On Writing

hayden wand visits the blog

Today, I have Hayden Wand on my blog. I’m dead chuffed because I read her review blog for years and now I get to examine her brains about everything. I mean, to interview her. Asking questions. Politely. Nowadays, she’s over at Leatherbound, is an author herself, and has excellent taste*.

*And by that I mean – amongst many other wonderful things – she is a fan of Batman and doesn’t mind when I message her out of the blue about him. NO. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM? Why do you ask?

So, grab a beverage of your choice. Stand, sit, or lie down. Pop your headphones in or retreat to a quiet place. Or don’t do anything. Don’t let me tell you what to do – except for this: enjoy, because we are in for a treat! We’ve got books (of course!), writing (THANK YOU), a controversial opinion on Jane Eyre (* le gasp*) and Batman (!!!). Buckle up! Let’s go …

TRADITIONAL GIF IS NOW TRADITION!

Quick! Three random things about your day to day routine. GO!

1- The first thing I do when I wake up is make my bed. My day goes so much better when my bed is made.  

2-TODAY has a special wrinkle in my daily routine because my family and I are going to a ball tonight! Years ago, some friends of my family started a biannual heritage ball. We all dress up in our best finery (I have curlers in my hair right now) and then dance like it’s 1810 London. 

3- You know those fancy jade rollers you can use on your face for a massage or to apply serum? I have one of those and I love using it before bed. I feel very rich and glamourous when I do so. I immediately turn into a wealthy Hollywood Star circa 1938.

If you could read a book for the first time again – what would it be?

I think I’d have to say Pride and Prejudice, just because reading it for the first time was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. When I first read it, I knew nothing about it, and what’s more, I didn’t really know anybody else who’d read it either! So it was basically this book I no preconceived notions about and ended up—to my shock—loving.

I’m a little sad that overexposure to the story has taken away a lot of its charm for me.

What’s a classic you think is underrated?

Hmmmm….would the world kill me if I said Jane Eyre is overrated, and I enjoy Charlotte Brontë’s Villette much more? Even that isn’t my favorite (The Brontës and I don’t get along very well) but I think it’s weird how EVERYONE has heard of Jane Eyre, but like…no one knows about her other books.

If you had to turn a book into a flea, put the flea in a box, put that box into another box, mail it to yourself and SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!! … what book would it be?

OKAY- so this book shall remain nameless, BUT there was this one novel I read that basically used religion (and Biblical imagery/paraphrased quotes in particular) as an example of Men oppressing Women. I knew the novel would be more feministic than I’d probably agree with, but I’d hoped it would more nuanced. Nope. It got RIDICULOUS by the end to the point of not, “men and woman are equal” but “women are literal goddesses and men have usurped our place & used religion of their own to strip us from our power because they are jealous.” It was such a mess. 

you have no option – turn it into a flea

I followed your old review blog and you read a lot of Christian fiction – what are its strengths and what do you think it needs to do to improve?

Oh goodness. I was the BIGGEST Christian fiction reader back in high school, but now I’ve learned I can enjoy it much better in small doses.

One thing I think Christian Fiction does pretty well is just how they are usually just about Christian characters living their lives in the context of following Christ. I enjoy it when the characters are simply & unapologetically Christian. Even in “clean” books the characters often behave in ways that don’t match up to my own values, even if it’s implied they are “religious.” So finally getting a chance to spend time with heroes and heroines who believe the same things I do are a nice change from secular fiction.

But there are a lot of ways I think the genre needs to improve. Many of them follow the same plots they just reshuffle over and over, especially when it comes to spiritual issues; the writing itself can be a little bland and lack personality, and sometimes they can even be too worried about being “clean” at the risk of not being true or realistic to the story they set out to tell. I am excited that I’m seeing Christian fiction branching out, though—and it seems we’re finally getting more Christian sci-fi and fantasy writers out there, even if they don’t write strictly “Christian fiction.”

Now, you and I have discussed Batman in the past (YOU WERE A LIFE SAVER!!) – you’ve been given the opportunity to write a Batman comic (!!!); what’s the plot?

askjhdzfgdhszkf YES! (I LOVE our Batman discussions!!!) This is the BEST question. OKAY. It’s a detective noir-styled comic with high stakes BUT it’s also focused on the whole Batfam working together. Do they always get along? Of course not. BUT BRUCE ALSO LOVES HIS KIDS AND THEY WORK THINGS OUT AND SAVE GOTHAM.

