Friday 21 June 2013

How to Write Until It Hurts by Nadia Simonenko

In my time as a blogger, short as it has been, I don't usually talk about the dark stuff. Sure I talk about death and destruction but not about the every day stuff that hurts like hell. It's a tough subject to broach and a lot of writers are hesitant to. Not Nadia.
Nadia Simonenko, writer of the New Adult Contemporary Romance Lost  is here to talk about her experiences while writing this modern love story about healing and finding love. 
Sometimes you need someone else to help you find your way.

Maria's life was torn apart when she was fifteen, and for seven years she's kept her terrible secret hidden from the world. Now, in her final semester of college, she still struggles against paralyzing fear just trying to speak up in class, and the terror and helplessness linger on in her nightmares.

Across campus, Owen sees his scars in the mirror every morning while he gets ready for class. They remind him of the broken home he left behind, the father he hates and fears, and the little sister he couldn't protect. Now, in his final semester of college, he's scared that he may have to return to the hell he called home after staying away for almost five years.

When Owen becomes a teaching assistant for one of Maria's classes, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other. As the two learn each other's secrets and grow closer, they realize that although they may be lost, they're not alone anymore.

Available on Amazon and B&N

On the planning and writing process for Lost
Hello, Nadia here!  Extra-special super-thanks (the kind that gives you wings and magical powers) to Vicki for hosting me today.

For everything I write, the first step in the planning process is to figure out what I want to do. I have several pen names for other genres, and the first step for me has always been to ask, “what do I feel like writing?”

Lost’s answer to that question was “characters that the reader believes are real.

That’s where my usual structured approach breaks down.  Lost breaks every rule I’ve ever tried to follow from there on.  It wrote itself long before I ever put pen to paper.  (Yes, those archaic things still exist, and I still use them when my arms hurt too much from typing.  Stop laughing at me.)

Lost is a very special book to me for reasons beyond simply that “I wrote it.”  It’s also special to me because it’s partially a diary.

Remember my answer to the question up above? Every character in the book is real. They’re all combinations of more than one person, but every single one of them is real.
First step to writing Lost:  Building the characters.  The male lead, Owen, was built from a combination of my husband’s childhood and my own, as well as one other wonderful individual who was willing to talk with us about his life.  His nightmares are mostly real.  His personality is mostly real.  Why did so many readers love him?  Because he’s real.

Maria was harder to write.  I don’t (thank God!) have experience with what she went through, but there was no way on earth I was going to let myself do a disservice to people who have gone through what she has. It was time for research. I found support groups, websites dedicated to her particular type of trauma, and victims who were willing to talk with me about it. She is made up of the stories and lives of several different people, and I don’t even need to say “mostly real” about her nightmares. They’re real. 

There must be more to a pair of characters than just trauma. People may let that define their lives, but there’s always more to them than that. The last step to the character design was to give each of them a little more than just their nightmares.

Personally, I’m very proud of these two characters. How can I not be? One of them is basically my husband. I’m very happy that so many readers have liked both of them. Some didn’t, of course, but that’s par for the course with any book.

Second step to writing Lost:  Bring the characters together.  Where are they, and how did they meet each other? I wanted to write it as a college romance, mainly because that’s when things turned around for my husband and me. We hadn’t met each other yet, but we were finally coming into our own so to speak. Owen and Maria meet in college, and from there it’s just trying to write realistic interactions. I understood one side of the relationships coming into it and had plenty of memories to work with for my time in college, and thanks to the people willing to talk to me about Maria’s side of the picture, I was able to put together realistic actions for her as well. At least, I hope I did. I certainly tried.

Third step to writing Lost:  Hurting myself until it worked.  Not a step that you usually see in a writer’s development process, is it? In short, if what I was writing didn’t bother me, I wasn’t doing a good enough job. If you want to know what I mean, go read the first chapter and get back to me after that.  That is what I was going for.  Some people might argue that trying to hurt your readers isn’t the best business decision, but I didn’t agree.  Lost may be a contemporary romance, but it is a dark romance built from real people’s lives.  If I made it easier for people—if I didn’t let them see the full extent of the stories behind the characters—I would be doing the original Owens and Marias a horrible disservice.

If it didn’t hurt me to read a chapter when I was done with that, I went back into my own memories and into those of the wonderful people who are willing to open up to me, and I tried my best to both understand and feel them until I could do them justice.
Thanks for taking the time to read my guest post. I certainly hope that you give Lost a shot. It’s not an easy read by any means, but I think you just might like it.

-Nadia Simonenko
About the Author:

Nadia Simonenko is a scientist and author currently living in Indianapolis with her husband, two cats and a dog. When she isn't writing, she develops new oncolytic compounds and dreams about someday getting to take a vacation.

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