Mandy Eve-Barnett's Official Blog

Inspiration for Writers & Building A Community ©

Ask A Question Thursday

July 4, 2019
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Today’s question is: Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?

For me, once I am writing/crafting a story the outside world disappears. I am within that world of my own creation and all external forces are forgotten. As I write the scenes play like a movie in my head, I experience the characters and their struggles.

How about you? Do you need to lock yourself away, go somewhere in particular or can immerse yourself in your story no matter where?

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Last week’s question. What books do you keep for sentimental reasons?

I shared mine in the post and Pamela shared her love of Pinocchio.

The Adventures of Pinocchio. From the first time my mother read it to me, I was hooked on the little guy. His devotion to his father touched my heart like no other character in any book. I have a collection of at least 10 Pinocchio books in both English and Italian, and each is a bit different due to the various translators. And to add to my Pinocchio fixation, I have quite a collection of Pinocchio puppets, dolls, and figurines scattered around the house. They never fail to make me smile.

Author Interview – Chynna Laird

April 30, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest novel?

Just Shut Up and Drive actually started off as a short story several years ago. I was part of a writing group that had weekly writing prompts that could be anything from challenging us to expand on a sentence or writing a story around one word to posting a picture. One week, the host of the group posted a black and white photograph of an old house. It must have been built back in the early 1900’s and had obviously been long ago abandoned. The story came to me right away and Gramps’ character, specifically, came to me the same night in a dream. I know that sounds weird but a lot of my ideas come from dreams I’ve had. A restless brain can prove to be a bonus from time-to-time. But that’s how Just Shut Up and Drive started out.

 How did you come up with the title?

The title so depicts the character of Gramps. He comes across as a brash, cranky, narrow-minded old man. But the more layers he lets peel away on his journey with Wil, and the more vulnerable he allows himself to be, we get to the heart of who he truly is.      

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Honestly, there wasn’t at first. I just dreamed about this story, got up the next morning and wrote endlessly for the next couple of weeks. Including pre-editing, I think it took me about 3 months in total from idea to finished manuscript. I guess if there was any message I’d like readers to take away with them from this book it’s to embrace all that life has to offer you, no matter what direction your own journey takes you on. Pay attention to what’s around you, absorb the stories others share with you, take away what you need to from each experience and don’t be afraid to make those pit stops along the way. Those stops can often reveal a thing or two either about yourself or someone close to you that you wouldn’t have discovered any other way.

How much of the book is realistic?

Just Shut Up and Drive is a pretty realistic read. All of the places Wil and his grandfather stop to visit are real places. The highway they go down and the descriptions of what they see would be the same as what anyone else taking the same drive would see. Gramps’ house in Winnipeg is basically my grandparents’ house. Of course, some situations I put them in aren’t exactly every day occurrences for most people, but my focus was making this as real as possible so readers could relate to the story and feel a part of the journey right alongside Wil and Gramps.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

When I ‘see’ characters, I have borrowed some personality traits from people I know and sometimes I’ve put some of me in there. For the most part, though, the characters aren’t usually based on someone I know but a lot of the scenarios I put them in are based off of events from my own life and experiences.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

I do have an author blog at www.chynnalairdauthor.ca.

I’m also on:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chynnalaird

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChynnaLairdAuthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/chynnaauthor/

G+: https://plus.google.com/+ChynnaLaird

Instagram (although I’m still trying to figure it out): https://www.instagram.com/chynna_l/

Author’s Den: http://www.authorsden.com/chynnatlaird

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2882404.Chynna_T_Laird

I also write for PsychCentral (https://psychcentral.com/lib/author/chynna-laird/) and maintain two blogs on there. One is about raising a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and the other one is geared more to women’s health issues.

 

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I’ve just finished the next book in The Watcher series (the first book is Dark Water). I’ve also written another children’s book as well as a parent-to-parent book on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). And I’ve also just completed a new adult novel currently in the editing stages before finding it a home. I always have ideas brewing. Right now, I’m planning my next memoir and have a plan set for a new adult fiction novel, but we’ll see. The Watcher series is the only sequel set I’ve started. The others are all stand alone.
out of synch

