Apr 10, 2023 | Action & Adventure, Crime, Historical, Mystery |
Claudia Riess is the author of seven novels, four of which form her art history mystery series published by Level Best Books. She has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart and Winston and has edited several art history monographs. Stolen Light, the first book in her series, was chosen by Vassar’s Latin American history professor for distribution to the college’s people-to-people trips to Cuba.
To Kingdom Come, the fourth and most recent will be added to the syllabus of a survey course on West and Central African Art at the University of Cincinnati. Claudia has written a number of articles for Mystery Readers Journal, Women’s National Book Association, and Mystery Scene magazine. At present, she’s consulting with her protagonists about a questionable plot twist in Chapter 9 of the duo’s murder investigation unfolding in book 5; working title: Dreaming of Monet, scheduled for release in winter 2023.
To Kingdom Come, released May 31, 2022 – Amateur sleuths Erika Shawn, an art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, an art history professor, are caught up in a multiple murder case involving the repatriation of African art seized during the colonial era. The story alternates between present-day events and those described in a journal penned in the late 1890s. Much of the action takes place in London, the scene of the crimes and quest for redemption.
The backstory to an art mystery series – My introduction to the art world came at a very early age and was as much a part of the natural course of events as learning to read and being read to—Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland—and being told laugh-out-loud stories, ad-libbed by my father, about a little girl named Jeanie, clearly my alias, and her adventures with her anonymous daddy, clearly my own. And like bedtime stories, my introduction to art—my association with art—was, and is, bound up with family, with adventure, with safe harbor. It began with outings to museums. We lived in Brooklyn, and a few great ones were a short subway or car ride away: The Metropolitan, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Frick. And typically, these outings were followed by take-out Chinese food and talks around the kitchen table about what we had seen that day. We debated about which painter’s perspective best described the real world and what the real world really was. Color and light? Shape and dimension? And what about imagination? Created imagery? Inner reality that distorted the exterior world? Talks of the relative nature of beauty and truth were woven into these conversations, and all the while, we were savoring our chicken chow mein and fried rice with lobster sauce.
Because of my background, for a good many years, my idea of the art world was a romanticized one. It was not until later in life, after I’d written a couple of rom-com-like novels and murder mysteries, did I consider writing an art suspense novel. By then, I’d learned a lot more about the art world: About how the price of art is virtually uncontrolled, dependent on the whims of collectors and dealers and the transient tastes and fads of the times. And on the seamier side: art was ransomed, forged, used to launder money, stolen, and sold on the black market. That the art world is, in fact, a world in which the most sublime of human instincts collide with its basest. What a great amalgam for fiction!
So I began to write my art mystery series. I’m a stickler for historical accuracy, so I take off from it, filling in the gaps with events that conform to its character and, therefore, might have been. Then, in a butterfly-effect maneuver, I fast-forward to the present and drop a pair of resourceful lovers (I’m an incurable romantic) into the challenging set of circumstances that have evolved—multiple murders included—and see if the sleuthing duo can sort it out. For instance, in Knight Light, the third in the series, my inspiration came from two quotes. From the painter Marcel Duchamp: “Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists.” And from World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine: “Chess for me is not a game, but an art.” Interesting! From there, I discovered that the two had actually been teammates on the French chess team in the 1933 Chess Olympiad and, furthermore, that Alekhine’s death in 1946 has been considered a cold case to this day. My fiction took off from there, integrated with the facts.
Although To Kingdom Come, the fourth and most recent book in the series, is basically structured on the same criteria as the three books before it, it’s the first one inspired not by a subject I was at least moderately in the know about, but by one that I was essentially unfamiliar with, that is, the Benin Bronzes. I knew that they existed, yes. I had seen several of these amazing works on exhibit. But it was not until I, by chance, came across a news article about African agents in the fields of the arts and government pressing for their return that I was minimally clued in. I wanted to learn more. Although not my only source, Dan Hicks’s The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence, and Cultural Restitution was the main one, and the line that most made my blood boil and led me to writing To Kingdom Come is this: “The sacking of Benin City in 1897 was an attack on human life, on culture, on belief, on art, and sovereignty.”
