M.E. Proctor was a freelance journalist for a music magazine and an advertising account executive before becoming a corporate communications advisor. She prefers writing fiction.

She is the author of four dystopian science fiction novels, The Savage Crown Series, and a short story collection, Family and Other Ailments – Crime Stories Close to Home (2023, Wordwooze Publishing).

The first book in her Declan Shaw detective series, Love You Till Tuesday, comes out in August 2024 from Shotgun Honey.

Proctor is a Derringer nominee. Her fiction has appeared in various anthologies and magazines: Vautrin, Stone’s Throw, Mystery Tribune, Black Cat Weekly, Thriller Magazine, and Bristol Noir, among others. Born in Brussels and a long-time Houston resident, she now lives in Livingston, Texas, with her husband, James Lee Proctor, who is also a writer.

Elevator Pitch for Family and Other Ailments: Blood ties, the family we’ve been given, the friends we make, the loves we keep, and those we lose. The twenty-six stories in this collection vacillate on the brink, hovering at the periphery of the possibility of crime. Under a certain light, at an angle, they’re all love stories.

About writing in multiple genres: One of the joys of writing short fiction is genre-hopping. I mostly write crime these days, but I occasionally dip a toe in horror. “Quiet” horror—Stories where everyday life turns into something else and reality starts slipping. A few of these are included in the Family and Other Ailments collection. The dividing line between crime and horror is often blurry. I’m still interested in science fiction and even if I don’t plan to add books to the Savage Crown series, I write short stories when I feel the urge to leave the planet. I think it’s healthy to mix things up. Switching between working on a book and writing short stories keeps things fresh. It’s like varying your workout to exercise different muscles.

The writing process: I’m a short fiction improviser. A story can start with an image, a sentence, or a line of dialogue. I don’t have it all mapped in my head. For example, a girl sits at a window and watches a wasp walk the length of the barrel of the rifle she’s holding. I don’t know who she is or what she’s planning to do. Or what she’s done already. The answers come as the story is being written. No Recoil is one of the pieces in the collection. It starts with the girl and the wasp.

The process is different for a book. I don’t do a real outline, but I have enough of a story idea to start writing a few chapters and get momentum going. Not all the characters are lined up, and the ending is up in the air. After a hundred pages or so, I write a rough storyline: A happens, then B, C, this is character X’s arc, etc. I know where the book is going. The big bullet points are nailed down. Things will still change, especially the finale, and secondary characters might get a bigger role, but I have a handrail I can rely on to avoid getting stuck.

Current projects: A retro-noir novella with a fellow crime writer. I’ve never written in collaboration. It’s an interesting experience. We started with a short story idea, and the manuscript grew bigger. It’s a double POV plot, and we go back and forth between his character and mine. I enjoyed the ping-pong. What if we do this? What happens next, throwing ideas against the wall? We completed a first draft a few weeks ago and are now in the polishing phase. I’ve been obsessing about this project for the past two months, so everything else has been put on the back burner.

Now, I have to work on the very last edits and the preparation for the launch of Love You Till Tuesday, the first book in my Declan Shaw detective series. It comes out in August from publisher Shotgun Honey. There’s more in store for Declan, including a project I started last fall that I feel a strong pull to get back into. The more I write about the guy, the better I know him, and the more time I want to spend with him; a good sign when you plan a series with a recurrent character!

Apart from that, I have short stories in upcoming anthologies and a free Substack newsletter I release every other Thursday – The Roll Top Desk—conversations about books and writing. I’ve been doing it for a year and a half. It’s a nice change of pace from writing fiction.

About writing from the perspective of the opposite sex: A few months ago, I was preparing for a reading, and I expected questions about writing from a female or male point of view. I went through the 26 stories in the collection and counted how many I had on each side. The tally came to thirteen girls/women and twelve boys/guys. One story doesn’t count; it’s a news report.

For me, choosing a main character falls in the same category as deciding to tell the story in first person or third, present or past tense. It’s what feels right for what I want to say. One of the stories in the book Hour of the Bat is inspired by an Edward Hopper painting, Summer Evening. It shows a young couple having a conversation. Looking at it, I knew the story had to be about the girl because of the expression on her face. And it would have to be in first person. It felt natural. I heard her voice.

The main protagonist of my detective books is male. His name popped into my head before I knew what he was doing for a living and what nettles I would drag him through. Declan Shaw was born on my back porch one Labor Day weekend out of the blue. Where the name came from is a mystery (the only Declan I know is Elvis Costello/Declan MacManus). When I stepped in his shoes, I gave him some of my personality traits and added a scoop of attitude and restlessness. To make sure I get the masculine vibe right, all my beta readers are guys. The first and toughest reviewer is my husband. A couple of times, he told me: A man would never say that. I think I got it now.

Favorite author: More than one, as my bookshelves and the library on my e-reader will confirm. It’s a hard choice, but I’ll pick Georges Simenon. I grew up with his books all over the house. Lots of books, the man was insanely prolific. I’ve always been a fast reader, consuming the novels by the pound. My admiration for his work has only increased with time. His writing is deceptively simple. It looks effortless, basic almost, but he catches characters with one line, sometimes with a single word. He’s so good at finding the fault line in mundane situations, the unease behind the appearances. A family at a dinner table, a couple that’s been married a long time, the simmering resentment, the weight of silence, all the things that are not said between lines of dialogue. It’s brilliant.

How do our readers contact you:
I’m on Facebook – Martine Elise Proctor – https://www.facebook.com/martine.proctor
Substack is a good option, too, at The Roll Top Desk – https://meproctor.substack.com
And there’s a contact button on my website: https://www.shawmystery.com
All the format options for the short story collection, Family and Other Ailments, are here:
https://books2read.com/u/3Lx0v5
The science fiction series and all the anthologies are on my Author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/M.E.-Proctor/author/B009JE9JWI/allbooks

Groups:
Facebook:
Short Mystery Fiction Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/608752359277585
Crime Fiction Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1307945053456724
Criminally Good Reads: https://www.facebook.com/groups/5356552667708259
Thriller, Mystery and Suspense Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/290472645391267
Sisters In Crime: https://sistersincrime.tradewing.com/community
On LinkedIn:
Fiction Writers Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12178764/
Writers and Illustrators Circle: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3723330/
Detective Fiction Writer’s Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4911106/