The Accidental Novelist

June 7, 2013

Image from Barnes and Noble.
I just finished one of my summer reading books, Soulless by Gail Carriger, and at the risk of sounding like a frothing fangirl, I loved it!  Squeee!  Here is the blurb on the back that made me want to buy the book in the first place.
First, she has no soul.  Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead.
I purchased my copy at the Mysterious Galaxy booth at the L.A. Times Festival of Books this year.  It was one of only two books I bought at this festival, quite an honor in light of the considerable sales resistance I forced myself to tote along in an attempt not to spend our next mortgage payment on books, books, books (as I usually do at the festival).

Anyhow, Soulless is a very accessible urban fantasy set in an alternate Victorian era wherein vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and humans all live in relative harmony governed by laws and special councils under the queen.  The protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti, is a 26-year-old spinster who falls into a special category of her own: she is a preternatural, a human who does not possess a soul.  She is funny, acerbic, intelligent, and in possession of all her faculties, but she has no soul.  She does have, however, the power to neutralize vampires and werewolves, taking away their supernatural abilities with the touch of her hand.

I've been gorging on a glut of romance novels of late, so this was a nice change of pace for me.  There are considerable romantic elements in this novel regarding Alexia's relationship with the Scottish (swoon) werewolf Lord Maccon, who is literally an Alpha male.  But reading this was like watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossed with The Importance of Being Earnest.  Which is to say, quite enjoyable above the belt as well.  I enjoyed the inherent goofiness of the book, too.
"My darling, darling Alexia."  Lord Akeldama had adopted use of her given name within minutes of their first meeting.  He had said that he just knew they would be friends, and there was no point in prevaricating.  "Darling!" He also seemed to speak predominantly in italics.  "How perfectly, deliciously, delightful of you to invite me to dinner.  Darling."
In the appendix of the book, there is a short interview with Carriger.  When asked whether or not she has always known she wanted to be an author, she says

Actually, I'm still not entirely convinced I am one.  I seem to have stumbled upon authordom inadvertently.  I'm not complaining--never that--just startled.

I wish there was more to that answer.  How does one stumble into authordom when there are hordes of aspiring authors trying to batter down the drawbridge?  Granted, I myself am still on the farm trying to figure out how to get a saddle on my knock-kneed plowhorse, but what does it mean to become an author inadvertently?  Just the opposite has come true for me: I seem to have inadvertently become other things on my way to becoming a writer, and it's those other things that feed me and clothe me and get neglected when all I want to do is reach my word count.

Speaking of word count, I did NaNoWriMo last November and at the risk of sounding like a frothing fan girl, I loved it!  Squeee!   NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  Basically, you join an online community and commit to writing 50,000 words (the length of The Great Gatsby) in the month of November, about 1,667 words a day.  I participated in a Write-In, one of many community events held by the Los Angeles chapter, and reached my count at day 23, finishing the month at 70,000 words.  I finished the novel itself in January, with a final count of about 110,000 words. 

Now, there are a load of people who hate NaNoWriMo.  And I am fully aware that a large word count does not a good novel make.  But NaNoWriMo did get me past my own mental blocks and spur me to finish a novel that I've spent the last few months editing.  And now I have a manuscript.  Ironically, there are no words that can describe the feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing I have finished my first novel.

In an attempt to electrocute myself into doing it again, I've signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, which is the same thing as November, but it takes place on a smaller scale in July.  I need the accountability of NaNo's daily word trackers and the support of their community to help me get through this sequel, which is a a bit more serious in theme and therefore more challenging to write.

If you yourself would like to finish a novel, I highly recommend signing up for any of the NaNo programs.  It's free unless you want to make a donation.