AC Gaughen has been a lot of things in her life. Freelance writer, wrapper, hotel concierge, retail flunkie, telemarketer, non-profit board member and personal shopper are just the beginning of the list, but young adult novelist is without a doubt her favorite hat to wear. Her debut young adult novel Scarlet, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, released on Valentine’s Day, 2012 from Bloomsbury/Walker.
About Scarlet: Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past.
Sounds amazing! And now, from AC on this week’s theme of knowing when to pack it in:
When I was a kid, I always wanted a sister. My brothers tended to pair off–two of them, one of me–and I wanted someone to pair off with. Primarily, I wanted someone to play Barbies and American Girls with. I loved dolls–they seemed so interesting!–but playing by yourself, they’re sort of boring. And boys just don’t play well with dolls.
I started this habit of narrating the doll’s life. Giving her a backstory, what she had done today, where she was going now, who she was talking to. And without a sister to carry on the conversation, I just kept going. Pretty soon the physical bodies of the dolls became irrelevant and I just kept going on, and on, creating elaborate and lengthy stories in the quiet of my mind.
It honestly seemed supremely clever and totally indispensable–despite not having a personal DVD player, iPhone, iPod (iAnything) or many of today’s exciting technological toys (Tamagotchi, anyone?) the biggest punishment my parents meted out was to take something away and force me or my brothers to sit quietly. I thought I was so smart, because instead of idling by, I kept telling myself story after story in my head.
This may sound simplistic or irrelevant, but it goes to illustrate a main tenet of my writing process–write first to entertain yourself. These stories have always been my clever response to any punishment life has to offer, the way to defend my heart and keep it warm. The stories I publish now aren’t wildly different from the stories I told myself as a child.
The opposite is true as well–stop writing if you’re bored. There’s some quote that roughly says if you can do absolutely anything else OTHER than be a writer, do that; I don’t think writing is something you choose. It chooses you, and it obsesses you, and if you can stop, do so immediately. This is true of your career and your work in progress.
If you can stop, STOP. If you can’t stop, then you’re on the right track, because you’re writing something you’re desperate to write–and equally, you’re writing something that you’re probably desperate to read. I think that’s the only way to write.
So throw in the towel early, and throw in the towel often. Clear out the dusty stories that clutter up your mental shelves and make room for the one that is going to grab you like a poltergeist and haul you around. It’s there. It’s waiting for you to become so deeply obsessed with it that you realize this is what you should have been writing all along.
Forget the rest, get totally obsessed, and write to entertain yourself. It’s the only way to play it.
Thanks so much for being with us today, AC!
If you’d like more info about AC or to follow her online, check out:
And for one of our lucky commenters, AC has offered up one of her awesome Scarlet T-shirts! Just leave a comment telling us which member of Robin Hood’s band (real or made up – be creative!) you would be.