Monday, February 25, 2013

Interview with Mystery Author Patricia Smith Wood

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Smith Wood, the author of "The Easter Egg Murder ".

Hello Patricia thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on The Writers Cabin.  Tell me about yourself.

I’ve been an avid reader all my life. When I was a teenager I happened upon a mystery series featuring a teenage girl detective (no, it wasn’t Nancy Drew!) My father was a policeman and became an FBI agent. When I grew up, one of my first jobs was at the FBI. I even married a policeman for a time. Law enforcement seemed to be in my blood.
When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I wrote a play when I was nine and put it on for the school. Many years went by after that before I was again bitten by the writing bug. As a young mother, I tried writing short stories for women’s magazines. Nothing came of it. Then about twenty more years went by and I became intrigued by a long ago, real-life murder. I decided to fictionalize it and my book idea was born.

Is there a central theme to your books?

Well, I only have the one book out at this point, but I suppose the theme revolves around solving, not only the initial mystery, but several more that arise while the female protagonist and her best friend are sleuthing. There is also a theme of friendship and family, and even a touch of romance.

What books have inspired you the most in your life.

As a child I loved books about dogs and horses. I don’t recall there being books about cats, but I would have loved them, too. As I entered the teenage years, I changed to science fiction and mysteries. But I read just about everything I could get my hands on.
As a writer, I have to say I admire the ability of J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter saga. Her plotting and character development are fabulous lessons in writing.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I’m embarrassed to tell you I don’t have a writing routine. I write in between everything else I have going on. When I was about halfway finished with The Easter Egg Murder, I decided I was going to enter it in the Hillerman Mystery Writing competition. It had taken me four years to get that far. I now had less than two months to finish it. I told everybody to leave me alone and I just kept at it. It helped that I had retired by that time, so I didn’t have to worry about a job. When I finished the book, I was so elated and pleased that I had set a goal and met it. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I didn’t win the contest. I hadn’t yet grasped how many edits it would take to make it truly finished.

What is it that you do to relax?

I have lots of interests and hobbies. I love to read, of course. I watch a good amount of TV. I like to critique the writing and see what I can learn about plotting. Often I learn what NOT to do! I go shooting with my husband at the rifle and pistol range. I’m an amateur radio operator, and I run a net every week. I also enjoy making jewelry. Probably one of the most relaxing things I do is go to tea once a month at The St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque with two of my good friends. It’s two hours of nothing but relaxing, drinking tea, eating some of the most outrageously good food, and having a lot of soul-searching conversation with these two wonderful women.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I tried outlining back when I first got the idea for the book. I had been told it was absolutely essential that I do that. It was terrible! I couldn’t come up with anything constructive to put in the outline. It kept me from starting the book for more than twenty years! When I finally tried just putting my butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and letting it flow, that’s when I was able to write. I never looked back.

Have you ever had writer’s block, and what did you do to push past it?

Yeah, I experienced a lot of block when I was trying the outline thing. Now that I don’t bother with that, I just trust that when I sit down and start typing, the story will flow. Sometimes it flows better and quicker than other times, but I don’t ever think of it as writer’s block.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

For me, it seems to be at night. I belong to a writers critique group that meets twice a month and before I got embroiled with getting my book published, I always tried to have a chapter ready to read before our meetings. Usually, I’d sit down the night before and try to get creative. It seemed to work for me.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?

Unfortunately I do a bad thing. I’ve been told over and over to just write and let it all come out, without any editing. Just keep going until you finish and then go back and edit. I can’t seem to do that. I write a chapter or two, read it to my critique group, then go back and reevaluate it, keeping in mind their suggestions. When it’s all put together and I think it’s done, I get trusted readers to go over it. They’re usually not part of the critique group, but if they are, enough time has passed since they first heard it so it doesn’t matter. I think I counted at least 18 full edits of this first book.

What do you think of the recent changes in thepublishing world?

I’m glad that the big publishers are being forced to evaluate the way they’ve done business all these years. I don’t know if it will be easier for new writers to get their attention, but maybe they won’t be so snobbish about giving them a chance. I think the advent of so many small, independent publishers is wonderful for new writers. I worry most about the demise of local bookstores. They are the ones who usually support us. The big chains have become window shopping places for customers to see what’s out there, then go home and either order it on Amazon, or get it in ebook format.

 Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so, why?

