Friday, March 27, 2009

Forgotten Books

Hey Kids, I'm over at Patti's Blog for her Friday's Forgotten Books post. Check it out. I'll be back next week (I promise) with a full-blown post.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Writers in their own words--and Blog Touring!

I've never been a horror movie kind of girl. Not any of the Friday the 13th flicks, or the Elm Street ones or Freddy Krueger. I didn't like ghost stories when I was a kid (or even now). I don't like to be scared just to be scared. I can create enough nightmare scenarios with my own vivid imagination, thank you very much.

Unless they're smart. And funny. Maybe even sassy.

For instance I loved loved loved Fargo.

I appreciated Pulp Fiction.

And my buddy, Joe Konrath, writes a smart, compelling, funny series starring the detective Jaqueline (Jack) Daniels. And they're addictive.

And he's now branching out with his first horror novel, AFRAID writing under the name Jack Kilborn. And as much as I know I'll lose way too much sleep reading this, I also know I won't be able to put it down.

Along with scaring and amusing readers everywhere, Joe's one of the nicest guys in the business. I met him at my very first writing festival and he made me feel like part of "the club." His blog is without a doubt one of the best resources for writers anywhere--if it's not in your bookmarks, it will be as soon as you check it out, I'm sure.

Anyway, let's hear from Joe in his own words . . .

1.) How did you come up with the idea for this book? Are you more driven by plot or by character?

I'm a firm believer that good writers are storytellers, not charactertellers. A story is about conflict, rising action, resolution. That's the essence of narrative structure.

For example, if you take the most compelling character you've ever read, and stick them in a Starbucks drinking coffee for 400 pages, the book will likely be boring.

That said, I think characterization is incredibly important. I write a series featuring a cop named Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, and part of the reason readers keep coming back is they like the character, and the cast of supporting characters.

So I like to take interesting, flawed, dynamic characters, and stick them in page-turning plots.

As for AFRAID, the story is about a murderous evil that invades a small Midwestern town. It's a military unit, called The Red-Ops, made up of serial killers with commando training. That's the hook.

But it wouldn't be much fun unless that Red-Ops team went after characters that the reader cares about.

It's sort of a tightrope act, making sure there is plenty of action and scares, while also making the characters realistic, compelling, and likable.

2.) Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

There are five Red-Ops, each a different sort of psycho. Santiago is a former South American interrogator. Taylor is a Ted Bundy-like stalker. Ajax is an oversized butcher. Logan is the myterious, creepy type. But my favorite is Bernie, who, like his name, enjoyed burning things.

It's like a super hero team of psychopaths.

As for the good guys, I like Fran, a waitress, single mom, scared to death of the dark, and Ace, an elderly county Sheriff in waaaaaay over his head.

3.) What's your writing process/writing environment like?

I sit my butt in the chair and write. My desk is usually littered with notes, and because I never learned to type, I spend long hours staring at my keyboard.

4.) What's your favorite part of writing?

I love it all. Creating new worlds. Putting my heroes through hell. Writing dumb jokes. Especially writing dumb jokes.

My Jack Daniels series has a lot of humor in it. In fact, CHERRY BOMB (Jack #6, coming out in July) has the funniest scene I think I've ever written, featuring a new character named Slappy.

AFRAID has zero humor in it, and I had a hard time keeping the jokes at bay. With AFRAID I didn't want to give the reader any breaks--there aren't even chapters. No humor, no falling action, no mercy. That was a challenge, but I think it resulted in a damn scary book.

5.) What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten about writing?

From my wife: You aren't allowed to give up.

I garnered more than 500 rejections before my first sale. That's why my motto is: There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.

So, there you have it--buy this book. And leave the light on!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Finding the Right Words

As a writer, I spend my days with words . . . trying to find the right ones, the best combinations, the perfect order. Do I say it this way or that way? It can seem like a never-ending puzzle. It can make me crazy.

But when they all fall into place, when the words arrange themselves, magically it might seem, even lyrically, I remember why I love what I do.

I need to remember the words of wisdom from E. B. White, one of my writing idols, who was advised as a young newspaper reporter struggling to tell a story, to "Just say the words."

This has been on my mind lately for a few reasons. One, I'm in full-on "writing mode," completely rewriting a manuscript. New POV, one narrative voice taken out (but reappearing in a different form), major changes throughout. It's exhilarating and terrifying. And words matter. Every single one. But I'm trying not to overthink it. I'm reminding myself to Just Say the Words.

The second reason this has been on my mind is because, as part of my participation in a Writers Week Celebration at a nearby high school in April, I was asked, "What's the best line you ever wrote?" (This was for the author information page.) I flipped through my book. Even looked at various blog posts. There are lines I like, lines I think capture a moment or a feeling. But when I looked at them in isolation, I thought, hmm, not so much. I'm not sure this one line is the best. One line kept popping up in my thoughts, but I thought it was probably too simple. Or not professional enough. So, in my e-mail to the director of the program, I was very apologetic about it, sort of made a little joke, and promised him I was working hard to come up with a better line. I didn't want him to think it had been a mistake to invite me to participate. But you know what? He wrote me back and said he thought the line I'd given him was perfect. So, I told him thanks, and to go ahead with it.

I'd Just Said the Words and hadn't even realized it.

The best line I've ever written?

"Love, Mom."