Today I am going to interview Kate M. Colby, aka Charlie the mechanical frog. When she isn’t hopping around, being wound, or flirting with mechanical ducks, she’s the author of The Cogsmith’s Daughter.
In a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, one king rules with absolute power and unquenchable lust, until the cogsmith’s daughter risks everything for vengeance.
Two-hundred years ago, the steam-powered world experienced an apocalyptic flood. When the waters dried up, the survivors settled around their steamship in a wasteland they named Desertera. Believing the…
The first video is spoiler FREE. It covers the pronunciation of some of the main characters’ names, as well as which names in the novel hold personal significance for me (and now will for those of you in certain geeky fandoms!).
They say the second book is the hardest to write. Well, I don’t know who they are or how they came up with this idea…but based on my experience with Desertera #2, I believe them. This sequel was about a million times more difficult to write than its predecessor, The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), and I’m beyond relieved that my first draft is finished. Now, it’s just a matter of revising until it’s ready to publish. Not easy, by any means, but easier for me than pulling words out of thin air.
To help other writers learn from my lessons (and mistakes), and give you readers a few teasers, I want to share with you all some of my biggest challenges and triumphs from drafting Desertera #2, as well as how the experience compared to writing The Cogsmith’s Daughter.
Why I Wrote It
TCD – To prove that I could I write a book. To kick off my author career.
Desertera #2 – I wanted to continue the story of Desertera and the characters within it. Also, to prove TCD wasn’t a fluke and that I really can do this author thing.
Both books had emotional reasons behind them, but Desertera #2 also came with added pressure. I mean, I have to A) live up to readers’ expectations from TCD and B) keep the series moving in the right direction, while C) remembering every detail from the first book.
Lesson learned: Don’t think about expectations or end game, just give this book its due, then edit the rest in later.
Planning & Pre-Writing
TCD – A detailed list of story beats/major plot points, a map of world, basic character sketches. Stayed about 80% on outline.
Desertera #2 – A semi-detailed list of plot points. Stayed maybe 50% on outline.
Note to self: Make a better road map for book three.
How Long I Wrote It
TCD – A mad, 30 day, roughly 52 hour dash during NaNoWriMo 2014. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.
Desertera #2 – A drawn-out and grueling nine months of mostly procrastination and 80-ish hours of actual writing. I started it while TCD was in line editing (June 2015), only to abandon it while finishing up TCD, then start over the next NaNoWriMo. I finally finished in March (after seriously recommitting myself in February).
I hope to never drag out a manuscript in this way again. And I finally accepted that maintaining a consistent writing schedule is the key to success.
How I Felt While Writing It
TCD – This is great! Woohoo! Writing is the best thing ever!
Desertera #2 – What the hell have I done? This is absolute crap. Why did I ever think I could be an author?
Lesson learned upon revising: The truth is always somewhere in between, but at least it’s not yet been crap.
TCD – Mostly on my desktop in the study, with little snippets on my laptop during lunch.
Desertera #2 – Mostly on my laptop on the train (which has actually become my new favorite place to write!), with the beginning on the desktop in the study.
Big tip: If stuck, mix up your writing routine. You just may find a new center of productivity!
Story Differences in Desertera #2:
A new point-of-view. That’s right – book two does not star Aya Cogsmith. Learning to write a new character’s voice was equally freeing, frustrating, and instructive. My newsletter subscribers already know our new protagonist, but the rest of you can guess in the comments!
Humor and sociability. My new protagonist is much more light-hearted than Aya, so injecting a different sense of humor into the dialog and interactions were fun challenges. Plus, the new protagonist is almost always surrounded by other characters (whereas Aya is more introverted), so that heavily influenced the plot, my writing style, and character relationships.
Darker themes. In Desertera #2, we see our characters change in the aftermath of book one. Greed, corruption, and violence dominate the narrative in a whole new way.
Same characters, new roles. Because Aya is no longer the focus, the way the reader interacts with previous characters had to change. As such, we get to see new sides of our old friends and learn more about some of their roles in society and ambitions as people.
Longer chapters. The structure of this novel lent itself to longer (and more consistent) chapter lengths. However, I tried to maintain the quick pace and cliffhanger-esque endings that readers enjoyed the first time around.
