Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NaNoWriMo Spotlight: Reka aka RekaStormborn

Please welcome Reka, known as RekaStormborn on the forum. Her NaNoWriMo novel is titled "Wild Witch: Imprint". She falls under the category of yet another writer I couldn't meet during November, being all the way out in Gastonia, but I think we would have had a good time had we actually met. Reka was one of the first in our region to cross the 50k goal line. Congrats to her!

Who are you?

At 28, I’m happily married to my high school sweetheart, working in a field I never expected, and still writing after 17 years. It’s been a bizarre journey. We moved periodically when I was a kid because of my dad’s changing jobs. Who knew that managing hotels would mean as many moves as most military careers? After four states (PA, NY, MI, NC), two elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and my dad moving into the IT field, we landed in Gastonia, NC fairly permanently.

It was there that I wrote my very first completed novel length work, a YA fantasy completed the summer between my sophomore and junior years. My writing continued to flourish and improve as I moved through high school, made it into NC State where I earned an English BA with a concentration in creative writing, took 9 months off school, attended Appalachian State for an MA in English with a concentration in community college teaching, and got married.

Having learned that teaching freshmen English didn’t pay nearly enough to make up for the fact that I didn’t love it, I reverted to my previous part-time jobs in retail and at an ice cream shop. This left me plenty of time for writing, which I took advantage of to write several more novel length works. Then, the downturn in the economy hit home. Seasonal and temp retail dried up and the ice cream shop had to shut its doors.
After two weeks unemployed, a friend called to offer me a spot as a data entry temp at the family owned supply company she was working for as a graphic designer. In the way of things, it turned out to be who I knew, not what I knew. That data entry project was completed, and then they realized they had another one, so they put me on that project. And somehow, pulling the customer, vender, and item information from their old system into QuickBooks Enterprise, turned into a full time job as something between tech support, IT help desk, QuickBooks expert, and general data processing/entry/control person. Two English degrees, and I’m working in IT. Go figure.

These days, I’m working in the office in Shelby, NC four days a week, and telecommuting from Raleigh, NC on the weekends so that I can see my husband who is finishing up a degree at NC State. It means 40 hours a week working, 10 hours a week driving, and precious little time to write regularly, but I’m still at it, working away on manuscripts that I hope to publish soon.

Why did you pick NaNoWriMo to consume your November?

My NaNoWriMo career started out in 2010 when a fellow fanfic writer encouraged me to join her in the challenge. I was only working 32 hours a week at the time, and could sneak writing time between customers are work too, so I was confident that first year. I’ve been writing stories far too long to be called short almost since I started writing in the 6th grade. My short pieces were over 20k, so 50k should be easy.
That first year, I restarted twice, didn’t finish the story line, and wasn’t particularly happy with more than a few scenes here or there, but I did write over 100k that 30 days of November. I considered it a success because I met great people, found a wonderful event to do every year, and wrote 50k twice in 30 days.
My second year, I was in the middle of crunch time at work pulling anywhere from 45 to 60 hours a week, had family coming in for Thanksgiving, and was doing my 10 hours of commuting every week. It explains why I only managed 50,044 that year and crossed the line on day 30. But I still met good people, got a lot of work done on a sequel to a novel I’m almost ready to publish. So all in all a good NaNo year.
So this year was my third, and I knew going into it that it was going to be another year like the last. With a 3-month-old niece recently arrived, 3 family members coming to stay at my parents’ for Thanksgiving, having to move my daily needed belonging from one residence to another not once but 3 times during the month as I shifted from staying at my in-law’s soon to be sold house to staying at my parents’ during the work week, 10 hours a week of commuting, and far too much work to get done, I wasn’t even sure taking the 1st off of work and building up 8 hours of comp time in October was going to save me this year. But then I managed to get 30k written in the first five days. The head start kept me positive, and while my average daily word count continued to shrink, I managed to pass 50k on day 13. Then I wrote less than 3,500 words in the next 15 days. But I still beat the challenge, and have my winners T-shirt to prove it.

One of the reasons I’ve continued doing NaNoWriMo even when it’s a harrying experience that stresses me out and leaves me without enough time to sleep, is the people I meet every year. Even when I only keep in touch with them that once November, it’s a great way to meet other writers, swap ideas about stories, storytelling, and the life of a writer, part- or fulltime. The networking potential, the write-ins (even when only two of us show) and the bits of shared story, misery, success, and encouragement are well worth any discomfort or stress.

