Do you ever wonder what really goes on inside writers’ brains? Have you wanted to ask an author what their typical day looks like, or if they’re outliners or “pantsters?” Perhaps you’ve wondered if, before they sit down at the computer to work their magic, they meditate and call on the writing gods for divine guidance?
Well, here’s your chance to get all those questions answered! Join the blog hop. It’s kind of like a game of tag. Writer, Maggie Bolitho, formerly a North Vancouver resident—now of Saltspring Island—caught me, tagged me, and gloated that she’d made me “it.”
My admiration for Maggie runs deep. When I met her at the North Shore Writers Association five years ago, she quietly but firmly proclaimed her goal to be traditionally published and she has done just that with her newly-released debut YA novel LOCKDOWN. Listening to her recently read from her book alongside award-winning author, Steven Galloway, filled my heart with pride.
I have tagged four writers to follow me: Mary Novik, Laurie Boris, Diana Stevan, and Kat Flannery. Look for their blog posts on July 7th.
Now for the questions.
I am usually working on way too many things because just about everything excites and stimulates my endlessly curious mind. Unlike many authors, I actually love the marketing part, so I’m constantly having to ask myself, “Karen, is what you’re doing right now getting you closer to your goal?” The goal is to complete my second book, a completely different story from DEADLY SWITCH: A Stone Suspense, by the Spring of 2015. Unfortunately, the answer to the question I ask myself is often a resounding “no!” Besides writing fiction, I enjoy blogging about everything from how my book is coming along, to suggestions that can help other writers build their author platform and market their books in fun and authentic ways. I’m just hoping I can live long enough to implement all my great ideas!
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that everyone who has read my first book says they couldn’t put it down—even to get their housework done or sometimes, even to make it to their job on time. And that they read it in two days, which makes me wonder if I should have made the story longer or more complex. But then I think, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The other compliment I receive over and over is that they can tell I’m intimately familiar with my settings, particularly Tropea, Italy. I must confess that until a month ago, I had never actually been there. And yet, readers tell me they can feel the mood, smell the surroundings, and envision exactly what my locations look like. Like most writers, I do an enormous amount of research, particularly using photographs, which allows me to virtually insinuate myself into my scenes. And, of course, I want to take my readers along with me.
Why do I write what I do?
I don’t think I really have a choice! I can honestly say that I never have writer’s block. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes struggle with putting the right words on the page, but I rarely have to go searching for ideas or inspiration. Perhaps that’s my biggest problem—and distraction. I’m a “watcher.” There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting somewhere with my sunglasses on, watching people unobserved, or eavesdropping on snippets of conversation. I literally keep a notepad by my bed (where I wake up and make notes by flashlight, much to my husband’s chagrin), on the bathroom counter, in my car, and in all my purses.
I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. When I was four, my mother and I immigrated from England to Toronto, Canada, on a Greek cargo ship. My father had flown out ahead of us to secure a job and a place for us to live. While on board the ship, apparently my mother encountered me dragging a member of the crew by the hand to help find “Socksey Tree,” who had gone missing. When she recovered from her embarrassment, she had to tell the poor sailor that he’d been searching over an hour for my invisible friend.
Now, I get paid to tell stories. Does life get any better than that?
How does my writing process work?
I know legendary writer, John Irving, always starts his books from the ending and works forward.
With my first book, DEADLY SWITCH, I wrote the beginning fairly easily (although it changed somewhat throughout the writing process) and I knew my double-ending right from the get-go, but I didn’t know how I was going to get there. With my current work in progress, I haven’t a clue about the ending and I’ve almost “channeled” the chapters from the beginning.
Before you ask the question: no, I am not an outliner. I’m definitely a “pantster” (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants). I wish I were an outliner, but I’m not. As I said before, I tend to jot down a lot of notes. I used to have flip-chart pages stuck all around the walls of my studio; one for each character, others for plot and scene info…it got really scary. For that reason, I now find it much easier to use a writing software program. For DEADLY SWITCH, I used WriteItNow to keep all my ideas, research, links, etc. in one place. With my second book, I am using Scrivener. Because of the way I write, I like the ease of moving things around in that program.
