Category Archives: interview

Reaching the Horizon: Tabitha tells how she got there…

Interview with Tabitha Lord, author of Horizon.

Bouncing Tigger: Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

Tabitha Lord: I’ve joked that I currently write science fiction because of Star Wars, but there’s actually some truth behind this! I was seven years old when I saw the movie for the first time and it impacted me in countless ways—from my toy collection, to the books I chose to read, to my later love of astronomy. My tastes in reading are diverse, and some of my other works-in-progress are varied and span different genres, but sci-fi is like the default setting for my imagination. It’s where I go when I want to be inspired, to play with possibilities, to ask what if, and then create brand new worlds where I can explore the answers. For me, the sci-fi genre is also a place to consider serious, meaningful issues in a different context, slightly removed from the real world.

With Horizon, I wanted to explore the idea of what would happen if one segment of an already small isolated population evolved differently (either naturally or by design) from the other. What if some had gifts that enabled them to imagine a different kind of future for themselves and their world? What if they were empathic and could sense each other’s emotions and thoughts? What if some of them could heal with their mind? How would the unchanged people feel about their neighbors? It created such an interesting premise I knew I had to find a way to make it into a story.  In many ways, Horizon is a traditional space opera, complete with battle scenes, adventure, and romance, but I think this initial concept sets it apart and gives it a unique flavor.

Bouncing Tigger: How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a notebook where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

Tabitha Lord: For Horizon, the idea mentioned above swirled in my head for years before I started writing. Once I had the first chapter down, I created a rough outline for the rest of the story, and then for the whole series.

When I’m in the middle of a draft, I keep a notebook with me everywhere. Sometimes an idea for a scene will come to me while I’m driving or cooking or folding laundry. I have to stop whatever I’m doing and capture it! Sometimes other ideas for completely different projects will sneak in, and I write these down as well, but then I warn them they have to wait their turn!

Bouncing Tigger: How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

Tabitha Lord: I research as I go along. It’s fun to write sci-fi because you get to invent things! I love naming planets and imagining cool new pieces of technology my characters can use. But readers still have to buy into the world you’re creating. It has to feel authentic and consistent. Caeli’s planet, where the novel opens, is recovering from a devastating war that took place a thousand years ago. Nature has reclaimed most of her world, and when we meet Caeli, she is alone and on the run in the wilderness. I used my own experiences camping, hiking, and growing up in a rural area to bring a credible feel to these scenes. I have actually carved my own utensils from chunks of wood with a pocketknife!

Bouncing Tigger: What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

Tabitha Lord: For my writing, in general, I regularly use a thesaurus! The internet is also my friend. When Derek’s spaceship crashed, I looked up schematics for fighter jets so I could understand a little about the systems at work in the engines and controls. My anatomy background is pretty strong, but when Caeli heals Derek, I still called my brother-in-law, a doctor, to make sure she was treating his collapsed lung correctly.

Bouncing Tigger: How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

Tabitha Lord: Ah, rejection letters! I think I accumulated about twenty-five. The thing about rejections, once you recover from the sting, is that they can sometimes be helpful. If your manuscript isn’t polished enough, you may need to work with an editor. If the story isn’t pulling people in quickly, you may need to spice up your opening chapters. Usually there is a common thread, and if you are open to hearing it, you can make adjustments and move forward. My first round of rejections, which included one R&R (rewrite and resubmit), suggested that I had a good story, but the manuscript needed more work. I hired an editor, and after months of rewriting, I queried again. This time I had more success and was offered contracts from two small presses.

Bouncing Tigger: Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

Tabitha Lord: No. But after receiving the offers, I opted not to sign, and began to seriously look at independent publishing. At this point, it became mostly a business decision. For a modest investment on my part up front, I could surround myself with professionals of my choosing, bring my own book to market on my own timeline, and create more of a partnership type relationship with the people I worked with. I signed with Wise Ink Creative Publishing and they provided me with an amazing team. I had control over things like who to hire as a cover artist, when I would release the book, and printing and distribution options. And because they are all industry professionals, they wouldn’t let me out the door, so to speak, until my book was in its best form.