It took a while to drum up the courage to write the book. I took notes, made outlines, and procrastinated. I was afraid of being accused of either exploiting or trivializing the subject, especially in these understandably sensitive times, when writers engaged in the intimacy of fiction are apt to be criticized for stepping outside their lanes—of race, religion, social status, cultural heritage.
I asked myself how I’d feel if the tables were turned if a fiction writer for whom the Holocaust is not directly related to their history—part of who they are—were to create a story in which the Holocaust is a pivotal plot point. I answered that provided they’re mindful of the sensibilities of others, it’s fine—welcome, really.
Anyway, as fellow humans, aren’t our histories from a broader perspective integrated, the divisions of “otherness” blurred? In the end, I decided it’s possible to preserve the sanctity of a group’s heritage without its becoming sacrosanct. We buy travel guides, visit foreign lands, read history books and memoirs, and write fiction. Why else, if not to reach beyond our own frontiers in the hope of understanding what to others is familiar ground?
Organizations of which Riess is a member:
Sisters in Crime (SinC)
National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE)
Women’s National Book Association (WNBA)
Historical Novel Society
Amazon Link: Amazon.com: To Kingdom Come: An Art History Mystery: 9781685121105: Riess, Claudia: Books
Mar 23, 2023 | Crime, Mystery, Police Procedural / Crime |
I wonder how I would’ve ever gotten where I am today without mentors. This includes the mom down the street who took me under her wing when my mother struggled with her own demons. Early in my law enforcement career (as a meter maid), there was a motor officer who introduced me to the concept of “badge-heavy” and changed my adversarial attitude with the public while I issued tickets–I didn’t have to be a jerk. Later, Fred, a patrolman, was another crucial association. He invited me to testify to the county grand jury as part of an investigation of our police administration. Standing up for the integrity of the job was a beautiful burden. These people were life mentors who taught me valuable lessons that extend through my life today.
But let’s talk about mentors for writers.
Pat Tyler – In most other industries, colleagues could look upon newbies as potential competition. While I’ve found that all writing teachers aren’t necessarily mentors, I can say I have never seen professional acrimony toward another. My first true writing mentor, Pat Tyler, during her Jumpstart Writing class, encouraged me with provocative prompts. She provided a safe, non-judgmental place to read and hone my stories. Then, she pointed me toward Redwood Writers (a branch of the California Writers Club), where I found much more to learn. The motto of the club is “writers helping writers.” It made a significant impact in my writing career.
Sharon Hamilton – Sharon is a prolific romance writer I met through the Redwood Writers. Soon after I joined the club, the idea of signing your emails with your author name and including the links to your work. Sharon barely knew me but spent half a day helping me set this up. This little thing stayed with me. She’s a living example of “writers helping writers.”
Marilyn Meredith – Another invaluable mentor is Marilyn Meredith. She’s a board member of the Public Safety Writers Association, who I met in 2014 at the club’s annual conference. Marilyn is an experienced author who helped me navigate small press publishing and writing ethics. She’s a prolific author of over 40 books who gets up in the middle of the night (4 AM) to accomplish her myriad goals. Even with huge family demands, she writes and promotes almost every day. A lady in the most refined sense, she’s also a model of Christianity—not the clichéd version. She walks the walk. She’s unpretentious, accepts people the way they are, and believes in sharing her gifts—as she has with me. I’ll bet she never even considered herself a mentor. But she is. She continually inspires me to be better.
Recently, I was privileged to be offered a contract job for multiple books. I’d be paid a flat rate for each, and the publisher would reap the royalties. It was a dream come true. But the time frame was strenuous-three books in six months. Yikes. With the support of my family, friends, and colleagues, I signed the contract. The colleague who facilitated this offered me one piece of advice. Write the book, then go back and edit.
