Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rewind: Baseball and Breakout Novels

Greetings: I had several requests to post this blog on our site. So for those of you who were kind enough to visit me last week at Terry's Place, please forgive the double billing. I found the responses to that blog to be very interesting, and many fell into the following 3 general categories:

  • Some people didn't accept the findings of the video, which I happen to believe is well researched. You're welcome to watch it and draw your own conclusions.
  • Several people noted that while our audience is undoubtedly changing, our principal message as writers remains the same. Again, that's open for debate, but I'm interested in your take.
  • A few people brought up the intersection of technology with the task of modern-day writers: whether that be putting words on the page or the beast we call publicity/promotion.
I'm fascinated by all of the above, and I don't pretend to know the answers. The original post follows.


What do baseball teams and breakout novels have in common?

I’ve become something of a baseball fan recently—and not ONLY because the Texas Rangers are in the pennant race. It’s exciting to hear the crack of the bat, sit in the stands and cheer, watch the fireworks each time Michael Young smashes a homerun.

Writing is a little like baseball. You want to hit one out of the ballpark, but doing so requires focus and determination. In truth it probably requires more than merely writing an excellent book. We also need to know what TOMORROW’s readers will want to read.

How much time do you think passes by the time I write an 80,000 word manuscript, send it to my agent, she sends it to a few publishers, they get in a bidding war over it, a contract is signed, and I’m given a slot? I’m a quick writer—some people say I’m obsessive-compulsive, but I find that terminology harsh. Best case scenario for me is six months to write, then another six months from agent through contract negotiations. At that point we can tack on another twelve to eighteen months for production before the book actually appears on a shelf—if things go well.

So when I open up a brand new document, as I did last week, and begin a sparkling new story—I need to envision what readers will want to read two to three years from now. What will seem fresh and exciting to them?

Have I mentioned that writing rocks? It certainly does. I love it, and I’m awed by the entire process.

This idea of envisioning what my reader will want to read in two to three years is a bit daunting though. Some days I feel as if I’m attempting to write science fiction. The enormity of this task was brought home to me this week when I was directed to the following video.

video


It’s entitled “Did You Know?” I’ve watched it five times now, and I’m still fascinated. Researched and designed by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod and Jeff Brenman, I believe there’s something there for most everyone—but certainly for anyone trying to communicate. To date, it’s received over 2 million views on youtube. So even though it wasn’t designed for writers, I think it bears a little attention in this discussion.

Part of our job includes envisioning our audience. I write romantic thrillers, a wonderful blended genre—and one that is constantly changing, both in content and in readership. As I watched the video, quite a few items jumped out at me (and the song is catchy too). For instance, I learned—
  • China will soon be the #1 English speaking country in the world
  • 1 of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met on-line
  • There are over 200 million registered users on MySpace
  • There are approximately 540,000 words in the English language today, five times as many as there were during Shakespeare’s time

WOW! Each one of those facts astound me, and they each change the picture in my head when I envision my reader and my novel which will appear on the shelf in two years. (Okay, maybe not the last fact, but it is very cool and gives me pause each time I choose a word.)

I also think Fisch/McLeod/Brenman do well when they end their video with “So What Does It Mean?” They don’t even attempt to interpret their findings, but rather leave it to their viewers.

So how did I interpret what I saw? I immediately started thinking about my readers . . . the ones in 2012. The ones who will be reading the book I just started writing. The video reminded me that instead of becoming caught up in minutia such as whether my book will appear in hardback, paperback, ebook, Kindle, or on someone’s IPhone . . . perhaps a wiser use of my time would be to spend it considering my reader’s background. What do they consider a romantic gesture? Will they recognize my male lead as heroic? Can they buy into the basic premise I’ve so carefully laid down on page one and will it thrill them in the way I intended?

I believe romance in its truest form doesn’t change. When you strip away the trappings of our time—technological and societal—romance remains the same. I teach collegiate age young adults, and they still love a good story. The question for me is whether as a writer I have the ability to catch and hold their attention long enough to place my tale of love in their hearts and minds.

