JAMIE ADAMS – Writing Cozies and Beyond

Jamie fell in love with books at an early age. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott opened her imagination and sparked a dream to be a writer. She wrote her first book as a school project in 6th grade. Living in the Ozarks with her husband, twin daughters, and a herd of cats, she spends most of her free time writing, reading, or learning more about the craft dear to her heart.

 

Homicide at High Noon – Money is missing from the gold mine, and Lily is a suspect! The company auditor is determined to prove her guilty, but turns up dead, making Lily a murder suspect. Will Lily find the missing money and the killer before they set their sights on her?

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, I do, but not at the same time. This past year, I’ve been working on cozy mysteries, which are fun to write. I’ve self-published several historical romances. I grew up watching old westerns with my dad and have a passion for that era. There are several genres I enjoy reading, and I can’t help but want to try them as a writer. I’ve been working on a time travel story for several years, off and on. It has been so much fun to work on.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? A year ago, I would have said plotting was the more challenging part of my writing process. But after having some help from my amazing publisher, I’ve learned to look forward to plotting before I write. My stories used to be very character-driven, but plotting has given the book more balance. Today, the most challenging part of the process is finding time to write.

What are you currently working on? I’m midway through the Ghost Town Mysteries series. It is a new genre for me, and I wrote all my other books in the third person. After reading several cozy mysteries, I discovered it’s almost a 50/50 split between telling the story in first person and third person. I’d always thought writing in the first person would be too difficult. But wanting to challenge myself, I tried it and found the story developed so much easier when written in first person.

What are you currently working on? As I write this, I’m working on book four of the series. Still untitled, the story continues with my main character, Lily, and her sisters living in a small town with a popular ghost town attraction. In Grady, California, everyone knows everyone. The tight community has a few skeletons in the closet, and one not so secret is a family feud, giving the book a Hatfield’s and the Mcoy’s kind of feel with a twist. The death of one participant reveals more family secrets, one of which puts a target on Lily’s back.

What kind of research do you do? Research is one of the best parts of writing a book. I love to read and learn new things, so while it’s necessary to do research, it can easily distract me from the primary goal. Digging deep to make the story authentic was entertaining for my historical romances. Cozy mystery writing has led me in different directions that have had me looking over my shoulder. I used the internet to gather most of the information I needed. For book number three of my current series, I had to research how to hire a hitman. One of these days, men in black wearing dark glasses may show up at my door.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? So far, they have all been fictional. Sometimes, I use a familiar area like the woods around our house and our long gravel road when describing details, but the setting itself has always been fictional. I sketch a rough-looking map to keep buildings and locations in order.

I love to hear from my readers. You can learn more about me and my books at:

https://www.amazon.com/Jamie-Adams/e/B00CNRNSRK/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk
https://www.facebook.com/JamieLAdamsauthorpage
https://twitter.com/Roosgal
https://jamieladams.wordpress.com/
Book two of The Ghost Town Mysteries, Homicide at High Noon, is now available in digital and print: https://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com/jamie-adams

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you have a very orderly and disciplined approach to writing which should ensure your success. Keep it up and best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Jamie Adams

      Thank you, Michael! I appreciate that.

      Reply

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SARAH ELISABETH SAWYER—Choctaw Author and Story Archaeologist

Halito (hello), fellow authors! I appreciate George having me on his blog today. I’m Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, a Choctaw author and digital course creator. My signature course, Fiction Writing: American Indians, equips authors to write authentic stories that honor Native American history and culture. I also teach a live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors that takes you through the process of mastering dictation through easy exercises that lead you to become the master of your fictional worlds.

As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I’ve written and published 16 historical fiction books. I’m highlighting pieces of my writing life in the hope you find them helpful on your journey.

Do you write in more than one genre? Historical fiction is my primary (and favorite) genre to read and to write. Something about digging into the past gives me a deeper connection to the present. That is especially true of my American Indian heritage. My books range from the Choctaw Trail of Tears in the 1830s to the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I. I love a good old-fashioned western, which I get to share through my Doc Beck Westerns series set in the 1890s, featuring an Omaha Indian woman doctor. I write clean stories with close family relationships, fistfights and gunfights, and accurate cultural heritage.

