2. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My desk is one half of a vintage partner’s desk so I’m facing the back of my husband’s monitor, and our library space is at the end of our living room. I’ve learned to write with the television on or his own computer noises, putting myself in the zone, using the house noises are white noise. It works most of the time. The ringing of a telephone I find jarring though, and if I’m in that zone, will ignore it.
3. Do you have any suggestions to help budding authors become better writers?
If so, what are they?
I have four main ones: 1. Read and read and read, in your chosen genre and almost anything. You learn from reading what you like and good literature as well as what doesn’t work. Read classics to see why their stories have endured even if the language use seems outdates. You are searching to develop your own writer voice. 2. Also, a good usage book on your desk is key. Many modern writers today use their computers for dictionary-thesaurus searches but I prefer the break looking things up in a book gives me. It clears my head. And a usage book that’s well indexed is a great companion. Right now I’m recommending Benjamin Dreyer’s DREYER’S ENGLISH to everyone. It’s compact and filled with delightful footnotes, so it’s a pleasure to read and to consult. 3. Find a writing critique buddy or join a writing group. You can find one online if you can’t find anyone near you. It’s helpful to have a good critique partner who knows the bones of writing and can provide honest feedback. If you are truly a beginner, take a course first to get the basics down. 4. Write. it doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter how long. Write about what you see out the window. Write a character study you envision and may work into a future story. Write a setting that pleases you, and use all your senses in its description. Write when you can and don’t dismiss even ten snatched minutes as worthwhile. The idea of writing soon becomes ingrained and more natural. Don’t look at a large project at first; it’s too daunting. Start small and work your way up and you will use all of that early writing at some point. And don’t forget to always carry a small notebook around with you. It’s useful for jotting down ideas that hit you in the grocery story or when you’re out driving. If you hear a snatch of great conversation, write it down. Writers are sponges; soak up what is realistic in order to create your own world.
4. Where do you get information and ideas for your books?
I write two mystery series, one set in Manhattan and one in England, so setting is always a starting point for me. The placewhere a murder is set becomes its own character and lends itself to where mycharacters will go and what they do. Since I have recurring characters, why is Nora or Trudy in this place? Then I go to the end and figure out who will bemurdered and why. I work my back from that point and fill in the characters, subplots, motives. I do some research before I start out but only have a vagueidea of the ‘muddled middle’ when I do and do other research as it comes up. The idea for the actual murder usually comes from some human emotion in overdrive: jealousy, revenge, greed, even twisted love. I do keep a file with interesting news articles or things torn from magazines to spur ideas. The best ones come from reality.
Every other year I visit the UK to do setting research, so those are clearly my favorites. Sometimes my husband accompanies me, and we will build in side trips to France or Belgium, as we did one year. Last summer we spent a week in Cornwall and a week in Cambridge for the next two Nora books. I was writing the new Trudy, Death at the Dakota, at that time, but this is for the next two Nora Tierney’s to follow. We had a few days in London visiting friends but with a week in each place, were able to really soak up the feel, meet locals, tour the area, and take lots of photos. Each summer my own writing group meets for a week, too, so there is that to look forward to. We usually travel to each other’s homes as we are spread out throughout the US, but this year is our fifteenth year working together, so we are treating ourselves to meeting in Old City Quebec and will have time to workshop manuscripts and visit the sites. I’m looking forward to that!