I think one of the most difficult novels to write is the epic. Usually an epic is long, following our characters (who tend to be a larger group than the average novel) on a daunting journey, with surprises and new revelations at every bend. It’s no wonder it’s a challenge for any author.
But for the authors or aspiring authors up to the challenge, I offer you some solace, an interview with GenZ Publishing author, Meiling Colorado, who successfully accomplished this very quest in her book, a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Aftermath.
Meiling Colorado lives in Spain, on the beautiful island of Mallorca, with her husband and two children, alternating between writing, teaching English, translating and practising Permaculture. When there is time she really enjoys just breathing, being out in nature, and watching the sun set slowly on the horizon.
I was able to discuss Ms. Colorado’s writing process, ask her about her characters, and understand where she gets inspiration for her writing, particularly for unpredictable events that occur in her novel.
First, I wanted to focus on her process, how she plotted out such a long book, and how she develops her characters.
KH: The novel is rather long, and action-packed. So what is your process for plotting out your writing? Do you plot out the novel arc first, or do you just go where your writing takes you?
MC: I do my best to plot everything out, chapter by chapter. My friends and family will tell you I am a bit of a control freak, but when it comes to writing I rarely reap the benefits of my hard work. Once the creative wave hits it sweeps everything else away, and I’m left clutching my carefully crafted notes in a bewildered manner. I always comfort myself thinking they will come in handy for another novel, yet I somehow doubt it.
KH: There are a lot of characters in the novel, around eight main characters, however, each character is very distinct, realistic, and memorable. What is your characterization process? Do your characters come to you first, or do you really work on shaping them through the drafting process?
MC: My characters pop up all by themselves, knocking on my door, figuratively speaking, in a very intrusive and demanding way… I then work on their background and past history. That being said, as the drafting process develops I often discover hidden layers within their personalities, which surface as the plot develops.
I was so enraptured by each page in Aftermath, never knowing where the novel was going to take me next, and that’s a defining feature of a good epic, and so my next question for Ms. Colorado focused on this part of her writing process.
KH: The novel takes many twists and turns, once you think you’ve read the big reveal, another appears. So where do you find inspiration when you get stuck, or get writers’ block, and seamlessly write all of these unpredictable revelations?
MC: I’m glad it appeared seamless to you. There is a lot of weaving involved. Well, some authors swear by persistence. That doesn’t work for me; I just get stuck deeper and deeper if I keep pushing on.
So, I try sneakiness instead. If I find myself facing a plot roadblock I usually put my pen down (yes, I do most of my drafting by hand), make myself some tea, and approach the situation from another angle. I’ll write another, unconnected chapter, or I will simply go out to the garden until the kinks work themselves out. I’ve had more than one tangle resolve itself while planting or weeding.
Finally, for you aspiring novelists out there, lost and need a pep talk, Ms. Colorado speaks to you:
KH: What suggestions or advice do you have for aspiring authors that they may not consider, particularly when they attempt to write a novel similar to yours, filled with several protagonists, in a novel that takes many twists and turns?
MC: I would tell them to write, write for themselves, nobody else. There is a story inside you and only you can write it. Find out what your way of working is, whether you are a planner or rather prefer to let the characters lead. Get to know your characters well, find out what makes them tick, what are their concerns, and why. How they got that scar, and what makes them giggle uncontrollably… Let them whisper their pain and joy in your ear. They can take you to some dark places, but it’s all within you, isn’t it? In the end, I think writing is a voyage of self-discovery.
I am so thankful to Meiling Colorado for her willingness to chat with me about her novel and hope that her words of wisdom are helpful in leading you through your own writing journey!