Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Do Writers Write: A Blog Hop


Before I start the post...Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful wife. I cannot imagine life without you.



“Writer’s write, that’s what we do. Find out why and how in this new Blog Hop for 2014”


Sarah Hegger, a wonderful writer I met at the 2013 RWA conference, pinged me via a couple of forms of social media and asked if I would be interested in participating in a year-long blog hop where writers answer four questions about their writing process. Possessing all the savvy of Inspector Clouseau, I had no idea what a blog hop was. Still, I thought it was a great idea anyway.

To discover more about Sarah and her writing process, please check out the link here (but be sure to come back and finish the post).

On to the four questions:

What am I working on?
My primary focus is historicals set in medieval Japan with inspirational and romantic elements. I refer to my work as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.” (For those who don’t know the story but plan on reading the book, I apologize for spoiling that portion of it for you.)  I have a series of manuscripts that take place in central Japan from 1587 – 1591, around the middle of Japan’s Christian century. The first manuscript, The Samurai’s Heart, is the story of a romance between a swordsmith’s daughter and the estranged son of a high-level samurai. This manuscript is under consideration with several publishers.

Subsequent titles in the series are plotted and partially drafted. Both The Samurai’s Heart and one of the unfinished manuscripts have won writing contests. I’m also working on a story set in the northwestern U.S. in the 1870s. As you might expect, that manuscript has a Japanese immigrant for a heroine. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
In one word: Japan. Stories with historical Japan themes have done well in numerous genres. However, I know of no success in the inspirational genre. In my first manuscript, The Samurai’s Heart, the heroine, a swordsmith’s daughter, is a Christian who needs to find a husband to marry into her family and carry on the family business. She seeks a Christian husband, difficult given that Christianity is banned. (This actually happened in August 1587.)  The hero, a non-Christian and estranged from his father, seeks reconciliation with his own family. However, a relationship with the heroine makes family reconciliation difficult as samurai are tasked with enforcing the ban against Christianity.

Though different, the subsequent stories have one common thread: the relationship is always between a Christian and a non-Christian. The challenge in creating the worlds of my stories is two-fold. One challenge is bringing the reader into a world where most readers have no frame of reference possibly outside the movie, The Last Samurai. The second is the names I use for my characters. I have to make the names sound appropriate for the period, yet still make them easy for readers to recall.

Why do I write what I do?
Because part of me feels that I don’t have a choice.

My first story takes place in Himeji Castle, a place I’ve visited many times. Japanese castles have numerous talismans decorating the eaves to protect against fires, typhoons, earthquakes, and other disasters. Himeji Castle has similar types of decorations. Himeji Castle also has a talisman with a cross. The cross survived the ban and its subsequent re-iterations, a time in Japanese history that eventually saw tens of thousands of Japanese martyred. A pastor of mine once referred to these people as “the great unknown martyrs.” Someone has to tell their story.

How does my writing process work?
I start with an outline for the first few chapters and a vague idea of the ending, then I let the characters develop by writing those chapters. After that, I plot the rest of the book. Sometimes I write to the end. Sometimes, I put the plot aside to let the story germinate.

At this time, I am currently editing a finished, but extremely rough, draft of my one non-Japan related work. It’s a story I don’t discuss much as I’m constantly researching the time period. However, it’s a work of Biblical fiction so it’s still targeting the inspirational market. Once I finish the edits, I will return to my 1870’s U.S. novel with a Japanese immigrant heroine. As all scenes are plotted and the story is one-fourth drafted, I will plow through until I reach the end.

I have two exciting writers I want to introduce you to. The first is Dr. Philip Levin, a poet and children’s book author (among other writing talents). He is also an emergency room surgeon who donates his time and skills serving overseas. The second is Piper Huguley, a college English professor and historical writer extraordinaire with a Golden Heart final to her credit.

Dr. Philip Levin

From Dr. Levin:
I’ve always been a writer. I come by my writing skills from both sides of my ancestry. My mother, Beatrice S. Levin, has published almost 20 books and thousands of articles. As well as being the author of scores of scientific works, my father, Franklyn K. Levin, edited the magazine Geophysics for several years, and still is frequently consulted for his editorial skills. During college I edited the college newspaper and paid much of my medical school tuition from articles I sold. During my residency in Corpus Christi, Texas, I was the associate editor and a main contributor to “Coastal Bend Medicine.” Those years also saw me complete the first draft of my mystery novel.

Raising my family and tackling my career were my focus, with few publications during my thirties and forties. Once the children were off in college, I settled down to learning the craft and submitting to contests and markets. I published “Inheritance” in 2007, followed the next year by my children’s photo-book, “Consuto and the Rain God.” I published four stories in anthologies in 2009. I’m writing articles for the state medical journal and editing the writing group’s magazine “Magnolia Quarterly.” I lecture about writing, being the guest speaker in writing groups from North Carolina to Florida and throughout Mississippi. 

Piper Huguley

Piper G Huguley is the author of Migrations of the Heart, a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters.  Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.  Book one in her new historical series Home to Milford College was a semi-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. 

She blogs about the history behind her novels at She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.


DT Krippene said...

Good article, Walt. I just started guest blogging with a few authors who have the same agent as I. It's a bit of work to keep it all organized, but lot's of fun.

Oh, and a big shout out to Dr. Levin. Love his stuff.

Sarah Hegger said...

Your Samurai's Heart has fascinated me sent you told me about it at RWA 2013. Can't wait to see it get the recognition it deserves

Walt Mussell said...

DT, I'm a big fan of Dr. Levin's as well. His bio would have to be much longer to do him justice.

Sarah, thank you. I'm hopeful it will get recognition soon.