- 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?
- 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?
I think creating character is like developing a friendship. When they first come on the page I know the essentials--how they look, what they are doing at this particular place and time, why I've introduced them to my story. It's like meeting someone at a cocktail party. They tell you the essential facts about them. If you enjoy the conversation you meet again and as a friendship develops gradually they reveal more about themselves. Thus by book four I've learned a lot more about my characters than I knew in book one. But I couldn't have arbitrarily created those facets of character. I had to find them out by watching that character in action and gradually becoming closer to her (or him).
- 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'm a professional writer and I write two books a year. Doctors don't have to get in the mood to examine patients. They do it every day. Pretty much the same for me. When I'm writing I write every day. I have a home office. I go to my computer with my morning cup of tea, read my emails and then start to revise what I wrote the day before and then start writing. Some days it flows easily, some days it doesn't, but I do not allow myself to leave until I've finished 5 pages a day. That way I know I can complete a first draft in the required period of time.
- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
As I mentioned I write two books a year. I try to block off three months for the actual writing. Both series require quite a lot of research as they are both historical. I do a lot of background reading before I'm ready to write, but then once I start writing I write every day until I have a first draft on paper. Then I revise, it goes to trusted readers and I get their imput, then final polish and off to publisher. This is fine unless I have agreed to too many speeches across the country during that three months (which I'm afraid I tend to do.)
- What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?
I wanted to kill half my teachers in school! No, seriously, I've been a writer all my life, have always created fictitious worlds for myself and have always loved to read mysteries. I like the puzzle aspect, and I especially love the way the mystery can bring justice to the universe. I also love the type of book that takes the reader to another place and time--hence the historical aspects.
- How did you get your first break toward getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter etc?
- What are you currently reading?
I just bought a Kindle today so I'm going to start by working my way through the complete Jane Austen. Then Connie Willis's Blackout. I've just re-read Harry Potter 7 as a comfort read as I rushed to finish my next book.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I can tell quite dark stories with humor without in any way making light of them. Laura Lippman once said of me, "Few writers create this mixture of light and dark." I see the humor in life, and I think I tell stories in a great first person voice.