Maia Chance’s Creativity Tool Belt:
I’m delighted to welcome Maia Chance to Birth of a Novel. Maia writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal and The Discreet Retrieval Agency series. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, was a national bestseller. Her latest releases are Cinderella Six Feet Under and Come Hell or Highball.
And now, here’s Maia:
The name of this blog—Birth of a Novel—got me thinking about all of the things that go into producing and promoting a book. Self-discipline, organization, stamina, social skills, good research habits, and beefy thesauruses all play a part. Yet the bottom line is, book-birthing is a creative enterprise, and so I spend oodles of time trying to figure out how to encourage that special, juicy, synthesizing state.
Here are three of the trusty standbys in my creativity tool belt:
- Read Weird Stuff. I love cozy mysteries, which is why I write them, but I don’t read very many of them. I read other stuff, because I need to keep replenishing my well. Believe it or not, I get ideas for my novels when I read critical theory and history for my academic work, and biographies on Wikipedia. Truth will always be stranger than fiction, and there is a limitless crop of ideas just ripe for the picking in those biographies and history books.
- Be a Health Nut. When I was a teenager and writing my first (luckily never published) novels, I had heard that some famous authors—Ernest Hemingway?—wrote drunk. So I tried it. That lasted about 10 minutes before I went to bed.* Over the years I have become, increasingly, a health nut and one of the huge driving forces behind this is I really, really, really want to be able to think clearly. Being creative means making snappy connections. Being creative means being able to dip your cup deeply into that well of ideas/feelings/memories/words inside of you. Being an efficient writer means being able to zoom in and out from the micro (comma!) to the macro (plot arc!) and back again. Over and over. Sadly, I have discovered that I can’t do that while eating chocolate chip cookies, or without having worked out.
*As a former musician, I do get that creative people need ways to turn off the inner critic. I wish I had an amazing tool for that. Right now my tactic is: “give your inner critic the finger and keeping plowing forward on all sixes.” It works okay.
- Follow Your Most Bizarre Ideas. They say “follow your dreams”; I say, “go with the idea that sounds too outrageous to work.” Because do you know why it sounds too outrageous to work? Because you haven’t seen it done before. Some of the parts of my books that turned out the best were the ideas that, at first, made me throw back my head and laugh with disbelieving, quasi-diabolical glee.
There is nothing new under the sun, sure, but there are infinite new combinations of ideas. My goal is to bring familiar ideas and settings to the cozy mystery genre, where they haven’t been done before. My Fairy Tale Fatal series, for instance, explores classic fairy tales within the structure of adventurous whodunit plots. And my Discreet Retrieval Agency presents F. Scott Fitzgerald-ish, jazz-age motifs within the structure of humorous mystery capers. I also enjoy bringing Hollywood devices—like the “chase in the marketplace with overturned fruit carts”—to the cozy mystery. These devices are simply recognizable chunks of “story” that are available to writers as they assemble their own, unique mosaics.
Stoke the fire, replenish the well, gas your guzzler, feed the chickens, and happy reading and writing!
Thank you, Maia, for sharing some of your writing secrets with the readers of Birth of a Novel. Love the sound of your books – fun titles and intriguing covers.
Readers, you may visit Maia on the web at: