Influences: A Brief Background of What You’ll Find in My Writing

Writers get asked about their influences a lot. Readers and fellow writers want to know what helped make a certain creation come to life. Usually, answers include a compiled list of favourite and respected authors. Sometimes a notable book that offered inspiration years ago.

I’ve never been good at giving a list. I have too many favourite books. Too many favourite authors. And I read too widely for the list to make sense to anyone not privy to my mind (count yourself lucky). Besides, books I’ve read don’t actively enter my own stories. I’m not a meta writer. I’m sure if I delved deep enough I’d locate pieces of books that have stuck with me and influenced me over the course of my life. But that seems like a lot of work.

I’m more the type of artist that compiles inspiration for a piece. For instance, I have a high fantasy novel in the works sparked by a book I read called Sex with Kings. I’m now assembling a list of research books -fiction and non-fiction- which I hope will lend a hand as I create and populate my world. That’s how I get inspired, it’s a constant process as I start weaving the bits together.

The fabled muse is obviously not what I want to talk about today. As far as influences across the board go, I’d have to say my core principles are what stand out on the page. That’s what I’m going to label the following list as anyway. I can’t possibly give a detailed description of each and every principal I hold dear. So I’ll stick to the items that I actively try to transcribe in all of my work.

Women are human beings. This is a d’uh one. Yet funny enough it still needs to be said in this world we find ourselves a part of. I actively identify as a feminist and I do my damnedest to make that obvious in my writing. Gender relations are extremely important to me, as is the representation of women. Women want more out of life than a Stepford existence. They’re complex, multifaceted, and interesting. People learn from the media around them and I want to leave behind me positive examples of how men and women interact; and a real picture of the struggle women have had to face across feminism’s lifetime.

Consent. People think consent is a new concept. It’s not. It actually ties into the principal above. You see, in a world that doesn’t treat women like they’re human, consent becomes a moot point. That infuriates me. Consent is relevant. Consent is important. Consent is non-negotiable. Again, when it comes to gender relations and any kind of intimate or sexual relations, I intend to put consent front and centre.

History is full of ugly truths that must be faced. This one kind of explains itself. As someone with exclusively white, European ancestry, some days looking in the mirror can suck. A lot of the world’s bad history *cough imperialism cough colonialism cough* can easily be laid at the feet of Caucasian individuals. Not all of it, of course, but quite a bit in recent years. As awful as history can be, I acknowledge it. I want to learn from it and prevent horrific events from occurring again in any way that I can. Sweeping hard-to-digest truths under the rug is not the way to this. You have to meet the negative face to face.

Diversity matters. This is a new one for me because it never occurred to me -living my white, privileged existence- that there were kids and adults out there who were denied dreams and futures because of the colour of their skin. Still. Yes, I realize it’s impossible to be that naive, especially when you’re well aware of racism but there it is. My revelation came when I was researching for my honours project and came across a piece by an African-Canadian in which he stated he’d never before had a teacher ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He didn’t know he had options before one asked him. That, and reading items connected with Twitter’s hashtag #wndb that have forced the world to see that the majority of kids out there aren’t seeing themselves in major media and when/if they do their faces get erased, has forced me to open my eyes. I want to be part of the solution, not a problem.

That’s the short of it, these are four topics you will find time and again in my writing.

 

*Image source.

Part of My Process: A Positive Lack of Focus

I’m a writer new to the professional game, hence I read a lot of tips. More than I should. A lot of the advice involves focus and discipline, like they’re one and the same. Looking back over the course of my life I have to say that I don’t agree with that parallel.

Time and again I hear comments about focus that usually centre on whether people are good or bad at it. The general consensus is that people with “good” focus stick to a single task and see it done well. People with bad focus either take on too much and leave loose threads or they get bored with their single task and don’t see it through.

I’m not even going to tackle the gender associations each of these sides has. That is an argument for another day.

I work with someone who has ADD; she’s trained herself over the years to focus on one project at a time so that she can see to its completion. Seems like a solid plan, right? Except that single project is usually all she can focus on. Seriously. Nothing else can or will penetrate her head if she has a task she must see to. NOTHING.

In a work environment where everyone has multiple roles and responsibilities, single-minded focus just does not work. This personality quirk has a tendency to drive me nuts because I’m the exact opposite.

I’m a natural multitasker and I’m good at it. I can juggle multiple tasks succinctly and see them all through to near-perfect completion (I say near-perfect because I am not perfect). Sometimes, like many humans, I forget others aren’t exactly like me, which is why I get frustrated with people who can’t multitask.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything. At least for me.

The ability to research multiple topics, come to understand casts of characters, write story notes about every new project that pops into my head, blog, and move from story to story without getting stressed or confused by all of the different pieces enables me to keep my writing spark thriving.

Months ago, I hit a wall with my main work in progress (MWIP). My protagonist is at a dark emotional point in her life that I hit years ago. I like writing from a well I know and understand, but at the same time it’s extremely difficult to grapple with that mindset and relive it in order to get it on paper. Things got to the point that I just stopped writing. I couldn’t get out of the emotional pit I’d re-entered for my story’s sake and it was affecting my day to day life.

Frustrated, I wrote about my problem on Anxiety Ink. The feedback I received was incredible. I’d been trying to be a good, focused writer and not abandon my WIP. I don’t believe in writer’s block so I was determined to stick things out. A former elementary teacher used to give me heck for reading more than one book at a time because I’d mix things up. Eventually, I stopped reading altogether. If I couldn’t do it my way, I wasn’t going to do it his way.

Instead of embracing that stubbornness and writing another story, I listened to that voice and all those tips I’d read.