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

Oh wow. That’s a toughie. My main characters are all the ‘underdog’ in some way. That invisible presence that not many others give enough time to, but who can make a huge difference in their own way. Each of them has had to face some sort of life hurdle and deal with it in the most positive way they can, bumps and all. And they are each searching, maybe not consciously, to fill some sort of void in their life. There is a character I created in my newest manuscript (that one will come out soon, hopefully) who is very much like me. But out of all of the characters I’ve created in my published works, I’d have to say my favorite is Wil Carter in Just Shut Up and Drive. He is funny, grounded and has an amazing relationship with his grandfather who raised him. And even though he faced the ultimate tragedy of losing his parents at a very young age, he shows others how to keep moving forward…with a little help from his very cranky, but very wise, grandfather. When I wrote the last sentence in Just Up and Drive, I actually teared up realizing I wouldn’t have the daily interaction with him anymore. But he’s still there.  He’s one of those powerful spirits that never truly leaves you. I hope readers feel the same way when they ‘meet’ him.
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Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I’ve been told I’m an eclectic writer in that I have dabbled in different genres. So far, I’ve published children’s books, memoir, adult fiction and young adult and new adult fiction. My heart is writing for youth so my books are clean, contemporary, true-to-life fiction. That’s not to say that down the road I won’t try something else, but that’s my focus for now.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I love this question. I think the only books I’ve written that have taken the time to plan out have been my memoirs. Maybe that’s because this genre is a lot more personal and revealing so you need to present the material in the best, most accepting way possible. Otherwise, I’m one of those weird authors who gets an idea for a story and can actually see it beginning to end in my mind. In a sense, it’s almost like transcribing what is already complete in my head. I’ll always write down character names and how they relate to each other as well as research specific things so that the information is accurate, but for the most part I just sit and write when the story is there.

What is your best marketing tip?

I’ve tried various tools out there but I’ve always found that the best marketing tip that’s worked with me is connecting with other authors in the same genre and being a presence in specific social groups relating to what I’m writing about. For example, most of my work is geared toward children and youth so I try to connect with these groups, and those who work with them. I also have no fear in discussing issues or topics on my blog that many others know about but may not talk about as much as they should. That shows that I’m not just writing about these areas, I take the time to understand them. I’ve found this means a lot to readers as they can see that I’m not just ‘blowing smoke’ and simply trying to make money off of a specific issue or group. I write about it because it’s important and it matters. This leads to word-of-mouth promotion, which is just as important or more so than traditional forms of marketing.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

I actually see both sides of this. There are so many forms of social media out there it can be overwhelming to know which ones to go on and which can offer the greatest benefits for writers and authors. On the one hand, it can be a great tool in that it offers a way to get the latest, up-to-date information on our work to our readers. It also offers a way for readers to interact with authors in a way they normally wouldn’t be able to. I can’t speak for all authors but, for me, it warms my heart to read feedback from readers. It tells me my work is appreciated. On the other hand, spending too much time on social media, even for promo, takes time away from actual writing. The key is only allotting a specific amount of time to posting, responding to comments/questions and staying current with readers otherwise most of your writing day will be spent on it.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS:

What do you enjoy most about writing?

First, I enjoy keeping my muse quiet for a while. She bombards me with ideas and never leaves me alone. I also think that I have a male muse as well so they fight for attention. Seriously, though. Writing is a tough job and many out there don’t truly understand just how hard it can be. It isn’t about throwing words together and having it all make sense. It’s about creating a story that’s believable, enjoyable and has the influence to absorb readers so deeply, they stay awake to read just one more chapter. That is one of the highest compliments a reader can give an author.

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

This is a great question I love to answer. When I was in elementary school, I believe it was Grade Four, we had an editor come to our class to discuss the publishing process. As an avid reader, I was thrilled. Then we got to write our own little book from start to finish. We wrote the story, drew our illustrations, created our ‘cover’ (which was basically laminated card stock…but still…) and bound it. After we were finished, we got to put our book into the school library for other kids to borrow. We were supposed to take it home at the end of the year, but I’d forgotten mine in the mad rush of starting summer holidays. I actually forgot about it.

About 15 years later, my younger sister came home from school. She had had library that day and was so excited about the book she took out. Guess what book it was? The one I created all those years ago, when I was the same age my sister was when she found it.

 I look that as a sign that was the profession I’d be in.

(My little book was called, “Super Bug”, which was all about a bug in a superhero costume whose only fear was size 12 shoes. J Every time our class had library, I’d always check to see if mine got taken out. And it did!)

Has your genre changed or stayed the same?

Somewhat. I do love to mix my sarcastic Scottish humor in there whenever I can. I still write for children and youth, though. That’s where my heart is.

What genre are you currently reading?