As authors, when we do that, we’ll have earned ourselves loyal readers. Kind of like true baseball fans—ones who stick with their teams through good seasons and bad.

I’m interested though. What do you think of when you picture TOMORROW’s readers? Are they different from today’s readers, or pretty much the same? Does technology change our conception of romance or the things we fear? And does it, or should it, change the way we write?

~Drue

The Cost of Love, will be published by Five Star Press in March, 2010. For more details visit http://drueallen.com/.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker releases today!

Hello my debut friends and seekers of thrill!

I'm particularly thrilled that my cross-genre debut Gothic Victorian Fantasy Romance Novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in the Strangely Beautiful series, releases today!

From the back cover:

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…
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What people are saying:
"A compelling, engaging novel that drew me in from page one. Bravo!" --M. J. Rose, bestselling author of THE REINCARNATIONIST and THE MEMORIST"
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Its pages are like the petals of a rose: a many-layered tale gorgeously told... It's Bulfinch's Mythology and Harry Potter and Wuthering Heights in a blender."— Alethea Kontis, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show
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"Suspense, mystery, and the paranormal are all rolled into a historical novel with a gothic flair that will entice the reader and leave her wanting more... Ms. Hieber is an artist that puts her art into words."— Book Wenches
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"...it was thrilling to be engaged in a book that kept me reading well past 1 a.m., that got me out of bed not long after to begin again. And that, of course, means that I will absolutely be reading the next book, and the one after that and so on."—Tempting Persephone
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"Leanna Renee Hieber creates a sense of enchantment from the very beginning, and the novel caught me up in its spell... elegantly written and chock full of interesting characters and mythic themes."—Fantasy Literature
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"THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER unfolds at a steady pace, introduces unique characters, and provides a magical start to what will surely be an engaging series."—Darque Reviews
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As I deal with Jack The Ripper within the book, you can hear a few of my thoughts on Jack at a post at Murder She Writes or my new author introduction interview by Toni McGee Causey at Murderati. You can visit my website and check out reviews and interviews.
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I hope you'll follow along on my Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog Tour where every day I tell a new ghost story I use in the book! There's a ton of chances for book giveaways and you can enter my Contest for two cool prizes!
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Blessings and I hope you'll give the beginning of the Strangely Beautiful series a try!



Leanna Renee Hieber
www.leannareneehieber.com
www.twitter.com/leannarenee

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Writer as Kitchen Slave

by Karen Dionne

I’m a writer – a published author, a novelist. I’m not yet a household name, but I’m not a wannabe either. My first thriller published last fall with Berkley, a division of Penguin/Putnam. My publisher paid me an advance, sold German and Czech rights, and this spring, bought a second thriller from me on spec.

I’m also co-founder and co-administrator of Backspace, an Internet-based writers community with over a thousand members in a dozen countries. I organize and run the Backspace Writers Conference in New York City every year. Backspace has the endorsement of some of the top people in the publishing industry. When I email literary agents, editors, and bestselling authors, they answer – usually within minutes.

But writing is only half of what I do. Like most novelists at the beginning of their careers, I have a day job that pays the bills. In my case, it’s working alongside my husband doing high-end furniture upholstery for interior decorators from a workshop behind our home.

Last week, I went to a customer’s house because the cushion I’d sewn for a piece of wicker porch furniture didn’t fit. It happens. We’ve been in the business for decades and we’re very good at what we do, but life isn’t perfect, and occasionally things go wrong.

This customer lives in a lovely house on a lake in one of my city's wealthier suburbs, complete with winding, wooded driveway, a beautifully landscaped yard with a bronze sculpture and gazebo, and secondary driveways labeled with discreet signs (“To Boathouse”) to indicate their purpose.

The woman was not so lovely. As soon as I arrived, she launched into what turned out to be a full half hour of abuse. She scolded, insulted, ridiculed, accused, demeaned, yelled, hit things, threw things, and even yanked the cushion from my hands as I was trying to determine what mistake I had made when I sewed it.

