LOIS WINSTON – Shares A Bit of Blogging History

When George invited me for a return visit to his blog, I asked him if he had a topic he’d like me to discuss. He suggested how I got into blogging.

 

 

 

I started blogging back in 2010 after selling my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series because my publisher had insisted that I have a social media presence beyond my website. What they really wanted was for me to have a Facebook presence. My editor pretty much insisted. She was one of those people who posts her entire life on Facebook, something that boggles my privacy-conscious mind.

I loathe Facebook—with a passion. I’d heard and read too many horror stories about Facebook, and that was way back then. Over the years, it’s gotten far worse. Talk about a “bully” pulpit (and not the kind Teddy Roosevelt had in mind)! I wanted no part of it. I’d been bullied enough in my life prior to the creation of the “social” platform that gave free rein to the extremely unsocial and antisocial elements of society. I had sworn I’d be the last person on the planet not “Zucked” in.

But my editor insisted. So I caved and set up a Facebook page. Within minutes, I was inundated with friend requests from creepy looking guys from Third World nations. I should have trusted my gut. It then took me several hours to figure out how to delete my account. Zuckerberg doesn’t make it easy to leave once he’s snared you.

When I did finally navigate the labyrinth to the Delete Account key, I emailed my agent. We brainstormed other social media, and I came up with the idea of Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, a blog that would be the online version of the magazine where my sleuth worked. Amazingly, my editor loved the idea—even if she wasn’t thrilled that I had deleted my Facebook account the same day I’d set it up. I appeased her further by also agreeing to set up a Twitter account for my sleuth and Pinterest pages to promote my books and the blog.

The blog has evolved over the past twelve years. I used to post five days a week but cut back to three a few years ago. I also used to have guests only on Fridays. Now I have as many guests as would like to come for a visit. This not only saves me time, but it’s a way of highlighting and networking with other authors, some of whom have become good friends over the years.

To be honest, I rarely post anything on Twitter. When I do, it’s book or writing-related, never personal or political. I usually forget to update my Pinterest pages. However, I’ve discovered that I do enjoy blogging. Along with Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, I belong to two group blogs—The Stiletto Gang, where I blog on the fourth Wednesday of each month and Booklover’s Bench, where I blog every seventh Thursday. I also do guest posts at other authors’ blogs, such as this one I’m doing for George.

Social media has since grown to include Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and more. I won’t be joining any of them. Some people have said not being on all these sites adversely impacts the sales of my books. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’d sell a few dozen more books a month if I spent hours each day on social media. But then, when would I have time to write my books?

Life is a series of choices, and we each must choose what we feel is right for us. I’d rather write my books than scroll down the rabbit hole of social media. What about you? How do you feel about social media? Post a comment for a chance to win an audiobook of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun (US or UK only), the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

Guilty as Framed  –  An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

Buy Links
Paperback: https://amzn.to/3QLEYU5
Hardcover: https://amzn.to/3Ans5s6
Kindle: https://amzn.to/3tLnT3d
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/guilty-as-framed
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/guilty-as-framed/id6442846272
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guilty-as-framed-lois-winston/1141500980?ean=2940185728703

14 Comments

  1. Candy

    Such an enlightening discussion. I blog once a month, and it’s stuff I find interesting such as odd facts about living in Mexico. But no one else finds it interesting, it seems. I also post about writer’s block which I seem to have permanently. I’ll keep searching for something that works. Thanks again for the story.

    Reply
  2. Violet Moore

    Lois, I used to blog about family memoirs with a hint of humor. After I switched to writing fiction, I corraled my straying characters into being my guests. They now provide a peek into my yet-to-be-published crime fiction novel with their humorous twists.

    Reply
    • Jessica Ferguson

      Such a wonderful post! I regret getting on social media but I do love keeping up with old classmates. Still…those “men in uniform” are plentiful and seem to multiply daily. You were smart, Lois!

      Reply
    • Lois Winston

      Great idea, Violet! Some of my characters have done many guest posts for other authors, and I occasionally guest on my own (or should I say Anastasia’s?) blog.

      Reply
  3. Judith Jones

    I found a link to your blog via Sisters in Crime. I was curious what got you started blogging. (I’m an ex-blogger myself and I wrote about topics that didn’t genuinely interest me. So, I was glad to see the last of my blog a few years ago.) But when I read your blog’s origin story, I thought, “BRILLIANT!” What an exciting idea and what a great way to engage with your readers. Thank you for sharing! (BTW, I read the opening to your latest book – love that scene!)