Well, I’m one of those readers who has at least three books on the go at once. You know, then I have something to read in each room. I’m reading a memoir right now, which I plan to review on my blog when I’m finished. I also bought a few books during the Boxing Day sales at Chapters. The one I chose to read first out of that stack is called, ‘Girl in the Dark’ by Marion Paux. I love suspense thrillers.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I do read for research for my books, just to make sure I understand a subject enough. There is nothing worse than authors who choose to write about something and have no clue what they’re talking about. But I mostly read for pleasure. After all, if an author wants to develop and grow their craft, it’s good to absorb what you can from some fellow authors.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

Wow. Well, I have a very small handful of people I consider mentors. They are authors, instructors, editors and publishers who have given me advice, tips and support over the years. Without them, I would have given up a long time ago. My greatest supporter was my Uncle Craig. He was my main promotor and tooted horns for me whenever he had the chance. I lost him last year, which was really difficult, but I know that wherever he is now he’s still turning heads in the direction of my stuff.

Where is your favorite writing space?

My writing space is my ‘office’ I created in our basement. I have everything I need surrounding me right at my fingertips. It looks like a bomb went off around here some days but I call it my ‘organized mess’. I know where everything is. As odd as it sounds, I actually write better when I can hear all my kids running around. My son has his video game area set up just outside of my ‘office’. He busies himself over there, turning around every so often to say, “I love you, mom!” and I absorb myself in my task at hand. It can get a little difficult when my youngest comes down and sits behind me in my chair asking 500 million questions, but it’s all good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I belong to a few online groups, as well as a few local ones. Mostly, I am a part of the NaNoWriMo group, The Writers Guild of Alberta, the Canadian Authors Association groups on FB. It’s important to reach out to fellow authors as I have found that unless you are an author/writer, it’s difficult to truly understand the entire process.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Oh boy, that is a tough one because I enjoy so many great authors. I love John Grisham, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, John Saul, Chris Grabenstein. But I also enjoy authors such as Jodi Picoult who take real-life situations and turn them into a beautiful novel. Out of all of them, I think I’d like to chat with John Saul. One of the first books I read by him was ‘Come the Blind Fury’. Right after that, I knew I wanted to write for young adults.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Australia. I mean, I’d love to visit places like Scotland, Ireland, Hawaii and other places but I’ve always been drawn to Australia for some reason.

Do you see writing as a career?

I pretty much decided that it already is. There aren’t many authors who can completely rely on their royalties from their books, but I think that’s my goal. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

Oh boy. I try not to eat at my desk because then I’d never leave my work area. Having said that, I do have a small stash of two kinds of candy I actually like: Sour Skittles and Vanilla clusters. I call them my ‘think candy’. There you go. That’s something very few people know about me. lol

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

High fives from my kids and a nap. Seriously. There are a lot of days my poor kids spend looking at the back of my head when I’m on a tight deadline (or four). Once I’m all caught up, we make a family favorite meal, enjoy each other then I fall asleep. You can ask them. I have my own blanket and space on the couch. lol

Bio:

CHYNNA LAIRD – is a mother of four, a freelance writer, blogger, editor and award-winning author. Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), mental and/or emotional struggles and other special needs. She’s authored two children’s books, two memoirs, a parent-to-parent resource book, a Young Adult novella, a Young Adult paranormal/suspense novel series, two New Adult contemporary novels and an adult suspense/thriller.

Website: www.chynnalairdauthor.ca

 

Author Interview – Christa Conklin

March 26, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

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What inspired your latest novel?

In my youth, my father filled my bookshelves with Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Alexander, and Eddings. As I entered adulthood, he bought me Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books as they released.

My dad’s health declined. I began writing my own fantasy novel, transforming my useless anxiety into imaginative scribbling.

During this time, Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a disease similar to my father’s. They endured identical treatments, even taking part in a study for the same drug.

Jordan passed away before completing the series which was finished by Brandon Sanderson. My husband gave me those last three books because my father was gone too.

The sole connection between my dad and Jordan may appear tragic, but out of despair came Tranquility.

How did you come up with the title?

Tranquility is the name of a book within my novel. I wanted the title of that book to clearly represent peace, which was the intended purpose of the rules in that book.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

When I buy a fantasy book, I’m looking for a good story to curl up with and enjoy. I wrote a book I would want to read. Great books stick with me, and make me want to discuss them with other readers. A fictional story becomes the reader’s once the book is in their hands, and any message received is personal. I hope my book provides what good fiction should be: enjoyment; a story that remains in hearts and minds; and a reason for thoughtful discussion. That’s a tall order, I know.

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How much of the book is realistic?

