An Interview with Crystal K. Green
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
In short: Because it’s fun!
I participated last year and wanted to do it again. I love to write and I like being part of a team and collective creative development. Participating again also offers a great opportunity to contribute toward improving the process for future Topeka novels as well as for any other community novelist groups that tap into the information we’re publishing about our project.
I’m glad I’ve been involved both years because the experience benefits my other writing.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project Speak Easy? What challenges you about them?
Along with many of my co-authors, the character of Julia intrigues me. Writing about a 108 year old character is a first for me. I like the balance of similarities and contrasts between Julia and Ronni. That provides a huge foundation for action as well as drama and inspiration. I think our premise is stronger this year than last year because it came from a larger collaborative effort of those involved in the project. In the midst of discussing the premise, I could already hear hints of the multiple story ideas formulating in people’s minds so I’m fascinated to watch the story unfolding. I enjoy the characters better this year. They are more alive to me and I’m cheering for the ones I’d like to prevail. The steepest challenge remains the same: determining which character threads to pick up on and which to ignore or leave behind.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
I purposely waited to read any of the story until I had everything written prior to my chapter. Then I read it all in one sitting because I got caught up in the story. When I got to the end of chapter 11, I was disappointed that I couldn’t just keep reading to find out what happened next. But I was also thrilled to have a solid story to build on with characters I had emotions about. It amazes me to see the nuances the various authors bring into their chapters. I learn a lot from reading their writing.
What is your favorite and least favorite addition that you contributed to this novel in your chapter?
I loved bringing a couple characters from background to foreground and assigning a couple characters names. I did this to mix things up as well as to advance some plot threads. I wanted to come up with a better ending but I was out of time and gumption by then so it is what it is.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I honestly wanted to know more about what happened to Julia’s room after it was vandalized or robbed but the story didn’t go in that direction during my own writing. Maybe we’ll find out later. Maybe we won’t. I also want to find out what happened to Rosie, who killed Billie, and what the connection between Charles and Julia is.
How did you write your chapter – in a burst of inspiration or carefully outlined?
In theory, I like to have a structure to base my writing on, not necessarily a detailed outline but a general structure. However, this doesn’t usually happen in my fiction. For the community novel, I make notes about my questions as I read, think about what direction best advances the story, and then I just start writing. If I can get good dialogue and action rolling the story takes off. I try to answer at least one or two of my own questions and create a couple more unanswered ones for the next author to grapple with.
Any memorable stories to share about your writing experience?
After I stayed up all night writing my chapter for last year, I told myself the one thing I didn’t want to do this year was that. Well, guess what? Yep, I stayed up all night again, except this time I finished around 4:30 a.m. instead of 6:00 or 7:00.
What have you learned about writing fiction from participating in this project?
I learned better what strong, three-dimensional characters look like. Character development hasn’t been my strong suit but I discovered that the characters in my other writing aren’t so far off the mark after all. I learned that for the stories that really matter to me, I’ll create a better read for the audience by developing an underlying structure before I write. However, that structure doesn’t have to be as elaborate or developed as I once thought to be a solid enough foundation from which to launch the story. I learned that I want to expand my vocabulary and keep honing my use of verbs during the editing process. I learned again that I can learn a lot just from reading other people’s writing.
What is your writing background? What do you usually write? How was this project different?
I usually write about real life in the form of personal letters, essays, inspirational literature and journaling. I also write fiction, focusing on science fiction, supernatural or fantasy. Most of my fiction writing the last several years occurs during Nanowrimo-related challenges throughout the year. I’ve written a couple movie scripts as well. One is the story of a stagecoach robber based on the true story of one of my ancestors from the 1800s. The other tells of a secret lab where mutant humans are created. I have a series of novels in progress, which I’ve been writing and editing since 2009, about a supernatural race called the Wisendren that I plan to publish.
I also help students (of all ages) with their writing homework from time to time. I particularly enjoy working with international students who need help with their English skills.
This project is different because more people actually get to read my writing. With other projects I’m working on, I don’t have anything advanced enough beyond the initial draft yet to share with other readers except members of my small critique group. For the community novel, I have the privilege to swoop in, write my chapter, and be done. I’m not responsible for the outcome of the whole story and that is very freeing. My part of the project is shorter than a whole novel so editing takes less time and I can enjoy that sense of “finishing”. It feels good!
Crystal K. Green enjoyed co-authoring Capital City Capers (the 2012 Community Novel) so much she volunteered to help create another unique local adventure in 2013. She loves to capture inspirational stories and reveal them through words and photos. Her life-long passion for writing takes her on many fictional journeys. Her appreciation of culture and languages motivates her to study German, Spanish, and Russian (so far); host international students; and travel the world. She began actively participating in NaNoWriMo events in 2006, which has resulted in 9 novels and 3 scripts. She can be reached at email@example.com.