    Reply
    • Lois Winston

      Thanks so much, Judith! Glad you enjoyed the scene. I hope enough to read the rest of the book! ;-D

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Excellent advice about the perils of social media, Lois. I’m glad you settled into the blog and that it suits your purposes. Best of luck with your new one. It sounds fascinating.

    Reply
  5. Melinda Abraham

    Lois, I share your loathing of Facebook and most social media. Much of it is not really social, it’s isolating and creepy. And what is with people thinking that everyone wants to follow everything that they do? Gee, check out this photo of the croissant that I enjoyed this morning. Now check out the giant margarita that I had with dinner.

    I do enjoy some blogs, including yours and George’s. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
    • Lois Winston

      Thanks, Melinda. So glad you like my blog. I completely agree with you regarding people who think everyone in the world wants to see what they’re eating for each meal. You can’t go to a restaurant these days without half the diners constantly taking photos of every course brought to the table!

      Reply
  6. Lois Winston

    Jim, I hope your wife doesn’t post anything personal on FB. It’s amazing how many people do so and wind up regretting it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Reply
  7. Jim Guigli

    I, too, dumped Facebook after a short time. At the time, MWA recommended everyone be on Facebook. After a few weeks of seeing nothing worthwhile, I was done. The whole thing struck me as stupid. My wife still has an account. She communicates with our relatives and her Barbara Pym group.

    Reply
  8. Lois Winston

    George, thanks again for inviting me to visit today.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks for dropping by. I am flabbergasted that you use to post five a week. I do two, and it’s all I can do to keep up. Your posts inspire me to keep trying.
      Thanks for helping me in the early stages when I used some of your copyrighted content. You were gracious and forgiving. I continue to learn from you.

      Reply

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MARY KELIIKOA – Returns With a New Series

Mary Keliikoa is the author of the multi-award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series and HIDDEN PIECES, the first book in the Misty Pines mystery series. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and the anthology Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Music of the ’60s.

 

 

A Pacific NW native, she spent many years working around lawyers. When not in Washington, you can find Mary with toes in the sand on a Hawaiian beach or making plans to travel abroad. But wherever she goes, she’s always plotting her next murder—novel, that is.

HIDDEN PIECES, first in series: A small-town sheriff debilitated from the loss of his child and marriage answers the call for one last case, a “runaway” teen; but when it’s clear the girl has been abducted and ties to a tragic cold case emerge, he must confront his own ghosts before another child is lost.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, George! I’m excited to be back. I was here last when DENIED, the second book in my PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, had just come out. Since then, my third and final book in the series, DECEIVED, was released in May, and HIDDEN PIECES, the first in the Misty Pines mystery series, just published.

HIDDEN PIECES means a lot to me for several reasons, but probably the most significant was that it is loosely based on a crime that happened in my hometown in 1979 when two girls went out walking and one didn’t come home. I was drawn to the idea of exploring what happened to the survivor and how one would process that, or not process, the grief of that traumatic experience—especially if the victim was a sibling. While a fictional account, it explores how grief and trauma can have lasting effects, not only for the survivor but also for the cop who felt a failure for not bringing that child home. And it’s all woven into a current abduction. Let’s just say there will be many connections to the past.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Hidden Pieces was my first time writing a male protagonist, and I had a bit of a learning curve in working out his thought process, his abbreviated dialogue, how he processed information, and grief of events that have happened in his present and past. Those elements were the biggest challenge. But I tried to approach Jax from the perspective that regardless, many emotions are universal. And while men and women communicate differently, what drives their need for communication is universal. It was definitely fun exploring the full range of differences and commonalities, and I hope to continue to write Jax and other male protagonists in the future.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Such a great question and the answer is no. As a storyteller, I feel my job is to listen to the story the characters want to tell. Sure I have an idea of where I’d like them to go, and I have the case in mind they’re to solve. I even think I know the arc I’d like them to take. But how they get there comes out as I write. And to be honest, they often lead me on a path that is far more interesting and fun than the one I had planned for them.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations?

I have generally kept my stories in the Portland area or used Portland as a reference point. In my PI series, it was set in Portland. In my new series, Sheriff Turner was a Portland homicide detective but came to the fictional small coastal town of Misty Pines.