What brought you to writing? When I was five years old, I had a story I wanted to share about being kind. But I was horribly shy and knew the only way to share my message was through writing it. My mama has saved that story to this day, and she continues to be my greatest fan and encourager. In my early twenties, I released a lot of the chaos in my life, wiped the slate clean, and handed the chalk over to God. He brought writing back into my life and let me know I was born to tell stories.

What are you currently working on? I released Fire and Ink, book 5 in the Choctaw Tribune series, in August and am outlining the final book in that series. There are 3 more books to go in the Doc Beck Westerns that are also underway. I have my first traditionally published nonfiction book coming out this fall, a biography on a WWI hero who was Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee — Otis W. Leader: The Ideal American Doughboy (Chickasaw Press).

How do you come up with character names? Authenticity is a significant component of my work. One of my methods for naming my American Indian characters is diving into historical records. Census, tribal rolls, and recorded stories are great sources for me to find authentic names for the people and times I’m writing about. Do you base any of your characters on real people? Absolutely. My novella, Tushpa’s Story, was based on a young boy who had a dramatic experience crossing the Trail of Tears in 1834.

Though the main character is fictional, the characters in Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I are the real men who were the code talkers and their commanding officers. I had the honor of interviewing descendants who knew these men and shared personal aspects that lent so much to the story. There are many historical figures sprinkled throughout my stories.

What kind of research do you do? I didn’t start off as a good researcher. I was scattered, but I knew research was vital because of the roles my work plays in the world. These books let readers experience authentic First American history and culture in an entertaining story. Through that, my stories are ambassadors. They are also a way to preserve this heritage for generations to come. My research has taken me down the backroads of Oklahoma and our homelands in Mississippi; deep into the secure vaults of the National Archives in Washington, DC; reading through stacks of nonfiction books and online archives; the WWI battlefields and cemeteries of France; sitting quietly and listening to elders.

Today, I love research and the treasures I discover of my ancestors that I get to share with readers.

 

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m terribly excited to get started on an action-adventure series set in the 1970s that stars a Choctaw artist who has to fight the bad guys and retrieve priceless historical American Indian art pieces. In between my own books, I’m actively teaching authors how to create authentic stories that honor Native American history and culture. I’m also gearing up for my live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors in October. Nearly 100 authors joined me in April of this year to master the skill of dictating their stories. It was a rousing success, and I can’t wait for the one this fall.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? The faith of my ancestors continues to inspire my writing life. They walked the trail for me, and I’m so grateful to share their extraordinary lives through my real and fictional characters so that you, the reader, can go on the journey with us.

Find out more about my books (and my mama’s art) over at ChoctawSpirit.com
Interested in the Fiction Writing American Indians digital course? Find it here: https://www.fictioncourses.com/americanindians
Want to join the live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors in October? That’s here: https://www.fictioncourses.com/dictationbootcamp

5 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Although I was familiar with the Indian code talkers in WW II, I didn’t know there were some in WW I as well. It sounds like you have a lot to offer as far as both teaching and writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Marie Sutro

    Wonderful class to offer, and the new action adventure series sounds great!!

    Reply
    • Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

      Yakoke, thank you, Marie! I’m so grateful I get to teach authors on this topic. And thank you, I truly can’t wait to start on that new series!

      Reply
  3. George Cramer

    I am enrolled in Sarah’s online Fiction Writing: American Indians class. I highly recommend it to folks who include Indians, Native Americans, Indigenous People, or The First People in their writing.

