Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Interview with International Bestselling Author, Mia Thompson

sentencing sapphire COVER

I had the opportunity to sit down with Author Mia Thompson recently. Mia is a Swedish-born author living in Sacramento, California. Her international bestsellers, Stalking Sapphire and Silencing Sapphire, were published in 2013, and followed by the third book in the series, Sentencing Sapphire.

Hi, Mia. Thank you for agreeing to chat with me again, after I kicked you out of my house last time we spoke. Here’s a nice hot cup of coffee and an apple turnover to warm your bones.

Mia: I’m not going to lie, Sue, I was traumatized. Though, the coffee and apple turnover might help heal the emotional wound.

Sue: We both write crime thrillers and mysteries. What first attracted you to the genre?

Mia: The genre kind of snuck up on me (pun intended.) I was writing, what I thought was, an action-comedy script when I lived in L.A. After I brought it to my writing group, one of them said “Oh, it’s like a mystery/thriller.”
“Yeah, totally,” I nodded. In my mind I was like, I can write mysteries? It took on a life of its own from there.

Sue: When a rude person gets under your skin in public, how do you handle it? Do you secretly devise ways to kill them?

Mia: Why, what have you heard? No… but it just so happens that my day job is a place where a lot of people tell me they hate me. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin, but when I don’t feel up for it, I stare at the rude person with this blank expression. You’d be amazed at how uncomfortable a consistent blank stare makes people. The longer you stare, the more they start backtracking, sometimes toward an apology. Try it. It’s fun!

Sue: In our genre it isn’t “write what you know” but “write what you want to know.” After all, not many of us have investigated a murder or done an autopsy. Was there much research involved for your books? If so, what did you find most interesting about what you learned?

Mia: I shouldn’t say this…but I find most procedural research so story-crippling I often take shortcuts. I recently had to research court procedures, and it nearly killed me. I tried to stay as close as I could to reality, but, man, reality is boring.

On the upside, I now know how bodies decompose, how to pick a lock (in theory) and how to choke someone out (in theory).

Sue: What author had a profound effect on you, and why?

Mia: Besides Astrid Lindgren’s books (must-reads in Sweden), the first book I remember being blown away by as a kid was Roald Dahl’s Witches. It was the first time I comprehended that words, written in a certain manner, had the ability to create fear, joy, tension, and relief.

Witches still pops into my mind when I write tension-scenes and I try to match it. Fingers crossed, any day now…

Sue: It seems everyone on social media loves animals. Are you a cat or dog person, and why?

Mia: I grew up with cats, and I have a dog now, but I’m an all around animal person. Not a: Google-funny-cat-videos type of animal person, but more of a: if-no-more-animals-suffered-I’d-die-a-happy-person person. (Note from Sue: Do you see why I love her?)

Sue: What book do you secretly wish you wrote? Not counting Silence of the Lambs, because don’t we all wish we wrote that?

Mia: I really wish I wrote Helen Fielding’s last Bridget Jones book. If only just to rewrite a certain shocking plotline and un-break hearts all over the world. That said… Hello, Clarice.

Sue: I’m a member of MWA and Sisters in Crime, and love both organizations. What organizations are you involved with and have you found them beneficial?

Mia: Excellent question. Terrible answer. I’m a member of some NA and Mystery organizations, but I have, however, never participated. I think I said, hello once when first joining, but that’s it. I know, I suck. Feel free to throw me out of your house again.

Sue: Before we met I read Stalking Sapphire, and really enjoyed it. Can you tell us about book three? Where can we purchase/reserve a copy?

Mia: SENTENCING SAPPHIRE came out through Diversion Books on Oct. 6th, 2015, and you can order it, or its predecessors HERE.




Sapphire Dubois is back in the follow-up to the international bestsellers STALKING SAPPHIRE and SILENCING SAPPHIRE, fighting her most grueling serial killer yet. A summer has passed since the catastrophe at the country club. Heiress and vigilante Sapphire Dubois has escaped to Paris, where she has shed her rich persona and lives as the infamous Serial Catcher. When the handsome Detective Aston Ridder tracks her down, Sapphire returns home to find Beverly Hills in chaos. A new vigilante has taken over Sapphire’s old job, and will stop at nothing to get her predecessor out of the way.

Meanwhile, a man with dark intentions and a deceiving smile has nestled his way into the rich community and is killing off heiresses. It doesn’t take long before Sapphire finds that this man, the next killer she has to catch, is none other than her estranged father. Already plagued by sickening memories, Sapphire is pushed to the limit when her father initiates a deranged game that threatens both her sanity and the lives of everyone around her. While Aston struggles to keep the woman he loves from drowning in her father’s madness, Sapphire battles to outwit her merciless opponents before time runs out and more innocent blood is spilled.


It was lovely having you here. Thanks, Mia!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Unleashing Your Creativity: Five Ways To Switch Off That Internal Editor

A writer has two main signals in the brain: create and edit.

The creator, well, creates. Stories grow and bloom and take on life. The editor and her red pen prunes and cuts and shapes. But there's a reason why I'm a writer, not a farmer, so let's lose the gardening analogy and think of this another way: think green light and red light.

Green light, go—the words flow. Red light—stop. Stop and fix, stop and think, stop and just plain stop.

And stopping isn't going to help you get your first draft done.

First drafts need to be green light, all the way. Any time your word flow hesitates, it's an opportunity for the editor to take over. You'll re-read those last lines and tweak them. You'll pause, mentally discarding phrase after phrase because they're just not good enough. The writing stops. The cursor blinks, wondering if you got up and left. Red light.

