The final part to the tense and involving Ashes trilogy, Monsters, was released in September. I’m really lucky to have Ilsa J Bick to stop by and answer some questions on her writing processes and her novels.
1. As the Ashes trilogy develops, we hear from the point of view of lots of different characters. How did you keep the timelines and action straight for each one?
Uhm, well, no real magic formula: I just kind of know/knew. I do outlines for all of my books, so I’m not sure if that helps me or not since I kind of have to keep track of what’s going on when and where. As I go along and the book grows/lengthens, I usually resort to old tech: a legal pad and paper, where I’ll list the chapter, the POV chapter, number of pages. Since I know what’s going on, I don't usually put that down, but that helps me see the ebb and flow of the narrative better and decide that, you know, we really have to hear from Character X again.
2. All of your books are filled with tension and spark. Do you think that tension is important to every story, regardless of genre?
Yup. A very famous writer once told me that even if all you write about is a little old lady winning a cake-baking contest, it had better be the most intense contest ever. As a writer, you have to keep in mind that the book is your character(s) whole world. So everything has to count toward something. There can’t be any throwaway lines.
3. I loved Drowning Instinct, but it was a big departure from the Ashes trilogy. What pushed you in to taking such a different direction?
Well, nothing exactly pushed me. I’ve always written in a wide variety of genres; otherwise, I’d get bored and stale, doing the same thing over and over again. So DROWNING is different from the ASHES trilogy that’s different from DRAW THE DARK, and that’s different from THE SIN EATER’S CONFESSION. All I’m ever after is to tell a good story, and if the story matters to me, then I write it. If I don’t feel very intensely about something, then I wouldn’t bother otherwise. I guess that, with DROWNING, I wanted to write about a relationship that I thought hadn’t been done to death yet.
4. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
Sure: WHITE SPACE, the first book in my new DARK PASSAGES series, will be coming out in February 2014 [Sophie: in the US, no UK release yet], and I’m currently working on (more like hand-to-hand combat with) the sequel, THE DICKENS MIRROR. Think The Matrix meets Inkheart and Inception, and that will give you a clue. They’re basically YA horror/psychological thrillers with a dash of sci-fi and, in the case of DICKENS MIRROR, historical fiction. I mean, think about it: how do you know – really know – that you’re real? How do you gauge that? (And what’s real mean anyway?) And what happens if your life falls between the lines? It’s that kind of mind-bendy, creepy-weird series.
Just as soon as I’m done with DM, I’ll go back to a new standalone I’m about halfway through and then revisit the first book in another projected series that I’ve also got about half-written. By the time I’m all done with those, I’m sure I’ll have thought of something else to write. Have to keep those cats in kibble.
5. Writing essentials?
Coffee and silence.
6. Favourite story world?
The one I’m creating in my head for whatever book I happen to be working on.
7. Book of the year so far?
None. I’m sorry to say that nothing’s blown me away.
8. Currently reading?
Currently reading and/or listening to: Dr. Sleep by Stephen King; Storm Front by John Sandford; Never Go Back by Lee Child.
How fantastic does the new series sounds?! I’m also really hoping that we’ll get news of it and two of Ilsa’s previous novels being released in the UK soon!