Heading into a hot holiday weekend. Two days off and no set plans.
First, however, it’s another interview with a fantastic author. I pick her up in my trasnporter and since she didn’t care where we went, I did something I’ve never done with any other author. I took her back to my apartment to meet my cat, Thomas. (And no, that’s not a euphamism for anything, it’s my cat.) Then we sat out on the front lawn (which the landlord mowed a couple of weeks ago) sipping iced tea and wondering when the storm front would move through.
1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
While I appear to be a modest housefrau, I have killed dozens. In fact, I just killed two people today. I average five murders per book.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m an avid sculler, row about 1200-1500 miles each year.
3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as a brain surgeon?
Brain surgeons can’t always control the outcome of their work. I like having the power to create, modify, destroy.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
Well, I always say Hemingway, because he was just plain sexy. But I also would like Mark Twain as a dinner companion. And Dickens. The list goes on.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
They’d make you forget your own situation for a while. They’re page-turners, and you’d get wrapped up, so you wouldn’t notice time passing. And you’d see that there are perils and predicaments worse than your own.
6. Share your process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
Oh man. Big question. I do lots of Googling. Research IS essential, and it helps me refine my ideas, hone my plot (so it’s realistic). Eg, SUMMER SESSION involves brain injuries and aphasia and sleep disorders and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. LOTS of research. I interviewed doctors, psychologists, war vets, and read lots of journal articles—in addition to basic Googling.
As to the process, I start with characters because they shape the plot. The plot, for me, has to be consistent with who the characters are, where they would realistically be, what they’d realistically be doing.
Then I figure out a situation. A crime. A sinister motivation that will conflict with the heroine’s. And I’m on the way. I always make an outline first—My publishers usually require that. But I deviate from it as I go. Because the characters often refuse to stick to the initial plan. When they do, I have to decide whose ideas are better—theirs or mine. Sometimes mine are; usually, theirs are. So I amend the original outline.
I try to write for a few hours each day. Life sometimes gets in the way. I write at most five hours or so—then my brain is a puddle and I have to stop.
I revise as I go. But then I do a final revision. Another after the editor provides comments. So usually, there are three drafts. But one book had eight. Don’t ask.
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Begin in the middle. Think of your characters as living their lives and you drop in on them unexpectedly. I’d advise you to join them just as something dramatic or shocking is about to happen.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Keep breathing. Nothing is permanent; we keep nothing. So let go and breathe.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I’ve just sent in the next Harper Jennings book (the third in the series) and am working on a tight deadline for the fourth.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
Visit me at MerryJones.com