I often will use the fictional town when I want to reference things in the area, but I want the creative license not to be overly specific. For example, Misty Pines is really a compilation of the Hammond, Warrenton and Seaside, Oregon areas at the northern coast. So I would say even when I do use fictional, I have generally based them on places I’ve been to or know fairly well. In Hidden Pieces, I lived in Hammond for many years as a kid, so that area was the perfect setting for the novel.

What are you currently working on? The second book in the Misty Pines series, DEADLY TIDES, has already been drafted, so I’m currently working on edits for my agent on a domestic suspense novel and starting a standalone where the main character will be a bit of a vigilante. I’m very excited about this new project. I’ve generally written investigator-type protagonists, and this one will be full of moral ambiguity. So she’s going to be a lot of fun to write!

Do you have any advice for new writers? Continue to hone your craft either by taking classes, reading books, or finding a group of other writers you can bounce ideas off. Above all, write. Sometimes you can get caught up in thinking you need to do things a particular way, and nothing beats simply sitting down and getting words on the page. Don’t let anyone define what that means to you, whether it’s a journal, a poem, a short story, or a novel.

And second, find your community. I’ve really enjoyed the connections I’ve made on this journey, and I encourage others to do the same.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you?

Lots of writing is in store. I am finalizing the second book in the Misty Pines series, which will be out in the fall of 2023, continuing to edit my domestic suspense, and starting on my next project in the next few weeks. I’ve always said as long as I’m having fun, I won’t slow down. And it’s safe to say I won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

How do our readers contact you? https://marykeliikoa.com

4 Comments

  1. C.T. Collier

    What a challenging concept you chose for Hidden Pieces. I’m eager to read it and see how the story plays out. Thanks also for sharing your process.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a writing process that really works for you and you’re going a mile a minute. Best of luck to you with your new one.

    Reply

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The Tables Are Turned—George Cramer Is Interviewed

With the impending release of George’s latest novel, Robbers and Cops, I suggested he let me interview him for his blog. I happen to know that George is a talented writer and that he’s also very modest. Tooting his own horn is not in this man’s DNA, but I insisted. So here it is: an interview with the author, the man himself.

Now I get to turn the tables on Big George and interview him about his new book and a few other things. Michael A. Black

Okay, George, let’s start with an easy one: In which genre(s) do you write? I’ll try to make it complicated. I began Robbers and Cops as somewhat of a memoir but got bored with the protagonist, switched to a police procedural thriller, and then stopped for eight years to write The Mona Lisa Sisters as historical-literary-woman fiction.

I also write some, very little, poetry. And I love writing flash fiction.

Why did you choose those? I get pieces of stories in my mind that determine what I’ll write. Flash fiction’s inspiration is about telling a story, beginning to end, on one page. Poetry is either about writing or a social issue, such as the 1864 massacre of a peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne village in “Sand Creek.”

Now tell us a bit about your writing process–Plotter or Pantser? Outlining and I don’t get along. I begin writing with an idea and create ten thousand or so words either at the beginning or at the end. Then, I ponder how I got there, how or where the journey began. I take lots of detours.

Have you ever tried doing it the other way? Yes—total failure.

What do you need for your writing sessions? I still write in cursive, and my handwriting is so bad I need a laptop. Add a flat service and comfortable straight-back chair, and I’m set. I can be at my desk, kitchen table, library, or coffee shop. Conversations don’t bother me, except at home.

Does anything ever hamper your writing? Artificial sounds, music, radio, or television.

It must be hard to screen all of those out. Do you have a special place where you like to write? Libraries, surrounded by books.

What do you love about writing? The hope of using written words to paint a picture another person can experience in such a way as to place themselves in the setting and scene.

Painting a picture… That’s very metaphorical. Your first book references a rather famous picture—The Mona Lisa. Care to tell us what that one’s about? I was attending an introductory workshop when the instructor randomly handed out pictures of scenes. We were given fifteen minutes to describe the setting. Instead, I wrote the end of the manuscript. Eight years later, I finished the journey.

What’s the most challenging aspect for you about writing? It’s when I’m searching for the right colors (words) to paint that perfect scene.

What do you find to be the hardest thing about being a writer? Sitting down and writing that first word. Or when I’ve finished the manuscript, I’m about 10,000 words short. I don’t want to add fluff.

That’s interesting. Most writers try to cut words from a manuscript. How do you determine the proper length? When I finish adding 10K new words, I’ve cut at least 5K and have to go back again.

What is the easiest thing, if anything, about being a writer? The ability to take on any project that allows me to avoid sitting down and writing that first word. My best escape from creating new material is to self-critique and edit my already-written work.

