A Peek at the Creative Space of Angelica R. Jackson
Angelica R. Jackson is a freelance writer with numerous articles published (many feature her photographs as well), and also writes fiction for young adults, middle grade readers, and picture book fans. She is the author of the young adult novel Crow’s Rest:
Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam’s, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel. But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers–and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone–or something–has taken his place. Her quest to find the real Daniel–and get him back–plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.
Angelica has two more books planned in the Crow’s Rest series, so keep an eye out for those in the future. To learn more about Angelica and her writing, visit her website or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog.
Describe your workspace.
My bio includes the confession that I have an obsession with creating more writing nooks in the home I share with my husband and two corpulent cats in California’s Gold Country and it’s shamefully true. It’s like a chronic case of writer-nesting, which now that I think on it is pretty apt for the author of a book called Crow’s Rest.
I once called my office “…cozy enough that I can sit in the chair and touch my drafting table and the computer desk at the same time. I could have described it as small rather than cozy, but I really do like having everything within reach.” That being said, a crit partner came over to work on video pitches and she laughed at how tiny my office actually is.
It’s 11×10 feet—but in that space, I have file cabinets, a storage cabinet, a copy machine, fax machine, two printers, my computer desk with PC, and a drafting table. And all with a view of a gorgeous alder tree, in all seasons, outside the window.
Describe a typical workday.
I generally start off the day by checking in with my social media sites, group blogs, and answering any East Coast emails that need to be addressed before I go work out. I don’t make it to the gym every day, but I at least start out with that goal! Three days a week I drive further to a gym with an indoor pool, which means I often work some on those evenings to make up for missing half the day, but Tuesdays and Thursdays are full writing days.
Once I’m working, my computer time is divided between drafting new work, editing stuff already written (and perhaps already under contract), and all the emails and marketing stuff that need to be tackled. I also sometimes need to squeeze some photo editing in there, especially if the pics are for an article deadline (and yet, ask me if I’ve finished going through our Ireland/UK vacation pics from last May).
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
Hmm, first up would have to be the Art Noveau Firefly Les Hommes and Les Femmes posters by Megan Lara. My husband got them for me one Christmas and I feel a surge of affection for the characters whenever I look at them. Plus, they give me a certain cachet in my nerdy family.
The second favorite thing would be some crow wall decals I stuck on my mirrored closet door (though some of the crows look more like grackles to me). They’re sufficiently sinister to be inspiring when I write spooky scenes, plus it was hilarious to watch the cats stalk them when I first put them up.
My cats would love those crow decals too!
Lastly, I would have to say the tallship kite I have on top of my copy machine. I’ve never actually tried to fly it—mainly because I’m afraid it won’t fly. As it is now, it’s an example of the possibility of a rainbow-sailed flying ship.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.
Music has become an integral part of the Crow’s Rest books, to the point where I find it harder to get into a mindset to work on them without a corresponding song. Although I recycled a song from an earlier (unrelated) short story for the love song/spell in Crow’s Rest, I was struggling with finding the tone for its sequel, until I wrote a song for No Man’s Land. Once I had that piece, the voice and plot trajectory became much clearer to me. The bonus is that I also have music ready to go for book trailers and such.
Pippin, one of Angelica’s furry companions.
What do you listen to while you work?
Vocals are too distracting while I’m trying to work, since one portion of my brain will always try to sing along—even if it’s not aloud. So it’s generally classical music, played in another room because it’s also distracting if it’s too close to me—the goal is background noise, not an excuse to focus on the music.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate in almond milk (hot or cold) or Rishi West Cape Chai herbal tea for the beverage. Chocolate also makes frequent appearances as a snack food, and my favorite is Lake Champlain Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Praline bars. I love them so much, I made them my main character’s favorite, too (but Avery also gets to eat all kinds of other things that I no longer can due to food allergies, alas).
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
It sounds counterintuitive, but frequent breaks keep me focused. I have a timer that I set for 25 minutes, and I try to be obedient to those beeps. If I sit at the computer for too long of a stretch, I’ll pay for it with back pain. Plus, walking around lets my brain approach roadblocks (especially plotting ones) in a different way, and I get some great breakthroughs that way. I also get them in the shower or bath, for some reason.
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
I have a PC in my office, but I’ve also been known to write with a notebook and pencil in the garden gazebo, the family room (with its fireplace!), or even our travel trailer parked in the sideyard if I want to cut down on distractions. And now that I have an ultrabook, I can still perch in those places and incorporate some technology too (I’m answering these questions on the ultrabook, in the craft room, on the sewing table/desk #4 of 6, btw). But I must admit that for the garden, the old-school writing or drawing pad is more inspirational—especially for poetry.
I’m not the fastest of writers, averaging about 2500 words a week—although, before I had deadlines, I thought that was a pretty respectable amount! And online access is a constant temptation, so I’m working on being more focused in each writing session.
Another furry companion, Chloe.
How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
For my very first finished novel, I started out with a detailed outline and then winged it from there. But I ended up with a 124,000-word first draft, before cutting it down to about 104K, and then 92K at the time of querying. A recent look at that first book makes me think it should be around 85K and I’ll tackle it again, once I have time away from the Crow’s Rest world.
But the advantage of creating and editing such a bloated manuscript was that once I started to write Crow’s Rest, I’d gotten much better at knowing what actually needs to be on the page. So for CR, I started with a query pitch, expanded that into a synopsis, then broke that down into a more detailed outline (as in around 10 pages of outline points). I pretty much followed that outline for major plot points, but discovered the ending no longer fit, so I revamped the final 20% or so. I’ve followed a similar method for Crow’s Rest’s sequel, No Man’s Land, but I think I’ll be a lot less stressed if the ending takes a different turn.
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
Hmm, maybe a Dalek who’s programmed to screech “Return to the document!” whenever my cursor wanders over to Twitter or Facebook? I really hate the Dalek voices, so avoiding them may be enough of a motivator to keep me on track. Are you noticing a theme here—the cry of an addict who’s admitting her problem with social media and reaching out for help?
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
Well, it’s not a direct piece of writing advice, but in a round of copyedits my editor suggested that we do a little better setup for a plot point, and he commented that I should “hang Chekhov’s gun on the wall, so to speak.” I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to think of which Star Trek episode featuring Chekhov had something to do with a gun hanging on the wall. I even asked my husband and we spent some time discussing episodes but couldn’t think of anything that fit the bill.
I finally Googled it, and had a good laugh to see it was referring to Anton Chekhov, rather than Pavel. And once I read the quote—“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”—I remembered coming across it before, and thinking it was brilliant. So that’s my roundabout answer (and a glimpse into the convoluted workings of my nerdy mind).