    Reply

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NICK CHIARKAS – From the Projects to the Halls of Government & Award Winning Author

Nick Chiarkas is a Wisconsin Writers Association Board Member and the author of nine traditionally published books: two award-winning novels Weepers and Nunzio’s Way and seven nonfiction books. He grew up in the Al Smith housing projects on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When he was in the fourth grade, his mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that “Nick was unlikely ever to complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a U.S. Army Paratrooper; a New York City Police Officer; Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; Chief Counsel for the USATBCB; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University, a Law Degree from Temple University, and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. How many mothers are told that their children are hopeless? How many kids with potential surrender to despair? That’s why Nick wrote Weepers and Nunzio’s Way — for them.

Nunzio’s Way – “In this city, you can have anything you want if you kill the right four people.” ~ Nunzio Sabino
In Weepers, Angelo and his gang defeated the notorious Satan’s Knights with the help of his uncle Nunzio Sabino. Now, in Nunzio’s Way (a standalone sequel to Weepers), it’s 1960. Nunzio is the most powerful crime boss in New York City, protecting what’s his with political schemes, business deals, and violence.
Against this backdrop of Mafia wars, local gang battles, and political power plays in the mayoral election; an unlikely assassin arrives fresh from Naples after killing a top member of the Camorra. Nunzio has lived by the mantra; Be a fox when there are traps and a lion when there are wolves. Will Nunzio be a lion in time?

Who’s your favorite author? J. D. Salinger, his writing is beautiful, inventive, and skillful. For example, here is a sentence tucked into a narrative toward the end of his short story A Girl I Knew, “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” I find it breathtaking. On a personal note, in 1965, while I was in an Army hospital at Ft. Campbell, Ky, I received a kind letter from J. D. Salinger; subsequent exchanges inspired me to write.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes. When I think about them as characters, they may slip into a caricature; however, basing my people/characters on real people, they come to life with all their failings and attributes.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Although my novels are crime-thrillers, I write them as Roman à clef – a novel with a key – which is a novel based on actual events, people, and places overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in my novel represent real people, places, and events, and the “key” and the fun are the relationship between nonfiction and fiction.

What is the best book you have ever read? This is hard; here are three: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and Yesterday and Today by Louis Untermeyer.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Before you write a first (bad) draft, tell your story to a recorder (10 minutes maximum). Just as if you were telling me the story sitting in a pub. Don’t tell me what it’s about; tell me the story. When you’re finished, please wait a few days before listening to it. Then listen to your story with paper and pencil in hand. You will learn three things. (1) Do you have a story and a plot; (2) Does it hold your interest; and (3) What research is necessary? If yes to (1) and (2), do the research and then write your first (bad) draft.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Recently, at a book talk, I was asked, what was the primary inspiration for my novels Nunzio’s Way and Weepers?” My response was that I wanted to show that life was hard and dangerous when I was growing up in the projects, yet there was love and cohesion between families, friends, and neighbors. I added this brief story as an example:

It was late afternoon on a sunny day in 1957. I was 13 years old and sitting on a bench in the small concrete playground near my building. I was alone reading a Little Lulu comic book. Sylvester Green, tall, tough, and 16 years old, walked into the playground.
He said, “Whatcha readin’, Nicky?”
“Little Lulu.”
“Lemme hold your comic book.”
“No.
I had to say “no,” or I would be a punk. I put up a bit of a fight, but Sylvester knocked me over the back of the bench into brittle and painful bushes. He took my comic book and left. I got up and looked around; nobody saw what had happened. Good. I dusted myself off, wiped some blood off my face with my sleeve, and went home.
My mother met me at the door when I got to my apartment. She asked me where my comic was mbook was.
“Ah, I must’ve left –”
She said, “Zitto cetriolo.” Which means “shut up, cucumber” in Italian. Why cucumber? I have no idea. “I saw that boy, Sylvester; take your comic book.”
“It’s no big deal, Ma; I –”
“No big deal? Andiamo.”
You guessed it, Andiamo means let’s go. She grabbed my arm, and off we went to Sylvester’s building. This was not good news for little Nicky, but I was counting on Sylvester being out somewhere, enjoying my comic book. As I said, it was a lovely day, and it wasn’t supper time or anything—no chance he would be home.
My mother knocked on Sylvester’s apartment door. Sylvester’s mother opened the door. “Marie, can I help you?”
“Stella, your son took my son’s comic book.”
“Sylvester, give Nicky back his comic book,” Stella shouted over her shoulder.
She did not give Sylvester a chance to lie ; she just told him what to do. Sylvester came to the door, handed me my Little Lulu comic book, and looked at me in a way that made it clear that tomorrow would be a bad day for me since we went to the same school. My eyes and body language tried to explain that I didn’t say anything to him. My mom just saw what had happened. No use.
My mother thanked Mrs. Green. Mrs. Green thanked my mother. That was the end of it…except for me the next day.
When I think about that story, I realize no police were involved. The mothers took care of everything. Families knew families. Police were rarely called for anything. The benches were usually lined with women and out-of-work men. They all watched over the neighborhood. This was the inspirational string of the family and neighbors coming together to solve problems that tie my two novels together. And when they couldn’t handle something, they knew who to go to: Nunzio’s Sabino.