Bouncing Tigger: Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

Tabitha Lord: I think there are compelling reasons to self-publish. But if you choose this path, it’s an investment. You are essentially starting a small business and you have to treat it as such to be successful. First and foremost your product has to be good, and you have to be willing to invest the time, energy, and funds to make it so. You also have to build an audience, and then promote and market yourself, or be willing to hire others to help you do it. You have to take ownership of it all. For some writer’s, like me, this is exciting. For others, it’s terrifying.

Regardless of whether you are publishing independently, traditionally, or some combination of both, building an audience is key, and, in most cases, this task falls to the writer. Long before Horizon’s release, I established an online presence by creating a website and blog, choosing a few social media platforms and really working them, attending conferences, and joining writing groups. I was building an audience, while at the same time creating a community for myself and learning as much as I could about the publishing industry. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but the writing community is supportive, vast, and surprisingly social!

Bouncing Tigger: Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

Tabitha Lord: I’m planning it will! But I have no illusions that it will take some time. Ask me this question again in another year or two!

http://www.tabithalordauthor.com/

@tlordauthor

https://www.facebook.com/tabitha.l.jorgensen

https://www.instagram.com/tabithalord/

 

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The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

Scarlet Women: An author explains

 

An interview with:

Scarlet Risque 

 author of:

Red Hour Glass

  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

The Hourglass series is a sociopolitical discourse about capitalism and how top down decisions affects the lives of ordinary people. I am fascinated with financial centers and major property acquisition players. My approach is unique as I do not state the obvious but let the reader decide what is obvious to them.

  1. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

The Red Hourglass took four years to write and I was actively writing the book in five different countries. I research different topics that interest me on a daily basis through a combination of Wikipedia, news, YouTube, books and talking to people who are in similar positions or characteristics to those I write of.

I visited New York twice (2011 and 2013) and wrote the subway scenes by spending a long time observing homeless people begging for change. It was a novelty to me, and I was immediately drawn to that. I wrote the first scene of the White Queen finding Mary in the subway back in 2011 as I was inspired by the subway stations of New York City when I first visited.


  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I believe that we write based on what we know over a period of many years and try to condense it in a novel form that is easy and enjoyable to read. Most of the research literature I read are academic and non fiction, they hold no interest to most people.

I wanted to write something I would love to read and still have something to think about. I prefer reading books that allows me to question and find out more answers for myself. In this sense, I try to do just that.

  1. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

Interviews with famous actors on YouTube is my favourite resource as I can play back and study their word choices and way of thinking, to get into their “heads”.

  1. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?

I would prefer to casually chat with anyone no matter what their position or authority as they give inspiration to different things. I don’t believe in stereotyping. A good way to approach someone is always to get a referral from a friend who knows that person, so that he would speak as naturally as possible instead of putting a professional front. I prefer the realness to my character development sketches. I don’t sketch my characters just based on one person but a few different people usually.

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I went directly for self publishing.


  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

Above answer.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

I haven’t reached this stage yet, it is something to consider to reach a different target market. It would really depend. From where I am at, most physical book stores and music shops had closed down as they are unable to meet the rent. I believe the trend is towards virtual publication and virtual outreach.

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

Definitely not. My previous income was much higher as I used to do consultancy. I felt dead inside. Despite the external achievements and materialistic acquistions, it gave me no sense of fulfillment. I gave up my shadow life to pursue writing. I had cut back on my expenses and traveling. Some rewards cannot be measured in monetary terms. I used to dread waking up, but since I turned full time as an artist, I wake up before my alarm and I feel energised to take on the world. I receieve fan mails daily and I feel that is the greatest reward that my work has impacted others.

  1. What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

I am on a YouTube “book tour” at the moment on my own channel. I am surrounded by my Knights and minions. What is funny is one of my Knights commented he was waiting for me to do a Sharon Stone Basic Instinct move by crossing my legs. But I didn’t. Haha!
Red Hourglass Available Now: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo International, Barnes and Noble
Weekly YouTube Episodes: The Scarlet Queen YouTube

Follow Scarlet Risque: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Amazon, Wattpad
Website: http://thescarletqueen.com

 Red-Hourglass-3D

Scarlet Risque Releases Her New Romantic Thriller: Red Hourglass

Singapore – A POWERFUL, MYSTERIOUS woman finds a homeless girl in a New York subway and adopts her. Janet swears loyalty to the White family and they train her at their Academy as a secret agent. Before long, her transformation into the Red Hourglass—an assassin—is complete. She is ready to start her missions in service of the White Queen.