My hope is that the emotions, characters, and general circumstances connect to the real world enough for readers to identify with them. Some of the setting and characters were inspired by the Adirondacks, one of my favorite places. The messengers in the last chapter were inspired by a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills, who still reside at the Philadelphia Zoo. However, this is an absolute work of fiction.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There are pieces of me, people I know, and experiences I have sprinkled throughout the story. Close family and friends tease me about certain characters, who remind them of me. The best fun is when people project themselves on characters, who are not at all inspired by them.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

My website is the best place to connect with me. I do not have a blog.

http://www.christaconklin.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christaconklinauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/christaconklin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christaconklinauthor/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17528828.Christa_Conklin

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christa-Conklin/e/B0788392DJ/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christa-conklin-72002669/

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I have the first few chapters of a stand alone WIP written and sitting on the back burner. The sequel to Tranquility is taking precedence.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I think Taelmai is high on my list of favorite characters. She struggles with hypochondria, but her nurturing personality drives her to care deeply for others, allowing an underlying bravery to well up. She’s a complicated, anxious, loving person, and I wonder about her reliability. She feels very human to me as I care for, worry about, and doubt her.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

Fantasy is my favorite genre. I do like to dabble. My short story Kat, The Jailer, and Jack is a retelling of an Indian folk tale The Tiger, The Brahmin, and the Jackal. This was fun to write because it was backwards for me. I took this old story filled with personification and reworked it into a modern all human cast of characters.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

Seat of my pants, definitely! Reading an interview with Madeleine L’Engle was a huge inspiration to me. Until I read it, I knew I had a basic idea for a story, but I didn’t know where it would go or how it would end. I thought I needed to have this outline to be a REAL writer. Then I read “The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy” by Leonard S. Marcus. He asked L’Engle, “Did you know from the start how the story would end?” she responded, “No. I’ve never done that! It is more fun not to know. If you know exactly what is going to happen, it doesn’t work. But if you start to write the story and listen to it, see where it wants to go … well, I think that’s how God creates.”

Reading this from one of my most-admired authors freed me from self-imposed constraints. I began to write, and the story unfolded.

What is your best marketing tip?

I value personal, grass roots effort as a strong starting place. I have a small teen/young adult tribe who have agreed to help me promote my book. They will be involved in everything from sharing and creating social media posts to live-streaming my author events and overseeing craft tables to talking to group leaders at their schools. Their peers are my readers. There is no better way to reach a population than to have some enthusiastic members encouraging their peers to enjoy what they have enjoyed. Also, talk to people and listen well. I discovered three friends, who have connections to newspaper/magazine publications. All three of them have helped me secure feature articles about my book. Talking to my town’s librarian and comic book store owner have secured me two author events. When I was on vacation in the Adirondacks, I talked to bookstore owners and loon conservationists about my book and its being inspired by their part of the world and the creatures residing there. I’ve made some great connections. Get yourself out there!

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

I have mixed feelings about social media. Tending to it takes a lot of time away from my writing and the personal engagement I prefer. However, it is a convenient way to reach a lot of people.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy losing myself in the story as it develops. This feels very similar to why I love to read.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both?

I usually read for pleasure, but now that I am a writer, I find myself reading differently, noticing technical writing choices. I try hard to put that away, and just enjoy, but sometimes I am struck by a point of view or how dialogue is handled and I become thoughtful about the craft instead of the story.

Where is your favorite writing space?

I dream of writing in a cafe, using WiFi, and sipping a cafe mocha. However, I am a homeschooling mom, who is thankful for the times that my kids are learning independently, taking a class, volunteering, at practice, or playing outside so that I can write by daylight. For me, it’s more about a favorite time to write. That would be by daylight, but out of necessity, most of my writing happens in the wee hours. As for where this happens, I mix it up between my kitchen table, dining room table, and sometimes, when the sun is still up, the desk in my bedroom. That makes me feel fancy!

Bio:

CHRISTA CONKLIN is the author of several articles, and two short stories: Moontail and Kat, the Jailer, and Jack. Tranquility is her debut novel for which she received the 2016 Cascade Award for Unpublished Speculative Fiction. She teaches piano and
woodwinds at a music school in her small New Jersey town. Her family hikes mountains, paddles lakes, strolls city streets, and picks their own everything at local farms and from their own gardens. She and her meteorologist husband home school
their children and don’t train their Miniature Goldendoodle.
Visit her at christaconklin.com.

