Inside Angie Fox's Head!

Writing is often about getting out of your own way and letting the story flow. No one writes a tale that streams along like my friend, New York Times Bestseller Angie Fox!  Her Demon Slayer series is screechingly funny and she’s agreed to share her writing process with us today. She’s going to give an Accidental Demon Slayer book away (winner’s choice) to a commenter who also takes the What’s Your Biker Witch Name? quiz. The quiz link is: http://quiz.angiefox.com

Now it’s your turn, Angie. My blog is yours.

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How I learned to get goofy and trust my influences

A lot of writers I’ve talked with have always known who they are. I envy that. Because for many years, I tried to be somebody else. You see, I’m kind of quirky. I like going on odd adventures. I like meeting new people. I was the kid who would rather hang out at a Renaissance fair than go to the ball game.

And because I love to read, eventually I decided I wanted to be a writer. But in order to write the kinds of books people wanted to read, I decided I had to be very serious. No more playing around. And as far as listening to my inner voice? Forget it. I’d never written a book before. This was not the time to trust my instincts. Instead, I had to take classes. So I signed up for these writing classes that taught me how to outline and how to write scenes on note cards and how to shuffle those note cards around and even how to put them on cork boards and make color coded note card charts.

Now don’t think I’m knocking classes. I did learn a lot. But my problem was, I had somehow convinced myself that someone else’s way was the right way to do things. As a result, my writing life was hard and it was tedious and sometimes I’d get frustrated and want to chuck the note cards at my shelf full of writing books, but I didn’t because I wanted to tell my stories and I thought that was the way to do it.

The end result? I wrote three mysteries that didn’t sell. Worse, I had an agent tell me that I had humor creeping into a murder scene – not good when you’re oh, so serious.

When I’d get comments like that or when I couldn’t look at one more chart, I’d retreat with the books I loved to read. I can go through several books a week and some of my favorite authors include MaryJanice Davidson, Katie MacAlister, Kerrelyn Sparks and Elizabeth Peters. Then, suitably fortified, I’d go back to ignoring my influences – the authors whose work I loved – in order to write what I thought I “should” be writing.

Until one day, I snapped. I’d been working hard on some new note cards – color coded – when I received a longish letter from a respected agent. He’d read my third book and thought it would probably sell. But he hoped it didn’t. He said I was compromising my voice. I was writing for someone else. How he could tell that from those words on the page, I’ll never know. He said that book wasn’t my, “breakout book” and that I should write something else.

It was painful to read, because I knew he was right. I didn’t know exactly what I should be writing, but I decided to pull that mystery from consideration. I needed to relax and have fun for a change. So I decided to write a book just for me, a book I knew wouldn’t sell. It had to be about the excitement, about the love of books and writing. I was so excited by the idea that I had trouble sleeping that night.

Then, a few nights later, I was up at three in the morning feeding my infant son and a fun idea popped into my head – what if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a fifth level demon? Ohhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

I could write the kind of book I liked reading – quirky, different – a book where I could build my own world and make up my own rules. I banished all note cards. I let my natural voice come out, even if it was kind of offbeat.

Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I giggled my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months.

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of an editor, who asked to see the whole thing. That same editor bought the book less than a week after I finished it. And a year later, that book ended up on the New York Times bestseller list.

Now that I’ve learned to follow my instincts, I’m writing what I want to write and loving every minute of it. It’s just so important to trust yourself and follow you instincts – in writing and in everything else.

Perfect example – in this second book, The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, my protagonist is really coming into her powers. The first book was funnier because she was thrust into this magical world with no preparation. Now, the second book has a darker edge because she’s learning what that all means to her.

As I was writing it, I thought, “Can I abandon some of the quirkiness? Will readers follow me on this journey?” But I had to do it because in my heart I knew the story required it. The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers could be funny, and serious.

And again, in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers and The Last of the Demon Slayers, I made the love story deeper, hotter. It was what had to happen in the book. And boy, was it fun to write. But what would readers think? Luckily, I learned my readers don’t mind a little heat.

In order to write the books I needed to write, I had to trust my instincts. Thank goodness, I’ve learned how.