In order to learn the whereabouts of her real mother from the White Queen, the Red Hourglass must stop the planned expansion of Wilmar Enterprises. She goes undercover to infiltrate Wilmar, and she is hired as the executive secretary to the Chief of Security, Conan Casey.

Janet works diligently to uncover all Wilmar’s secrets. She soon learns that Conan Casey, her target, is heir to the billion dollar Wilmar organization. She falls prey to his dark seductions and twisted secrets … and they leave her gasping for more.

About the book:
Red Hourglass by Scarlet Risque
ASIN: B0179EKC70
Publisher: ScarletCorp
Date of publish: October 2015
Pages: 249
S.R.P.: $0.99

About the author:
Scarlet Risqué stars in Scarlet Queen YouTube with over a million views. She is the author of the Hourglass (Romance/Thriller) Series. She holds a degree in business. She uses writing, dance, and theater to explore her dark and light desires. She’s a poetic soul where pain and pleasure meet and East collides with West. She is passionate about traveling, dancing and kink. She loves her cat and crystal collection.

Each book in the Hourglass Series has a female lead searching for her identity and truth in today’s world. Set against a backdrop of globalization, these stories of intrigue and espionage are full of undercover agents and themes of dominance and submission.

 

An interview with Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson author of Bonners Fairy

1.) I have always enjoyed fairy stories ever since I was a young child. I often fantasized what it would be like to be tiny and able to fly like a bird. There are not a whole lot of fairy stories out there and since I share a kind of “kinship” with fairies, I chose to create a story about them. I think the uniqueness would be the fact that my fairies are guardians, warriors of their realm.

2.) I have only written one topic and that is the Bonners’ Fairy series (so far). I hand write all my books.

3.) I usually only do research when I come to a part in the scene in which I am not so familiar with (what is proper, what is correct). I will go online and check out the available information.

4.) My resources are: My own mind, and the internet

5.) I work for a Sheriff’s Office, so I have 10 years experience in that field.

6.) I am self published.

7.) I am still self published.

8.) Absolutely I would recommend self publishing. The company that does my books is phenomenal. Finding a traditional publisher is almost next to impossible. There are tons of submissions and tons of rejections unless you get really lucky. I think self publishing is the way to go at the beginning. Once you get some good sales and reviews, traditional publishers “may” take notice.

9.) Writing doesn’t usually provide sufficient income unless you are fortunate to write a best seller. Hopefully I am on the way

10.) I haven’t really had anything “funny” happen on a book tour, my first book signing in the real Bonners Ferry, I found out the reporter that did the story on me was born and raised in the town I live in. Coincidence?

I don’t think so. Also, my tent almost blew away in the wind at a book signing.

 

 

 

 

Kirsten Campbell speaks: Blood Mastery tells

BLOOD MASTER BANNER

Kirsten Campbell speaks:Author Kirsten Campbell 2015 pic

Questions for Kirsten Campbell/ Author of Blood Master – Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series

Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

I write Urban Paranormal because I love the genre. Blood Master – Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series is the first book in a series of four. I love the fantastic element of Urban Paranormal fiction and the fact that to me, its reality based. There has to be some type of fact in fiction or it just doesn’t hold up well and the story can seem fake deeming things within the story realm false. My approach to the subject is unique because I look at our modern technology and I try to go a step forward into a dystopian future with hopes that things fare positively for my characters.

How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

Yes, actually I do think long and hard about a topic before I decide to write. It can be days or even weeks before I actually put things on paper. I have several notebooks and I even type out scenarios with hope that I can flesh out scenes for a book before the actual writing of the book.