But that doesn’t mean the story is touchy-feeling emotional stuff. Not. At. All. There’d be a lot of focus on organized crime & I think Penguin and Riddler would be the main villains, simply because they are my favorite. (Catwoman is actually my favorite, but at this point in MY comic run she is more of an anti-heroine and totally a part of the batfam as she was always meant to be). 

I also picture it being a bit “vintage”—not purely historical, but with that classic old-school comic book feel. Kind of like in the style of Batman: The Animated Series.

write this. WRITE THIS NOW. (please).

Fanfiction – what are your thoughts on the subject?

I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea because as a writer myself, people taking other writers’ characters and ideas to do their own thing seemed a little…weird to me. Especially because so much fanfic can be inappropriate and sexualized. Nothing annoys me more than when someone’s taken a relatively clean and wholesome form of media and rewrites it to be…dirty. BUT if it’s clean and it’s written well, I’ve come to really enjoy fanfiction—especially for comics and TV shows/movies. It’s also very therapeutic to peruse when characters you love end up with stupid or tragic endings.

I also do occasionally write fanfiction myself and find it to be incredibly fun! Except once I wrote the first three paragraphs to an Emma sequel, then forgot about it until YEARS later before finding the document and realizing that I had 1) no memory of writing it and 2) no idea where the story was going. Which I’m still annoyed about. It probably would have been a masterpiece. 

By the way, congratulations on the new book! What was your favourite thing about the writing process?

Thank you! January Snow has been a long time coming, so I’m glad to finally get her out there! (Even though the whole publishing process was an absolute mess this time—everything from accidentally uploading files with typos to issues with the cover coming out the wrong color—I. Was. Pulling. Out. My. Hair.)

BUT my favorite parts about writing?

I LOVE the planning! Making maps. Creating character names. Writing down detailed plot ideas and fitting them all together like puzzle pieces. There is nothing better than suddenly getting the answer to a plot issue that you’ve been stewing over for days. Or when you realize that you accidentally foreshadowed something? OH it’s the best.

Also, not going to lie—the point where you’re finished and publish the book and then people buy it and you get money? I’m also pretty fond of that part.

How did the story sprout – did you plan it or did it spring into being?

The setting is my family’s car, eight or nine years ago. Topic of discussion? Disney princesses.

My brother Harrison: “I really just can’t stand Snow White.”

Me: “OH? How can I FORCE my brother to LIKE this story and character??? Hmmmm…ah, yes….I shall add MOBSTERS!!”

Of course, that first idea went through MANY changes. In fact, my main character’s personality was completely different in the first draft. Unfortunately, that character was simply not right for the story, and it made the plot and tension really, really, weak. But once I figured out who January was—when she “clicked”—everything else finally started falling into place!

What does your writing space look like?

So my desk is *actually* a dresser in my room that has a space for a bench underneath. It works pretty well…except for the fact that sitting at a bench for long periods is not great for my back, so if I have a lot of writing to do and the house is quiet, I’ll sit downstairs at the dining room table.

But even so, I do love my dresser-desk. I have a row of classic books behind my computer, and they sit below a bulletin board full of random papers and artwork and fairy lights. I also have a daily “Shakespeare insults” calendar that I got from my parents for Christmas. 

Today’s insult is, “You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face,” from King Lear.

I take undue interest in staring at other people’s writing desks. This has drawers. And books. So – perfection?

Pandas or llamas?

Llamas! I even have a sweater with a llama on it. And an Emperor’s New Groove mug. And also llama lights around my bulletin board.

What’s a really good story you’ve imbibed recently?

I feel like I’ve just been banging around pots and pans lately yelling “watch Tangled: The Series!! It’s too good to languish in obscurity!!!” to the point where everyone is probably tired of it. It is good, though—and after being Greatly Frustrated by animated shows that started out well and then crashed and burned later on, it’s SO NICE to finally have a show that’s been consistently enjoyable. This one is true to the original characters, actually includes character arcs, has great plot twists, and is genuinely funny. I’m just mad it took me this long to get around to watching it!