I’d like to give away a copy of The Accidental Demon Slayer today. Just take the What’s Your Biker Witch Name? quiz, tell us your biker witch name and you’re entered to win!

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Thanks for visiting us, Angie! I just popped over to your website and my Biker Witch name is “Loony Libby Wheelie-Gig!” I can’t wait to hear my readers’ new monikers.

Oh! and the Improper Blog Tour is at Risky Regencies today. Hope you’ll join me there for a Touch of a Thief giveaway!

19 thoughts on “Inside Angie Fox’s Head!

  1. Nikki Egerton says:

    I think I need to take note of this advice at this moment in time! It’s hard to find the balance between what I want to write, and what I’m good at writing. If the balance isn’t right I quickly fall out of love with an idea.
    Biker Witches is a brilliant idea! My name is: Owl Eyed Olive Fast Pants! x

  2. Ashlyn Chase says:

    I’m so glad you discovered your true voice. I went through a similar process with a similar result! Now I’m just waiting to make that NYT Bestsellers list. (grin)

    Sincerely,
    Rubber Neck Reba Bumpy Pants

    1. Angie Fox says:

      Too funny, Ashlyn. And I’m very glad you found your voice. Your books are fantastic.

  3. librarypat says:

    I have taken this quiz a time or two and I like the first name I was given: Chesty Drawers Steel Butt. If you spent much time on a bike, I’d think you would need a steel butt.
    Thanks for an interesting post.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

    1. Angie Fox says:

      Steel teeth, too. My teeth always rattle when I’m on a Harley. ;)

      Thanks for playing!

  4. Barbara Britton says:

    Okay, now this is funny. I am….
    Crumple Toed Chessie Hard Rider.

    Thanks for inspiring us to be true to our voice, Angie.

    1. Angie Fox says:

      I just hope I can save other writers from some of the trouble I went through. Besides, it is so much more fun to write when you’re true to that inner voice.

  5. Na says:

    Today I am: Rubber Neck Reba Steel Butt
    I sound so fierce!

    Angie, your books sound so witty and loads of fun. I’m glad you decided to take your goofiness seriously :)

    1. Angie Fox says:

      Thanks, Rubber Neck Reba!

  6. Dani Harper says:

    Hi Angie, great blog! What a timely message for me — I wrote a novella that I’ve just buried in the backyard because it’s SO not “me”. I confess I was trying to write like one of my fav authors. Problem – I am not her, and the results were like a mutations experiment gone horribly wrong. A learning experience, definitely. I can only be the best ME I can be, and I’m really lucky that my readers like my voice as it is.
    PS – I am LINDA THE LUSH FAST PANTS and your books sound terrific!

    1. Angie Fox says:

      Ah, yes. Doesn’t it seem like such a good idea at the time? I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, but it took me three manuscripts under the bed to realize that I don’t write that way.

      I like how you call it the mutations experiment gone horribly wrong. Such a perfect way to put it!

  7. catslady says:

    Oh, I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series and would love to read the third since I enjoyed them so much. And I am Looney Libby Flat Foot – lol.

    1. Angie Fox says:

      Thanks! The series is such a blast to write. I look back on those early, overly-serious books and wonder what I was thinking.

  8. So inspiring, and ‘freeing’ for anyone trying to fit themselves into where they ‘think’ they should be instead of where they want to be.

    And I am: Lusty Lucinda Wheelie-Gig

    I’ve never been ‘lusty’ before–this could be FUN! *grin*

    1. Angie Fox says:

      Hey, lusty sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for playing!

  9. Vicki Reid says:

    Great blog, Angie. I could swear you’re inside my current writing world. I want to get to the place where it’s fun again.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Vicki, What’s your Biker Witch name?

    2. Angie Fox says:

      It’s hard because writing is a craft and we want to learn the rules. I started as an advertising writer and learned very quickly that just because I could write professionally, didn’t mean I knew how to put together a book.

      Classes and how-to instruction is very valuable. It’s just that you need to know when to get out of the “how-do” mode and into the “just let go and do it.”

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