Hello, I’m back.
This October definitely did not go the way I thought it was going to go.
I sprained my ankle playing football (can you guys even see me playing football?) which sidelined me for almost two weeks. And of course my two jobs are on-your-feet-walk-around-and-haul-stuff jobs, so I couldn’t work, couldn’t drive, nothing.
“Great!” you say. “You can write and read and do blog posts!” Eheheh. My laptop is currently an invalid too, which means it stayed downstairs and I stayed upstairs. I wrote in a notebook. Watched some movies. And read books. And took lots of naps. (Oh, and for all you period drama fans, I watched Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility and had a blast watching people sprain their ankles.)
But I didn’t come to talk about injuries, or ankles, or naps. Because there is A Certain Event that started on November 1st, and of course, since I love November, and I love novels, I love this Event.
You all know what I’m talking about: National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November thousands of writers attempt to “win” NaNoWriMo by writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
And this will be my third year.
In celebration of this (and also because I have been frightfully scanty with my writing recently) I have joined in the Beautiful Books linkup run by the extraordinary Sky and Cait.
- What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
A friend of mine was teaching a session at a conference a couple years ago. I had one of those speaker feedback forms and (I promise I wasn’t bored!) I filled it out as if I was listening to someone giving a talk on escaping a city. The fictional speaker did not know much, I recall, but the point was very clear—at all costs, if you get out, do not stop, do not look back, run. It was dystopian, and it dropped in my lap.
- Describe what your novel is about!
Run From Doncrow
There are two things that are as important as life to nineteen year-old Leslie: his acting fame on Doncrow’s West End, which keeps him from the work gangs, and his sister, whom he hides to keep out of a slavery like his own. But when a long-lost friend shows up at his doorstep claiming to have found a city of freedom, he (and the lower class of the city of Doncrow with him) begin to dare to dream of escape.
Middle ground is fast slipping away—the dying underground resistance is reviving, the police force retaliating with cruel measures, and there are whispers of an upper-class man organizing escapes from closed Doncrow. However, for Leslie there is a new challenge: he is approached by the chief of the secret police, who wants to use him to spy on the resistance.
As Leslie’s life threatens to turn upside down, he must decide which he values more: security or freedom.
So look for a dystopian book full of dark, dirty streets, spies, loyalty and betrayal, knives under coats, roaring crowds and roses, tears in the rain, hot street pies, and bloody knuckles.
- What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!
- Introduce us to each of your characters!
Leslie my MC is a slave, but he works as an actor. He is currently the toast of Doncrow’s West End, and extremely popular. He uses the gifts and flowers he gets from his adoring fans (the one thing he is allowed to keep for himself) to keep his sister fed and out of the work camps.
His sister, Althea, is about fifteen and in delicate health. However, she has a heart of fire for the underground resistance, and despite her brother’s protests, risks herself to aid its efforts.
Alexander Hampton is a wealthy man in Doncrow’s high society with close connections to the current ruling regime. However, he is secretly funneling funds to the underground resistance and organizing escapes from the city.
Judson is the only man to have ever reached LSI (the code name for the free city) and returned to Doncrow, making him the most wanted man in the city. In his death or survival hangs the fate of Doncrow.
Rosie is Judson’s fiancée, whom he promised to come back for. But now that her love holds such vital information, she must fight to keep him out of the clutches of the secret police.
Elias is the newly-appointed head of the underground resistance. Not much over twenty, he has been gun-toting for the resistance since he was seven, when his family was killed before his eyes. He is just and kind, but hard. And of course there are more, but that’ll have to be all for now!
Ernest is the chief of the secret police, bent on the arrest of Judson, Elias, and anyone in connection with the resistance or the black market. He is known for his heartless cruelty, his doggedness, and his habit of carrying peppermints for children, for whom he has a soft spot.
- How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
I try to feel out each character, and without delving too deeply (half the attraction is some mystery) figure out their priorities, quirks, and what makes them tick. I usually have a Pinterest board or a collection of pictures that gives me the right impression, and a playlist, because musical association factors a lot in my inspiration. Then I usually find a “patron snack” for my story—a food I’m craving or that will support my story’s impression—and stock up, making sure there’s coffee, cocoa, etc. in the house. Then I pray, get very excited, and write.
- What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
My characters! These people are what get me to sit down at the computer every day; they are what make this project worth the headache; they are the ones who inspire me with their courage and daring.That and the novelty of this project. Dickens’ London in a dystopian setting just gets me excited, and I can’t wait to explore the plot and worldbuilding that comes with it.
- List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
There is an old rickety house where my protagonist lives, full of broken tiles, sagging shutters and holes in the stairs.
There is a huge mill in the center of the city where the worst criminals and members of the resistance are sent. It is surrounded by a tall fence with guards, and constantly belching smoke. Few people ever return after going in there, and rumors abound as to what goes on inside.
The city of Doncrow is like a dystopian version of London in Charles Dickens’ day. There are better parts of town where people live lavish lives, and then there are children starving in the street.
- What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
His goal is for his sister and himself to survive, and ultimately to be free. A lot stands in his way—he is another man’s property, his sister is at risk of discovery every day, and with the hope of reaching a free city comes the danger of being caught. The main person who stands in his way is Ernest, the chief of the secret police.
- How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
He grows braver; he learns to live, not just survive; and he learns to value others’ freedom over his own.
- What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
Standing for right even when it is hard or there are terrible consequences. Freedom. Rising above fear. Sacrifice.
I want my readers to feel braver when they are finished. I want them to have learned from my characters’ good and bad and gray choices, and I want them to be strengthened in their resolve to stand against wrong. And I want them to feel like they want to read the sequel. 🙂
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? What are your favorite things about it?