Thank you so much for having me, Ness! I very much enjoyed it 😀

Thank you, Hayden!! When Disney + arrives in the U.K, Tangled: The Series is at the top of my list. THE TOP.


You can find Hayden on her blog here, follow her twitter here, and check out the stories she’s spun right here. (I recommend ‘For Elise‘. The writing style – very Gothic but in a modern setting – tickled my funny bone and I thought the storyline was terribly sweet. I also thought it was called ‘Fur Elise’ for ages. Apparently, I cannot read.)

Books, Recountings

recountings: batman does community service

I’m a big Batman fan – have been from the moment I peeked over my brother’s shoulder and saw Batman: The Animated Series for the first time. So a book about Batman? This should have been right up my alley. (My Crime Alley I’M SORRY, BRUCE!)

I should give you a head’s up, shouldn’t I? This post is going to go into FULL geek out mode and there’s going to be spoilers for the book. If comics and superheroes and disgruntled readers aren’t your cup of tea – perhaps you should skip this post. If they are: hello and welcome …

Batman: Nightwalker

by Marie Lu

THE PROBLEMATIC AND IMPROBABLE PREMISE

  • You are eighteen years old.
  • You’ve just come into your trust fund.
  • You are a billionaire.
  • You crash your car in order to catch a criminal, accidentally disrupting a police chase
  • You are sentenced to community service in an insane asylum that houses the criminally insane. For example serial killers and rapists and your friendly neighbourhood murderous nut-jobs
I KNEW Gotham’s justice system was broken
  • while there, you become drawn to Madeleine, a girl your age with a ‘canopy of eyelashes’ who has hair which ‘spills over her shoulders like a river of midnight’
  • who, coincidently, IS ACCUSED OF MURDERING THREE PEOPLE IN COLD BLOOD
*record screech* Yes. I know. I have many thoughts about this too.

THE LOVE INTEREST – BRUCE, OL’CHUM, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Listen. Batman has made some questionable decisions in the love department. (*cough* Talia Al Ghul *cough cough*) Remember that episode in B:TAS where he married that literal plant lady?* At least he had an excuse for it – Poison Ivy had pollen’d him.**

Maybe the author was trying to continue this trend. But Catwoman exists (and that book in the DC Icons series doesn’t, okay?) and I have some objections to Madeleine …

a) she is described farrrr too much: entire paragraphs are dedicated to her, her hair, her eyelashes, her eyes, her face, her personality etc etc.

… her hair spilling behind her like a dark ocean.

page 117

b) remember that scene from Sherlock – the one where he’s deduces ‘your sister has a drinking problem and you’ve got PTSD and enjoy crumpets with raspberry jam for breakfast’? Madeleine does this. But about Bruce’s emotions. Through prison glass. Based on a handful of interactions.

This leads me to conclude that Bruce must have a VERY expressive face. Which is probably why he covers it with a cowl. OHMYWORD THIS IS WHY HE BECOMES BATMAN!!

‘FO SURE

c) She tells a disguised Bruce that she knows who he is because of his gait. (Does he walk like a sideways crab? Is he from the Ministry of Silly Walks?)

I HAVE QUESTIONS!

d) She’s written as so goshdarn cool and aloof. (Bruce is impressed with her because she doesn’t look at her interrogators. She stares straight ahead. I should do the same. Maybe I’ll blink once in a while. It’ll blow his mind.)

There’s more, but it’s all far too much. Far. Too. Much. Is she a Mary-Sue? Hmmm. She isn’t quite a cardboard cut out complete with glorious hair – it’s simply that I strongly object to her. And her hair. She quotes Sherlock Holmes to a future Batman. IS NOTHING SACRED?!!

BRIEF PAUSE FOR A FOOD ANALOGY

It’s like some cookies I once made. I thought to myself – you know what I like? Cookies. You know what makes them really good? Sugar and chocolate. *lightbulb moment* If I pour A TON OF SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE INTO THE MIX IT WILL MAKE THEM THE BEST COOKIES EVER.

They looked terrible, and tasted worse.

Madeleine is the cookie. Sugar and chocolate are the coolness factors. A blue whale’s worth of weight has been poured in. It doesn’t work. You can have too much of a good thing. In fact, you can have so much of it that it needs to be binned and you need to find a new recipe.