See how well that went?

Fellow writers told me to character head hop or even move on to another project until I was centred again. Thinking back, I feel stupid that I needed such obvious advice, and permission to step back. But I did. This is one of the reasons having a community of like-minded individuals is so important. They’ll pull your head out of the sand if you can’t do it yourself.

It was freeing to come back to my keyboard and write about something else. Anything else at that point. Taking a necessary breather was what both the story and I needed. Calling my break a breather, not abandonment, also soothed my psyche. I wasn’t a quitter, I just needed space to regroup.

I’ll tell you, the space has done wonders. I can actually think about my novel again. I’m neck deep in a short story project but my MWIP constantly spins the wheels of my subconscious. As do my other WIPs, but they need more time to mature.

My “lack of focus” is an integral part of my writing process. Just because I don’t have laser focus for one project doesn’t mean that I can’t buckle down when it counts. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get things done or take things seriously. I find my ability to task-hop keeps me refreshed and alert. And I always write myself notes so that I know where I left off and where I want to begin again.

That’s how I work in a nutshell. I know it drives some people crazy but I don’t listen to those people. I just keep writing.

As for that particularly nagging third grade teacher, he also told my mom that I have a gift for writing and to make sure I never abandon it. Thus I forgive him. And I still read more than one book at a time.

Mobbing Midnight: The Significance of Supporting Lesser Known Authors

On February 10th, writer and editor April Steenburgh launched a Kickstarter for a book called Mobbing Midnight: An Anthology of Crows. This matters not only because I am a writer whose story will feature in it when it funds, but because a lot of other lesser known authors are devoting their time and energy to the book’s creation as well. Not to mention the artists who are always involved in a book’s formation.

There’s no other way to say it: budding writers need community support. Plain and simple. The life of a new writer is one chock full of rejection. Yes, we’re told that those notches of rejection on our belts mean success will taste all the sweeter when we get there, but it’s a long road. A long, discouraging road. Just ask J.K. Rowling. Or Stephen King.

No one in their right mind would continue on such endeavors –endeavours full of blood, sweat, and tears –after having doors slammed shut in their faces right, left, and centre. No one except artists.

We live in an awesome age where people everywhere can support local and/or new artists when they need help getting their voices heard. Crowdfunding. Kickstarter. Two relatively new additions to our vocabulary have already opened up so many doors for patrons and artists.

Kickstarter alone is responsible for the creation of two wildly popular entities: Smut Peddler 2014 by Iron Circus Comics and Exploding Kittens (soon to be coming) by The Oatmeal.

People who consume and appreciate the arts have finally been given a chance to help produce that which they want to see instead of being told what they should want by a bunch of industries. It’s great! And exciting for producers and consumers.

I want you to support this anthology because it means a lot to me personally, too. I don’t see Mobbing Midnight as just another item on my publishing credits list. I love birds. I have always loved birds. To be able to combine these creatures with my love of writing is something I keep doing a happy dance about. On top of the creative freedom April gave us, it’s almost all too good to be true.

My first bird book.

My first bird book.

No, crows are not my favourite bird species. I don’t think I could pick one. But they’ve always intrigued me. There are few birds as intelligent and versatile as the crow –which can be found thriving on every continent except Antarctica. Probably because they haven’t found a means of getting there. Think about that.

Moreover, they feature in a variety of folklore in a ton of different roles. They can be good, evil, contemptuous, brave, heroic, or conniving. These traits make them the perfect point of intersection for an anthology. Imagine the endless possibilities a group of writers can come up with when they’ve been told to write any kind of story they want as long as crows are featured prominently.

I am as thrilled to write my story as I am to read what everyone else comes up with!

Our group, like all artists, just wants to be given the chance to make this anthology happen. We might not be famous yet but we’re as devoted to writing as any of the big-time authors out there. Our main difference is that we’re relying on our campaign to fund.

Every single dollar counts and there are amazing rewards to be had that will speak to anyone’s tastes. At every donation level.

Cover image by artist Jennifer Campbell-Smith

Cover image by artist Jennifer Campbell-Smith

I’m happy to be offering up a reward myself: a character name in my story. It’s not going to have a happy ending but for $100 you can make your name or that of a loved one/enemy go through some serious horror! Isn’t that the coolest gift idea ever?

Your support for our Kickstarter is greatly appreciated! March 12th is our deadline.

Hi there! Welcome and thanks for visiting E.V. Writes

My name is Elisa and I write under the name E.V. accompanied by a myriad of surnames. Two things dominate my life: reading and writing. Cats, too, but I’ll try to keep that to a minimum here. I read and write many genres but I am mainly focused on dark fantasy stories at present. I have a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing because I couldn’t devote myself wholly to anything else.

I’ve been a true reading fanatic since middle school, and while I’ve been writing since I learned the alphabet I had to side-step from the craft in order to finish school. Sporadic dips in the writing pond kept my love strong. Now, however, I’m ready to give writing the time it deserves.

I blog about the art of writing every Friday on Anxiety Ink, so that’s not what I want to do here. I want E.V. Writes to be my personal creative centre. I may discuss aspects of writing or things I uncover that may be useful to other writers, but I intend to focus mainly on my projects, processes, and interests for an audience perspective. And I hope to deliver new content every first and third Tuesday of the month. This is probably the part where I slip in a quote about good intentions…

If you want to learn more about me and what I do, please browse through the menu above. I’ve gone into much wordier detail throughout and you’ll get a better glimpse into the things that hold my attention. I have a wide variety of interests so there should be a little something for everyone.

Thanks again for stopping by!