Despite the poverty, we (the kids growing up on those streets) felt loved and valued. Not just by our family but by our neighbors, not by the greater society, but by our neighborhood. The older women and men told us stories and shared life lessons. Lessons like: Don’t be a bully; Do what’s right even if you catch a beating; Be polite; Share; Help; Don’t self-pity; Accept responsibility; Don’t be a sore loser; If you win, don’t brag; Read at the Public Library; Be a stand-up guy. Mostly, I learned that it is not about what you get for what you do but what you become by doing it.

How do our readers contact you? They can use my email –  nick.chiarkas@gmail.com

10 Comments

  1. Victoria Weisfeld

    What a terrific interview! The last line is really worth thinking about and well-suited for one of those themes suitable to illustrate through fiction. The Little Lulu story was entertaining, but I laughed out loud where the introduction said the schools advice was, “you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer. So much for “simple and secure”!

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Thank you, Victoria…maybe simple and secure would have been better…no way, I had to take the path I picked. No regrets, my friend.

      Reply
  2. Steve Rush

    Great interview. Your story exemplifies how much good parents and parenting make a difference and influences their children. Thank you for sharing it.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      I completely agree with you, Steve. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Nick, I don’t think it is deja vue, but I’ve read this story before. I don’t remember where but you told this before. I even think, you said what happened the next day, but I don’t remember. So, what happened the next day?

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Ah, Joe, the next day I caught a beating. I put up a good fight but Sylvester was a strong and fast kid. But it was just one beating, one day, and he never picked on me again. That’s the thing about bullies, you have to stand up to them, even if you catch a beating.

      Reply
  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Nick, I love this closing line so much that I want to put it in the mouth of my protagonist… but don’t worry, I won’t. You can feel the love you have for your childhood neighborhood. Clearly growing up there had a lot to do with who you are today. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Pamela, thank you so much for your kind words. I thank the projects are still inside me and seep out every now and then. Thanks again, my friend.

      Reply
  5. Michael A Black

    Great interview and commentary, Nick. You are truly an inspiration. I stand in awe of your accomplishments and talent. J.D. Salinger was one of my favorites as well. And I loved Nunzios Way and Weepers. Stay strong, brother.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Thank you so much for your kind words Mike, they mean a lot to me, brother.

      Reply

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WENDY WHITMAN – From Comedy to Murder – What a Ride

Wendy Whitman has a unique background through her decades-long work as an executive and producer for Court TV and HLN, covering almost every major high-profile murder case in America. Through her knowledge of the most detailed aspects of the crimes, Ms. Whitman has become an expert on the subject of murder in America. Before attending Boston University School of Law, Whitman worked for comedians Lily Tomlin and George Carlin. After graduating from law school, the author embarked on what turned out to be a twenty-year career in television covering crime. She spent fifteen years at Court TV and another several at HLN for the Nancy Grace show, where she appeared on air as a producer/reporter covering high-profile cases. Whitman received three Telly Awards and two GLAAD nominations during her tenure at Court TV. Her debut crime thriller novel, Premonition, was released last year. The sequel, Retribution, will be out this July.
RETRIBUTION: After the shattering conclusion of Cary’s quest for justice for the victims of a suspected serial killer in PremonitionRetribution picks up with her cohorts continuing their investigation to hunt down the person responsible for the heinous murders. Who will be next? More importantly, who will come out on top in this deadly game of vengeance?

