How Do Authors Fuel Their Creativity?

One of the great pleasures we have here at Callisto Crate is conducting author interviews with amazing and diverse authors, learning more about their books, their writing, and their creative processes. We thought it would be fun to compile the answers to the question: Tell us about your writing process. How do you fuel your writing? This is one of our favourite questions and tells us so much about each author!

Jasmin Darznik, Song of a Captive Bird

Tell us about your writing process. How do you fuel your writing?

I get most of my inspiration from research, especially from reading historical materials. What I’m looking for is that one evocative detail that cracks open a time period or a personality. For example, I knew from reading a biography about Forugh that her mother kept many rooms in the family home locked at all times. This detail snagged in my mind, and I found myself trying to understand what might have led her to develop such a habit. That then led me to imagine scenes in which doors are locked—and unlocked. It became a motif throughout the story.

SL Huang, Zero Sum Game

Tell us about your writing process. How do you fuel your writing?

Lots of pie. Then there is tearing of hair, gnashing of teeth, and more pie. I also pace a lot and stab index cards with ballpoint pens when I’m pretending to be brainstorming.

Honestly, I wish I had a more predictable and repeatable writing process! But my process is more that it’s all a mess until it isn’t anymore—at least, that’s how it feels. The one constant in all this is my writing group. They are absolutely MARVELOUS. Whenever I’m stuck I can count on them to help talk me out of the snarl—or at least count on them to tell me to eat more pie.

Tanya Tagaq, Split Tooth

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

Mostly angst and existential dread.


Pam Jenoff, The Lost Girls of Paris

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

There are two types of writers:  plotters (who outline and write in a linear fashion) and pantsers (who write by the seat of their pants.  I’m a pantser – I start with an idea, open the computer, and go “blah!” for months, with random words coming out in no particular order.  It’s the worst way to write a book because the editing is terrible, but it is the only way I can do it.

Also, I am a “short burst” writer – I have no stamina.  But if you give me 45 minutes, I can use that.  So I would rather write for a bit seven days a week (early morning) than have a full day.


Jenna Glass, The Women’s War

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

A “creative process” sounds like something that’s regular and reproducible. Mine is very much not! Sometimes, I swear I have a different process for each book. Half the struggle of writing is figuring out exactly what process I have to use for each particular book! For the novels in the Women’s War series, I’m finding I have to write in what I like to think of as layers. I have a lot of subplots going, and it is often challenging to figure out how those subplots interact with one another. I often tend to be a rather spare writer—before these books, I rarely wrote anything longer than 100K words, and The Women’s War is around 185K—and I’ve had to accept that in these books, I will still have a lot more layers of story to add in after I “finish” my first draft. (I kid you not: after I turned in the first draft of The Women’s War, my editor asked me to write THIRTY new scenes! And she was absolutely right that they were needed.)


Greer Macallister, Woman 99

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

In many respects, one project is always fueling the next. While working on a book, I invariably stumble across research tidbits that don’t fit in the current book and need to be set aside in case they come in handy on future projects. (I’ve been wanting to write a night harvest scene for more than 10 years, so I was really thrilled I got to do that in Woman 99.) And I’m always looking for a new challenge, a new path, which builds from book to book. I also like to joke that on one level I’m fueled by boundless ambition and sheer cussedness, but on another level, it’s pretty much just dried persimmons. I am a ridiculously enthusiastic fan of Trader Joe’s dried persimmons.

Ilaria Tuti, Flowers Over the Inferno

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

I love collecting diaries. I buy them in every trip that I make, every time I go into a bookstore. So they are my writing-routine: when I get ready to write a new story, I choose the diary that I feel most suitable for those atmospheres. I write the date, maybe a title that I have in mind, and start writing the first notes.

I like listening to music while I’m writing. I love the contemporary composers of soundtracks: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, and Steve Jablonsky.

I take great inspiration from nature, while walking in the woods with my dogs. I love visiting museums, an inexhaustible source of ideas, and – of course! – reading, reading, reading: I read very different genres, fiction and non-fiction. I am a very curious person, I like studying history, psychology, anthropology. Now, for example, I am reading a book about the Lombard goldsmith art and its connections with pagan religion.


Anakana Schofield, Bina: A Novel in Warnings

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

My creative process is 80% despair. I find it very difficult to write novels, especially when I am trying to find the language to create it. I am a deeply curious person. There’s very little I do not find interesting and my writing is of course fueled by my reading life, music, radio documentaries, dance, visual art, and critical ideas. I chose to live rather a monastic existence because to write novels takes years and years and very little income.


Alanna McFall, The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

​I am a big fan of prompts and deadlines. I love to write, but I definitely need something concrete to keep my mind in line and moving forward on projects. I am part of a theater group called Monday Night PlayGround in Berkeley that puts on staged readings of ten-minute plays, which everyone in the group writes based on a prompt over the course of four days. The best six plays are selected and performed, and it is such a wonderful exercise in compact, efficient writing. PlayGround, Nanowrimo, anything that gives me a kick to get moving, I love.​


Kelly Armstrong, Wherever She Goes

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

I’ve been writing all my life, and I believe it arises from a lifelong love of reading. My earliest memories are of books, and from that early age I was driven to tell my own stories. That’s still the fuel for my fire—writing the books that I want to read.

As for my process, it’s constantly evolving. I’ve discovered I work best from an outline.  My finished novel never completely follows the outline though.  Better ideas arise during the first draft and I follow them wherever they lead.  The first draft is a very intense process for me.  When that draft is finished, I ease back into a more relaxed editing mode.


Cherie Dimaline, Empire of Wild

Tell us about your creative process. How do you fuel your writing?

Books! I love to read voraciously. I think all good writers do. Recently I was talking with Margaret Atwood and she said she could tell I read diverse books from all over by the way that I write. Heather O’Neill (one of my all-time favourites) talks about this, how she reads hundreds of books in order to be able to write just one.


Feeling inspired? How are you creative? Do you have a process that helps with your creativity?


Article originally published November 13, 2018

Coreena McBurnie


Callisto Crate, strong woman reads, books with strong women, authors and creativity, creativity in writing, writer's block

Books and Life