Is there something that you always put in your books? Last year I heard that some author always puts his name somewhere in his work. I took that as a challenge, and I’m hidden in Robbers and Cops. In New Liberty, the first in the Hector Miguel Navarro Trilogy, George Cramer gives advice to a young detective.

Things you never put in your books: Steamy sex. I tried it once, but my two daughters were horrified that I would write about sex—never again.

What are your favorite books (or genres)? Now that is a tricky question. I like Bernard Cornwell immensely. I was not a fan of his until I read a few of his works while studying for an MFA at the Institute of American Indian Arts. But that is strictly for fun. Among my favorites for content and impact, I would have to include Hard Times: For These Times by Charles Dickens in 1854; and The Stranger, the 1942 novella by Albert Camus.

Those would be considered classics by most people. Which current writers influenced you the most? Right up there is The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. These two indigenous authors are incredible.

Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena should be a must-read for every person living in these trying times.

As far as right now, I choose Black Pearl by Donnell Ann Bell. I can’t wait to get her autograph and talk writing.

Are there any books you won’t buy? Horror stories by Stephen King. I can’t handle horror. However, I have a paper and hardback copy of Stephen King On Writing because he is such a phenomenal author.

All right, we’ve dallied long enough. Your new book is Robbers and Cops. Tell us about that one. I’m leaving that to you with the blurb you graciously wrote.

A fascinating odyssey of complex characters—robbers and cops that spans five decades in its telling. Imagine if Elmore Leonard had written The Grapes of Wrath, tossed in a dash of The Naked and the Dead, and finished up morphing into a pure Joseph Wambaugh police procedural. ~Michael A. BlackAmazon Bestselling Author.

Robbers and Cops will be released on November 1, 2022, and is available for pre-order.

 So would you say it’s a crime story or police procedural, or a sociological novel? Wow! I would have to say a thrilling sociological police procedural.

You’ve got an extensive background in police work and investigations. Has this helped you with your crime fiction? With Robbers and Cops, I wanted to build a story around two brothers. I met one of them when I helped a San Mateo detective take him into custody. My involvement in the incident was limited to hours, yet the story haunted me for decades. When I fell in love with writing, I used four decades of investigation experience to go from the ending back forty years in time and created the road that ended with my completed manuscript.

What is one of the most daring things you’ve done? Overcoming my fears while becoming a certified scuba diver without knowing how to swim so I could dive with my oldest son, a professional deep water diver—we never did.

That sounds like it would make a good story. Have you considered writing about your experience as a memoir or fictionalizing it into a novel? Never going to happen.

Who’s the most remarkable person you’ve ever met: My Dad.

You’ve got a lot of fans out there. Anything else you’d like to tell them? Please visit my blog and then come make a guest post about your work.

 All right. Thanks for the opportunity to let me place the master blog interviewer on the spot.

How do your readers contact you or buy your books?

Email: gdcramer@outlook.com
Website: https://gdcramer.com
Blog: https://gdcramer.com/george-cramer-blog/
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/george.cramer.56211

Buy Books: There is a buy link on my website.

Amazon – https://tinyurl.com/4xw228ft
Barnes and Nobel -: https://tinyurl.com/4t4h6x8y

20 Comments

  1. Camille Minichino

    What a team here! Thanks George and Mike, not only for your massive contribution to the world of great books, but for all you both do for authors.

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    40 years of research helped you write Robbers and Cops. I have been so self-absorbed with family, forgot I read this marvelous interview. Mike, you ask phenomenal questions that really help a person consider how to answer. Well done, you two.

    Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Lovely interview. Thanks, Mike for interviewing George. George I’m honored you like Black Pearl, and I, sir, should be asking for YOUR autograph! Think I’ll try your library system for writing. I like absolute quiet too!

    Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Love that you still write in cursive! Can’t wait to read Robbers & Cops!!

    Reply
  5. Jonathan

    Always enjoy learning new things about you.
    Sounds like we need to plan a dive trip.

    Reply
  6. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview of a great guy! Kudos Mike and George!

    Reply
  7. Johanna Meadows

    What a great interview. Always good to hear about you George!

    Reply
  8. Violet Moore

    To Michael and George. One of the best interviews I’ve read .

    Reply
  9. Cynthia

    Great interview. I did not know you didn’t swim! I have pre ordered your current book Robbers and Cops!!! Can’t wait till it comes in…and you sign it!!