Typically, I write four days a week, six to eight hours a day. That doesn’t mean I’m always working on my book that entire time—although I’ve been known to knock off 3,500 – 5,000 words if I’m on a roll. But I often warm up and get my creative juices going by writing a blog post or article. For me, I find writing non-fiction frees my fiction muse more effectively than say, writing a short story. Knocking off an article in an hour for me is a breeze, so I often do that before tackling the more challenging work of writing fiction.
I get a lot of my ideas from real-life events. For example, the genesis of DEADLY SWITCH came from a rather colorful person I knew only casually, who was found dead in his waterfront home with a needle in his arm. Although there was a short investigation into whether it was homicide or suicide, it was eventually ruled to be the latter. Mindful of the pain his death caused to his friends and family, the story-teller in me was disappointed with the outcome. So, I set out to write the fictionalized version of what I thought could have happened.
But I digress…sort of. Once I took that real-life situation and ran with it, it was like the premise became magnetized. From then on, anything and everything seemed to feed my hungry monster. I think it’s something like that old adage that whatever you focus on expands.
Once my premise percolates in my mind for a little while, I develop the main character and start coming up with the others. Photographs of real people and scene images are strong prompts for me and from there, my story just takes on a life of its own.
In the final analysis, I believe that any novel is made up of (a) great story-telling, and (b) great writing. I think my strength is in the story-telling; I still have to work at the great writing. Thank goodness that’s what invaluable beta readers are for—I used thirteen for DEADLY SWITCH. And hiring the right editor (or two) are worth their weight in gold.
Many writers write three, four, or even ten drafts. I don’t. Each day when I sit down to write, I review the last chapter(s) and tweak and polish as much as I can before I go on. I know writing instructors advise against doing that but for me, it works. When I’m finished the final chapter I let the whole thing sit and marinate for a bit and then do one more once-over before it goes to my editor. I should add that I have two writing critique partners who read my work as I go along, so I have also had their input and made many of their suggested revisions along the way.
Now, let me introduce you to my guest authors and bloggers:
Mary Novik I had the great pleasure of finally meeting Mary in person at a recent North Shore Writers Festival, where we were both on different author panels. She read from her new novel, Muse and later was kind enough to come and speak at the North Shore Writers Association.
Mary Novik has written two novels about minor characters in the lives of great figures of literature. Conceit, about the daughter of the poet John Donne, was hailed as “a magnificent novel of seventeenth-century London” by The Globe and Mail, which chose it as a book of the year. Conceit was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Mary’s new novel, Muse, is about the mysterious woman who inspired Petrarch’s poetry in fourteenth-century Avignon. She is part of the Vancouver writing group SPiNand welcomes you to her website at www.marynovik.com
Diana Stevan Diana and I became fast friends at the Surrey International Writers Conference two years ago. I found her to be vibrant, willing to share her vast life experience, and just an all round wonderful woman. I was honored when she asked me to read the manuscript of her soon-to-be released debut novel, Cry From the Deep. I loved it, and I love her.
A Jill of many trades. Writer/Actress. Formerly a family therapist, model, teacher, freelance television broadcaster, librarian. Married with 2 kids, 3 grand-kids. Debut novel, A CRY FROM THE DEEP, coming October, 2014. Currently working on her grandmother’s story during the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (what is now Western Ukraine). Find out more about Diana at dianastevan.com
Laurie Boris I confess — Laurie is my editor. Besides being a talented author in her own right, she has a gift for helping bring writers’ stories to life without robbing them of their voice. A dream to work with, Laurie made bringing my “baby” to market, a fun and inspiring experience.
Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she enjoys baseball, cooking, reading, and helping aspiring novelists as a contributing writer and editor for IndiesUnlimited.com. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Read more about Laurie at laurieboris.com
Kat Flannery I have not had the pleasure of meeting Kat in person, but was introduced to her by international bestselling author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif. I’m thrilled that Kat has agreed to take time away from editing her latest book to participate in this blog hop. She’s a great example of the “pay it forward” philosophy that I so admire in my fellow authors.
Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She has her Certificate in Freelance and Business Writing. A member of many writing groups, Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. She’s been published in numerous periodicals. Her debut novel CHASING CLOVERS has been on Amazon.com’s Bestsellers list many times and hit #62 over all their titles. LAKOTA HONOR and HAZARDOUS UNIONS are Kat’s other two books, both have also made bestseller lists. Kat is currently hard at work on her next book. Visit Kat at katflannerybooks.com
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