The Debutante Ball Welcomes AC Gaughen

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.

Eventually, I started writing them down.

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:

Website: http://www.acgaughen.com/

Twitter: @acgaughen

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/scarletbook

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.

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14 thoughts on “The Debutante Ball Welcomes AC Gaughen

  1. I was able to secure an e-ARC of SCARLET (we share a publisher – YAY Bloomsbury/Walker!) and devoured it. I loved the totally kick-ass Scarlet and how she fit in with her guys. Maybe it comes from growing up with only brothers, too, but I so relate to ‘just one of the guys’ stories so well and love them so much. Add some historical stuff and non-stop action and this book is so up my alley. Thanks for dancing with us today, A.C.!
    Now, if I was to be a member of Robin Hood’s band, I would probably be Jovial Jo, the scribe. Because I like to write and crack jokes. And you never hear about the scribe in the story getting hurt in a fight-they’re too busy recording history to get in the fray, right? 😉

  2. SCARLET sounds amazing! I love the Robin Hood legend, and adding this twist to it only makes it even more interesting for me — cannot wait to to read it!

    I’m fairly tall, so I guess I could be “Little Lin.” (Which, incidentally, is what my mom still calls me, even though I tower over her.)

    Thanks for visiting with us her at the Ball today, A.C., and for the great writing advice! 🙂

    • Linda, I think you would really like SCARLET – it’s seriously non-stop adventure and tortured dudes – what else could a lady want?

  3. I’m here to say that Annie, SCARLET and the T-shirt are a bucket full of awesome and I love how you talk about writing not being an option and how your first job is to entertain yourself. If you can’t to that, you are doing something wrong. I feel that it’s my job to raise questions that I need answers to in my own writing. Great post!

  4. Annie, I love this! I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography earlier in the year, and she did something similar. Because her own siblings were so much older, she didn’t have playmates, so she invented some for herself. They all had distinct personalities and preferences. This was the beginning of her storytelling, too.

    Oh, and I first read that you had been a rapper, not a wrapper.

  5. I love the core of this post, AC. I think one of the hardest things about writing is learning how/when to throw in the towel with a project. We’ve all been there. But like so many things, once you learn to walk away, it becomes easier and easier to imagine a new manuscript–and to let your mind embrace and nurture new ideas. It always comes back to romance-analogies: That first love is so intense, you can’t imagine another one when it doesn’t work out (and I think 9 times out of 10, first books, like first loves, don’t work out–though I know exceptions to that rule for both of course!). And like romances, you can really only learn so much in one relationship, and I think the same goes for manuscripts. At some point, you’ve gleaned all you can and it’s time to move on to learn more.

    Thanks so much for coming by and adding to this week’s conversation, AC–and a huge congratulations on SCARLET!

    • You know, I’m starting to agree with this analogy so much more. It’s so difficult as a writer to choose between those projects (or relationships) that feel like giddy magic from the start, and then those that can be so deep and dense but require so many layers of work (or revisions, as the case may be). I think you can be deeply obsessed with a story that still needs a LOT of work. And that’s difficult to wrap your head around!

  6. I like the idea of walking away from something that you don’t feel obsessed with/compelled by, but I also think that’s dangerous for me, because I am VERY good about giving myself excuses for why I shouldn’t be writing! I’m also very good at deciding, halfway though, that this is the worst piece of nonsense anyone’s ever written and I should probably just dump it. If I always listened to myself, I’d never finish anything.

    • I think a good story never lets you go. You can try to leave it behind and abandon it, but that idea is still bugging you. That’s what I mean by that obsession, and you really have to go with that because in my experience, it’s the story that you HAVE to write just begging to get out. And like fate, you can try to give up on it, but it just won’t have it.

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