In hindsight, I should have called a halt after five minutes. Given her my cell number, told her I was going for a cup of coffee, and explained that she was welcome to call me after she’d calmed down and I'd come back and finish the job.

But upholstering furniture is a service business. The customer had a legitimate complaint, which I was there to fix. So I suffered through her tantrum until I had the measurements I needed, escaped to my car at last, and drove off, hands shaking, close to tears.

Understand, I'm not easily intimidated. My first novel isn’t a cozy Agatha Christie-type mystery, it’s a science thriller that plays out more like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. To research my next novel, I traveled 7,000 miles to Chaitén Volcano in Northen Patagonia, Chile -- an active volcano officially on Red Alert. I stayed in the town at the volcano’s base, even though it was ruined by a lahar and is without electricity and running water. I hiked to within one mile of the lava dome. I saw steam vents, heard explosions from within the caldera, and felt a small earthquake.

None of that frightened me. But this woman’s screaming as if she were the lady of the manor and I was her kitchen slave was one of the most disturbing experiences I've ever had – made all the more bizarre by the fact that I’d just come from New York City, where I was a featured author at a thriller writers convention and did a joint book signing with a bestselling German thriller author at a landmark bookstore in SoHo.

My customer didn’t know about the other half of my life, of course. I understand her ignorance. Writers aren’t rock stars. Even the most successful tend not to be recognized. #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child relates how once while he was touring, he noticed the woman in the seat beside him on the plane reading one of his novels. He didn't introduce himself and claim ownership; instead, he waited to see what would happen. Hours later when they disembarked, the woman still had no idea she’d been sitting next to the novel’s author, even though she could have easily matched up her seat mate with the photo on the back of her book.

For most published authors, the glamorous life of a writer includes a day job. It's entirely possible I wasn’t the first author with whom my customer crossed paths. The barista at her local Starbucks, or the mechanic who rotates her tires, or the IT guy who fixes her computer might well be an author whose novel she read, loved, and admired.

But ignorance doesn't excuse my customer’s bad behavior. Whether a person’s accomplishments are obvious or not, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. No one should be treated like a kitchen slave – even if they happen to be a short order cook.


Karen Dionne is the author of Freezing Point (October 2008, Berkley), a thriller Douglas Preston called "a ripper of a story," with other rave endorsements from David Morrell, John Lescroart, and many others. Her next novel, Boiling Point, will be published by Berkley in October 2010. For more information about her, go to www.karendionne.net.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tweeting in character

By Jeremy Duns

I’ve been on Twitter for a while now, and have been enjoying it. The site has helped me interact with readers of my debut novel Free Agent, and I think find new readers for it, but it can be challenging for a writer. When you spend all day trying to fashion an exciting and coherent story in 80,000-plus consecutive words, Twitter’s 140-character limit can take a little getting used to.

So I was interested to see a couple of writers trying something new on Twitter: tweeting in character. A couple of months ago, Joseph Finder, author of Paranoia and High Crimes, set up an account representing the protagonist of his latest novel, Vanished. Heller is described in his Twitter profile as an ‘intelligence investigator, security consultant, fixer, ex-military’ who ‘knows where the bodies are buried’. And just to make the message clear, he tells us he is ‘working with author @JoeFinder to tell my story’. Finder tweets as Heller as though he were a real-life citizen. So the character often links to stories online about intelligence and security matters, and exchanges banter with his Twitter followers – he has over 1,450 of them at the moment. Finder sends the tweets to Facebook, too, where he continues the conversation. One of his associates explains some more of the reasoning behind the experiment here.

Another thriller-writer adopting this approach is Jeff Abbott, author of Panic and Fear, who set up an account for Luke Dantry, the protagonist of his latest novel, Trust Me, in July. Abbott announced the development on his blog, saying that Dantry would ‘write about his researches into the next wave of terror and criminal networks’. The character is a grad student in psychology penetrating online extremist sites to try to determine which participants might become violent. In Trust Me, he is kidnapped, whereupon he realizes that his research is much more dangerous than he believed.