So, I did that. In all my years of writing, I’d always thought a thousand words a day was optimum. But with the timeline I had, I had to kick it up a notch. I wrote consistently and turned in 2500 words per day. With the aid of a flexible outline, I completed all three before the deadline. Even though I’d signed on the dotted line, I had no idea that I could do that much work. Until I did it.
That one simple piece of advice changed my work habits forever. I look upon that colleague as a mentor, although he’s too modest to agree with me.
How did mentors change your writing? Do you have one or many? Do you help new writers as they begin this arduous journey?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a mentor, I want to suggest why you should consider it.
- It could change someone’s life—really. Think about words of encouragement you heard that motivated you. Be that person. (see above)
- It will take you out of your own world—we create them in our heads, don’t we? Telling another person about your process attaches words to abstract thoughts. Sharing can enlarge thoughts if you listen. For both of you.
- You’ll be building a writers’ community based on the positive aspects we’re talking about here.
- The life you change may be your own. Sometimes, verbalizing the process gives us a clearer picture. Sharing and giving aren’t unique to humans, but we’ve refined it through evolution.
Let’s keep working and helping each other.
Thonie is the author of four police procedural mysteries set in the Sonoma Wine Country. While three of the books are on Amazon now, they will be re-edited, re-covered, and re-published by Rough Edges Press, an imprint of Wolfpack Press. The fifth book in this series will debut sometime in 2023.
Thonie’s website is www.thoniehevron.com
Author Facebook page: Thonie Hevron Author
By Force or Fear
Intent to Hold
With Malice Aforethought
Felony Murder Rule
Mar 2, 2023 | Crime, Mystery |
Damyanti’s short fiction has been published at Smokelong, Ambit, Litro, Puerto del Sol, and she helps edit The Forge literary magazine. Her Amazon-bestselling crime novel, You Beneath Your Skin, was optioned for screen. Her next crime novel, The Blue Bar, was published by Thomas & Mercer and was one of 2023’s Most Anticipated Mysteries & Thrillers on Goodreads. She’s an active member of Sisters in Crime and a member and volunteer at Crime Writers of Color.
THE BLUE BAR – In gritty, glam Mumbai, a dynamic police officer and a bar girl in love are unaware that a serial predator is watching them both.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? – I’m not very fussy about where I write, but it turns out I write little at my desk. I can get words out at the library, at a food court, and on a park bench, but at home, it is mostly the sofa or the bed. At food courts and parks, I see a lot of color and movement, which helps me focus. I block out the sound with white noise on my headphones.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’d say the copy-edits. By this time, I’m so familiar with the manuscript and have changed it so many times that it’s impossible to see it with any clarity, and they come to me with tight deadlines from my publisher. I need a lot of help to see what’s going wrong at the language level with the text.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I definitely write subplots. In my crime novels, romance is often a subplot employed To provide an echo or a contrast to the theme that the protagonists illustrate with their lives.
Sometimes, they bring in a bit of relief from what can be some very dark and gruesome main storylines.
It can also heighten the conflict and tension in the dominant story: a romance subplot between the protagonists of a crime novel definitely heightens the stakes. It’s not about a victim and a rescuer anymore: it is about two people who love each other, and the reader feels more deeply invested in their fates.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? A powerful antagonist would often help raise stakes for the protagonist and vice versa. If the protagonist and antagonist are evenly matched, they can truly challenge each other, and the outcome of their conflict is in doubt till the end, keeping the reader turning the pages.
Time running out—like ticking clock, as well as inclement weather, can raise stakes. If the protagonist or antagonist’s family or love lives are involved, the stakes of a violent event will soar. When the beef is personal, reader engagement rises.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I began my writing life as a literary short story writer, so I thought I could be a pantser all my life. While writing crime novels, though, I realized I needed at least a cursory outline in order to work faster. These days I must write outlines because I need to flesh out the books I’m planning for my agent and editor. I veer off the story in the telling, so in a way, that’s pantsing, but I’m a pantser with an outline.
What is the best book you have ever read? The best book is always the last favorite book I read, but the one I keep going back to at times of personal turmoil is Old Man and the Sea, where an old man battles over days and miles with a fish bigger than his boat.