What brought you to writing? My passion for murder victims and what they have gone through drove me in large part to begin writing. After Court TV and then on Nancy Grace’s show at HLN covering high-profile murder cases, I always felt I had a book in me. I wanted to share my knowledge of the legal system with the public. Although I initially thought I’d write a non-fiction book, I realized I could do everything I wanted in a fictional novel. So one night, I sat down and didn’t stop writing until the early morning hours of the following day. My first crime thriller, Premonition, was a labor of love. I incorporated twenty-plus true cases throughout the book, which I think is unique for a crime thriller, and gave it that extra touch of realism. My second novel, Retribution, picks up where the first one left off. Since I began my writing journey, I have found ideas popping into my head all the time. I am already working on my third novel.

Tell us about your writing process: I didn’t have a plan when I began writing Premonition. The words just flowed out of me. But as the first draft progressed, I knew I had to make a daily schedule in order to complete the book in a reasonable amount of time. So I decided every day, no matter what came up, I would write a certain number of pages; usually, that was twenty or so. Often when I was out and about running errands, an idea would pop into my head, and I would pull over if I was driving and make a note of it. Then when I got home, I would continue to write until I reached my goal for the day. They say, “write what you know.” That thought guided me throughout each writing session. This technique worked well for me, and I completed the first draft in under four months.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? This can be a tricky question to answer. I think one of the most common questions an author gets asked is: “Am I in your book?” As I wrote my novels, I found that I automatically drew upon my experiences; my life. So in that regard, you could say every character has some basis in reality. However, none of my characters were based on one single person. They were either composites or, in some cases, completely made up. Although some situations in the book may be loosely based on actual events, the characters in those situations are not necessarily actual people. When writing fiction, it is especially important to distinguish your characters from the real people in your life: they are not one and the same.

What kind of research do you do? Generally speaking, when an author is writing a fictional novel, there is less research to do than if they were to write a non-fiction book. However, in the case of Premonition and Retribution, since I included references to many true cases in both novels, I had to be careful to get the facts straight. I chose certain murders to highlight in each book for different reasons. Some cases I chose had been neglected by the media; others because the protagonist or killer in the novels was fixated on them. I looked up each case to ensure I remembered the crimes’ details correctly so the books would be as accurate as possible.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? The answer to this is both. Again “write what you know” is a good guideline for any author. The best way to maintain true authenticity throughout a novel is to write about something you have firsthand knowledge of. My novels are set in Connecticut, in the general area where I reside. Although in certain cases, I modified the name of a town or business. Each was based on an actual place. In certain instances, I used the real name because I thought it was important for the setting. So my books have both real locations and fictional ones inspired by real places.

Do you have any advice for new writers? The first piece of advice I would give a new writer is twofold: the overused but critically important “write what you know” and write about something you are passionate about. That combination is a winning formula. Part of the reason I think it was relatively easy for me to complete the first draft of my debut crime thriller, Premonition, in under four months was because I had so much knowledge bottled up inside of me about a topic, i.e., murder. Readers can distinguish between an author who knows what they are writing about and one who does not. Trying to pen a novel about a topic you don’t have a handle on will go nowhere. You can’t fake it; write from the heart, and nothing can stop you. One last piece of advice: when writing, don’t stress about whether you will find an agent or a publisher. How will you promote the book? These are distractions that need to be put on the back burner until you have finished the actual task of writing. Take pride and pleasure in your creation; most of all, have fun with it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Writing my first novel, Premonition, was therapeutic for me for several reasons. Having covered some of the most horrific murder cases for decades, I wanted to find a release from the horror of it all. Writing turned out to be the outlet I needed. I wanted my debut crime thriller to pay homage to murder victims and their families. I think I accomplished that goal, and I believe that intention is what makes my novels distinctive from other thrillers. The tagline of my website is: Bringing True Crime Experience to Crime Thrillers. That is exactly what I tried to do with Premonition. The story continues with Retribution, and I am currently working on a third novel to complete the trilogy.