Abbott said he decided to put the character on Twitter because ‘he was the reason I got on Twitter in the first place: Luke uses Twitter to broadcast a message to his friends that he is innocent of a crime. I thought it would be a fun way to share a lot of the research I did into the dark world of online extremism – which I believe to be an enormous threat to our everyday lives.’

Like Nick Heller, Luke Dantry tweets links relevant to his field of expertise, but he is not in character to nearly the same extent, often directly referencing both Abbott and Trust Me in his tweets. Still new to the game, he currently has 36 followers.

I have been following both of these experiments on Twitter with interest, and a few weeks ago started wondering if I could do something similar with my own protagonist, Paul Dark. But unlike Heller and Dantry, Dark is not a contemporary character: my novels take place in 1969, at the height of the Cold War, and Dark is a British secret agent on the run. A character who lives in a pre-internet age using Twitter – how would I do it? What would he have to say, and why would he be saying it? Unlike Abbott and Finder’s characters, he wouldn’t be able to interact with other people on Twitter without shattering the fourth wall, but interaction is key to Twitter. Sure, some writers have serialized novels on Twitter – RN Morris, for example – but I wasn’t sure what I could add by doing that.


Then last week I read an article in The Bookseller about Philippa Gregory tweeting her latest novel. Here was a character from the 15th-century on Twitter! I found it interesting that she preferred some of the prose she had used to that in the novel, and I liked her idea to tweet around the edges of the book. It reminded me of Lawrence Durrell’s interconnected novels The Alexandria Quartet: at the end of each, Durrell included a few pages of ‘workpoints’ that provided descriptions of characters or places, alternative interpretations of events and possible sub-plots, extending the world of the novels and letting readers imagine further spins on it.

Reading http://twitter.com/elizwoodville is a curious experience. There is no interaction, just a series of posts that both advance the plot and can be read individually. Over 500 people are following the character, myself included. Because of the way Twitter works, I find it rather hard to follow all the tweets as they appear in my feed, and reading so many from the bottom up on the character's page, especially with Twitter’s current rudimentary archiving function, is also difficult. But Twitter works as a sort of skim-reading device, and the effect of @ElizWoodville, I find, is that her tweets subtly invade my stream of updates about political debates, publishing news and the like, and that even though I don’t read all of them or try to keep track of the story too closely, I still come away with a strong sense of the character, and the time she is living in. It’s very impressive, and certainly makes me want to read the book.

So yesterday I set up a Twitter account for Paul Dark. My novels are in the first person, which is an advantage, but this version of Mr Dark expresses himself in the present tense as opposed to the past. I have decided to do something along roughly the same lines as Philippa Gregory, but with no time limit to it (she’s only tweeting as the character for a week), and to write as I go along. This has the benefit of spontaneity, and I feel that having written two novels from Dark’s point of view I can now effectively ‘channel’ his voice. In fact, the exercise is already helping me as I gear up to write the final book in the trilogy.

I have, naturally, had to adapt to the site. Free Agent is a breakneck-paced spy thriller with nearly every chapter ending on a cliff-hanger. But cliff-hangers don’t really work on Twitter, because of the way it streams and is read. So Dark's tweets follow lines of the first novel but do not stick too closely to them. Sometimes I rewrite or edit passages from the book; other tweets are either free-floating thoughts or circle around moments in the novel, like Durrell's workpoints, or songs on a soundtrack that were not in the film. The chronology is much looser, and I intend to insert some foreshadowing of the second novel and perhaps the third into tweets as I go on.

It’s an experiment, both in terms of marketing my work and in terms of my writing. So far, I am enjoying it. Strangely, although Twitter offers just 140 characters a time, I find that Dark is slightly more expansive in this medium than he is in Free Agent. But I hope I am succeeding in capturing his voice, and that I will be able to both entertain people who enjoyed the book and find new readers as well. Please do let me know what you think!


