Actually, there's a little more to it than that. I love stories where good triumphs over evil, where the bad guy gets what's coming to him and the good guy emerges victorious, maybe a little banged up, but wiser for his efforts. There's a bright spot amid the gloom. And the world is a better place. That's the essence of a mystery.
And sometimes I write something a bit closer to my own experience than the murder and mayhem that make up the lives of Jennie Connors and Peace Morrow. My short stories are usually about life in an ordinary family. Check out the Shorts page of this site for more about them. They're quick reads that you might enjoy. I certainly enjoyed writing them.
More thoughts on writing:
Some time ago, Kathy Fuller interviewed me for her Author Insight website. I'm including the interview here because Kathy's questions gave me an opportunity to share how I feel about writing. The one thing I would add is how much I appreciate the unexpected bonus of friendships with other writers and how their generosity has enriched my life and my writing.
What prompted you to become a writer?
A lifetime of reading. I’ve always loved stories. When I was a kid, my favorite fantasy was that when the library closed at night, the characters came out of their books and talked to each other– and to me. Imagine a conversation between Jo March and Nancy Drew. What would Tom Sawyer say to Heidi? I talked over my problems with the people of whatever story I was reading. They were my friends. With them, I was never shy or at a loss for something to say. I think, if you read enough, the natural next step is writing.
How long have you been writing and in what genres do you write?
When it came to actually writing down my fantasies, I was a late bloomer. I started writing about twenty years ago with short stories. I liked the characters I created, but realized the plots were a little thin. I read in one of John Gardner’s writing books that the best way to learn plotting is to write a genre novel because they rely heavily on plot. I decided to try a mystery; I guess it was all those Nancy Drew books. It was like coming home. I’ve never looked back. For me, a mystery provides the perfect format to present a variety of characters and see how they react under stress. You have the elements of any good book: suspense and the classic struggle between good and evil.
When did you make your first sale?
My first sale came in 2004. On September 23 (my birthday!) I got "the call" from Avalon, saying they wanted to publish my book.I was thrilled and started babbling unintelligible things into the phone. They very kindly didn’t retract their offer and Put Out the Light came out in June of 2005. Before that, I had some short stories published in a small literary magazine, but no money changed hands.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer?
I would have to say beginnings. Sitting down at the computer for the first time each day, facing a blank screen, is a challenge. You struggle to find the first few words. They become a sentence, then a paragraph. Gradually the story takes over, but beginning is intimidating. Each new chapter is a fresh challenge. How do you guide the reader on the journey that you’re sharing, provide surprises and, at the same time, remain true to the story? Beginning a new book, starting from scratch on a new idea after months of intense concentration on the previous idea, is the ultimate challenge, but like most challenges, is incredibly exciting.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?
Spending time with my characters. I love the people I create, even the bad guys. They are truly my children. Once I get past that initial challenge, and into the story, I love the process of writing. And holding the finished product in my hand, thinking back over its genesis from vague idea to a book. A real book! It doesn’t have fingers and toes to count but, for me, it’s the next best thing.
What refreshes you creatively?
I love talking about writing, especially with other writers. Shortly after I started my scribbles, I was fortunate to find a really supportive critique group. When I get stuck or start asking myself, "What makes you think you can write a book?" if I get together with a fellow writer and start bouncing ideas around, I find I can’t wait to get back to my story. I can’t recommend highly enough the value of this kind of support. Writing can be a lonely process. Fellowship with kindred spirits is like a decadent dessert after a healthy meal - and I can never resist dessert.
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
The value of planning. When I started out, I was a very "seat of the pants" writer. I’ve discovered the value of an outline. I don’t need to know exactly what happens; surprises are part of the fun of writing. But I’ve learned that if I know ahead of time where I’m going, I get there with fewer detours. It helps to know what a scene needs to accomplish before I start writing it.
What advice to you have for other writers?
Be persistent. Write persistently – every day, no excuses, and don’t give up when it gets hard or when you receive the inevitable rejection. The next publisher/editor/agent may love what the last one hated. Perhaps even more important, enjoy yourself. That’s really what it’s all about. Reading is one of life’s great pleasures and writing should be too.