we all do, but I'm a-okay when people respond more to one element than another. That's life, for sure. I'm just glad there are so many wonderful people along for this "Wilfair" ride. It's rather amazing to me, actually. I'm so grateful.

Wilfair Book said...

Thanks also for this nice compliment (ha ha, speaking of "yay you!"-ism): "the story of the books which is different than anything else out there."

That's a helpful thing, I think, for the books, but also a hurdle. If I'm to be fully candid.

The series loves odd things but isn't traditionally supernatural. It's set in a hotel but isn't necessarily about hotels. The characters have yearnings and think sexy thoughts but there's no sex. Just lots and lots of warm-touchy-friendship loving-on.

The books certainly aren't above definition, and I want them to be accessible to everyone. Ultimately I'm glad they're on their own path.

Chiara said...

I can imagine it's all pretty exciting for you at the moment, knowing that we're waiting for Stay Awhile and you knowing everything that happens in the book and wanting us to finally know as well. I assume. It must be pretty difficult to give us something yet hold back on the most important stuff, hehe.

You're welcome! It was in no means meant as a critique on Wilfair (I liked it the first time around but I even liked it more then second time around) but you can simply see that you found your voice in the second book, or maybe not found but let it out rather. Your TV pilot analogy is wonderful, I love that because I love TV and I love checking out new pilots when they come out! It's always interesting to see how a show eventually develops after a road they initially tried to follow.

I can imagine it must be pretty hard putting yourself out there with books like these. I think a while ago there was some issue going on over at Goodreads. I only read about it myself, didn't actually see it but some sort of discussion between readers and writers who weren't happy with bad ratings. Something along those lines. Now, I can see how writers and other artists put themselves out there, it's a vulnerable place to be, especially in a world where there are not only actual critics but also readers being able to express opinions on the internet wherever and however they want. Critique is never easy, even constructive criticism can be hard to take. However, it's not like everybody will always like something somebody puts out there. There'll always be people who won't like something. Anyway, I was just reminded of this and I'm sure you've encountered your share of negative comments but haters to the left! right? I'm sure the good stuff makes up for the bad stuff :)

Now I'm not sure what I was going to say anymore... Oh yeah, I'm glad you didn't mind me saying it and I felt like I could. It was just an observation that came to mind after reading your blog post and some things fell in place for me retrospectively.

Chiara said...

And I missed your second comment before commenting again.

I can completely understand why the books being different than anything else out there is a hurdle! It's not easy for an author to do something that is out of the mainstream and what is the latest hype. As you mentioned yourself as well, it is, though, a good thing as well. It makes a book or a series and the author stand out. I mean look at the whole dystopian rage that has been going ever since The Hunger Games. Now I'm the last one to say no to a good dystopian or speculative novel but there is also a lot of stuff out there that is a clone of other stories, or things that are put out there too quickly just to jump on the bandwagon, which doesn't do anything good for quality in my opinion. So I say yay for doing something else and writing what you like to write!

One last remark, I like that you talk about these things, honestly say that the differentness is also a hurdle for example. I think that we, as readers, often don't reflect so much on these things. I mean usually we consume, maybe write a review somewhere, maybe even leave a comment on an author's site, Twitter or whatever, but this is a completely different experience. In that sense the blog is sort of a behind the scenes feature on a DVD.

Wilfair Book said...

Yep, negative comments. No biggie, in the end; there are books and movies I don't connect with. And, ultimately, people have been very positive about these books.

Here's my secret, Chiara: I take my work very seriously. I put my heart into it, and loads of time and effort. But I never take myself seriously, and I think it helps me roll with the downs and not get too enamored with the ups!

Wilfair Book said...

Ha ha, I like that! A DVD featurette. Again, I live in Hollywood, I'm married to the business, so maybe it comes naturally for me to blog this way. Behind-the-scenes-y stuff is always of interest to me.

Chiara said...

Exactly! It saddens me that apparently not everybody thinks the same way....

I take my work very seriously. I put my heart into it, and loads of time and effort.

Something I think you can notice in the books and this blog! And I'm glad you do.

And taking yourself seriously is overrated by most people in my opinion ;) As you say, it helps with the good and the bad. In all aspects of life.

wealhtheow said...

I just ..., y'all, we need to have a Wilfair Con so we can all get together, meet each other, drink Shirley Temples, and squee to our hearts' delight.

Wilfair Book said...

Chiara: Thanks for the good word! That's my upshot. Work: serious. Me: not.

wealhtheow: I LOVE conventions. I'm all for this. Now, if only we could think of a hotel we could hold it at. ;)

Erika said...

I love this post! I love hearing about the process of writing a book and how things have changed!

Carly said...

I had a similar experience to Chiara - I ended up prefering Redwoodian to Wilfair. The T.V. pilot analogy is pretty spot on. I read Wilfair and was intrigued. I wanted more.

That's what Redwoodian was for me - just MORE. We got a little taste of a lot of good things in Wilfair and then we got Redwoodian, which was like a savory, sparkly smorgasbord, lol.

My biggest hurdle, initially, was Fair's language. It's like being in someone's head and listening to their inner monologue. But the fact that it was a little different and took a little work to really feel comfortable with? I didn't mind it, actually. It was like a fun challenge and it ended up working really well.

So, yeah. I know you're not fishing, Alysia, but oh well!

And I'm totally down with Wilfair Con! Shirley Temples and various dips!

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