Free Agent by Jeremy Duns is published by Simon and Schuster in the United Kingdom and Canada and Viking Penguin in the United States. See http://www.jeremyduns.com for more information.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What is a 'thriller', anyway?


By Matt Hilton

Recently, during Thrillerfest in New York, the question was posed to me: What’s the difference between a mystery and a thriller novel? Although my answer may have been a little pithy, I explained that in my opinion a mystery had a problem to be solved while a thriller had a problem to be dealt with.

Of course, this is a very limited manner in which to describe the differences. You can of course have a thriller that contains a mystery, and also most mystery books are thrilling by the very virtue of their subject matter. I’ve pondered quite a lot on the subject since, and thought it time that I put some of my conclusions on record – all of which I hasten to add are probably subject to change.

Because ‘a mystery’ pretty much tells us what to expect, I thought of which ingredients I found were necessary to make a thriller and the first thing that I came up with was that the term is very subjective. Thriller books transcend genre: we can have crime thrillers, action thrillers, adventure thrillers, historical thrillers, supernatural thrillers, sci-fi thrillers, romantic thrillers...and the list goes on. In other words, it doesn’t matter what the genre, it’s the structure and driving force behind the book that defines it as a thriller.

A thriller can be set any where, any time, but they all have a commonality. The books are fast-paced with plenty of action and generally hold a sense of impending menace or doom.


Usually a thriller focuses on the emotion and inner workings of the protagonist who is often running away from or running towards something that is both very dangerous and life-threatening.

There is generally an under-current of good versus evil.

Many thrillers are about ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances, and are typified by the protagonist running for their lives, before turning to face and ultimately triumph over the danger. Others, like my books, tend to follow a protagonist with the skills to fight back, but who is facing overwhelming odds.

Often there is a mystery to be solved, but sometimes the danger is out there in the open for all to see and the protagonist’s story follows his/her attempts to put an end to it while also trying to stay alive or to save someone or something else.

The protagonist often has some kind of weakness – often a burden on his/her soul – and during the events of the thriller he/she must contend with and often overcome this weakness in order to avail him/herself against the danger.

Thrillers are often full of reversals and twists, that amp up the pace as the protagonist must find new ways to contend with these surprises. Often there is a ‘ticking bomb’ where time – or the lack of – becomes an enemy in itself.

There is generally an expectation of impending violence around each corner. Violence may not always be physical – but may be delivered by way of plot twists or surprises that crash and burn their way through what the protagonist or (more importantly) the reader expects.

Tension is maintained by conflict, and by posing questions of when, where, why, what and, probably most importantly, how? (i.e How on earth is the hero going to get out of this one?)

My list isn’t exhaustive. There are many other factors that make a thriller, and there is a huge likelihood that other thriller authors will disagree with some of my points and come up with some salient ingredient that requires adding to the pot. Going back to my first paragraph, well, the truth is, I’m still pondering.

Matt Hilton is an ITW Debut Author. His ‘Joe Hunter’ thriller series debuted with Dead Men’s Dust in May 2009. Book 2, Judgement and Wrath, will be published by Hodder and Stoughton (UK) in October 2009 and by William Morrow and Co (USA) in May 2010.
http://www.matthiltonbooks.com/

Friday, August 7, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For...

by Jennie Bentley

You know this picture you may have in your head, of the gracious author at her book signing: hair perfectly coiffed, nice clothes, friendly smile? That’s me. It’s release week for Spackled and Spooked, and I’ve got back to back events scheduled this week and for the next two. Three bookstore signings, one release party, one Evening with an Author, one TV appearance, and a three-day conference. Plus a couple of interviews, complete with photographer. What that means is an endless round of worry over make-up and clothes, whether my slip is showing, whether my hair is fluffy enough, how overweight I’ll look when the cameras turn on me...