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth Varadan

    What a great interview. I’ve enjoyed reading the blog posts here, but especially enjoyed learning more about you and your books this time. Robbers and Cops definitely goes on my TBR stack.

    Reply
  11. Victoria Weisfeld

    What an entertaining interview! Thank you both, Mike and George.

    Reply
  12. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    George, your honesty was refreshing. I too don’t like horror stories, but one of my favorite books was Stephen King’s THE STAND. Mike is a great interviewer and obviously knows his way to get writers to say things they wouldn’t normally say. I truly enjoyed the interviewer and the interviewee. I admire both of you and look forward to reading ROBBERS and COPS.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Joe. I’m glad you enjoyed both Mike and me. It was fun for us as well.

      Reply
  13. Michael A. Black

    George, you’ve done so much to support other writers that I couldn’t pass up this chance to turn the tables and have me interview you. I read an advance copy of Robbers and Cops and thought it was great. Thank you for letting me sit in your chair for this one. Stay strong.

    Reply
  14. Wanda Dean

    George, I so enjoyed this interview! You amaze me in many ways.
    Writing is a lot like painting as you say! And when you say you don’t add fluff, I sure can
    identify with that… Fluff just takes away from the words and the painting…
    I downloaded 2 of the books you mentioned and look forward to reading Robbers and Cops!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Aunt Wanda, this must be a beautiful time in Western New York, especially for such a talented artist as you. Keep those brushes moving.

      Reply
  15. George Cramer

    Mike, Thanks for reversing the tables on me. You must be a detective! You forced information out of me that I would never have shared otherwise.

    Working on this blog has become joy.

    Thanks to all the folks who have posted here and those who visit and support the community of writers.

    Reply
  16. Lynn Carlson

    Have read many of your blog posts -enjoyed learning more about you! Thanks for supporting other writers.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Lynn, thanks for dropping by and your kind comments.

      Reply

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CLAIRE M. JOHNSON – From Pastry Chef to Author

Claire M. Johnson worked as a pastry chef in San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years. Ms. Johnson’s first novel, Beat Until Stiff, was set in the restaurant world and was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and was a Booksense pick. Her second book in this series, Roux Morgue, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. She has written two Jane Austen pastiches and has recently finished a first-person POV historical memoir of Pauline Pfeiffer (Ernest Hemingways’s second wife) and a mystery set in San Francisco in 1930. She is currently President of MWA NorCal.

In 1930 San Francisco, the  Moore Detective Agency is two months away from closing its doors. When the wife of one of the most prestigious bankers knocks on their office door asking them to look for her wayward stepson, secretary Maggie Laurent takes the case. The aftermath of the stock market crash nine months earlier is now being realized in soup kitchens and bread lines. She needs this job to help support her widowed mother. Maggie soon finds herself up to her neck in murder, arson, and the lies and double lives of San Francisco’s wealthy elite. Will she be the next victim?

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written two mysteries, two Jane Austen pastiches, a standalone YA thriller, a first-person POV biography of Pauline Pfeiffer, and my latest book is a historical noir mystery set in 1930 San Francisco.

What brought you to writing? I moved to the suburbs! I found myself without a name, essentially. I was someone’s wife or mother. I felt my identity slipping away and was terrified that one day I’d walk up, look in the mirror, and there wouldn’t be anyone there. Writing is about as personal as it comes.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? For the first time in my life, I have a real office—no more laptop on the dining room table—with an old-fashioned oak desk that I got from UC surplus. I overlook my garden and am occasionally distracted by the antics of the squirrels chasing each other from tree to tree. Does this make me more productive? No, but it’s lovely to have all my books, my piano, and pictures of my family around me.

What are you currently working on? I’m working on the second in the series set in San Francisco in 1930, right after the stock market crash. In the first book, my heroine Maggie Laurent is the secretary to a detective. When a “dame’ does him wrong, he goes on a months-long bender, and she takes over a simple missing person’s case. Which, naturally, turns out to not be that simple.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Yes. I think that belonging to writers’ groups helps you establish a tribe that speaks the same language you do. You can share knowledge, frustrations, successes, and information on agents, what publishers will consider books without an agent, etc. Writing is a business, and I think that networking is critical. Plus, writers are a great group of people.

Who’s your favorite author? I have many favorite authors, but I would say that in this genre that John Le Carre is the master. The genius of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is that this book is 90% backstory, which is usually the death knell of any book. And yet… His book The Constant Gardener left me stunned for weeks.