I hope I have enough books published someday to make that question pertinent for me. With only the one book out there at this time, it’s my favorite, and the best book a mystery reader could buy!

What are you working on now?

Right after I finished the book, not realizing it was in it’s unedited form, I had a meeting with an agent. I was so relieved to get that book finished I hadn’t given much thought to what I would do next. But the agent asked me if The Easter Egg Murder could be a series. I hadn’t expected that question but it took me maybe ten seconds to say, “Absolutely!” So, that’s what I’m working on now. The next book in the series is tentatively titled “Murder for Breakfast.”

Where can we buy your books?

I’m glad you asked! If you are in the Albuquerque area, you can currently purchase it at Treasure House Books and Gifts located in the Old Town section of Albuquerque. I hope to have more stores agree to stock it soon. I’ll be appearing at Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs from March 21 to March 24. One of the booksellers for that event has agreed to sell my book. If those two sources aren’t convenient, it can always be ordered on Amazon. They tell me it will be available on Kindle sometime in the near future.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February at The Writers Cabin

What's it like outside in February up at The Writers Cabin?

As you can see it's usually cold and snowy up at The Writers Cabin during the Winter.  This can easily be relieved by taking the following action.

Open the door of the BIS high efficiency wood burning stove.  Place two logs into the wood stove with a gap of approximately 4 inches between them. Wad up four pieces of newspaper and stuff them loosely between the two logs.

This can be tricky because invariably you will find an advertisement or article on one of the pieces of newspaper that will interest you, and you will have to take the time to read it.  One option when this occurs is to just use three pieces of newspaper instead of four and keep the interesting piece of paper for later.

Take some twigs and place them between the two logs making an X pattern, or any other character of the alphabet you happen to favor.  Top your stack with a piece of split firewood and another log.

Open the fireplace flue.  This is a must or The Writers Cabin will fill with smoke and the smoke detectors will go off causing its occupants to go deaf, or at a minimum become very grumpy.

Using a match, lighter, or other source of fire to ignite the newspaper.  Once the paper has caught and one or more twigs is burning shut the door.  Now go make yourself some hot chocolate, a glass of wine, or some other libation and remember a watched fire will never burn.

With the fire roaring set down in your favorite chair with a pad and a pen, or a laptop and write.  Enjoy the warmth of the fire and let the words pour out on to the paper.  Oh and let's hope that what's being recorded on the paper or the computer becomes the next bestseller.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Stuff Thriller Novels are made of.

 A Russian Rocket launched off the coast of the U.S. goes awry.

In October of 2010, a Russian company RSC Energia bought a 95% stake in the newly reorganized company Sea Launch.  On February 1, 2013 the company attempted to launch an Intelsat 27 communications satellite off their mobile platform positioned about 1400 miles south of Hawaii. 

The twenty-story rocket blasted off at 1:56 a.m. EST from the Odyssey launch platform, but about 25 seconds after liftoff something went terribly wrong and the main engine switched off.  Approximately 15 seconds after the engine ceased all telemetry was lost from both the spacecraft and rocket indicating that it had crashed into the ocean.  The mission had failed.

Footage from Sea Launch's live webcast of the failed launch was posted on YouTube.
Video Credit Sea Launch

My question to you. 

 Is this the sort of true story from which a thriller novel could be born?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Backstory - A writer’s nemesis and occasional best friend.

Backstory is defined as what happened to your characters before page one of the novel.  It is the history leading up to the beginning of your book.  New writers are told not to include too much backstory in their novels because it has a tendency to bog down the intensity of their prose. 

I’ve heard it said that understanding when to insert backstory into a novel could be explained by thinking of it as metal filings and their attraction to a magnet. 

Another use of backstory is in the developmental editing and revision of your novel.  I recently discovered that there were deep secrets I needed to get across about my protagonist’s history.  These secrets were things that had shaped his life up until the point where the novel started.  This is the backstory.

I spent some time brainstorming how to include these snippets without slowing down the narrative of the novel.  This morning I was updating my outline.  Something I do after every new draft and I began a new timeline of the years that events in the backstory began.  As I wrote down the dates and the events the answers to my brainstorming took root. 

I now have the answer to where the backstory will do its most good. In this current manuscript I initially wrote over 150 pages of backstory about the lives of the father and son who are the dominant characters in the novel.  One character loses his life at the beginning, and the other spends the entire novel trying to solve that crime.