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Monday, September 13, 2010

Author Interview - Lauren Carr

Only a few days to out Blog Anniversary Celebration!  Be sure to come back and take part.

Today we welcome author Lauren Carr.  You can read the review I did of her latest novel here.  Lauren is a popular speaker who has made speaking appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She is also an active member of Sisters in Crime. She lives with her husband and son on a mountaintop in West Virginia. 

- Do you start your next mystery with the killer, the victim or a plot idea?

I have to say that I always start with the plot idea. Generally, it comes from a “What if…?” or a “Why would…?” scenario. It’s Murder, My Son sprang from an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It was the case of a woman found dead after years of being stalked. However, the police could never catch, or even identify, her stalker. Everyone, the police and her friends and family, said the victim admitted that she wasn’t telling them everything. Eventually, her secret got her killed. So, I started thinking, “What type of secret would someone keep even when they were being terrorized to death?” I kept working on that in my mind until I had a storyline for It’s Murder, My Son.

- Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (a little/a lot of detail, a strict 3 act structure etc) before sitting down and writing?

If I do an outline, it is very loose. Mostly, I make notes in order to sort things out in my mind. Ninety-five percent of the time, I won’t refer to the outline when writing out the book.

- What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character(s) tell you about him/herself as you write?

The personality comes first. It is a given that certain types of personalities are capable of some things that others are not. The characters drive my storylines. It is not unusual for me to want to go one way with the story, only to get so far into the book and have a character drive it in a different direction.

I have a vision of all of my characters in my mind. Of course, since they are fiction, I don’t have pictures of them. Even Gnarly, the German shepherd in It’s Murder, My Son, has certain distinctive physical characteristics that make him unique in my head.

In my current work in progress, Old Loves Die Hard, there is a character with an outrageous personality, but I had trouble visualizing him. While we were on vacation this summer, I saw a man at a rest stop who appeared quite bizarre. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was this character that I had already developed for Old Loves Die Hard. Suddenly, I could see him. After we got home, I returned to the manuscript and gave that character this stranger’s physical description, which was a perfect match for his personality.

- How do you find time for writing, what works for you - and do you have anything special you do before writing, particular music or a special room/location that helps you get in the zone and write?

I have a writer’s studio in the top floor of our home. My husband built it for me after A Small Case of Murder came out.

I used to write early in the morning. It was the only time that I could be alone. But as my son has gotten older and more antisocial, I am able to write more after the sun comes up. I write about four hours a day. Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening before I go to bed. During the day, I’ll work on marketing and promoting my books.

That something special to get me in the zone: Once I start thinking about the characters and the plot and the scenes, and then I’ll get there. Once I get in that zone, it’s hard to get me out.

- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

My work schedule varies. After I write a draft, I let it sit while I go onto to another project. That way, when I return to the draft, I can read it with fresh eyes. I’ll go through three drafts of a book before sending it to my perfect reader. Each draft takes approximately six weeks to complete. My perfect reader is my mother, who is an expert when it comes to murder mysteries. She reads them all. She used to read Perry Mason to me at bedtime. I almost always have revisions based on her recommendations. After that, the book will go to the editor, and then on into the publication process.

- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?

My dear sweet mother. She turned me on to Perry Mason, then Agatha Christie, and whodunits. That is something that we share. Neither my brothers nor sister share the love Mom and I have for murder.

- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have trouble deleting my work. As I go through drafts of my books, instead of deleting whole sections that I decide to do away with, I’ll cut and paste them into another document called Cut Scenes. I’m not totally crazy because there have been times when I have lifted a cut scene or two and used it in another project.

- I see you self published, what were the factors the made your mind up to go that route? Has your experience been positive going this route?

My first book, A Small Case of Murder, was self-published through iUniverse. At that time, I knew no one, and couldn’t get anyone to even read it. It was named finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Since I was self-published, I had to invest in and do all of the marketing and promotion for my book. I had to print up bookmarks, postcards, advertisements for book signings. I had to write and send out press releases to the media and set up interviews. I had to set up booksignings and book events. I had to pay for and do it all.

My second book, A Reunion to Die For, was traditionally published with Five Star Mystery. Even though I received an advance, I went through that and beyond in no time. Personally, I did all of the marketing and promotion. I had to print up bookmarks, postcards, advertisements for book signings. I had to write and send out press releases to the media and set up interviews. I had to set up booksignings and book events. I had to do it all.

Five Star Mystery had said they would take It’s Murder, My Son, but I chose not to go back to this publisher because they had done away with their paperback division. It is very hard to sell a $26 hardback when you’re an unknown. Another traditional publisher offered a contract for It’s Murder, My Son. I was tempted, but I kept coming back to the question, “Why do I need a traditional publisher? I had to do everything on my own when I was traditionally published as I did when I was self-published.”

By the time the traditional publisher and I came to a disagreement on the contract, it was very easy for me to say, “Thanks, but no thank you.”

It’s Murder, My Son has been through two editors. The cover is designed by the traditional audio publisher. I did the book’s interior layout design, something I have been doing professionally my whole adult life.

I independently published It’s Murder, My Son with CreateSpace, for the print version; DTP for the Kindle; and Smashwords for the other e-publication distributions. I have been very happy with the results and how well It’s Murder, My Son is doing. I will definitely continue with self-publishing.

A traditional audio publisher, Books-In-Motion released the audio version, including MP3 download. I have looked at Podio, but considering that I hate the sound of my own voice, I think I’ll stick with Books-In-Motion for the audio.

- Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?

No, I haven’t participated in any critique groups. I get an honest critique from my mother. I’ve heard different things about them, some positive, some negative. I guess it is a matter of getting in with a really good one.

- Do you have another book in this series planned? If so, please tell us a little about it.

Oh, yes, definitely. I am already working on Old Loves Die Hard. In this next installment of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, Mac returns to Georgetown when his wife becomes the prime suspect in the murder of the ADA, the man for whom she had divorced Mac.

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