GROUPS:

*Facebook: Renee’s Reading Club; A Novel Bee; Global Girls Online Book Club; Peace Love Books; Wild Sage Book Blog
*Sisters in Crime National and Sisters in Crime-CT
*ITW (International Thriller Writers)
LINKS:
*Website: wendywhitman.com
*https://www.instagram.com/wendywhitmanauthor
*https://www.facebook.com/WendyWhitmanAuthor/
*https://www.amazon.com/author/wendywhitman
*Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/3IEbXqs

 

2 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Thanks for sharing all your expertise with us, Wendy. Your books look thrilling. Perhaps a bit too scary for me. I tend towards bad dreams. Do you ever find you scare yourself with your own stories?

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Wendy. And thanks for paying homage to the victims and their families. All too often they’re forgotten. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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M.E. ROCHE – Registered Nurse / Author

Since growing up in the Midwest, M. E. Roche has lived on both coasts as well as in Ireland. As a registered nurse, she’s had the opportunity to work in many facets of nursing and volunteer with her local coroner—part of the sheriff’s department—in northern California. Her favorite books have always been mysteries.

 

 

Her first three books were young adult mysteries, introducing Nora Brady as a student nurse. Nora has since moved on to three adult mysteries, and the newest ONCOLOGY has just been released on Amazon. In addition, M. E. has written the standalone mystery novel: BIGAMY, set in the 1930s. She is currently working on another standalone set in the Dust Bowl era.

ONCOLOGY – Cancer Treatment Can Be Murder has Nora working as an RN in an oncology clinic. When a former patient suffers a heart attack while on a cruise, an autopsy is done as required; this shows no evidence of prior cancer treatment. The medical examiner in San Diego who did the autopsy notifies his friend, the medical examiner in Jacobsport, who is Nora’s friend—the one who got her the job in oncology. Determining how this might have happened and how many other patients might have been affected is a complicated undertaking for this inexplicable situation. Determining who is responsible while not raising any alarms can also be risky for Nora and her friends.

What brought you to writing? Like many, I thought about writing long before I sat down to do it. At some point, it’s that “If not now, when?” The shortage of nurses has always been a problem, never more notable than the present. While I had never read the books written in the 1950s and 60s about nursing students who solved mysteries, I knew of them, read them later in life, and decided they needed an update, which is what my first three novels attempted to do—the idea being to attract young readers to the nursing profession. After completing those, I decided I wanted to bring Nora Brady into adulthood and wanted her to become a detective without completely giving up her nursing career.

Your Writing Process: I start with a vague idea of what a story will be about, but I love letting the characters shape the direction of the narrative. I find that writing first thing in the morning, after a cup of coffee or two and maybe the early news, is the best time for me—sitting at my desktop and letting the words come…or maybe not come. I’ll give the process an hour or so, then take a walk and let the day begin. I seldom go back to work in progress, rather using later in the day for editing or correspondence. When writing, I prefer no distractions, but later in the day, I may have an easy listening station playing.

Current Project: I often have several projects going on at the same time. Right now, I’m working on finishing a novel I started some time ago about a series of crimes that transverses the country, from the northwest coast to the city of Boston. It involves inter-agency workings that I’m attempting to learn and manage. In addition, I’m working on another novel set in the 1930s about a great-aunt of mine who immigrated from Ireland and ended up marrying a man in Nebraska—a homesteader. He eventually dies, and she’s left with all the problems that ensued for many wiped out during the Dust Bowl era. It raised so many questions and has necessitated quite a bit of research, not just in that era but also about my family. Most of the family had made it to Chicago, so how did she end up in Nebraska?