In fact, you need to actually use one.

I didn’t, and yes, I do have regrets.

BRUCE WAYNE – BATMAN IN TRAINING

I didn’t mind the Bruce Wayne in the book too much. I could see slight influences of the Animated Series creeping in. But these were drowned out by two undeniable truths:

  1. He falls in love with Madeleine.
  2. He is too well-adjusted

Listen, Batman – for better or worse – is always unless DC actually let him BE HAPPY FOR ONCE ultimately going to be that boy sitting beside the bodies of his dead parents. Lost. Alone. Hurting.

There wasn’t much of that in the book. It tries. But it felt a little clunky. As if it didn’t quite fit. Which is odd for a book about Batman. Most of the angst is about … something else. Or rather, someone else. Bruce has nightmares ‘haunted by shadows or dark halls or a girl with long black hair‘ and he does bond with Madeleine over having dead parents.

so really it’s almost canon

But I wasn’t sold on the idea that this Bruce Wayne was going to don a cowl and fight crime dressed as a bat, full of harnessed rage and never – ever – seeking therapy.

THE REST

  • I liked Bruce’s gym. It was VR and seemed really quite awesome.
  • The technology in the story was rather spiffing.
  • Alfred was in the story. Harvey Dent was given more character development.
  • Hanging out in Gotham was quite nice
  • The writing was good. (Even for the hair. It was very picturesque. I just didn’t understand why it was featured so prominently. Was it magical – like Rapunzul’s?)

Her long black hair hung straight and shining over her shoulders, glinting blue underneath the slivers of light slicing the floors and walls.

PAGE 180

TO SUM UP …

I guess we all have an idea of how our fictional heroes should be portrayed in our heads. What I might think is authentically Batman, others might think is terrible and wrong. And vice versa. And that’s okay.

I don’t usually venture too far into the world of YA genre, so perhaps my views are already slightly skewed. Perhaps Madeleine is the way all YA heroines are written. Either way … this book wasn’t for me. I enjoyed a few parts of it, and was terribly frustrated with the rest.

goodreads // amazon

… you know what I have enjoyed though? Batman GIFS. There’s a veritable multitude!

Happy Reading!

*Batman: The Animated Series, Season 4, Episode 22 ‘Chemistry’

** YES, THIS IS A TERM I’VE JUST MADE UP. NO, I HAVE NO REGRETS.

Life, On Writing

jobs, batman, and public transport

I’m dividing my attention between writing this and watching Batman: Under The Red Hood. This is my reward, because today … today I started a new job.

Yes, it is at another supermarket. Yes, it isn’t the most flashy of jobs. But it’s a job. It’s not a bad one and – apart from the French which I’m frantically scrambling to learn (!!!) – it’s a job that I’m mostly familiar with.

Mostly‘ because I’m now on a different continent and not everything is the same. Heck, even the traffic lights are different.

source.gif

Which I discovered. To my cost. And pride. But I refuse to go over that particular story yet again.

WRITING

I haven’t done much, I’m afraid. I’ve been consumed with …

  1. realising that my French is incredibly rusty and also: terrible
  2. panicking
  3. trying to relearn and learn French
  4. panicking
  5. realising that French in Québec? Yeah. It sounds different to Metropolitan French.
  6. panicking
  7. immersing myself in French
  8. panicking some more
  9. Saying ‘to heck with that’

But the panic is over now (OR IS IT?!!!) and my pen shall be put to paper once more.

THE LIBRARY

One short bus ride away from me (I know! I’m using public transport. My faithful Rusty is at home. In a different country. On a different continent. So.) is a glorious, glorious library.

I just feel like I should put that here.

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Unfortunately, it isn’t this library (via Pinterest)

LIFE, IN GENERAL

(I had to give up writing this post until I’d finished the Batman movie. My poor old heart-strings. *heavy sigh*)

  • I still don’t have a Canadian mobile number
  • it’s been unusually warm (TMI translation: I have sweated)
  • there have been butterflies everywhere
  • it started raining this afternoon
  • I can understand … something … of the sermons on Sunday

Whilst lately, Montreal has been full of blue skies and butterflies, I can’t ignore the often ominous warnings of …

just you wait ’til winter

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me, in the future