How long did it take you to write your first book and get it published? Oh years. I was lucky that Poisoned Pen Press was just opening its doors, and they were open to writers without agents at that time. Unfortunately, it was difficult then, and twenty years later, it’s even more difficult.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I think you must have subplots because otherwise, it becomes too formulaic. Subplots are an excellent vehicle for exposing characters that enriches what happens in the main plot arc. I think this is a tricky road to walk because you don’t want to detract from your main storyline too much. Otherwise, it only serves as a distraction rather as an element that is complimentary. That is the key function of a subplot. It should compliment and enhance some aspect of the main plot line, whether it be an expansion of a character study or even the secret key to solving the puzzle of whodunit.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m basically a pantser. For me, part of the joy of writing a book is discovering who my characters are. Even though I’m writing this, I’m also acting as the first reader. What are they going to do next? What are they going to say? I’ve heard many writers say that at some point, the characters take over. I have experienced that as well. Your id is firing overtime, and you can’t type fast enough. Even if you don’t use much or any of the additional material, it gives you insight into their character. I’m a character-driven writer, so this is the cream in my coffee. I will say that I always know the ending. First, this tells me why I want to write a book. The “why” a story needs to be told. Second, it gives me a goal post to write to.

Otherwise, I can get distracted by the shiny. I also have a fair idea of what the middle is. Sometimes that gets delayed a bit, but I think if you have a firm grasp on the middle of a book, say around 40,000–45,000 words, then you can race toward that end with the knowledge that much of the book’s character arcs are developed enough that you can concentrate on the action in the last half of the book. Not that you abandon your character arcs because you need them to respond to the plot arcs, but it does give you the freedom to go hell-bent for leather in the last half of the book. I also have a firm beginning in mind, but beginnings are hard for me. I always end up rewriting any beginning to my books a minimum of six times. Grabbing the reader in the first fifteen pages is hard, which these days is a mandatory requirement. The days when you are allowed to mosey into the plot are over.

What kind of research do you do? For my Pauline Pfeiffer historical novel, I delved into the world of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the ex-pat world of Paris after World War I. I have more biographies on this period lining my bookshelf than any sane woman should admit to. Also, that period saw an explosion of photographic documentation of history with magazines such as Life.

I’ve just written my first historical mystery novel, which is set in 1930 San Francisco. I’m old enough to remember much of older San Francisco, so I wasn’t faced with trying to capture what San Francisco looked like before the Summer of Love, at which point everything changed. Newspapers are a great source for photographs. The SFGate archive is amazing.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I hope it’s published! I have three finished novels I’m currently shopping. I have self-published before, and while I don’t relish the amount of work that self-publishing entails, I think all these books are good reads and deserve an audience, so I never say never.

Email: clairemjohnson@gmail.com
Website: https://www.clairemjohnsonwrites.com/
Blog: http://clairemjohnson.blogspot.com

Links for Books:

Beat Until Stiff
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beat-until-stiff-claire-m-johnson/1100278295?ean=9781615951031
https://www.amazon.com/Beat-Until-Stiff-Mary-Mystery/dp/1590589688/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Roux Morgue
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/roux-morgue-claire-m-johnson/1100277782?ean=9781615951048
https://www.amazon.com/Roux-Morgue-Mary-Claire-Johnson/dp/1590589106/ref=sr_1_1?crid=29UHLIDEI12KU&keywords=Roux+Morgue&qid=1659135592&s=books&sprefix=roux+morgue%2Cstripbooks%2C148&sr=1-1

Pen and Prejudice
https://www.amazon.com/Pen-Prejudice-Claire-M-Johnson/dp/061575726X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=XO33WX4FVRB2&keywords=Pen+and+Prejudice&qid=1659135714&s=books&sprefix=pen+and+prejudice%2Cstripbooks%2C138&sr=1-1

Resolution
https://www.amazon.com/Resolution-Claire-M-Johnson/dp/1089202172/ref=sr_1_5?crid=I7VQYY26PCL&keywords=Resolution%2BJohnson&qid=1659135774&s=books&sprefix=resolution%2Bjohnson

 

8 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Varadan

    What a range of genres and topics Claire M. Johnson writes, and they all sound fascinating. I love the idea of a noir mystery of the 30s set in San Francisco. Good luck to all the new endeavors.

    Reply
    • Claire Johnson

      Thank you so much, Elizabeth. It’s been a lot of fun researching that era. I’m very grateful that I don’t have to spend money on hats and gloves!

