Attack of the M’s, Part I

I was going to title the next two weeks’ worth of material Attack of the Marylins, but then I realized that this week my guest’s name is spelled Marilyn so…

Actually, this first week is another in the award winning (or so to be award winning, or rather, deserving to be known as award winning) series Around the Globe with…

This week I pick up my featured author and we’re off to her fabulous villa in Cote d’Azur overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. HER villa? Well…okay then. As long as the sun shines and the drinks are free.

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I’m Marilyn Levinson, and I write mysteries, romantic suspense, and books for kids. My curiosity makes me the most fascinating person in my town. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and learning about new things. All fodder for my books.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
While I’m very social and enjoy chatting with people, I love the time I spend alone at my computer. I love writing (when it’s moving along) and knowing that my fellow writer friends are only a keystroke away. When I’m alone, I enjoy the freedom to jump from one activity or subject to another.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a movie star?
I started creating stories as soon as I learned how to write. I never wanted to be a movie star. Performing never appealed to me, though I’ve since discovered that I enjoy reading aloud to a group and do a pretty good job of it.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
I believe Mark Twain would be an entertaining dinner companion. So would Oscar Wilde.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?
My books, regardless of genre, are reader friendly. I get immediately into the story. My characters are three-dimensional and appealing, and my plots surprise. I don’t like being bored, therefore I don’t bore my readers.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
Ah, I could write a book discussing these topics. If I’m creating a new mystery series, I think about my sleuth until I see her clearly in my mind. How old is she? Where did she grow up? What was her family like? What kind of work does she do? My protagonists all have personal issues that affect the way they function. For example, Lexie Driscoll, my sleuth in Murder a la Christie, finds herself housesitting in an upper income neighborhood where her best friend lives. She’s not completely comfortable living among the wealthy. I create more characters. Since this is a murder mystery, at least one person is murdered. Who? Why? Once I know this, my plot takes on a life of its own. I create more characters – friends of my sleuth, enemies of the victim. Suspects. My characters react with one another. They all have secrets. Readers love secrets.

Setting is very important to me, and I think about this very carefully before I start to write. While many of my novels take place on Long Island, the home location of each series is unique. I consider the terrain, the housing, and the economic level of the town’s inhabitants. I generally create a town or village, placing it in close proximity to real places and landmarks. This allows me creative license yet grounds my novels in reality, something my readers like.

I do write from an outline. I like to have a guide as I go along, though I often deviate from it.

As for research, I look up information as needed. I recently set a children’s book in the South of France, which I’ve visited a few times. I Googled many villages and towns, then created my own village among them. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable setting a novel in a place I’ve never been to.

My writing schedule is erratic. I do most of my writing in the afternoon. I edit as I go along. I don’t rewrite books, but I will go over the book after I’ve finished writing it. And then there are the revisions and edits that one’s publisher requires.

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?
Think about your characters and your story, then write a scene about them. It doesn’t matter where the scene takes place in your book. You’re writing to get the sense of your characters, your plot, and your theme. It used to bother me that I usually don’t begin my novels in the “right” place. What I end up scrapping is valuable to me. It’s what I’ve written to familiarize myself with my characters and every aspect of my novel.

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?
I don’t know about my philosophy of life, but my philosophy about writing is that it’s an ongoing process as well as a way of life.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I don’t intend to stop writing any time soon. I’ve sent out a series proposal to agents. If and when it’s taken, I’ll be writing a new mystery series. Meanwhile, I’ve four manuscripts I need to go over before submitting them to publishers. And I want to continue writing more books in my three existing series.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
My website is: www.marilynlevinson.com
I blog the first and third Monday on MakeMineMystery,com
And, of course, there’s my Author’s Page on Amazon.

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