How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I write my book and then I research, and then fix whatever needs to be fixed. I write chapters as scenes and then I go in and research later. There are four books in the G.O.D.s Series. Each book is different. I had to research all types of things for Blood Master. I researched all types of theories about telepathy, empathy, gods, vampires, meditation, teleportation, inter-dimensional doors, quarks, string theory, and even researched how the body reactions to pain and to being burned, glass blowing, and the creation of diamonds. I even researched earthquakes, tremors and studied building plans for different buildings to figure out how I wanted the fortress and the Guild Faction Main Office to look and figure out the different type of furniture and walls and interiors. There was so much research for the first book but it carries over into the second, third and fourth, so there is no way to be sure how much research I did.

  1. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

I used the internet, an line encyclopaedia, the library and my phone, for Blood Master.

  1. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?

Not applicable

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I self-published Blood Master, but it’s based on a short story that was published in Bewildering Stories in 2010. The story was called Dark Matters and it was about an alien, Dinn Russ Jarrin, (a G.O.D., a Genetically-enhanced Omni Dimensional being, my protagonist, Griffin Storm of Blood Master is a G.O.D.) Dinn Russ Jarrin goes up against a six-year-old little boy. It’s a battle of wits and there is a surprise ending.

  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

No. I have had pieces published and I was a co-author of an anthology that went to International best seller this September. (Chocolate & Diamonds for the Woman’s Soul).

 Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

If that’s the route you want to take. I believe everyone has a journey and it’s up to the individual to choose what’s best for them. 

  1. What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

I haven’t had anything funny happen yet, but when I do I will surely let you know!

Thanks Kirsten, we look forward to hearing about it! and tomorrow I shall post more about the book.. so keep reading!

The Widow’s Son and Thomas Shavner

Interview with author Thomas Shavner

Why I chose this particular topic to write about?BibleCorrected

A few years ago an attorney came into my bookshop to see if I was interested in purchasing a first edition Mormon bible with an inscription dated 1844 (the year of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom) from Sidney Rigdon, an early and controversial elder of the Church.

 It was the Palmyra edition printed by E.B. Grandin “for the author” and therefore extremely rare.  The latter phrase was important in identifying it as a true first, because later editions attributed the author to be Mormon himself, not Joseph Smith, Jr.  According to Smith biographer, Fawn M. Brodie, one of the original founders pledged to revenge the prophet’s death by killing Thomas Ford, the then Governor of Illinois and his descendents “to the fourth generation.” I expanded the curse to include the sixth generation in order to bring it to the present.

Mormonism has enough interesting and quirky tenets to fill a myriad novels beginning with A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle.  I live in Jackson County, Missouri, declared by Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., to be the original Garden of Eden.   It’s also where he was jailed for his beliefs and forced to flee.  About 70 miles north of Kansas City is a river valley where he claimed Adam and Eve fled after their fall from grace. The place is called Adam-ondi-Ahman and it’s where Smith decreed that the righteous would gather to greet the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Lots of interesting material and settings.

Modern Mormons tend to shy away from the old unusual prophesies, focusing on core doctrines and what is common between their interpretation of faith and modern Christianity—they think of Zion more metaphorically, as a state of spiritual being.  That’s not to say they discount the old Mormon sites.  Places in western Missouri such as Independence, Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman carry great significance as reminders of the suffering and fortitude of that first generation of Saints.  Nonetheless, there are still those who follow the old tenets and even some who believe in ‘blood atonement’—where some sins are so heinous that they can only be atoned by having the perpetrator’s blood spilled upon the ground as a sacrifice. 

How long do you think about a topic before writing about it?  Do you have a set of notes where you write down topics before making a decision?

Not long.  For the Michael Bevan series I simply wrote about something I knew a lot about after fifteen years in the used and rare book trade.  I’d just closed the business and had time on my hands.  There was no outline, no real idea of a plot.  I just started writing to entertain and surprise myself.  This is not to say I hadn’t spent years honing my writing skills, going to writers conferences, and submitting old manuscripts to agents.

I generally don’t consciously try to come up with a topic.  When I was recently asked by my editor what I wanted to do next in a series, what I came up with wasn’t very good.  I was straining to please her and not myself.  I decided to let it rest for a while and spent the spring revising an old manuscript in a different genre that I’d worked on years earlier.  Then one day an idea for a new mystery series materialized when I met a police officer in my neighborhood who spoke with a French accent.  He came over from Marseilles to help his brother start a restaurant in a little river town and eventually became a cop. Instead of donuts, he eats croissants.