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like a fascinating plot for a novel. I love the era and setting it in San Francisco is really neat too. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Claire Johnson

      Thank you, Michael: I grew up in the Bay Area, and so much of the era of the big department stores, etc., was still present when I was a kid. I can remember my parents buying me toys in the City of Paris for my birthday, and then eating down at the Wharf when it still WAS a working wharf. It’s been wonderful hunting down the history of the 1920s. I’m working on the second book in this series now, and, the rise of labor, with San Francisco front and center with the dock worker strikes. Sadly, San Francisco no longer has much of a working waterfront, all that went to Oakland and Stockton with the advent of the container business, but it’s still magnificent.

      Reply
  3. Katherine Cramer

    Claire M Johnson is a local Gem from the Bay. Claire knows her locations (SF, Bay Area and extending through Northern California + the world) and weaves authentic details. I’m so thrilled that Claire M Johnson shares her creative talents that make many of my loves (Jane Austen, Mystery, Style, Gourmet Foods, Aesthetic History and Characters) enriched and more alive. Thanks for the engaging interview George Cramer.
    Katherine Cramer (and no, I am not a Cramer relative!)

    Reply
    • Claire Johnson

      Thank you for all your support, Katherine. It means so much to me!

      Reply
  4. Donnell Ann Bell

    Fascinating! I love the title Beat Until Stiff, and I can’t wait to read your memoir on Ernest Hemingway’s second wife. Best wishes!! Thanks George, for another excellent blog!

    Reply
    • Claire Johnson

      Thank you, Donnell. I did ten years of research on Hemingway and his various wives. If I can’t get a publisher, I will certainly self-publish it. Pauline isn’t a very nice person, but she’s fascinating, and her story is a wonderful snapshot of that era.

      Reply

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VASEEM KHAN – Historical Fiction Sent From India

Vaseem Khan is the author of two award-winning crime series set in India. His debut, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was a bestseller, translated into 16 languages, and a Sunday Times 40 best crime novels published 2015-2020 pick; the series won a Shamus Award in the US. In 2021, Midnight at Malabar House, the first in the Malabar House novels set in 1950s Bombay, won the Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger, and in 2022 it was shortlisted for the prestigious Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. MW Craven, CWA Gold Dagger winner.

ELEVATOR PITCH – THE DYING DAY by Vaseem Khan. Bombay, 1950. A 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy vanishes, leaving behind a series of complex riddles and bodies. ‘The Da Vinci Code meets post-Independence India.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I wrote and submitted my first novel aged 17! It was awful. I spent the next 23 years and seven novels trying to get published before landing a four-book deal for my Baby Ganesh Agency series. Perseverance is important. But more crucially, it’s important to recognise that quality will out – it takes time and effort to bring your writing to the standard that agents and publishers consider publishable. On my website www.vaseemkhan.com you’ll find a blog piece entitled “Is this is a Dagger I see before me – lessons from 30 years of writing”. It might be useful.

What was your debut novel? And what happened next? My debut, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was written after I went to work in India for ten years. It became a Times bestseller after I launched it on the BBC Breakfast sofa to an audience of several million! I then found myself having to write a novel a year. That has meant strict discipline. Luckily, I’m a deadline masochist!

 

Tell us about your writing process: Wake up. Drown in a few moments of existential angst. Remember that there are still books and cricket in the world, so it can’t be all meaningless. Write for about three hours until my brain stops working. Potter around for the rest of the day, avoiding any DIY assignments my wife would like me to tackle.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’m a detailed plotter – that takes months to get right. My current historical series is compared to Agatha Christie in style – so much so that this year I’m speaking at the International Agatha Christie Festival. The books include complex clues and, sometimes, codes and cyphers, as well as a wealth of historical detail about the period when India became independent after 200 years of British rule. Balancing all these elements is a challenge!

What do you feel are your biggest writing achievements? Getting published after two decades of trying! Followed by winning a Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger, the world’s premier prize for historical crime fiction – for Midnight at Malabar House. In the book, we meet my protagonist, Persis Wadia, newly qualified as India’s first female police Inspector at a time when India is still an intensely patriarchal society. No one knows what to do with her, so they stick her in Bombay’s smallest police station – Malabar House – where all the rejects and undesirables are sent. And then a sensational murder – of an English diplomat – falls into her lap… and she’s off! In fiction, we love pioneers. There’s something mythic about a protagonist challenging the status quo. Persis, as a woman in a male dominated environment, is forced to prove, time and again, that she belongs. As a man, it wasn’t easy to write such a character!