Last year’s TV appearance for the release of Fatal Fixer-Upper was not auspicious. The anchor started the interview by asking me a question I didn’t understand. I kid you not, it sounded like gibberish. The words made absolutely no sense. I’ve watched the clip since, cringing, and it wasn’t just nerves: the question still doesn’t make sense to me, even when I’m calm. The cringeworthy part, though, is the silence that follows. The deer-in-the-headlights look on my face as I sit there, trying to decipher the question and how to answer it. The dawning horror on the anchor’s face as she realizes that she’s sitting opposite a guest who has frozen.

It worked out in the end, and I don’t think it took more than eight seconds or so. (Which, let me tell you, is an eternity on TV.) Eventually, I said something. Anything. I didn’t care what it was, as long as it filled the silence. I didn’t answer the question, but I was coherent. And it got better from there.

This year I get to do it again, along with all the other stuff I mentioned. If you look closely, you’ll see the manic look in my eyes as I worry about the hair, and the slip, and the fact that at home, I’m revising Plaster and Poison, which is scheduled for release in March, and writing DIY#4, tentatively titled Mortar and Murder, which—if I can get it written by the end of the year—might make it into the stores by the end of 2010.

Can you spell P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E?

Oh yes, and that’s without taking into account the ten or so manuscripts I've critiqued for Killer Nashville, the conference I’m attending next weekend; and the ten or so wannabe authors I have to meet with, to discuss their manuscripts; and the panels I have to prepare for, and the fact that at some point during the weekend, I have to write and ship a guest blog I promised to do on the 16th...

It’s the glamorous life of a writer. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. In September, when it’s all over and the only thing I have to worry about is finishing Mortar and Murder by the end of the year, I’ll look back on it and smile. But for now, if you happen to catch sight of me in the next few weeks, forgive me if I’m not the picture of the smiling, gracious author, would you? Ignore that rabid look in my eyes, and the way I twitch when someone says my name? And if I don’t answer your question right away, give me eight seconds for that deer-in-the-headlights look to go away and my brain to fire on all cylinders again? I’ll get there, I promise!

And if you’re in my neck of the woods this month, I’d love to see you. Check out my website, to see where I’ll be, and when!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two Berkley Babes Talk

by Jennie Bentley

Welcome to the Thrill Begins blog on this very special day, the 4th of August, 2009.

Why is it special?

Well, it’s release day for Berkley Prime Crime, and I’m here with Diana Orgain, 2010/2011 debut author and my fellow Berkley Babe, to talk about her first book, Bundle of Trouble, which is being released today. PW likes it, which is more than they did for my first book!

Congratulations on your debut, Diana! Give us the Bundle of Trouble elevator pitch.


Diana: Bundle of Trouble is about a new-mom turned PI. She doesn’t want to return to the corporate world after having her baby and simultaneously gets caught up in a mystery. She figures she can launch a new career as a PI and work from home, only it’s not as easy as she thinks.

Jennie: Sounds fun! My second book, which also comes out today, is about a designer-turned-renovator and her boyfriend and business partner, who take on the renovation of a local haunted house in a small town on the coast of Maine, and who end up dealing with ghostly footsteps, a skeleton in the crawlspace, and a freshly dead neighbor. It’s called Spackled and Spooked, and is the second in the Do-It-Yourself home renovation mystery series.

So tell us a little about how you came to write Bundle of Trouble. Was it your first book? Have you always been writing, or is this a more recent dream?

Diana: Bundle of Trouble is my first book. I have a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, specifically playwriting.

Before writing Bundle of Trouble I wrote various humorous stage plays that were produced in San Francisco. I always wanted to write a mystery novel because I enjoyed reading them so much. But I didn’t know how to put the plot together in such a way as to keep the reading guessing “who done it”.

What I figured out fast was that it’s a lot easier to piece the puzzle together when you are the one making it up rather than reading it.