Review:

Tranquility  by Christa Conklin
“Tranquility is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre. Filled with magic, prophecies,
and plenty of mythical beings, Conklin weaves an intriguing, imaginative
tale that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the last page. With a rich cast of
characters, vivid world building, and a story you’ll be talking about long after you
finish reading, Tranquility leaves readers both satisfied and yearning for the next
adventure in the series.” —Kathryn Lee Martin, author, the Snow Spark Saga
Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
March 20, 2019

Blurb:
She must prove there’s more to life than peace and more to death than dying.
The One People find guidance to peace and unity in the pages of TRANQUILITY. Drethene views the methods prescribed in the book as hurtful attempts to escape their diverse ancestry. Such pain is personal, as her parents aim to conceal how different she looks from the rest of their people. Even her job keeps Drethene quiet and secluded. While working in the Academy library, she secretly reads histories used only to teach future leaders to loathe the past. Drethene is inspired by these books filled with cultural variety. When she discovers another world as part of her people’s heritage, a well established enemy is revealed, and she rises to meet the truth and save both worlds.
Now Drethene must convince the One People that their lives are not as tranquil as they seem. They are being hunted and must reunite with a sisterworld that has been erased from their past. If they choose to remain in the comfort of their rewritten history and false sense of peace. they will be dragged into a maelstrom they have forgotten to fear.

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 31, 2019
mandyevebarnett


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One of my characters in The Twesome Loop is an abuser. Readers have commented that they really hated him, which, of course was the idea. However, during the editing/revision process, I was asked to give some sort of an empathetic side to his character (a reason for his behavior). This I did and it ‘explained’ his motivation to some extent.

When I recently watched the Ted Bundy tapes (which are truly terrifying due to his charm & ‘normalcy’ to those who knew him) it made me think that in fiction we ‘explain’ character motives but in reality there may never be one that makes sense.

Today’s question is: Have you been asked to ‘explain’ a character trait?

Were you happy to explain it or do/did you feel it took something away from the narrative?

Click on the post heading and then scroll to the comments. Looking forward to everyone’s opinion and experiences.

 

Author Interview – C. A. Asbrey

October 19, 2018
mandyevebarnett


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CA Asbrey

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It definitely lights a fire under me when I have a tale which wants to come out. I can sometime stay up until 3-4am if I have to finish a scene. At other times I can agonize over a phrase or sentence and before I know it the day has gone and I’ve only written a paragraph. I miss it when I can’t write.  

What is your writing Kryptonite

Emotional upset for sure. My last book took me a year to write as I was distracted by my husband being injured in an accident and my mother-in-law passing away from a long illness. I was very lucky to have a lovely mother-in-law. She is sorely missed.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

The Innocents

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve met many wonderful people on this journey and I’ve found them to be an incredibly generous and open community. I’d really encourage new writers to reach out and make contact. Not only will you find that they share resources, but you’ll probably make all kinds of new friends too. There are too many to mention but Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier deserve a special mention. Both have been so supportive and inspiring to a brand new writer and have gone the extra mile in helping me cross over so many barriers. Kit introduced me to her publisher after reading my work, and helped me out of the slush pile. Joanie helped to point me towards the various groups which help a new writer with marketing and publicity. Not only that but she actually made up some advertising material and told me to ‘get my swag on.’ I was being far too Scottish—reticent and unwilling to look like I was bragging by saying my book was good. Both ladies have been incredible and I can’t thank them enough. Read their books and you’ll soon see how lucky I was to be assisted by them.

Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

‘The Innocents’ is definitely meant to be part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’s plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

So far it’s been on editing. I’ve learned so much from every bit of feedback given to me and I they all go towards making me better writer. That said there’s been free advice from other writers. As a newcomer to the writing community I have found great generosity of spirit and so many people have shared some of their valuable time to help me. I’ll be very happy to pay that forward. On another note I have just spent some money on publicity. I’ve yet to see how that will work. That may be my new enthusiasm if it really pays off.   

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation. It’s useful for a writer to grasp that and be able to shift the dynamics in a scene through clever use of words.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 

Lol, maybe a giant sloth? Or one of those dogs or cats which go viral for bumping into glass doors or falling off things.

Innocent-As-Sin-CAAsbrey-Web

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

‘The Innocents’ has been written and re-written to death. It’s probably in about its tenth incarnation. The second book in the trilogy was launched on 26th July and the third is at the editing stage before being submitted for publication. I have numerous other mysteries plotted. It all depends on public demand on whether or not I continue the series or write them as standalone mysteries.

What does literary success look like to you?