He wins, but sharks feed on the fish on the way to the shore, and he tows back an enormous skeleton.
It brings back to me the beauty of human endurance and the triumph and futility of all effort— a healthy reminder that nothing lasts. The biggest wins mean nothing against the sharks of mortality, and that’s part of life. We need to find our meaning elsewhere.
What are you currently working on? I’m finishing up the edits of THE BLUE MONSOON, the second in the Blue Mumbai Series contracted with Thomas & Mercer, and this crime novel is about religion, caste, and castration in the background of a hair factory in Mumbai.
It’s the sequel to THE BLUE BAR, which was published on January 1 this year, and was a number 1 International Release on Amazon.
Where can our followers buy your books? https://linktr.ee/damyantibiswas
List of Facebook groups:
The Savvy Writer’s Snug
Psychological Thriller Readers
ITW Debut Class Authors
Women reading Great books
Literary Crime Novels
Curated Book Resources
Feb 16, 2023 | Cozy, Crime, Mystery, Young Adult |
Barbara Emodi writes sewing and craft-related cozy mysteries based in Nova Scotia, Canada, where she lives. She travels frequently and writes in the winter in Austin, Texas, and Berkeley, California.
For many years Barbara led a double life. Publicly she was a journalist, radio commentator, government strategist, and public relations professor. In her private life, she wrote and sewed for herself and her family, immediate and extended. She has published two books about garment construction.
Often when Barbara sewed, she thought of the people she’d met and the stories she could tell and of the things she knew and the things she suspected. As a result, she now writes mysteries for people who make things on the premise that those who create can investigate. A sewing pattern, a knitting stitch, a missing person, a dead body––to her mind, understanding them all requires the same skill set. Crafting for Murder is the first in a series.
Crafting for Murder – Seamstress, crafter, and empty-nester Valerie Rankin has plans to open a crafter’s co-op that will put Gasper’s Cove, Nova Scotia, on the tourist guide map. But one month before the opening day photo shoot, she still has to pin down a venue, patch up the family business, iron out corruption in town council, and unravel why anyone who tries to help her ends up dead. It’s a lot, even for a woman who’s used to making something out of nothing. But with the help of her Golden Retriever, an ex-con who loves cats, and a community of first, second, and third cousins, she just might pull it off.
Crafting for Murder will be released on February 25, 2023, and will be available through all the usual outlets and on pre-order here.
My responses to some interesting questions:
What brought you to writing? I’ve written for a living, journalism, and things like that, my whole life. But that’s calling-a-cab-writing. You know you have a job and a word count. You write it, and you file it. But then I ended up working for a public figure who needed a column written for the newspaper at home. He asked me to write it. I remember one afternoon typing out, “My father was a coal miner…” with tears on my face, and then I thought, “Hang on, Barbara, your father was a pharmacist.” This gave me the idea I could write fiction.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I write cozy mysteries. I chose this genre because I feel completely unqualified to write about sex or violence. In a cozy mystery, characters are extremely important. The readers tend to be folks who are interested in people they can identify with. It seems to me as a writer that if you get too linear with crime-clues-solving the mystery, the story can get very procedural and factual—hard to slip in character development in a steady way. So, I use subplots as little side stories that give space to show who the characters are. Also, let’s face it, even cozies involve bad stuff like death and betrayal, etc. I think that can get tiring for someone sitting down with a cup of tea looking for a diversion, so I also like to use subplots to build platforms, generally using humor as a resting place for the reader every now from the action. The subplots involve secondary characters, and these are percolating alongside stories that surface about every 4-7 chapters. I also like two subplots, one that is funny and one that has the main character struggling, and we hope, eventually, overcoming a weakness or vulnerability.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I don’t think I could write if I didn’t. In fact, to get into the story, I generally have someone in mind when I develop a character. I keep myself from being sued by using the traits of several people mixed up into one. My siblings like to read what I write because they can pick up mannerisms and expressions and know where I got them. I did describe one living room, however, as “decorated in the style of furniture from dead relatives combined with impeccable housekeeping …” Remind me not to give my across-the-street neighbor a copy of the book.