We all need to refresh our writing Muse, so this past Thanksgiving long weekend, I enjoyed two day road trips to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. The first was on Saturday and then again on Monday. Both trips were a discovery of back roads and nature. It was chilly and breezy but glorious colours of the season were enjoyed.
There was plenty of wildfowl, a friendly squirrel, a couple of muskrats and evidence of a busy beaver too.
Although, I did some research for my detective book series and compiled a file folder of research, I did not write. We all need downtime.
However, I may write a short story on the unusual sight of a beaver lodge with a satellite dish! It’s too good not to.
Inspiration does come from anywhere and everywhere.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Both. To not write, dismays and distracts me. Writing is like lancing a wound. It’s painful but with writing, comes release. And relief! I often worry there’s no story there at all, so once I realize there is, I feel a great deal of relief!
What is your writing Kryptonite? I use too many he said, she said’s. I also have to completely rewrite every single thing I write, at least three times. It would be so much easier if I could just get it right the first (or second!) time. But then again, most of writing is rewriting anyway, isn’t that so? And when you sculpt a sentence or an image, it’s wonderfully satisfying! Sometimes I’ll read a first draft of a thing and think that it’s utterly awful writing – who on earth can even write that badly? But at that time, the only thing was to get the story down and I always say that – just get the story down, you can fix the writing later. If I edited as I went along, I’d get nothing done.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Actually yes! I am thinking of branching out into some really weird noir and I’m considering these names: Kingston Lee, Mansel Williams, Lee Digby, Lee Hunt.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? Terri Favro, Carole Giangrande, Brenda Clews, Catherine Graham, Grace O’ Connell, all my pals at the Mesdames of Mayhem, D.J. McIntosh and Dawn Promislow are just a few. I love their work so much – their direct, beautiful prose, their descriptions. And I am blessed to be part of a very strong writing community, so that list is really very brief, there are many more names. We are all, across Canada, linked in our love of literature and I find the Canadian literary community to be extremely supportive and encouraging. I know that if I hadn’t come to Canada, the chances of me publishing a book would have been very slender because it was within this community that I learned how to write. And there are SO many fantastic Canadian authors and poets! It’s astounding, really, what a nation of literati we are. And, kind, lovely people!
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? They are all definitely standalones! I would be very open to writing books with connections but it doesn’t seem to happen! I just write what I am told to write!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Going to workshops. I love workshops and conferences. Also, buying books about writing and self-editing.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? Wow, this is tough one! I can’t say for sure. I remember being part of the debating team at school and it was fascinating to me then, how language is actually a tool of persuasion. I’m sorry to not have a better answer for you.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? The Book of Stolen Tales by D.J. McIntosh. It’s such a masterful, gripping read, filled with fascinating folklore.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? It changes a lot! I find there is usually one per book. The owl was very strong for a long time. Then the snake. Right now I would say it’s the wolf.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? I have a whole cupboard of them! They include God’s Day Off, The Fables of Foxtrot Four, The Savage Chardonnay Society and a collection of short stories called Cannibals of the Afterlife. None of them is worth a damn and I really want to have a lovely big bonfire and watch them all go up in smoke. I feel like that would be cleansing and cathartic. I wanted to do it last summer but the opportunity never arose. Although, some stories in Cannibals of the Afterlife are fairly recent and have some potential. So I wouldn’t burn those just yet!
What does literary success look like to you? I feel happy and fulfilled when people enjoy my work. My books aren’t always to everyone’s tastes and I understand that so when a new reader gives you a four or five star rating on Goodreads, then I am happy! I think that No Fury Like That is enjoying a lot of literary success which I wasn’t expecting – I thought readers would hate Julia Redner but they really seem to like her! So that’s a huge win!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? That depends on the book. Rotten Peaches is my next book, for 2018 and I did a lot of research on trade fairs, the toxic ingredients that go into cosmetics and also, the history of the Afrikaner in South Africa. I worked out a calendar of trade show events before I began the story, so I would have an accurate timeline for the book. For my 2019 book, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution, I did a huge amount of research on treatment and methodology in psychiatric institutions in the 50’s and 60’s (very scary stuff) and I read a lot about tarot, casting spells and the like. That was how I discovered the The Occult Shop on Bathurst. Also, you can find a lot of gems about that kind of subject matter in used book shops. I also researched the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a great amount of detail as that is featured in the book too. Sometimes I will write the story and then flesh out the facts later, when I don’t want to lose the momentum of the real writing. The facts can always be tidied up later – something I rue when I get to it! Why didn’t I just look this up at the time? Well, because you were too busy writing! There’s a lot of constant internal dialogue in my head about my writing, the process as well as the stories.