 To have people read and enjoy my stories. I make no pretence at literary genius or at writing anything worthy. I write stories which I hope people will enjoy.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 

Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it. Everything which influences every aspect of the stories. Abigail’s ability to disguise herself and alter her accent is taken directly from reports on the skills of the original female Pinkerton, Kate Warne. The theatrical make up and wigs were also true to the period. Stage make up had been primitive earlier in the century, but better stage lighting revealed a need for far better make up techniques, products, and prosthetics. Greasepaint was invented in the 1860s by Ludwig Leichner, building on the work of Karl Freidrich Baudius (1796–1860) in the 1850s. Lighting also improved costumes and acting techniques. It drove a desire for more natural representations in every area, simply because people could see the stage more clearly. Crepe hair went out and quality wigs came in. Colors were mixed to mimic skin tones and classes in their application were popular in the acting profession. Latex wasn’t invented until 1920, but prior to that rubber was moulded or even applied to a light fabric backing. When it was the right shape it was expertly painted to look exactly like a nose, dewlap, bald cap, or any other body part. I even researched whether someone with as much hair as the average Victorian woman could wear a short wig. The answer came from a young woman who enjoys cosplay – and she explains online how to pleat her long thick hair and coil it flat under the cap before putting the short wig on. It absolutely IS possible. I was really surprised to find how many really strange crimes and mass murders from the past seem to have been forgotten by all but a few. The past is littered with remarkable characters; honest and dishonest. There are cross-dressers, madmen, greedy people, selfish people, arrogant people, and clever people on both sides of the law. I was also conscious of how often history repeats itself and how themes come up time and time again as history stratifies the same issues and concerns time and time again. I was also impressed by the dedication of a few clever people who worked to catch criminals and close down their attempts to cover their tracks.

How many hours a day/week do you write? 

I have no set timetable. I wish I was that organised. Some days I write into the wee small hours, other times I can be researching and go down the rabbit hole following some amazing character or story. In the end all of it is productive and results in a story though. The actual process of writing is only the end of a longer mechanism. The invention has to come first.

How do you select the names of your characters?

As I write 19th century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him. It disturbed people who initially saw this as a straight romance, which it isn’t. 

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I only write mystery. I loved them right from the start because the reader can play along with the story. There are rules to writing a mystery, and the writer has to keep to them if the reader is to be able to play along. The story has to keep moving, all the clues need to be available and the plot needs to be convincing. The rules were set out in ‘The Detective Club’ which featured members such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterson, and E. C. Bentley. Not all the rules hold true today – for instance rule 5 states, “No Chinaman must figure in the story.” That I simply a ridiculous premise today. Agatha Christie broke rule 7 “The detective must not himself commit the crime” but they still provide a framework for the modern mystery writer. The method of murdering the victim must be a robust and feasible technique and not invented or spurious. The motive for murder in a whodunit should be personal, and not an act of war or part of a professional hit. That takes the killing into a different genre of writing. Many of the old rules say that a twin or a servant cannot be used as the murderer, but those rules have also been broken in modern writing and shown to be no longer relevant.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been playing with this story and universe since 2008. It looks like I’m a slow developer. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.

What inspires you?

Anything and everything. I can meet someone with an unusual name and I have to note it. I can read news story, read remarkable history, or find some amazing spy gadget. Somehow I piece them all together to form a mystery.  

How do you find or make time to write?

I found myself with enforced leisure after a serious accident.  Like many people I always wanted to write but life and family got in the way. I got hooked and wanted to get good enough to be taken seriously. I’m lucky to be in a position to dedicate time every day to writing. I look in awe at friends with families and job and wonder how they do it.   

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m editing the third of ‘The Innocents’ trilogy and have outlined some more mysteries I can have my characters solve if they are a success. I also have a completely separate mystery set in 19th century Edinburgh planned which I’m quite excited about starting.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Another mystery. No surprised there. I want to continue with the universe I created in ‘The Innocents’ as I think there are still a lot I can do with the characters. I also have a Gothic 19th century medical mystery set in Edinburgh in mind which is not related to that series.

Share a link to your author website.

Blog which includes things obscure and strange in the Victorian period     http://caasbrey.com/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/CAASBREY

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/mysteryscrivener/

Facebook group for The Innocents Mystery Series 

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/?ref=br_rs

Link to book https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BMHFXSJ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_wTSSAb8J40Q9H

Bio:

Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office.    

In that role she produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and wrote guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She was Media Trained, by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. She has also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.

 

 

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