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Ha, ha, ha. By disposition, I have a mind like a squirrel cage, so I make multiple cards with what I think are great details or ideas and then try to fit them into some kind of plot line. I work hard at it, and it wears me out to plot, and I hate it. But I try because I know it’s not easy to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. So, I have an elaborate plot all written out before I start. I never look at it or refer to it again. At halfway, I realize I am writing a totally unrelated story, so I stop and make a whole new plot to fit. I guess I am a pantser who creates a workable plot in the middle of the book. It’s a system that wastes the maximum amount of time.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Real, completely real; only the names have been changed. I write about small communities in Nova Scotia, which are by definition stranger than fiction anyway, so they are the perfect setting for my writing. Interestingly, the most accurate parts are the ones people not from here might query. I had one editor tell me that she couldn’t stand the fact that everyone in my book was related, “and yet another cousin appears….” I read her email on the way out the door to the wedding of my niece to my son-in-law’s nephew. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I started late in the game but couldn’t have written fiction earlier as I consider my life up to now just gathering material. That said, all I want to do now is get it into as many books as I can.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Although fiction is pretend, it must come from an authentic place. Be as authentic as possible; don’t try to be, or sound, like someone else. You might think the real you isn’t all that interesting, but the real always is. When you can access that, you are in the zone. Trust your subconscious. Sometimes stuff is thrown up from somewhere onto the page when you are in the zone you hardly recognize, except for the fact it just sounds right, and like you. Don’t try too hard or labor too much. Go for the glide.
Groups I belong to:
Sisters in Crime
Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter
Readers can learn more about me at my website https://babsemodi.com and sign up for my newsletter there too.
I love to hear from readers, and they can contact me directly at email@example.com
Feb 13, 2023 | Crime, Fantasy, Steam Punk, Thriller |
MacArthur lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She wrote the Steampunk series, The Volcano Lady, and the Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner, as well as the Noir-punk mystery Lou Tanner, P.I.: A Place of Fog and Murder. She has also written for several local and specialized publications, anthologies and was an accidental sports reporter for Reuters News.
Her storytelling changed direction recently to embrace the paranormal, her lifelong obsession, with her newest novel set in the Four Corner region of Colorado, not far from where she grew up.
Do you write in more than one genre? How did you start? I started this whole wild ride when I was complaining about the lack of quality and just plain absurdity of a Steampunk anthology I’d spent time reading. I was pretty furious that female characters, what few there were, were clearly written by fellows who rarely, if ever, spent time with women. The stories were weak excuses for swearing, ridiculous situations, and plotless meandering. My friend, inventor, and former movie prop specialist Jay Davis looked at me with that “quit your moaning” glare – up went his eyebrow – and he said the best words ever – “well, if you don’t like it, write one yourself.”
My first genre (first of many) was Steampunk. I loved the aesthetic, the fierce adventure, and the romantic notions. From there, I found Dieselpunk. If you aren’t familiar with the terms or genre, Steampunk is basically Victorian Age Science Fiction Fantasy. Dieselpunk is an early 20th Century Science Fiction Fantasy (Flash Gordon meets Philip Marlow or Sci-Fi WWI to WWII.) The “punk” is used to indicate an opposition to the establishment, such as the government or society as a whole. Thus both genres are filled to the brim with strong women (that anthology notwithstanding) doing exciting and dynamic things.
What brought you to writing? Heaven forbid I should suggest that the writing bug just hit me one day. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t either writing or drawing. My mother, MaryMargaret Seldon, worked for companies that used those old mimeograph machines – you know those – purple ink, smeared pages – yes, those. The unreadable pages were marked on only one side and tossed away. She would bring them home so I could type up my stories on the clean side. Yup! Old Crown typewriter, long messy ribbon that had to be changed, an eraser that was like sandpaper and could rub a hole in your paper … that typewriter. Sometimes I wish I still had it.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Ah, distractions. My nemesis. Social Media can be a true time killer because, for many of us, it isn’t just our marketing source. It is our means of connecting to damn near everything and everyone. So, I’m trying out Alec Peche’s sprint writing and setting brief writing times. My “pad” could probably fit on a puppy-pee pad. It’s small. So I write at my little desk or take it on the road. The Goddesses and the Muses invented the feather-light laptop (Bill and Steve, hush!) I have discovered coffee houses and breakfast joints all over the SF Bay Area, but my favorite is Linh’s Café on College at Ashby.