Why do you write about India? I was born and grew up in England but lived in India for a decade in my twenties. It was an intense culture shock. In The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, there is a chapter that takes place in a slum in Mumbai. I visited that slum while living in India, and it was eye-opening to observe poverty on a scale we simply can’t imagine in the West. At the same time, it was life-affirming to see the locals just getting on with things – especially the ever-grinning kids!

How do you come up with character names? A great character name is euphonious, meaning it is pleasing to the ear because it fits the character completely and makes them more real. I trawl through hundreds of online name lists to get just the right name.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, introduced a middle-aged Mumbai policeman who must solve the murder of a poor local boy – whilst dealing with the odd dilemma of inheriting a baby elephant. What do you do when you live on the fifteenth floor of a tower block, and someone sends you an elephant? Read the book to find out! That elephant has become incredibly popular with readers around the world, so much so that I continue to get email about him. To be clear: he doesn’t talk or fly or solve the mysteries. The elephant is merely a symbol for India and allows me to showcase a different side of Chopra’s personality – he’s a very rigid and honest man. He has to gradually come to terms with the idea that he is responsible for this animal’s welfare.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I wrote a female lead for the Malabar House series because I wanted to say something about the patriarchal, sometimes misogynistic society that was India in the 1950s. Persis is ambitious, so much so that she is sometimes quite ruthless in her desire to prove herself. And why shouldn’t she be? We allow male mavericks in crime fiction, so why not a female?

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Always! For instance, inThe Dying Day, the second book in the Malabar House series, we see twin plots. A 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy vanishes from Bombay’s Asiatic Society, and the case lands on Inspector Persis Wadia’s desk. Uncovering a series of complex riddles written in verse, Persis – together with English forensic scientist Archie Blackfinch – is soon on the trail. But then they discover the first body.In a subplot, Persis must also investigate the murder of a beautiful white woman whose body is found on train tracks. Could the two cases be related? The trick is to plan in advance exactly how your subplots fit together. If they don’t hang together at all, I think it can sometimes lead to readers feeling cheated! .. Oh, and to date, only one person – an Australian reader – has claimed to have solved all the riddles in The Dying Day. The challenge is made!

Do you base any of your characters on real people? A lot! Early on in Midnight at Malabar House, Persis finds herself working with Archie Blackfinch, an English forensic scientist based in Bombay. They get off to a rocky start, but we know this is going to be one of those will-they-wont-they situations. And this presents a challenge for Persis. Because, of course, this is India just after Independence. The idea of an Indian woman in a relationship with a white Englishman… They’re both socially awkward people – but whereas Archie is one of those Englishmen who’d rather hack their own arm off than speak out of turn, Persis’s determination to succeed sometimes means that she’s a bit ruthless, such as when she almost shoots Archie’s ear off. I guess you could say there’s a lot of me in Archie. (Though my wife hasn’t shot my ear off. Yet.)

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m getting ready to promote THE LOST MAN OF BOMBAY, the third book in my Malabar House series, out in August in the UK and Kindle in US on August 18, 2022, hardcover on November 22, 2022, in the US. Frankly, I’d buy it just for the amazing cobra on the cover! It’s set in 1950 in Bombay, India. In this one, a white man is found frozen to death in a cave in the Himalayan foothills. His face is crushed, making his identity a complete mystery. When the case lands on Persis’ desk, she discovers a notebook on the body holding a series of cryptic clues. As Persis and Archie Blackfinch chase down the clues, more murders occur in Bombay of Europeans. Could there be a serial killer loose in the city? Pre-orders really help, so don’t be shy!

How do our readers contact you?

Website: http://vaseemkhan.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/VaseemKhanUK
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vaseemkhanwriter/

FACEBOOK GROUPS:
The Book Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/readrecommendreview
UK Crime Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/ukcrimebookclub
Lost in a Good Book https://www.facebook.com/groups/1715381925391873
Mystery Readers Café https://www.facebook.com/groups/2024429557790696
Bookaholic Café https://www.facebook.com/groups/BookAholicCafe
Book Connectors https://www.facebook.com/groups/1466353170351020
Crime Fiction Addict https://www.facebook.com/groups/507750129408471
The Crime Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/CrimeBookClub
The Fiction Café Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/FictionCafe

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re really on a roll, Vaseem. Congratulations on your success. Your story is inspirational. Good luck and watch your ears. 😉

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