Hey thanks to Zoë Ruiz for inviting me on this Writing Process Blog Tour. Zoë is an awesome L.A. writer who hangs out with me sometimes because we are friends. Her writing has appeared places like Salon and Two Serious Ladies, and you may know her as the former managing editor of The Rumpus. She curates the reading series Readings here in L.A., which might be how we met. You can read about her process here.
What are you working on?
1. The third installment of the Juniper Song series, another L.A. noir that deals with surrogacy and the Armenian genocide. This is due in December.
2. A short story for the Asian Pulp anthology about a Korean-American woman who learns some disturbing things about her family and the L.A. riots. This is due Monday.
3. A round-up of unique sea urchin dishes in L.A. for the L.A. Times food section. This is due tomorrow.
4. A review of Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes for the L.A. Review of Books. This is due Wednesday.
5. My big fat literary novel that I’ve been working on here and there for the last few years. This is due never and will hopefully get done before then but who even knows.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I write Korean-American feminist noir, and as far as I know, I am the leading writer in this category. (I don’t know of another writer in this category. Please tell me if you do.)
Why do you write what you do?
I’ve spent my whole life living as a Korean-American in L.A. surrounded by other Korean-Americans in L.A. This experience is completely normal to me, like water to a fish, or whatever it is they say. I also have a rich reading life, and I’ve spent that whole life in other environments, without running across a single novel that represented my experience. I think I’ll write about Korean-Americans in L.A. for my whole career, in some form or another. I like mystery for now. It’s a great tool for exploring social issues, and it’s a lot of fun to read and write.
How does your writing process work?
These days, procrastination, procrastination, AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, then goal! Mostly!
I actually have a cool set-up where I get to work day job full time about half the year, and spend the other half writing. I’m about a month into the writing half for 2014, and I’m still struggling to get into a disciplined rhythm. I’m far too willing to shove off and day drink, or drive out to meet someone for lunch. My best writing days are the ones where I roll out of bed, write for a while, then brush my teeth just in time to walk the dog before my husband comes home from work. If I sit in front of my computer for long enough, I get tired of the internet and produce something of use in a three-hour burst in the afternoon. I’m working on expanding this window of productivity. Shutting off internet certainly helps.
I am a believer in word quotas and deadlines, because I will generally meet definite goals out some combination of shame and responsibility (90/10 split). I shoot for 1,000 words a day, spread out across different projects (and not counting things like Yelp reviews or this blog post). Sometimes I cut myself some slack, but that slope gets slippery real fast. I am astonishingly good at accomplishing nothing for days at a time, and rewarding myself for the most minor of minor achievements. (Like after I post this I’m going to read some more of The Magicians while I eat hummus.)
As for the process of stringing sentences together to form a review, story, novel, whatever–I do it a sentence at a time, with outlining when necessary. I tend to know where things are going as I write them, and if the initial product comes out a bit lopsided, I can go back and adjust in editing. I will say, though, that I’m not one of these writers who discards 9 out of every 10 words. My deadlines are too tight for that kind of luxury, and also everything I write is pure gold no need to question that ever.
I tag Ed Lin, Lisa Brackmann, and David Connerley Nahm to participate next week. Here are their bios, stolen from their websites because I procrastinated this blog post and paraphrasing takes time.
Ed Lin, a native New Yorker of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards and is an all-around standup kinda guy. Waylaid and This Is a Bust were both published by Kaya Press in 2002 and 2007, respectively, and were widely praised. Both books also won Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His third book, Snakes Can’t Run, was published by Minotaur Books in April 2010; it was loved by many and also won an Asian American Literary Award. One Red Bastard was published by Minotaur in April 2012. His latest book, Ghost Month, a Taipei-based mystery, was published by Soho Crime in July 2014.
Lin lives in Brooklyn with his wife, actress Cindy Cheung, and son.
Lisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and was the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. Yes, she will do karaoke, and she’s looking to buy a bass ukulele. Her debut novel, ROCK PAPER TIGER, set on the fringes of the Chinese art world, made several “Best of 2010″ lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Novels and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers, and was nominated for the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel, GETAWAY, won the Los Angeles Book Festival Grand Prize and was nominated for the T. Jefferson Parker SCIBA award.
David Connerley Nahm was born and raised in a small town in central Kentucky. Currently, he lives in the mountains of Virginia where he practices law and teaches Law and Literature at James Madison University. His short stories have appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Trunk Stories, Eyeshot, and on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
(ETA: His debut novel, Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky, is out now with Two Dollar Radio. I actually copy-pasted this bio from the TDR site because on David’s it just says DAVID CONNERLEY NAHM LIVES IN THE MOUNTAINS OF VIRGINIA WHERE HE PRACTICES LAW AND TEACHES COLLEGE.)