blackdog tour :: author guest post

16 February 2014

Today i have the wonderful Rachel Neumeier here to talk about how she came to write her debut novel - Blackdog.
Summary: Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.
But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.
In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.
Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.
But, first, they must all survive the looming battle. - from Goodreads
Thanks for inviting me over here to It Was Lovely Reading You, Hawwa!  It’s a pleasure to be here.
You asked about my personal experience with becoming a writer, and you know, that’s a slightly weird story.  Though I don’t suppose there’s anything like a “typical” experience, if you come right down to it.  But I kind of get the idea, listening to other authors, that lots of them have been writing stories for fun since they were pretty young.  I’m not sure I put much of anything down on paper until I was in graduate school, when I was supposed to be writing a thesis on the effects of enhanced UV-B radiation on plant growth and fitness.
That was all very well – my plants thrived on enhanced UV-B, by the way, and showed a significant improvement in fitness characteristics – but the fact is, this is just about the time I finally admitted to myself that I just do not like doing research.  Reading about someone else’s research, sometimes, maybe.  Designing an experiment, sure.  But the actual collection and analysis of data was deadly dull.
Besides, it’s traditional for graduate students to avoid working on their theses by doing absolutely anything else.  In my case, in order to improve my typing speed, I started to write a fantasy novel.
I look back on that fantasy novel now – it actually expanded into a trilogy – and wince at its structural issues and problems with pacing.  But, actually, in some respects it was not terrible.  It had several good characters, some great description, some nice bits of dialogue, a coherent plot that held together through the whole thing, and an ending.  Most important of all, I learned a great deal from writing it, and from revising it, and most of all from simply finishing it.  But I never sent it out to any publishers or agents.
Only after I decided that no, I truly did not want to spend my life doing research and did not want to go on to get a PhD – only then did I decide to take a real stab at writing a short, self-contained, salable novel.  Since I didn’t see any reason to strive for anything less than the best, I didn’t make any effort to revise the earlier trilogy.  Instead, I sat down and read every book Patricia McKillip has ever written.  Then I sat down and wrote THE CITY IN THE LAKE.  It took two months to write – I worked on it all the time, though – about two months to find an agent, and if I remember correctly, about two months for her to place the manuscript with Michelle Frey at Random House. After a start like that, how could I not be a writer?  Of course I had to take writing seriously!
I’ve learned a lot since.  I like description, that part is easy for me.  But there are still plenty of things I struggle with – sometimes it seems that I struggle with every other aspect of writing.  Pacing, establishing character arcs, you name it.  But these days, I’ve gained the confidence that I can not only start a project, I can also finish it.  I suspect that’s the most important part of actually being a writer.

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead.
She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part-time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition. - from Goodreads

Thank you so much for being here Rachel, your book looks wonderful, even to my not-so-inclined-towards-fantasy-books eyes!
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