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Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Giveaway & Interview with Diane Stuckart

Diane Stuckart is the author of BOLT FROM THE BLUE that I reviewed here.  She also writes several critically acclaimed historical romances as Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard, is a member of that proud breed, the native Texan. She was born in the West Texas town of Lubbock, home to Buddy Holly, prairie dogs, and Texas Tech University, where her mom once taught.  She currently lives in South Florida with her husband, four dogs, and two cats.

Towards the bottom you will find the book giveaway and directions.

Interview with Diane Stuckart

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

Usually, it’s a plot idea...a “what-if” jumping off point that occurs to me, or maybe it’s spurred by something intriguing I read online or in a magazine or newspaper. For example, the plot for my second Leonardo mystery, PORTRAIT OF A LADY, came to me when I learned about a particular deck of 15th century Tarot cards while researching for THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT. While I know the victim beforehand as I’m doing the initial story plotting, I often don’t know the actual killer until partway through the book.

- 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?

My editor always wants an outline in advance of each book, so that’s what I give her. And while I’ve often tried to master the 3-5 page synopsis, most of mine end up being pretty detailed write-ups at 20 or so pages. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t jump off in another direction when I’m actually sitting down to write! For my next project, which will be more thriller-oriented, I’m going to give the “write down your plot points on index cards” idea a try.

- I loved Delfina and how you brought Leonardo to life, 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 start with a few basic decisions about how I want to develop the character—his or her motivations and goals, flaws and virtues—but I tend to learn about the characters at the same pace that the reader eventually does. I do like having a picture as inspiration, either an actual image of the historical character, or else one I’ve found that captures what I feel is that character’s spirit and general appearance. I’ve tried that worksheet thing before, but it just never worked for me. But once I’ve lived with a character awhile, I’m able to answer all those cliché worksheet questions like, what’s his favorite color, or, did she like her mom or dad better.

- 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 terribly cluttered office filled with all sorts of distractions designed to keep me from writing! I can’t work with music or the TV playing (though I do use music sometimes when I’m driving to help me work through problematic plot issues). As far as finding time or getting in the zone, that’s not an option...I just have to sit down and write, or it doesn’t get done.

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

I can write a book in 6 months, though I do spend some time prior to that playing around with research. I write at night after my day job...anywhere from a couple of hours in the evening to well after midnight when a deadline is looming. I’m always writing something, be it a manuscript or article or blog entry or social network posting (carpal tunnel issues are always threatening!).

- Since you are writing historical fiction and one of your characters is renowned to mythic proportions you must do a lot of research. How much research goes into your work and do you complete that up front or "just enough" as you go?

I read a large portion of Leonardo’s Notebooks plus a couple of biographies and general Renaissance overviews before beginning THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT. My research library featuring all things Leonardo and Renaissance continued to grow throughout the writing of the first three books, with special research spin-offs into chess and Tarot which played large roles in GAMBIT and PORTRAIT OF A LADY, respectively. By the time I started A BOLT FROM THE BLUE, I felt fairly entrenched in the time period, though I was constantly going back and fact-checking, since I have a Swiss cheese memory for things like dates and names.

- I loved how you brought ancient Milan Italy to life. Setting seems as important as the characters in your mysteries, any tips on conveying a sense of place well?

I’ve always found that it’s the little things that add verisimilitude. A mention of the laundry flapping between buildings, the color and texture of a structure’s brick, the pungent smells of cooking and privies...these small details add a realistic layer to the more dramatic descriptions I’ll also employ. If I’m unable to visit my story site, I depend on lots and lots of photos to get a feel for a locale. And let’s not forget accurate costuming and transportation to fill in more of the blanks.

- Can you recommend a fiction book that provides a great example of the writing craft to dissect and learn from?
Wow, that’s a toughie. I can learn something from every book I read. For tight, smart plotting and characters, I recommend the old Barbara Michaels books. For lyrical prose, Sharyn McCrumb’s fiction is wonderful. For grittiness and unsurpassable outdoor settings, anything by Nevada Barr.

The craft book I reread most often is Stephen King’s ON WRITING. It’s part memoir and part look at a writer’s psyche, mixed with some great advice on plot and structure and stick-to-it-tiveness. I just picked up a copy of David Morrell’s THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST and can’t wait to read it.