What are you currently working on? I decided during the Plague – excuse me, Pandemic – to try my hand at something new. I failed. Marvelously, I failed. I tried making an Eliza-punk story. Maybe later. Some Fan Fiction? Nope. Cozy Mystery? Definitely later, but not yet. And then I flopped around like the proverbial fish out of water. That’s when Sharon E. Cathcart told me about Sisters in Crime. Every weekend it was one lecture or another workshop. I couldn’t get enough, and with everything via Zoom, I was meeting people from all over the country. Now I belong to the Horror Writers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, The Thriller Writers Association, the Southwest Writers, and the Author’s Guild. I think I have a joining problem.
These days, I’ve embraced my love of the paranormal. I’ve always loved ghost stories, ancient curses, tombs and relics, magic, and mystery. That love drove me to write The Skin Thief, set in my old home state of Colorado, in the Canyons of the Ancients. As a child, I never had the opportunity to visit Mesa Verde or any of the ancient Puebloan sites. Now I get to write about a fictitious cliff dwelling with a terrifying, murderous spirit. Romantic Suspense meets Paranormal Thriller. What a blast to write.
Meanwhile, I haven’t exactly walked away from my Steampunk roots. I published a set of novellas called The Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner. But novella sets aren’t popular with readers the way they had been. Also, I’m not the same writer I was in 2014. Thus I’ve determined that I am going to bring all the adventures together into one freshly revised and edited novel for re-release—new cover, new format, and perhaps a new title.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a proud OutPantser. I outline and go into intimate detail about each chapter, each character, and each situation. Then I throw that out after writing the first one thousand words. I re-write the outline, a tad bit more vague this time, and mostly stick to it. But I will confess, I often get to the middle with an ending clear in my mind and no roadmap on how I’m going to get from page 175 to page 300. That’s usually when something completely off the wall hits me – no, not the clock I should have used a larger nail for – another body, bigger guns, or even a twist on the McGuffin. Then I go back, re-write so that the new idea fits, and race to the finish line. Raymond Chandler (and MM Chouinard, who offered me good advice when I got stuck on my latest) said, “when in doubt, send in a guy with a gun.”
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Well, I must say the first thing the future holds is this blog interview. Thank you, George. Offering your blog to help your fellow authors is marvelous. Next up, getting my new blog and brand going. Never stop creating yourself. And never stop sharing – there will be a great deal of that coming in 2023. Thank you again, and here’s wishing everyone the best in the coming year.
You can find her at www.TEMacArthur.com
Jan 30, 2023 | Crime, Mystery |
Bruce Lewis was a crime reporter for several California daily newspapers, where he earned six awards for best news and feature writing. Bruce is the author of the Kim Jansen Detective Series. His debut novel, Bloody Paws, won a Maxy Award for best mystery novel of 2021. Bloody Pages, a mystery novel dealing with intergenerational violence, was released on August 11, 2022. Bloody Feathers, Book 3 in the series, will be released on March 3, 2023. On December 11, 2022, his publisher, Black Rose Writing, posted the first of Bruce’s ten episodes, Death of the Stray—A Veterinarian’s Revenge, to Kindle Vella. He is working on a fourth novel, with the working title, Bloody Robes.
Bloody Feathers A bullet explodes the cremation urn of a beloved bookseller during his memorial, sending shrapnel into a dozen mourners, including Detective Kim Jansen. As she recovers, Jansen finds herself tangled in four mysteries tied to John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, one of the world’s most valuable books.