Setting the Location for a Novel: The Nora Brady novels are set in the fictional Jacobsport, California, which is based on Eureka, California. I was told I should have used the actual name of the town and places, that it would be more relatable for readers, but I worried about getting too close to home with actual places or people. Eureka readers will tell me they see the places I describe, but I hope there’s just enough anonymity. However, when Nora goes down to San Francisco, I use actual streets and landmarks. This is also what I do for the background in Boston. When I was writing Bigamy, however, I did base the story on actual people in a small town in New York state, where relatives of the characters still lived. I couldn’t chance using real names or locations, so I moved the story to New Jersey and a fictional town.

Kind of Research: There is some research for every novel, even where my nursing is involved, as things have become so specialized. When writing about law enforcement, I try to stay pretty clear of legal and procedural specifics and instead focus on the character’s deductive reasoning. In my volunteer work with the coroner, I did several ride-alongs with the sheriff’s deputies; that chance to talk with the deputies over several years was invaluable.

When writing about another era, I try to read as much as I can, both fiction and non-fiction, about the period until I have something of a feel for the time. There are always details, however. If I use an actual town and want to talk about transportation, I have to be sure of what might have been available. If I write about peanut butter, was it even a product at that time? If I write about the characters meeting in an Irish parish, was there one in the area? Readers do recognize the accuracy of details. I want things to be realistic and relatable.

Please consider visiting my website at:   www.meroche.com

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Peg, I’m so glad you described your typical writing day here. I’m just now in a situation where I have more time to write than I ever have before. I’ve always felt most productive in the morning, as you describe to be the case for you in this post. But I’ve been struggling with when to do the daily walk, fearing I may never ‘get to it’ if I don’t walk before I start to write. Does that happen to you, or are you disciplined enough to fit that walk in every day–after a bout of new writing?

    Reply
    • Peg Roche

      Hi Pamela: I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier! I do find that I’ll end up skipping that walk if I don’t do it first thing. I usually write for an hour or so, walk, and then try to get back to it either after the walk or sometimes in the afternoon if other things are planned. You’re right, though. I find I have to be disciplined as it’s easy for me to be distracted!

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re juggling a lot of different projects at the same time which is always challenging for a writer. But your background in nursing probably prepared you to handle many things at once. I’m looking forward to hearing more about you and Nora Brady at the PSWA Conference. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Peg Roche

      Hi Mike: I’m so sorry I didn’t catch your comment earlier. Thanks for taking the time. You’re right, there is some juggling involved, and it does take planning, which I’m sure you know from all your books! It was a pleasure meeting you and the conference was just great! Already looking forward to next year! Thanks again!

      Reply
  3. Peg Roche

    Thanks for the opportunity, George!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      So glad you could stop by and share your story.

      Reply

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MAUREEN BOYLE – Journalist – True-Crime Author

Award-winning journalist Maureen Boyle is the author of two true-crime books. Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer was published in 2017, and The Ghost: The Murder of Police Chief Greg Adams and the Hunt for His Killer (Black Lyon) was published in June 2021. Her next book, Child Last Seen: The Disappearance of Patty Desmond (Black Lyon), is set for release in May 2023.

Maureen was named New England journalist of the year three times and has been honored for her work covering crime, drug issues, and human-interest stories. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a master’s in criminal justice. She is now the journalism program director at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.

Do you write in more than one genre? After decades as a cop/court/crime reporter, writing true-crime feels natural to me. That might change, but the research needed for this genre aligns with what I had been doing for years working on newspapers in New England.

What brought you to writing? I can’t imagine doing anything other than writing. In the second grade, when the teacher was going over sentence structure and how to use quotation marks, I remember thinking: “Pay attention to this. You will need to know this when you write.”

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? After working in noisy newsrooms, very little distracts me. I have a very cluttered home office surrounded by stacks of notes, books, and digital recorders. Some might consider it chaotic; I call it being surrounded by work. I shut the door and just write. I’m pretty focused when I’m at the keyboard.