As for notes, I jot down ideas and catchy overheard phrases in a three-ring binder.  I have a topics folder stuffed with lots of newspaper and magazine articles that strike me as possible leads—if only I could remember where I put it.  

How long does it take to research a topic before your write?  And for this book?

I spend about 25 % of my time on research.  And that’s probably too much. Research, at least for me, is the easiest part (after editing).  I have a tendency when the creative well is dry to start looking up things.  It activates my left brain while putting the right (creative half) to sleep.  I find lots of interesting tidbits, most of which I don’t use, and it takes a day or two to get back to the hard work of telling a story. 

What resources do you use?  In general and for the last book that you wrote?

I consult rare book catalogues and classics on book selling and collectors likeThe Book Hunter by John Hill Burton, The Anatomy of Bibliomania by Holbrook Jackson, Fine Books Magazine and anything by Nicholas Basbanes, but rely mainly on what I’ve learned over the years in my shop and at book fairs around the country and the United Kingdom. 

For The Widow’s Son, I referred to passages from The Book of Mormon, the great biography of Joseph Smith, Jr., titled No Man Knows My Name by Fawn Brodie, One Nation Under Gods by Richard Abanes, Prophet of Death by Pete Earls, Far West Records, and a number of other books on Smith, and old Mormon sites in western Missouri.   And then there’s Google…

How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when writing about them?  Is there a good way to approach them?

My character, Michael Bevan, knows the law, rare books, and how to handle himself in a fight.  He’s not a policeman and doesn’t try to be.  Josie Majansik was an FBI undercover agent, however.  I know an undercover policeman, as well as a beat cop, and a retired FBI agent.  Two of them I know from playing on the same rugby team. All three were willing to share some insights, but I haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity. I will for the next series that has a cop as protagonist.  Most cities have opportunities for citizens to ride on patrols.

How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted?

Over the years, probably over 500 rejections for five different novel manuscripts; and that includes having had two fine New York agents pushing my work at one time or another.  I’d stopped submitting for a few years until I closed the bookstore and finished the manuscript of The Dirty Book Murder. Then, rather than do the email submission/rejection dance, I attended the annual ThrillerFest Conference in New York and pitched to twenty or more agents in the course of one pressure packed afternoon.  Fourteen asked to see the full manuscript and one ultimately agreed to represent me.  A year later my agent informed me that I had a three-book series deal with Penguin Random House.

Did you need to self-publish on e-books before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I had published a short story on Smashwords, but never submitted a novel. After all those rejections, I needed the assurance of professionals that I had something of real value to offer. 

Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher?  If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for an aspiring novelist?

No.  Obviously, there are rare success stories.  However, I think most publishers still look down upon self-publishing efforts.  If you are going to do it, however, you need to approach it in a truly professional manner.  And that means spending money to have your finished manuscript professionally vetted and edited for grammar, style and plot.  That goes for cover art, too. Otherwise, you’re fooling yourself.   

Does writing provide sufficient income to live on?  And how long does it take for this to happen?

The writing trade is like any creative endeavor.  I’m sure there is bell curve out there showing winners and losers and those in the middle surviving on peanut butter. Writers write.  Keep your day job while proudly proclaiming you are an author.  Consider any money gained in the trade to be a bonus, even if it takes forty years. 

What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

Due to a brain freeze I couldn’t remember the name of my main antagonist and how the book ended.  But that pales to what happened to an author I know who lectured a crowd for an hour unaware that his fly was open.

 

Fixed in Writing about Blood

Author Interview: T.E.Woods

The Justice Novels: Fixed in Blood

  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?

I’ve been interested in the notion of justice for a long time. When you think about it, is there really such a thing? If someone has wronged you, can you ever really be made whole? Surely you can be compensated or you can learn to forgive and forget. And certainly you can punish. But once someone has harmed you, you can never go back to that pre-harm moment, can you? You are forever changed.

