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Monday, September 20, 2010

Author Interview - Suzanne Arruda

WELCOME to all the new members!  Our anniversary giveaway and participation in Blogmania brought us many new members.  I hope you enjoy this little spot in the blogosphere.   So grab your cup of coffee and enjoy today's post.

We have a great interview with author Suzanne Arruda today!  Read the review I did of her latest novel here.  A little background information on her first.

She grew up in Greensburg, Indiana, attended Purdue University, worked part time at the local zoo, then became a laboratory technician at the University after graduation. She then moved to Kansas and received a masters degree in wildlife ecology and worked for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks in their Pratt museum, then as a research assistant on the Konza Prairie at Kansas State University. She also managed a job as a Biology instructor at Kansas State University. As if that weren't enough for a lifetime, she earned a Master’s in Education and taught middle and high school science.

But through it all she has been an explorer at heart.  She was profoundly touched by Elsa the lioness in "Born Free" and she read the semi-autobiographical stories of African bush pilot Beryl Markham and explorers and cinematographers Osa and Martin Johnson. She then graduated into museum collector Roy Chapman Andrews whose exploits became the basis for Indiana Jones, Amazon explorer Col. Fawcett, African coffee farmer Isak Dinesen, and finally Peter Capstick, a modern big game hunter. (I did not know these authors before this - OH MY!)  She has a lot squeezed into her life - now a great mystery series fueled by her explorer passion to crown it all.

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

Yes! (or 'D' All of the above.) Actually, I have started with a location (Kilimanjaro) and in the research come up with a plot based on a legend, I've started with a villain, a crime, and also a plot based on a 1920 Nairobi newspaper notice. One takes inspiration where it comes and if it doesn't come, you go beating around the thicket until you scare it and it runs out in front of you.

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 do outline mainly because my publisher wishes to see a 12+ page synopsis before making a contract. And while I long for that "wander through the manuscript and just write" experience, that's actually harder than it sounds and I find the synopsis helps. BUT, I do digress from it, especially in the middle act (which is the hard part). Then, I do let scenes and characters suggest alternatives to my original plan. I still stick to the original ending (more or less)

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 begin with a skeletal construct of a character - age, appearance, attitude, gender, and then stick them in a scene and see how they interact with others. Some end up 'running with scissors' and not playing well with others. Others turn out to have more interior fortitude than I'd originally thought. It's great fun to let the characters take hold and grow. It's much the same as when we were kids and invented characters in our role-playing games.

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?

Writing, at present, IS my job (and I'm a lousy housekeeper so I never let that interfere) so I have a lot of time for writing. I tend NOT to write with music. I can't hear my characters talk then. In fact, I find it distracting when anyone is home. My location is possibly not the best - the computer is in the front room right by the door, but I do like hearing the birds outside.

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

I try to keep a 9-4 work day and treat this professionally like any job. When I was teaching as well, I always had time set aside, devoted to writing. If you're serious about this, you have to plan and schedule the time. Of course, like any job, there are break periods which for me means feeding the kitty and checking on the flower beds briefly.

What in your background prepared you to write mystery novels?

READING! Writers should read read read read. Otherwise, I'm trained as a biologist and perhaps that analytical turn (problem solving - scientific method sort of thing) helps in thinking of crime solving.

How did you get your first break to getting published? Was it at a writer's conference or mailing a query letter?

I went to conferences where agents were running around loose. Actually, the first agent I applied to from a conference turned me down. But I discovered that just getting any agent is like going into a store and grabbing the first pair of pants you find. They may not fit in which case, you're no better off. Whether you find an agent via conference or by leg work looking to see who represents books similar to yours, It's important to find one that "fits" and believes in your work.

What are you currently reading?

I'm enjoying SANDI AULT'S "Jamaica WILD" mystery series set in the SW pueblo areas of Colorado. I'm alternaternating them with some very old H. Rider Haggard adventures.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Hmmm! This is a tough one. But I've been known to use small stuffed animals to represent characters and have them act out a more troublesome scene. Watching a small stuffed lion knife fight the 'pointy-headed boss' from Dilbert comics while a teddy bear pilot hurries in is ..... very odd - but helpful!

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

I don't have a critiquing group at present. I did belong to one when I began writing and was selling articles and kids short fiction but the group sort of disbanded. I have trouble finding a critiquing group where everyone is serious about writing rather than talking about writing. And I found that, often, the critique was more about punctuation rather than plot or construct. I know there are on-line groups, but I've gotten used to talking to the cat or (more usefully) bouncing some ideas off my husband.

If your Jade Del Cameron mysteries were to be made into a movie, who would you cast in your character's roles?

Back when I began writing Jade and my sons were then teenagers, THEY wanted Angelina Jolie to play Jade. Right now, I'm not sure but what I'd prefer an unknown to take her on or any of the other roles. But someone with FIRE for Jade.

Thank You Suzanne, especially for sharing your writing quirk - I love it!

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