A Writing Conversation with Christine Rains
in where we chat about characters and dreaded revisions
This is the second installment of the “Writing Conversations” series. This week, I reached out to Christine Rains who is a speculative fiction writer as well as a long-time friend. She has written and published several novels and novellas in different sub-genres, all supernatural. This includes her 13th Floor series, her book, Of Blood and Sorrows and her latest novella, Dark Dawning, the first of the Totem series. Her characters are vivid and enticing (and she will be the first to admit, often take on lives of their own).
Christine is someone who takes her writing job seriously and it includes all aspects, from writing all the way to promotion. She has written much about her processes on her own blog (where I admit I’ve been pouring through meticulously for tips), so I just had to include her in this series.
R: Can you give us a bit of background about yourself? I know you’ve written a few series, could you tell us a bit about them?
C: I’m a writer, blogger, and geek mom. I grew up in a small Canadian town next to a cemetery and married a wonderful American geek. Ever since I could print, I’ve been writing stories. My first series is a six novella paranormal romance called The 13th Floor. It’s about six supernatural tenants living in a haunted building on a floor that doesn’t exist. Each story can stand alone, but there is a link which connects them all. My current urban fantasy series, Totem, is my biggest project to date. It’s nine books about three shifter sisters in Alaska, and it weaves ancient Inuit legends with the modern day world.
R: What drew you to these particular genres?
C: Perhaps growing up next to a cemetery sparked a fascination for the paranormal in me. I love the mystery, that which cannot ever be fully explained, and playing on the fears it creates. Mixing in the supernatural with romance just ramps it up another notch for me. Fear and love are powerful motivators.
R: I think many people find that getting started on a blank page is often the hardest. Do you find that as well? If so, how do you get past that initial hurdle?
C: Getting started has never been difficult for me. I have so many ideas in my head, they’re fighting to get out! Yet when I’m revising, it’s the beginning that I always edit most. It’s the hardest part of the story to get right, and maybe that’s what stalls some writers when it comes to starting to write.
R:Let’s talk revisions for a moment since you’ve mentioned it. I always thought it’s definitely the less sexy part of writing. What are your thoughts on that? What’s your process and how do you approach it?
C: Yes, it’s definitely my least favorite part of writing. I’d much rather be swept away by the adventure of a first draft then go about the tedious edits and chopping off bits of story I love. I try to be methodical about it. I go through making any plot changes and compile a list of questions and concerns. Then I send it to my critique partners and beta readers. Once I have the critiques back, I go through each one in turn and revise my draft. It can take three or twenty rewrites before I’m satisfied. It depends on the story.
R: Your description of your books are very focused on characters as premises. How do you view your relationship with your characters? Are they parts of you or more like your friends? What are they born of?
C: I’m their slave. *LOL* Well, sometimes I get to direct them a little. I’ve never seen them as parts of me, even though there are characters who I related a lot to more than others. Some of them are friends, but mostly they’re people in my head who want me to tell their stories. I’m a character-driven writer and a pantser. I let them take the wheel and go with it.
R: I know you mentioned that you fly more by the seat of your pants but do you have some idea overarching the series so that the characters are working towards that final showdown with the major antagonist? Does that start before you write or come to you while you are writing already?
C: Most of the time, I know where the story begins and how it has to end. With the 13th Floor series, I had no idea where it was going. I knew the characters, how they were meant to grow, and let them tell me their stories. With Totem, I knew before I started the quest: ancient magic totem pole breaks into seven pieces and the heroes must retrieve them. Each book has a particular goal like segments of a video game.
R: I love how you talk about your characters and how they seem to take on life on their own. And you’ve written series with multiple stories. How do you know when their stories are done or if there are more to tell?
C: Usually it’s very clear when the story is done. Big climax with the problem solved and the villain defeated. Or, at least, the bad guy in that installment is gone and the heroes are one step closer to battling the major antagonist. Sometimes the characters’ lives continue on in my head long after the story is finished. My head is like the TARDIS: bigger on the inside!
R: What’s the one tip you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
C: Never give up. Perseverance is key. The journey isn’t likely going to be what you expect, and everyone’s is different. Just keep pushing forward and never let go of your dreams.
Got some thoughts on writing you’d like to share? I’d love to interview you! Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.