Being in two different regions the past two years has brought even more advantages, this year especially. During NaNo 2012, I started a standing Tuesday night write-in. It ended up just being two of us, but we’re continuing to meet every Tuesday for a chat, some writing, and even a bit of critiquing so far. In addition to that, I’ve met a great group of women who are all interested in keeping the community feel of NaNoWriMo going all year, so we’ve started an off-season group of sorts as well as a critique group. It also gives me a built in group of fellow writers, so maybe I can talk them into doing Camp NaNoWriMo with me this year. This has to be easier in a month without a major holiday after all.

What was your novel about this year? And why did you pick that? 

This year’s novel was a WIP I’ve been typing away at for more than a year. While I may not have been starting from a blank slate, I did start with a word count of 0, even with 27k already written, so that every single word of my 50k would have been written in November. The story is a paranormal gay romance. This is a niche market I stumbled into via fanfic work with a good friend I met in grad school. Through my fanfic stories, I developed a small fan base, many of whom encouraged me to publish original works. So I’ve been working on stories that interest me, and also fit the criteria for a press I discovered through that same fanfic community. Torquere Press ( deals in LGBT Romance in almost any genre. Paranormal is one of the genres I’ve been dabbling in for years now, so I thought I’d kick my own butt and get this started story finished so I could submit it for publication.

The story starts out with Kyle, a Wiccan PI, staked out in a tree to observe Lee, a young man who was supposedly kidnapped as a child. What Kyle doesn’t know is that Lee is a Wild Witch, a type of magic user he can’t sense like he can others, and his two friends are far more than they seem as well. When one transforms into a wolf before Kyle’s eyes, he falls out of the tree in surprise. Now that Kyle has literally dropped into Lee’s life, they have to deal with conflicting goals, an unintended magical bond, Lee’s werewolf and vampire protectors, Kyle’s Wiccan PI uncle, and their growing attraction to one another.
It was a really fun story to write and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. I’m working on revising now, and plan to submit it by the end of the year, so hopefully I’ll be able to share the whole story soon.

What is your typical writing process like? 

I write off the cuff for first drafts. Similar to how we are encouraged to write during NaNo, with our inner editor silenced and the words just flowing onto the page. I may go back to fix a typo or run spell check occasionally, or re-read a section to remind myself what happened, but generally I start at the beginning and write all the way to the end. I can knock out 30k in a week or over 100k in a month if I have the free time. Revision is where most of the time commitment is for a story. I probably spend ten times as many hours working through revisions and edits than I do writing the zero draft.

I call it a zero draft for a reason. Zero drafts are very rarely if ever seen by anyone else. I’ll read back through the zero draft to find any glaring errors, sentences that don’t make any sense, or major plot holes and contradictions. That becomes the 1st draft, which I’ll often send to a trusted beta reader or take to a critique group. That process will be repeated four, five, ten times depending on how much I feel needs improved, changed, etc. It takes time, but it usually gives me a much better story in the end.

How did your month go? 

I made my goal of 50k super early, then managed a measly amount of words after that. Planning ahead saved my win this year. The week of Thanksgiving was chaos. I spent more time at my desk with my head in my story than I spent with my husband this November. Thankfully, he’s amazingly supportive of my writing and didn’t mind. And I do try to make it up to him in October and November. My social life consisted almost exclusively of write-ins during the month, but I still managed to be social. I even finished the story, getting to a nice happy ending, at least for the moment, so it was a resounding success this year.

What did you learn from NaNoWriMo this year? 

This year, I learned that I really needed other writers in my life. After leaving grad school, I wasn’t in a place near other writers, at least that I knew, and I lost touch with many of my long distance writing friends and those I exchanged critiques with over the last few years. So realizing that I needed to have a community of writers I could stay connected to year round, rather than just during November. Having come to that realization, I’ve worked to keep in touch with some of my fellow NaNoWriMos over the past two months and have managed to collect a few who I’ll be seeing regularly.

Where else can we find you online?

You can find a short original piece of fiction, and various other writing and reading related posts on my live journal:  I've decided to try my hand at the whole blogging thing and see how it goes.

The fanfic community I mentioned above is Pomme de Sang, an Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter fanfic archive. Do be aware that there is adult content and only those 18 and older should view content labeled as such. My stories appear under the author name RekaStormborn and are for entertainment purposes only.

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