Although my first two novels are in the same series, I had opposite experiences with writing them. The Cogsmith’s Daughter was easy and quick to write, while I struggled regaining my groove with Desertera #2. In the end, I managed to overcome my Sophomore writing slump by finding and sticking to a routine, no longer worrying about how the sequel would compare to its predecessor, and allow my character to guide the plot and even my writing style.
But I’m not done yet. Beyond editing, what’s my final challenge? Figuring out a damn title.
What is the most difficult part of writing a book for you? Did you go through a “Sophomore slump,” too? Who do you think (or hope!) is the protagonist of Desertera #2? Share your thoughts below!
Since moving to New Haven, I have become one of the faceless masses on the public transport system. For those of you who have only ever commuted by car (or vice versa), let me describe the differences to you (at least, for introverted me).
In the Car
I come from a long line of mechanics, racers, and car enthusiasts. As much as I love to say I’m helping the environment by taking the train, the truth is: I’m saving the mileage on my 16-year-old baby. (But two birds, right?)
In the car, it’s you and the machine versus the other anonymous automobiles. While you have to jostle for position on the interstate, you get to enjoy your isolated, little bubble, filled with your music or audiobooks, or delicious silence. No one sits next to you uninvited. No one’s obnoxious phone conversations intrude. No strange bodily odors invade (and if they do, that’s on you).
On the Train
Your hands are free and the stress of traffic is but a distant memory. If you can snag a seat or a pole to hang on to, the ride is relatively smooth. When listening to music, daydreaming out the window, or reading, the time flies. But…you have to deal with the people. The flirty train conductor. The fast-talking business man. The snoring college student.
While prolonged, close contact with strangers isn’t my favorite experience, I’ve learned to deal. But there’s one aspect of ‘train culture’ that continues to get under my skin. It’s an attitude most Americans (and I daresay, most people) share, but I’ve never felt it quite as strongly as when I am immersed in a crowd of disgruntled souls.
It’s like ‘the Mondays,’ only everyday.
People on the train are freaking miserable. While talking on their phones, they complain to their loved ones about their jobs. While waiting for the doors to open, they grumble with fellow commuters. While getting their tickets stamp, they bemoan another day at the office.
And I sit there, with my computer on my lap, and I grow smug. After all, I’m going to escape the day job grind – one day – and until then, I actually enjoy my job. But the smugness never lasts. It is quickly replaced by empathy. Not everyone has the shiny dream of entrepreneurship to keep them going. Some people have failed in their goals and given up. Others never dare to imagine a more fulfilling career for themselves. I had those days, too.
This is why, among a thousand other reasons, I write books.
The happiest people on the train? From their wide, absorbed eyes and the faint smiles playing on their lips, my guess is the readers. And I know, I’m one. Books make the commute fly by. They provide temporary relief from stress (seriously – science backs this up), and offer an escape from our reality.
As women’s fiction author Fia Essen said in her review of The Cogsmith’s Daughter:
“Fiction, at its best, should take you away from your own reality. It should make you forget about your daily grind. It should keep you thinking about it, making you want to go back for more, as you stand in line at the supermarket, bank, or the post office.”
Or on the train. Knowing that I could offer Fia a temporary retreat, even for a few hours, is one of my proudest accomplishments as an author. And I hope I can do that with my life.
But it’s selfish, too.
My books don’t just provide my readers with escape. They allow me to escape, too. How can I possibly worry about the catalog spreads I have to crank out when I’ve got to help Aya avoid King Archon’s clutches? Or Dellwyn chase down a mysterious stalker?
Whether writing or reading, books are magic. In a single page, they allow us to fall in love, solve a murder, or swim in the ocean. They are movies playing out in our minds, and while the words we read are all the same, the images and emotions they conjure are completely our own.
If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
The catch? As wonderful as books are, they are only ever a temporary escape. I’ll say to you what my introverted personality would never let me say to the strangers on the train – reading is great, happiness is better, and together they are sublime.
Figure out your passion. Write down goals that will fulfill you. Then work your ass off until you meet them.
It may take days. It may take years. It may never happen. But take it from someone who is there every morning…
Working for your dreams is a thousand times more fulfilling than giving up on them.
And achieving them? Well, I’ll let you know.
What books have rescued you from the daily grind? What dreams are you working toward? Share below!