My curiosity about the notion of justice led me to develop this series. I like the idea of a female avenger. We don’t see much of that…well, there’s Xena, Warrior Princess. I also liked the idea that Lydia is finding her own healing by providing whatever justice she can to others when no one was there for her when she needed it most. I also like the relationship between Mort and Lydia. There’s genuine love there…without the typical romantic side of it. Theirs is a different kind of love…but a love nonetheless.

I think my years as a clinical psychologist give me a unique perspective through which to view my characters. I’ve been told by many that they seem more fully developed than most characters in the murder mystery genre. It’s probably my trained-in tendency to go for the deep, underlying motives of behaviour that allows me to write my characters in what some view as a rich and layered way. Anyway, I hope the readers find it unique.

  1. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?

I don’t think about things very long at all, actually. If I think something’s a good idea, or if I have a thought as to how to move the plot along, I’ll start writing. I’ll let it develop as I write. There’s an organic side to writing that sounds odd, but really does happen. Once I start writing, the story and the characters lead me along to what should happen next. Now, this style of operation means a lot of words get edited out, but I’d rather capture my ramblings as they’re popping in my head than to overthink and self-edit before my fingers touch the keyboard. Besides, lots of things I’ve edited out wind up finding a place in another story, so the words aren’t really wasted.

Sometimes (often?) I get stuck. For that I use a whiteboard I have mounted to my office wall. I’ll diagram the scene and sit back and look at it…always hoping there’ll be some magical glowing arrow that will appear and tell me where to take the scene. So far, no luck with the magic neon. But if I stare at something long enough, the way out will emerge for me.

  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I research as I go. If I get to a point where, say, I need an untraceable poison for my murderer to use, I’ll not research it beforehand. I’ll wait til I’m at the point in the scene and then I’ll look for the answer. Sometimes I’m researching when I’m not even planning to. I might walk into a restaurant or drive by a particularly steep cliff, and realize this would be great to use in a story. I’ll whip out my phone or my tablet, take a few pictures, jot a few notes, and file them away until my writing seems to find a place for them.

My day job (I’m a shrink, remember?) allows me work with incredibly brave people who are working hard to change their lives. I hear stories of abuse and abandonment; urges and obsessions; secrets and shames. It’s hard to un-ring that bell once their experiences have made their way into my awareness. While I would never duplicate a patient’s story in one of my books, I guess you could call my daily exposure to the glories and the darkness of the human condition a sort of research. I’m always amazed when a reader tells me “Oh, that was so entertaining, but of course something like that could never happen in real life”. I want to tell them that I’ve heard countless stories of experiences much more bizarre than the scene I wrote. But, of course, I can’t. But wait, didn’t I just?

  1. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?

I use the internet incessantly. I tell my husband he’s only allowed to die of natural causes after a well-documented and easily explained illness. Should he perish suddenly and detectives pull the searches from my laptop? Let’s just say the cuffs would be on my wrists faster than butter on popcorn and I’d have some explaining to do. I also use my colleagues. My job has me interacting with social workers, physicians, police, crisis workers…any number of professionals one might imagine would be involved should there be murders or mayhem afoot. They’re quite generous in answering questions like “How does a regular person get in to see someone in prison?” or “Where would a person need to be cut so that they could bleed out in less than thirty seconds?” I also use Google Maps a lot. It’s amazing that I can be sitting in my home office in Madison, Wisconsin, decide Lydia is going to have dinner in some bistro on Whidbey Island, and with a few strokes of the keys learn not only the names of the streets she’d take to get there, but also how long it would take and how many miles she’d travel.  The last two books I’ve written have characters in the Russian Mob. I’m learning all about translator apps. I can type what I want my character to say using English, press “enter”, et voila, the Russian translation instantly appears.

  1. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience?

Like I said, I use my buddies. I’m lucky in that regard. The old cliché is true. Ask someone to start talking about themselves, especially if they love their work, and all you have to do is sit back and listen. I think professionals want authors to get it right, so they’re eager to help if you convince them you’re going to treat their profession respectfully. Sometimes they’ll ask that I use their name for one of my characters. I have no problem doing that. It’s interesting, though. I’ve not encountered one person who wanted me to use their name who asked that I use it for a character in their same profession! Everybody wants their name to be either the powerful millionaire or the bad guy. What’s that tell you about the kind of people I hang with?

