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Monday, November 9, 2009

Author Interview: Dolores Stewart Riccio

I am very honored to post my first author interview with the phenomenal Dolores Stewart Riccio.  You may read my review of her last book "The Divine Circle of Ladies Playing with Fire" here.  She has a new book due out soon and I will be reviewing it at the first opportunity.  Enjoy this peek into Dolores' writing world.

What is your process for developing a character? Do you use pictures, a worksheet or just let the character tell you about him/herself as you write?
Fiction grows out of one’s lifetime of experiences, so although none of the Circle ladies is a specific person I have known (including myself), I’ve taken bits and pieces from many friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. and combined them into five new characters. At least that’s how it started. Now the five ladies have become so real to me, they are only and always themselves. I can guess how they will react in different situations, but sometimes I really don’t know what they’re going to do next. That makes the writing so much more interesting to me. And then there are a few special characters who seem to emerge out of nowhere as a complete surprise—because they are like no one I’ve ever known. Such a character was Freddie, who knocked on Cass’s door in Charmed Circle and “spoke” for herself ever after. I have never known anyone like Freddie. Finally, there are minor characters who often start with a name. Until I get the “right” name, somehow I don’t quite “see” the character. So I collect evocative names for future reference.
I love Cassandra, Fiona, Deidre, Heather and Phillipa. With a series and recurring characters, is it easier to write those characters?
Yes, as I’ve mentioned, they’ve become real people to me, and as soon as I turn on my computer, they come to life—talk to each other, come up with ideas, get into trouble etc.

Do you outline the plot or some variation of that (use a strict 3 act structure or not and little/a lot of detail) before sitting down and writing?
No, never. I’d find that rather dull, to plod through 350 pages to a preconceived conclusion. Of course, I do know all the threads have to pull together and the ending should seem somehow inevitable—and if that doesn’t happen, there will be some major rewriting to do. Authors who write like I do, without advance plotting, are probably relying on their subconscious to do the work. I know I like to think about what might happen next right before going to sleep—because there will be ideas waiting for me in the morning.

How do you find time for writing - what works for you?
The advice I like to give writers, who complain that they can’t find time to write, is “do it first.” This is also the advice I give myself, but don’t always follow. I try to write every day, including holidays and my birthday, but can usually only manage a few hours before I have to go do something for someone. I marvel at women authors who start early in the morning and write on and on until dinnertime. I assume there’s a household staff on call?

For your mystery series' there is some detailed information (Greenpeace, environmental issues, herbs etc.) - how much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?
I love research. (For one thing, it’s easier than writing.) I probably spend hours tracking down any little detail about which I’m not sure. I can’t seem to go on with the story until I nail down the factual base. Bless Google and other search engines; they have made my research so much easier!

I read that a romance writer would put on sexy lingerie to prepare for writing - 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?
Not usually. With one exception. While I was writing a novel that featured a ghost named Lily, I would always put a dab of lily perfume on my wrists before writing.

Can you recommend a fiction book that provides a great example of the writing craft to dissect and learn from?
Anything by Jane Austen.

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?
There’s persistence—and then there’s luck. My first Circle novel, Circle of Five, was turned down by 125 agents. At that point, I began sending directly to publishers—those few who would read manuscripts that didn’t come from agents. I went right down a list of 30 such publishers that was written up in Writer’s Digest magazine. When I got to the fifth one, Kensington, it just happened that the editorial board had recently decided to begin offering Wiccan fiction. So my ms. got to the right desk at the right moment—finally. An editor named Ann called me up and said, “I love your book.” By then I’d written a sequel, Charmed Circle, so Kensington bought both of them.

Tell us about your upcoming book! What aspect of the new book did you particularly enjoy?
In my new Circle book—which will be “out” within the month—the ladies take a cruise to Bermuda to “get away from it all.” I have taken that cruise, and I did enjoy re-living it. I can’t tell you my favorite scene, however, because it would give too much away. I will just say that “Fiona saves the day.”

Thank you so much Dolores!!  Great interview.  I am looking forward to the your next book.

Until Thursday's book review I wish you many mysterious moments.

This interview was featured on "Just Write Blog Carnival"
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