Kim Purcell is celebrating the paperback release of her book Trafficked with a blog tour stop here at YA Love and giving away a copy of Trafficked to one lucky winner. Her guest post today is on method writing which I’m excited to share since my students are working so hard this year to become stronger writers. Make sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post!
Summary of Trafficked (From Goodreads):
Hannah has struggled ever since her parents were killed and her beloved uncle vanished. So when she’s offered the chance to leave Moldova and become a nanny for a family in Los Angeles, it seems like a dream come true-and at first it is. But after weeks of working sixteen-hour days and not being able to leave the house, she still hasn’t been paid. As things go from bad to worse, Hannah realizes that things are not at all what they seem and she finds herself doing things she never imagined herself capable of. But as she begins uncovering the family’s crooked history, she may be exposing more than she bargained on-and putting her life in danger.
** “Method Writing” guest post by Kim Purcell **
Sometimes people ask me how I could write about a modern-day slave in America, an orphan girl from Moldova, someone so different from me. I did a lot to prepare myself before I started writing this book. I went to Moldova and had some scary experiences there, which I put into the book through Hannah’s perspective. I ate Russian and Moldovan food. I interviewed about forty different girls and women in Moldova and America and absorbed their experiences so that I could become Hannah.
I write a little differently from many other writers. I call it Method Writing, similar to Method Acting, which is when the actor becomes the character for extended periods and even becomes the character for periods of time, even when not acting. It’s the only way any good writing comes out of me. If I try hard to focus on craft and consciously try to write something beautiful, forget it. The writing will always be awkward. I have to put myself in a trance beforehand and become that character.
Before I even sit down at the computer, it’s my goal to be the character and see the world through her eyes. How do I get into the character? First, I need a little time walking or running to get myself into the character. I love to run with friends, but if I’m getting into character, I need to be alone. At first, my mind starts circling around my character. I start thinking her thoughts. I focus on my physical senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. I try to experience these senses through the character’s eyes, ears, nose, etc. Once I am physically feeling like my character, I can write with the type of sensory detail that makes the writing come alive.
There are some downsides to this kind of writing. One of them is I feel everything the character feels, which means I also suffer through the things she’s suffering. If she’s running from something or someone who wants to kill her, my pulse is beating fast and my adrenalin is going. If she’s lonely and sad, oh man, I’m so lonely and sad. If she’s having fun and laughing, you’ll probably find me giggling at my computer screen.
If I wrote only happy scenes, it would be great, but I don’t specialize in happy scenes. Trafficked has some pretty tough scenes in it, and this is true for my next novel too. So, it messes with my body. Because I’m wrapped up in the story, my body will get itself into weird positions as I’m writing. Sometimes my feet rest on the desk or get curled under me and fall asleep. Sometimes my back is all curled up like a mad scientist. Sometimes my shoulders are pulled right up to my neck. Or my character is running so my feet are flexed and poised off the ground for thirty minutes. Later in the day, I wonder, hmm, how come my legs hurt?
Another downside is that if someone interrupts me in the midst of writing, like my husband or my kids, I’ll look up with a sort of dazed, crazed expression. “What do you want?” I’m not myself. Or their interruption might scare me and make me jump. Needless to say, I rarely write with them around. Sometimes I write in cafes because I feel like my house will distract me from my character because it’s messy or I have a bunch of things to do there. In a café, I put on headphones with really loud, fast music, nothing that I want to sing along to, just so I can block out any external noise. When I write at home, it has to be totally quiet and I like my office to be spotless (and preferably my house too) because I need that emptiness to transport myself elsewhere and completely lose myself in the writing.
Because I lose myself in my writing, things can happen around me and I may not notice. One time, this winter, I forgot to turn on the heat and I was shivering as I came out of my writing. My fingers were so cold they wouldn’t move and I realized that was what pulled me out of the character. Often I won’t stop to eat if I’m in the middle of my writing, so I’ll get dizzy before I realize I need to eat. I always bring a tea with milk and sugar now and a little snack to start off my writing. I can never put something in the oven without an alarm on – I’ve learned it will burn, for sure, and the house will be filled with smoke before I notice it. I also set an alarm so I finish when I need to finish and go do what I need to do for the rest of my life.
If I’m in the midst of an early draft of my book, it gets harder to maintain the separation between writing and life. I obsess about my character. I could think about her all day long if I let myself. Sometimes I dream about her and in the morning, I want everyone to go away so I can write. But this isn’t possible. I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend. I have things to do, people who need me. And so, I hold that character in a little box in my mind while I get everyone out the door in the morning. After I’m done writing, I need a transition back to regular life too. If I take a shower and do a little yoga, this usually works. Then, I can act more or less like a regular person, and not like my character. Until the next morning.
** Author Bio **
Kim Purcell is a journalist, teacher and novelist of Trafficked (Penguin). She dances anywhere a good song is playing, and she’d love to offer you a cup of tea.
** Win a copy of Trafficked **
Giveaway open to US and Canada only
Giveaway sponsored by the author–Thanks, Kim!
Only one entry per person
Must be at least 13 years old to enter
Giveaway ends 3/26/13 at 11:59 pm EST
Winner will be notified via email and given 48 hours to respond