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

You know how people use grains of sand or stars in the sky to denote big numbers? Let me tell you, a new, probably more accurate, metaphor for gigantic numbers is how many times a writer gets rejected. My agent shopped the first book I wrote to every agent around…big, small, independent, corporate…you name it, she pitched it. So many houses “loved” it. Yet not one of them bought it. Fortunately, I have a bull dog of an agent. She told me to go write another book. I did. She started shopping it around. It took nearly two years and dozens of rejections before Random House bought it. So, if you’re a writer who’s reading this…don’t stop. Don’t give up. A “no” means nothing more than “Not this house, Not this time”. If your writing is strong and your story is good, (and if your agent is a bull dog) you’ll find a home for it.

  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

Yes. I think that’s a strategy more and more houses are using. Self-publishing has, in my opinion, become somewhat like the minor leagues for the major baseball franchises. If you self-publish and demonstrate you can build an audience and bring in the sales, a major house will be much more inclined to invest in you. But you’ll need to sell big numbers. I’m talking several tens of thousands of self-published books.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

I think first and foremost any writer should get an agent. Let your agent guide you. Let your agent become your champion. He/she knows the business, has the contacts, and knows who’s buying what. If, after your agent has tried his/her damnedest to sell your book and your agent tells you it’s a good book, then go ahead and self-publish. Build those numbers. Give your agent the ammunition he/she needs to go back to the houses that rejected you and convince them they missed an opportunity. Let your agent guide you. Let your agent guide you. Let your agent guide you. Then trust your agent. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m crazed about my agent.)

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

Depends on how you want to live. This is my first series. I’ve got four books out now. That means I’ve got five units on the market: the four books and a boxed trilogy of the first three books. Random House pays me quarterly. I make enough money now to live a VERY simple existence. Did you notice the VERY was in capital letters? I’m hoping, of course, those royalty checks grow and someday I’ll be able to write full time. Nothing would please me more. I love the time I spend writing. I love the marketing. I love hearing from the readers. Alas, at this age and stage of my life, I’m not interested in living a VERY simple existence. I keep my day job. Blissfully, it’s a day job I love. I’m a very lucky woman.

  1. What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?

I enjoy book tours so much. It’s great to meet the readers and hear what they liked/disliked about the book. There are always funny stories, too. I guess two pop into mind as I think about your question. One is a woman at a signing. You could tell she was a serious reader…and she took her critique of what she reads very seriously. During the Q and A she stood up, nodded to me, and promptly turned to face the audience. She started off on the character of my detective. She went on and on about the symbolism and metaphor he represented. She equated him to various characters in other works ranging from Shakespeare to Voltaire to Hemmingway. At one point she dramatically announced “Even his name…Mort…speaks to the death that surrounds him.” Finally she sat down. I thanked her for her kindness and called on the next person. I simply didn’t have the heart to tell her I’m not that deep. Mort was named when, as I was conceptualizing the book, I sat my husband down and told him I needed a name for my detective. “It should be one syllable,” I said. “Strong and clean.” Without thinking he said “Mort”. And that was that. Of course, he was drinking a can of soda just before he answered. My Mort could have been nothing more than a simple belch.

Another funny thing that occurs to me happened at a book club. One of those “meet the author” kind of things. The group had read my first book (The Fixer) and invited me to come to their meeting. Now, I don’t write cozy mysteries.  At the book club this sweet lady, older by several decades than the other members of the group, waited patiently while the others asked me their questions or shared their comments. Finally this lovely lady raised her hand and said, “You use the fuck word a lot in that opening chapter. I’m not that used to reading the fuck word. I was happy to see the fuck word wasn’t used much throughout the rest of the book, but I was wondering why you felt the need to use the fuck word so often in that first chapter. Aren’t you afraid of turning people like me off?” As she was speaking I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. I respectfully apologized for any offense she felt and explained that my bad guys talk like bad guys. Like with the first story I told you, I didn’t have the heart to tell her most folks say “the f-word”. I mean, once you say “the fuck word”, you’ve pretty much let the cat out of the bag.