Before Absolute Darkness, the two buddy characters (Brandy and Susan) were in a murder mystery I had been writing. In the midst of that novel, I moved to Tennessee shortly after the studio I had been working at had closed down (Walt Disney Feature Animation). In Tennessee, I got into caving—and fell in love with it. I decided to take these two characters I had established and make them cavers. Within the first four pages of the rough draft a new character, Alexander, appeared. I had to see what his world was. So did Brandy and Susan.
The hardest thing for me is not getting sick of my own voice when marketing things. I’d love a PR agent. Bragging, hawking, begging is draining on an introvert. Therefore, I need support every now and then to help me re-charge and get back to marketing. When I’m drained, I give someone else support by making images, giving reviews, just cheering people on. Seeing them be happy recharges me.
I’m working on a prequel right now. I have to see where Alexander came from. How he came to be. What makes him fall in love with humans. (To him they are linears. You see, they experience time in a linear fashion. He sees through all of time and can move through it at a whim. He’s also 10,000 or so years old when our buddies run across his path.) I have other ideas and novels waiting in the wings but I have to show Alexander and his nemesis Yindi (that guy is an evil fella) and where they began. The working title for that is “When Darkness Begins.”
I would say Cormac McCarthy influenced me. He showed me that writing perfection had been achieved. Nothing can be better than “Blood Meridian”, in my opinion. No one can write like that. So, I was freed knowing that everything else will pale in comparison—I might as well put my work out there.
Next, I owe the roots of Alexander to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I read a handful of her St. Germaine chronicles when I was a teen (and that was a LONG time ago). Now, going back and re-reading them, I realize that I based Alexander very closely to St. Germaine. Her writing is divine and so informed. Yarbro has a background in history and map-making. We have cartography in common. (Well, I sometimes map caves.) Her character live and breath in far off places like ancient Egypt or Rome and are historically accurate to the times. I blogged about how much I owe her recently. (https://coffeediem.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/alexander-chelsea-quinn-yarbro-a-scifi-fantasy-giveaway/) In fact, I’m currently procrastinating from writing by re-reading the St. Germaine chronicles in chronological order.
Beyond those authors I would also have to say that I have voraciously studied: Stephen King (for make normal things frightening), Lisa Gardner (for suspense and multiple story lines), Adrian Tchaikovsky (for being AMAZING), Hugh Howey (for killing characters I just met and liked), Dean Koontz (for dialogue and creepy things) and probably a dozen others that I read and wrote in the margins with a red pen my opinions of their dialogue, plot, etc., until I realized I was opinionated about writing so I might as well write my own books. So I did.
The answer to this probably changes every time I answer it:
1) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (Except this. This never changes. I can read it over and over and over again. But then I do get depressed. The man doesn’t do sunshine and rainbows.)
2) I’ll cheat and say the complete works of Shakespeare (annotated) I could entertain myself by acting out plays. I’d animate with sand and coconuts. Dead bugs. You know, you can stopmotion animate just about anything. But I digress.
3) A survival book. (I’m a realist. Girl’s gotta eat. And I’m animating with those bugs not eating them.)
Oh. My. Gosh. I was so extremely EXCITED when I received my first rejection email from a publisher. You just can’t understand. Someone had READ or GLANCED or possibly stood in the same room as a computer that had the digital file of my book and they might have glimpsed the title! Then they needed coffee and clicked a hot key that auto-rejected all submitted manuscripts that started with the letter A and had time-travel.
I was so stoked I posted a blog on that too: https://coffeediem.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/rejected-i-am-so-excited/
“If you aren’t getting rejection letters – you aren’t trying! I was bummed I had not seen any rejection letters yet from publishers and was concerned. I look forward to the stack of them. It signals a journey. I’m anxious to see that journey get moving and it starts with the first rejection letter.”
You might have guessed by now I have a job that has something to do with animation. I’m an animation professor now-a-days and do 2d and 3d animation, 3d modeling, 3d character rigging and also programming for animation/games/visual effects. I also have textbooks out there that I’ve written in animation, in fact. I’m a nerd, basically, and had a hugely blessed career working for Dreamworks, Disney, and Electronic Arts before becoming a professor. Before the animation industry part of my career, I worked in the newly emerging 3d software industry and wrote horrible novels while traveling around the world when I was barely in my twenties. Now, I write slightly better novels (I hope) while traveling around the world for the university. I go on the occasional admissions trips to China, South America, etc. and planes and hotels are my favorite place to write. Being a germaphobe of sorts I won’t turn the TVs on in the hotel room. So, I write. Luckily, Animation is storytelling and fuels my creativity all the time. I think I’ve always been a weird storyteller. I’m happy people beyond my immediate family or students are able to enjoy them now.