How many hours a day/week do you write? I write every day. At least two hours a day, usually a lot more on weekends.
How do you select the names of your characters? I find it tough! I study movie credits constantly, or names I see in newspapers. I think about people I have met, and do I have any connotations with that name? I prefer a name to not have any connotations at all but just fit the character. I often change the names a few times but Julia Redner was always Julia Redner. The main character names seem to come easier than the secondary ones. The secondary names are perhaps even more important than the protagonists because the names need to bring a volume of information and meaning and description, meanwhile you can take the time to actually describe the protagonist.
What was your hardest scene to write? Banishing the evil spirit in The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution was very tough. As I was writing the scene, I noticed a series of blisters pop up on the inside of my wrist, in the shape of a serpent and I felt quite terrified. Later I realized that I had shingles. I told my husband it was the demon spirit and he said no, it was obviously a hard scene to write and it made it physically clear! In No Fury Like That, it was hard to write the final revenge scene – Julia went to great extremes to exact he revenge and I was concerned it was too much but people have likened it to Kill Bill which I thought was a great compliment! I think I need to work on having more tough scenes to write, it’s a good workout for the brain!
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? I started off writing literary fiction but then I wanted to write more of a plotted book. Characterization comes fairly easily to me but plotting is much harder. I love reading crime novels and wondering how they came up with such intricate plots. So I set myself the challenge of writing novels with more layers of plot. I love imagining what could happen next and then, the domino effect that would have and how the characters will interact down the line. My novels have been called cross-genre or genre-bending, so I guess they just are what they are!
How long have you been writing? I feel like I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been reading and I was a very early reader. Ever since I read Enid Blyton (I devoured her books), I tried to imagine myself coming up with stories like that. The Magic Faraway Tree was one of the first books I wish I had written!
What inspires you? Everything. Street art. Graffiti. Other people’s trash. I was recently on holiday in Auckland, New Zealand and I had a fine old time of it, rooting through the trash. I know, that sounds unhygienic and disgusting (and I do get some odd looks) but there are so many stories in what other people throw out. People on the subway or bus inspire me. Fashion inspires me. It’s ridiculous and extremely beautiful. People’s conversations inspire me. Movies, books, poetry, patterns in the clouds, stories in magazines or newspapers (I have cuttings from all over the world, snippets of things that could turn an idea into a character. Travel definitely inspires me.
How do you find or make time to write? I am neglectful of cleaning the house, I eat the same food day after day (quite happily). I wear the same style of clothes. I minimize wasting time on a thing when I could be writing or planning a story. I put writing before meeting friends for a coffee, I shamefully neglect my husband (who thankfully is a sports fan and has his own photographic interests and doesn’t seem to mind!) I am distracted a lot, by whatever story is in my head. I limit my time on social media and miss a lot of what’s going on. I get behind on current affairs and things that are going on in the real world.
What projects are you working on at the present? I am working on self-edits for Rotten Peaches. Those need to be completed by the end of January. Then I want to work on a new idea for a novel that came to me on my trip, Boomerang Beach. I wrote a hundred or so page longhand and I need to input them and see if there is anything there, and then I need to do a completely new second draft of another novel called The WeeGee Doll, after receiving great feedback from a writer friend of mine. Then I have a few short stories I want to sculpt.
What do your plans for future projects include? As you can tell from the answers to 20, there is a lot on the go! And then there is always the promotion of the current book. I have a blog tour for planned for No Fury Like That for all of Feb, with Partners in Crime and I hope your readers will find it to be of interest.
Share a link to your author website. I’d like to share the blog tour link if that’s okay? The blog tour hosts and I have quite the lineup planned! And let me take a moment to thank you for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog today. You and I go way back Dear Mandy, and it is with great joy that I celebrate your many writing successes with you.