Does murky weather turn your mind to murder? As one who constantly dabbles in the macabre, this thought occurred to me: what better time to commit the ultimate anti-social act? Odds are, in the midst of crushing damage and devastation,local authorities will attribute loss of life to the natural disaster unless of course a murderer dispatches his victim with a bullet, knife or garrote. The proverbial blunt instrument, a tried and true method, will likely go unnoticed in a tumult that accompanies a natural disaster. If this horrifies you, consider the source. There are no accidental deaths to a mystery writer, only novels yet to be written.
What makes a protagonist misbehave? She/he is your creation after all. Writers have the ultimate life or death power over the characters they create but invoking the nuclear option and casting them into the darkness is hard. After all, you’ve spent time with them: you know their foibles, feelings and fears. King Lear bemoaned that sharp serpent’s tooth that a thankless child presents and so it is with those who populate our novels.
I want my heroines to be smart, sassy and brave (like me), but sometimes they are shy, self-doubting doom-sayers (also like me). Mystery readers hope to escape everyday drudgery, showcase their detective skills, and enjoy the occasional hot guy. Being mired in misery is no one’s idea of fun, especially mine. I’m selling a lively mix of romantic fantasy where justice prevails and evil-doers are punished, not a poor woman’s version of Crime and Punishment. So it’s time to eliminate unruly characters and create the plucky, upbeat heroines that entertain audiences and sell books.
No hesitation this time: It’s the Tiger not the lady.
Just returned from taping a television interview in DC with host John Lovass and 2 other mystery authors. (Lane Stone and Donna Andrews).
The event was entertaining, amusing and lots of clean wholesome fun. Despite that, I enjoyed myself. In the course of our discussion, the host proved that he had indeed read all 3 novels by pinpointing a misspelled name in one of the books. We looked at each other, shrugged, and strongly hinted that he had ingested some strange substance. Streams of heavy denial flooded the studio as we defended the purity and artistic integrity of our works. I (mentally) combed through INTRUSION and determined that I didn’t even have a character by that name.One of the other authors looked guilty and I strongly suspected her of double-dealing.
After returning home, I did a cursory word search of INTRUSION and low and behold, I found that error nestled in the comely bosom of my very book. For shame!
I feel surprise, chagrin and a great deal of relief that my crime was hidden from the viewing audience. Now no one will ever know …
Keep your day job (as long as it doesn’t involve writing). Have you ever longed to dispense that advice to a would-be novelist but were too kind or cowardly to do so? The self-publishing phenomenon coupled with the democratic ideal that ANYONE can write a novel present an ethical dilemma to many of us. Technology allows those with tenacity and funding to produce a book whether or not it is worth reading. Skills such as talent, imagination and ability may be cast to the winds without a publishing gatekeeper to provide input. Some writers refuse to accept the mildest suggestions, even ones that can help to point them in the right direction. They regard criticism as a foreign substance whose poison must be immediately expelled from their body. As a result, the literary world is awash with detritus. For every hidden gem one finds a nest of ill conceived, poorly written tomes that should immediately be consigned to the remainder bin. For those who yearn to write, listen to your peers as well as your own inner voice. Good writers are few and far between. So consider this advice: keep your day job.
Enjoy every day, even your most mundane activities. A friend and former colleague was walking his little dog in DC, when a car jumped the sidewalk and ended his life. Personal tragedies are often a wakeup call to the rest of us, the survivors, to appreciate every gift large and small that we’ve been given. It’s easy to bemoan what we DON”T have, rather than celebrate our blessings. Foremost among them are our friends, those patient souls who commiserate, congratulate, and animate us. I used my late friend as the model for a major character in my novel INTRUSION. It was easy to depict his persona, dialogue, and sense of humor to readers. His character Rand Lohan, was the one most readers truly loved.
Funny, how fiction imitates life.
How far would you go to promote your book? Would you sacrifice your own (& your family’s ) privacy to guest on “60 minutes”?Arnold did and it worked! Naturally, his life story is far more compelling than my mundane exploits and he is a public figure, but, honesty compels me to admit that book sales being what they are, I’d jump at the chance to appear. I’d have to fabricate torrid affairs with prominent figures (check), embellish my accomplishments(why not?), and endure the prattle of idiots like Leslie Stahl.(ugh!). Despite the hardships, when my quarterly royalty check rolled around, I’d laugh all the way to the ATM. What about you?
Should writers read the online reviews of their novels that appear on Amazon, Goodreads etc.? I’m ambivalent about it. Like most people, I enjoy reading reviews that praise my books, and I force myself to scan (but not obsess over), less commendatory comments. Reviews are a key ingredient in any writer’s sales strategy. That doesn’t take away the sting of truly snarky, or blatantly unfair statements. Several well known authors have told me that they never read their reviews. Maybe it’s better to delegate that task.
Must all romance novels have a happy ending? That’s a basic tenet of the genre. The HEA (happily ever after ending), is a prerequisite for getting published and a guarantee for all readers. Ambiguity is never countenanced in Romance fiction, although in reality it is often the rule. Mystery readers, on the other hand, are realists who focus more on unmasking the villain than uncovering the alpha hunk.That divergence explains why writing Romantic Suspense/mystery is a tricky proposition. The author must satisfy the conventions of Romance writing, while still adhering to the needs of mystery readers for a taut, tantalizing crime story. It’s a challenge, but for those with the talent and tenacity the rewards are enormous! …
Serial blurbing like philandering can become a destructive habit. Not a problem when you honestly like a novel but a tricky proposition when the reverse is true. I hover between flattered and frantic whenever someone asks for a blurb. Credibility not to mention precious time hangs in the balance.
Do public presentations at bookstores and libraries make a difference? Perhaps it depends on the venue. Big cities draw respectable crowds; small towns–not so much. Does increased author visibility lead to greater book sales? Maybe.
Name recognition feeds the ego but not necessarily the bank balance.