- What are you currently reading?

Thanks to my Kindle, I’ve got numerous books going at one time, including GOTHIC CHARM SCHOOL, SHUTTER ISLAND, THE SARI SHOP WIDOW, and WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN.

- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Hmmm. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

- 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?

I started out writing historical romance. My first book, MASQUERADE, was a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart competition for unpublished writers. It was subsequently bought by the talented Denise Little, who at the time was an editor for Pinnacle.

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

Before I was published, and early in my published career, I was in a critique group which gave me valuable assistance in learning plotting and editing and how to balance dialogue with narrative. These days, I’m pretty much on my own, though I will sometimes send bits and pieces to writer friends to critique, or else bounce ideas off them. I do recommend critique groups to new writers. Some of their greatest value comes, not from having people analyze your work, but from you learning how to analyze other people’s writing. Invariably, you also learn how to apply those same lessons to your own book. But if you want to be more than a hobby writer, be careful in choosing your critique partners. Just as a top-notch group of critiquers can help you make that final leap toward becoming published, an inept or destructive group of fellow writers can hold you back.

Thank you so very much Diane for that great interview.  Readers, what did you find interesting?

Book Giveaway - The Bolt From The Blue
Thanks to Diane and the publisher we have two (2) copies of this book to givaway to lucky winners.  Please join in the fun.

How to Enter:

***  First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***
All entries are to be in the comments for this post (or possibly in an email.)

I will stop taking entries for this giveaway Friday March 12 at midnight and will announce the winner Monday the 15th.

For each point you earn you will have one entry in the random drawing. There is a chance for 5 points total for each contestant and thus 5 entries each.

+1 for leaving a comment with your correct email information. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your email in a comment, please email me your information at: mysterysuspense1 at gmail dot com.

+2 for posting on your blog about this giveaway with a link back, please supply link to your blog post in the comments

+1 for adding this giveaway to a side bar of your blog with a link back, please supply link in comments

+1 for tweeting about this contest, please post link in comments

Comment/email example:

+1 here is my email address so you can notify me I won _ _ _ _ _ @ _ _ _ .com

+2 here is the link to the post I did on my blog for this giveaway
( giveaway hurry)

+1 for adding this giveaway to my blog sidebar

+1 here is the link to the tweet I did on this giveaway (

Thank you for participating and good luck!

Until next Thursday and the next book review I wish you many mysterious moments.
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Mystica said...

This sounds a very good mystery - please count me in.

I follow.


Kaye said...

Sounds like a great read, please enter me in the drawing. florida982002[at]

Kaye said...

I am a follower. florida982002[at]

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the interview with Diane. I haven't read this series yet, but I like the sound of it. So many series to read. I love it! :-)

Use this email please:

janezfan (at) yahoo (dot) com

And I'm a follower.

Helen Kiker said...

Thanks for the interview with Diane Stuckart - good questions & good answers.

I am a follower.

Kaye said...

I put a link in my sidebar on my blog.

Margie said...

Please include me in the giveaway.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

Unknown said...

I love learning how writers write! Stephen King's On Writing is actually on the way to me right now. Please enter me for the giveaway.

+1 I am a follower :)


Mary said...

Great interview! I'd love to read this book.


julstew said...

This sounds like a good read.

Julie S

julstew at gmail dot com

JournoMich said...

I love a good historical mystery, and a great book giveaway! And the first question--killer, victim, or plot--inspires me to write an entire post on the subject. Thanks, A.F. and Diane.

+1 here is my email address so you can notify me I won

+1 for adding this giveaway to my blog sidebar

+1 here is the link to the tweet I did on this giveaway


Nickolay said...

Neat sounding book. Thanks for the chance. I am a follower



Nickolay said...



dkm1981 said...

Great interview - I really enjoyed reading it.

I follow:

dkm1981 (at) hotmail (dot) com

dispatcher_kristy said...

Follower. Enjoyed the interview and would love to read the book

Julie S said...

I am a follower.
+1 here is my email address so you can notify me I won juliecookies(at)

Edna said...

please enter me I tweeted


Edna said...

I am a follower on google


Edna said...

I have your link on my blog


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