Winners for The Morning Show Murders book giveaway are: Cherylbaryl and Rubynreba. Wahoo! Congratulations. You should have received an email from me requesting your mailing address to send the book to you.
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Today we have the author of the Ghost Dusters Mystery series, Wendy Roberts, visiting with us. You may read the review I did of her most recent book, Dead and Kicking here.
I start with the protagonist/heroine. If I have a handle on her personality, the nugget of a plot will follow in my mind. In the Ghost Dusters series, the idea for Sadie came to me after I’d interviewed a trauma clean worker in Seattle.
- 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?
I don’t outline or plot during the first draft. In the beginning it’s crucial that I let my characters dictate the story and I can honestly say that I never know whodunit until I’m about three-quarters through writing the story. I like to be surprised! After that epiphany, I go back and start the second draft and that involves some plotting. For my process, I like the ideas to come to the paper fresh without a lot of self-editing during that crucial first stage.
- I enjoy Sadie and Maeva, 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’m glad you enjoyed Sadie and Maeva! For the protagonist I allow her to speak to me throughout the story. With secondary characters, however, I often find pictures will help. I’ll peruse magazines, online articles, or even my own facebook friend list for photos to become the basis of a supporting character and I’ll build their personality attributes around what I feel that face is telling me.
- 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 four kids so my writing time is during school hours out of necessity but I have been known to bring a laptop to baseball and football games when I’m under deadline. If I find the laundry and the dishes calling my name when I should be writing, I’ll pack up my laptop and find a coffee shop. If I want to go for a particularly spooky scene, I’ll pour myself a glass of wine and write late at night with the lights turned down low.
- What is your work schedule like when you're writing and how long does it take you to write a book?
Every book comes with its own time frame. I’ve written one complete first drafts in six weeks and one in a year. Usually it takes me six months to complete that first draft and then another couple months of editing and layering to complete the story.
- How much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?
Most of my research is done before I go beyond the first three chapters of the book. If things come up along the way, I’ll insert a note to myself in the manuscript and I’ll go back to research those questions after the first draft is complete. If I stop and go to do research along the way, I find I get too hung up on details and it slows my process.
- Setting seems as important as the characters in your mysteries, any tips on conveying a sense of place well?
All my books so far have been set in Seattle. I just love that city and I find inspiration around every corner! I find it helpful to include real locals in my stories. I’m an avid coffee fan so it wasn’t a hardship to visit many independent coffee shops in Seattle and then include them in my Ghost Dusters series.
- Can you recommend a fiction book that provides a great example of the writing craft to dissect and learn from?
Any books by Allison Brennan or Tess Gerritsen are great examples if you want to learn how to build strong characters and thread suspense throughout a story. A couple non-fiction craft books in my own library are Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.
- What are you currently reading?
On my bedside table right now is Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey. It’s different and somewhat peculiar but I’m enjoying it immensely. I’ve just finished Allison Brennan’s Original Sin which was a phenomenal read!
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
If I’m writing at home, rather than at a coffee shop, you’ll find me twisted into odd pretzel shapes while I wrap myself around my keyboard. I can’t seem to maintain creativity while sitting up straight and tall. At the moment I have my right leg tucked under and my left foot on the edge of my desk. Weird, I know J
- How did you get your first break towards getting published? Was it sending in a query or meeting an agent at a writing conference etc?
In the beginning I was rejected by every big agent and publisher in New York. My biggest break came at the Surrey International Writers Conference in my own home town. I had a ten minute appointment with published author, Nancy Warren. During those ten minutes she helped me see where the beginning of my story was a bit weak and also told me which publishing house would be looking for my particular style. I reworked the beginning and then submitted to that publisher. They bought my first book, Dating Can Be Deadly, almost immediately. Nancy has also become one of my dearest friends.
- Do you participate in a critique group (or have you in the past?) What are the pros and cons of critique groups?
In the beginning of my writing career I participated in a few critique groups, both online as well as face-to-face. I found the lessons I learned were priceless. Just having the opportunity to have someone read my stuff and give me their opinion on the story was wonderful. It helped me to be stronger and grow a tough skin which is a must in this business. Now my critique group is my agent and editor but I still meet with other published authors for brainstorming sessions.
Thank you Wendy Roberts for such a great interview!