Jennie: Ain’t that the truth? I ended up writing the DIY series because of my background. As a brand new realtor myself, a few years ago, I wrote a book about a brand new realtor who falls over a dead body in an empty house. It’s called A Cutthroat Business, and will be released next summer. But before we got that far, it crossed the desk of an editor at Berkley Prime Crime, who liked me and my writing, and who asked me if I’d be interested in writing a series about a renovator for them, since I’ve renovated the odd house or nine. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So what about you? I know you have kids of your own, as does Kate Connolly, your protagonist. Tell us about Kate. Share three things that you and Kate have in common, and three ways in which you're absolutely different.

Diana: Three things in common:
a. Obsession over baby’s well being.
b. Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.
c. I, too, am a list-maker.

Three ways we differ:
a. Kate is much more patient than I am.
b. Kate is braver than I am.
c. Kate is more willing to stir things up than I am.

Jennie: My protagonist in Spackled and Spooked (as well as in Fatal Fixer-Upper, the first DIY-mystery) is Avery Baker. She’s a New Yorker born and bred, and a textile designer, who ends up inheriting her aunt’s house in Maine, and falling into renovating for a living. Obviously she and I have the renovating in common. I wasn’t born in New York, but I lived there for years, through my late teens and most of my twenties, and I can also relate to Avery’s feelings of being like a fish out of water when she comes to the little town of Waterfield, where everything is much slower-paced and laid-back. We have a few personality traits in common, as well, like Avery’s rather too-vivid imagination and her insecurities. On the other hand, she’s single and unlucky in love, while I met my Prince Charming at 19. He looks a little like Derek, too...

Does Kate get up to any trouble in the book that you've been in yourself? Does she do something you wouldn't do in a million years, no matter the benefits?

Diana: Kate speaks her mind a bit more than I’m ready to. I follow the general rule – if you can’t say something nice… Kate doesn’t suffer from rule abiding.

Jennie: Ah. Avery doesn’t speak her mind as much as she blurts things out. I tend not to do that, but I’m not afraid of speaking my mind, either. I just think about what I say before I say it, and then I usually go ahead and say it anyway. If there’s such a thing as being too direct, that’s me.

What was the hardest part of writing Bundle of Trouble for you? Is that always the hardest part, or does it change from book to book? What about the easiest or most fun part?

Diana: When I am re-writing I think writing a first draft is easier and likewise when I am writing the first draft I think re-writing is easier.

Jennie: Lucky you. I never think re-writing is easier. I love writing the first draft; anything after that is agony. It’s the same reason I don’t outline. If I already know the story, there doesn’t seem to be much sense in working on it. So the first draft is always fun; revisions less so. They’re a necessary part of the process, so I do them, and do my best, but I won’t claim to enjoy that aspect.

So what has most surprised you about being a writer? I remember thinking that the community between writers is really awesome.

Diana: I have always been a storyteller. I love telling a good story and seeing and sharing in the audience reaction. Writing is fun because you can tell a good story slowly and really savor it, the hard part is the delayed response from the audience. You have to wait a while to find out how they liked it.

Jennie: But when they like it, and they send you an email to say they do, that’s really, really nice!

If you could give one piece of advice to the prepublished writers reading this, what would it be, and why?

Diana: My very bright university professor told me, “You have to make a habit of finishing.” I wanted to change my thesis about 2 months before graduation. He told me all his students come to him with the same request, because we’re all convinced the new thing we want to work on is better than the old. But the truth is the work is in the crafting and the crafting comes after the shiny new experience of the “idea” has come and gone.

Hmmm. Kind of like parenting…

Jennie: Amen to that. That’s essential advice, right there, and something I struggle with every single day. No, it doesn’t just apply to the prepublished. Those new ideas are just as bright and shiny when you’re on your sixth or seventh or tenth book. Maybe even more so, if all those six or seven or ten are about the same characters, and you’re ready for a change. Not that I’m there, or anything!

Thanks for visiting with me today, Diana! Good luck on your launch and on this and the other books in the Maternal Instincts series. And be sure to take the time to enjoy what's happening, in the midst of all the hoopla. It's your first published book, and you'll never be in this situation again.
You're on your way, Berkley Babe!




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