Tell us about your writing process: I generally write as I research while the information is still fresh in my mind. I do this so I don’t forget scenes, the tone of individuals, and other bits of information that might get lost over time. Of course, this also means I need to rewrite a number of those early sections as I gather more information.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Making sure every fact is correct is always challenging when writing true-crime. Writing about crimes involving communities in states you are not familiar with can be extra challenging. For example, in New England, there are cities and towns, not townships or boroughs. Making sure I understood the different local governments and the different levels of law enforcement in other states was crucial in my second and third books. I couldn’t rely on what I already knew. However, the most challenging part is always making sure the victims’ stories shine through and that the families of the victims feel comfortable talking to me. The bottom line in this genre, at least to me, is making sure the victims’ stories are told.

What are you currently working on? My latest true-crime book, Child Last Seen: The Disappearance of Patty Desmond, was released June 1, 2023. I discovered this case through retired Pennsylvania State Police investigator Danny McKnight while working on my second book, The Ghost: The Murder of Police Chief Greg Adams and the Hunt for His Killer. I have two other true-crime projects in the research phase. One is about a murder during Prohibition. The other is about the abduction-murder of a teenager by a sex offender, the decades of court appeals before the killer was finally convicted, and the effect the case has had on a small community.

Who’s your favorite author? My favorite author is always the one I’m reading at the time. I read a wide range of writers and across genres, looking at how each crafts his or her work. Good writing is good writing, whether it is true-crime, thriller, mystery, horror, science fiction, romance, or anything in between. I have been a huge Stephen King fan since the 1970s and am always amazed at how he can turn a phrase. I read Erik Larson for the way he crafts detail in his non-fiction. I read Laura Lippman for both how she structures her novels and her unique stories. I read Hank Phillippi Ryan for the writing, structure, and story. Each author brings something different to the reader in each genre, so I am always open to reading everything that comes my way.

How long did it take you to write your first book? I like to say it took me thirty years to write Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer, but that would be an exaggeration. I covered that story in 1988 when I was a reporter at the Standard-Times of New Bedford in Massachusetts and always planned to write a book on the case. The delay? I was waiting for an arrest. Finally, I decided it was time to write the book and started re-interviewing investigators and victims’ relatives. I had stayed in touch with most of them over the years. Once I got started in 2015, things went pretty quickly.

How long did it take to get it published? The book was published in 2017 by the University Press of New England thanks to help from a friend, Elaine McArdle (who is also a terrific writer). Several agents at the Boston University Narrative Conference rejected the book proposal, and she suggested I contact her agent, who rejected me. However, that agent suggested I contact UPNE directly, and things went quickly from there. UPNE has since closed, but Brandeis University Press took over the list.

                                       

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? William Faulkner was an author I couldn’t stand when I was in college. His run-on sentences drove me crazy. Since then, I’ve grown fond of his short stories and other works and can appreciate his fine writing.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have one book coming out in May then it is back to researching and writing. I am bouncing between the novels, and the non-fiction works right now.

Do you have any advice for new writers? If you want to write, sit your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard, and do it. Pick a time that works bests for you but do it. Don’t wait for divine inspiration. The more you write, the better you get. Writing is an art, a craft, and a business.

How do our readers contact you?
I’m on Twitter (@maureeneboyle1)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maureen.boyle.710

TikTok (@maureeneboyle)

Instagram (maureeneboyle)

They can also reach me through my websites, www.maureenboylewriter.com or www.shallowgravesthebook.com

 

4 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    Very interesting interview, Maureen. Good luck with your new book!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Great interview, Maureen, and thanks for continuing to tell the stories of the victims. They are too often forgotten. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  3. John Schembra

    Interesting blog, Maureen! Congratulations on your latest book!

    Reply
  4. Peg Roche

    Great blog, Maureen! I will definitely look forward to reading one of your books. Thanks for the introduction, George!

    Reply

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