Who’s your favorite author? – Stephen King. King is a master storyteller—as we all know—whose writing technique is invisible, with his characters driving every story at a mad pace. For light reading, I enjoy Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett, and Nevada Barr’s Anna Pidgeon.
What is the best book you have ever read? Shipping News by Annie Proulx. The quality and complexity of her writing is astounding. I read it long before I became a novelist. It would be interesting to re-read it and see what magic I could glean for my own books. I wish I had her talent.
How long did it take you to write your first book? – I got the idea a dozen years before starting it. In late 2019, I started writing it at a relaxed pace. I’d walk a mile and a quarter down to a coffee shop, write for an hour, then walk home. I would do that a few times a week. I wrote parts on my iPad and some on my iPhone while riding buses in Portland, Oregon, where I lived for six years. Bloody Pages, book 2, took 90 days. The difference: a publisher encouraging the next book in what would become a series, learning tricks from other novelists, and creating an outline before starting. As a former newspaper reporter accustomed to working on a deadline, I’m a fast writer. I suspect I could write the next one in less.
How do you come up with character names? They pop into my head. I try to keep them simple, so they don’t distract from the storytelling. Sometimes, I use versions of family names for the fun of it. For example, my mother’s first and middle name was Dorothy Maxine, and my grandmother was a Reid. I combined them into Maxine Dorothy Reid. In Bloody Paws, she’s a homeless meth addict. No, my mother, who passed away many years ago, was not a drug addict or homeless, nor was my grandmother, who died 25 years before I was born.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I practice a hybrid style. I’m a planning pantser. I create a one-page outline of the entire book, one line per chapter. Before I write, I add another paragraph or two describing what happens in each chapter. I always know the beginning and end of the book before I start to write. With a direction in mind, I write by the seat of my pants to fill in details. I see each chapter like you would see a scene in a movie. I visualize it, then write what I see.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I do both. If I think a particular location, like a restaurant, might object to what I write (such as a serial killer as one of their regular patrons), I’ll use a fictional name. Otherwise, I use real names and real locations I’ve visited personally.
What advice do you give to up-and-coming writers? Don’t fret about how long it takes or obstacles that might arise. Just get the story down on paper. Once it’s down, you can begin shaping it the way you like. And, for gosh sake, don’t worry about getting an agent or writing a bestseller. And write a little or a lot every day to achieve your goal.
What is the most challenging part of the writing process? The editing. I love writing. Hate the editing. VERY important, but also VERY Tedious. I’m working on ways to produce a cleaner manuscript as the story unfolds rather than do all the editing at the end. Polishing creates the gem. I wish I were more patient with the process.
-Oregon Writers Colony – https://oregonwriterscolony.org/contact (member news
-Willamette Writers—Portland Chapter
-California Writers Club—Mt. Diablo Branch
-Portland Audubon Society
-Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
My contact information
Where books are available
Online: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble
Independent Bookstores: Powell’s (Portland), Reasonable Books (Lafayette), and Gallery Books (Mendocino)
Claudia, I’m impressed by your story of how you formulated the ideas for your books. Your vivid description of your process made me picture you writing your books. I’ve dabbled in many things and hobbies, among them artwork and photography. I look forward to reading your novels. Cheers.
Love the part about drumming up the courage!
This one took a lot more courage than my previous novels. Mostly because I was basically heading into the unknown on a very current and sensitive subject,
Very fun post! I love how, as a writer, research for a novel can take you down unexpected paths and you learn so much in the process.
Thanks, Karen! Yes, I’ve learned a lot of things about the external world in the process of writing mysteries pivoting on historical events or individuals. And in going down those “unexpected paths” you speak of, I’ve learned a lot about myself, too.
I think it’s fabulous that you’re able to integrate the works of art into your writing. Your description of your family discussion after visiting the museum brought back a memory of mine of the thrill of seeing the paintings of Renoir and Monet for the first time at the Art Institute. Good luck with your new book.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Michael. Glad my discussion elicited that wonderful memory!
I’ve read this book and it’s a wonderful story, beautifully written.
Thank you, Marcia!
Thank you for having me as a guest, George. Much appreciated!