But you don't have to live at the mercy of a red light. The writer controls the signal. Like every other element of writing, it's a piece of craft to be learned.

Pro-level Green Light
One way to bask in the glow of the green light is to attain a level of competency that lets you self-edit on the fly.  In this article, Sean D'Souza discusses how writing competency leads to writing fluency, where editing happens so quickly we don't even know we're doing it. The red light is only the briefest of flickers in a stream of green.

How does a writer become competent? You write. And you write. You make the mistakes that come with learning a craft. You learn from those mistakes and you get better. Each mistake and its subsequent lesson is one step closer to competency.

But learning a craft takes a long time. In the meantime, we still set word count goals and deadlines, long before we attain this nirvana called fluency. How do we keep ourselves writing forward instead of deleting backwards...or stalling because you can't get past a sentence just because you can't get it down right?

Do everything you can to keep the red light from coming on.

I have a few tricks I use during first draft writing and each one contributes to green light streaming in its own way.

1).  Go Analog
Notepads don't have delete keys. Plain and simple.

Writing longhand gives me a change to simply write. My handwriting is smooth enough that it all blends in my periphery--I tend not to look back over the last lines as I write. If I do need to change something, I strike it through. Unlike deleting, the original word is there so I don't obsess that I made a mistake by erasing one.

Plus, I love the flow of ink. I'm a very visible-art kind of person so writing with an ink pen is akin to painting words. Best of all, I get to choose the ink color that inspires me. When I was younger, my pen of choice was a purple Pilot ballpoint. Today, I'm partial to blue ink. So much of what I read is in black and white so the mere sight of blue taps into my creative side.

Blue is also my ideal color for meditation. Calming, serene blue. Did you know that writing is, in itself, a form of meditation? Google it sometime—when you're not supposed to be writing, of course. Which leads me to another red light reducer:

2).  Remove distractions
Distractions create pauses. If you are not actively submerging in the creative flow, typing out words, focused on the story, then your brain will flip the switch to editor mode.

I have a lot of cool junk on my desk. There's a lovely collection of ravens and skulls (thanks to my endless devotion to Edgar Allan Poe) and a bunch of Dr. Who and Sherlock and Supernatural collectables (because I will go down with that 'ship) and a bunch of other nifty writer things. In fact, my desk is the reason why I don't write at my desk. Ever. Too much to play with... and if I'm playing, I'm not writing.

If I look up from the page, I might toy with a sonic screwdriver. My brain might then toy with something I'd already written. The red light comes on and the editor comes out. And that's not what I want when I'm trying to get that first draft written.

Take the time to make a list of your worst distractions. Internet. The telephone. Your hair, if you're a twister-tugger-fidgeter like me. Identify those distractions and do what you can to limit them. The less you look up from the page, the less likely you are to staunch that green light flow.

3).  Plan Ahead by Plotting
Some writers love the freedom of watching a story bloom and unfold right before their eyes, with each sentence taking them further along a path toward a new undiscovered word. That's a beautiful thing, that quicksilver taste of creativity—and it's the reason many of us enjoy writing as much as we do.

But how many of us actually sit down in from of a blank screen without at least thinking where the book is going to go? Precious few, I'd wager. At the very least, we have an idea. A hook. An anecdote. Something.

But if that something isn't big enough for a pantser to go on, it's easy to bang heads with writer's block. (Pantser? Writer's block? If that's the main problem for you, read this.)

So, plan ahead. One easy way to do that is to create your plot outline.


Seems like contrary advice coming from a pantser like me but just hear me out. If you know where the story is going, you can write more freely than if you have to come up with each and every element as you go. A little planning goes a long way in illuminating the path ahead so you don't go bumbling in the dark.

4).  Allow Necessary Roughness
A first draft is often called the rough draft. However, writers forget that they are allowed to be rough when writing them. Sometimes, we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our writing and feel pressured to make the first draft the only draft.

When I was in college, my freshman lit professor told me she loved my first drafts. I wasn't a budding writer or an English major. I had no thoughts about writing novels. I was a first year pharmacy student who felt more at home in the humanities department and I simply loved my reading and writing assignments. Lit classes were a brief escape from chem labs and white coats.

These days, I still haven't escaped the white coats, but I do still try to put out competent first drafts. It's a weird way to pay homage to my old mentors back in Philly—the pharmacist who writes as if her freshman lit teacher was watching. But these days, there is a big difference.

I'm not going for a grade. I've given myself a lot of breathing room. I allow myself to write imperfectly. I permit roughness in my drafts.

For instance: I use brackets (like this article describes.)  If an element makes me stumble, I close it off, skip over it, and keep going.

Skipping the unwritable parts keep the green light going. You can go back and write those spots later, after you've had time to work them out. (That's what second drafts are for, right?)

In fact, I love skipping things. In my current WIP, one chapter has only three words: SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS. The next chapter picks up the narrative once more, with actual scenes and sequences. I'm able to pull this off because of the previous tip about plotting. I know where the story is going so it doesn't matter if I have trouble somewhere.

I just gun the gas and speed past it, blasting through that potential red light. Skipping stuff can be such a rush.

5).  Avoid Criticism
It's not enough to allow myself to write roughly in a first draft. I know what I'm writing is not the final product. I know it's going to get better, and deeper, and less riddled with thinly-developed ideas.

But would someone else know that?

Beta readers and critique partners are a writer's best friends. Seriously. We all need a set of impartial eyes on our stories to see the flaws we can't. But a first draft is no place for that kind of critique.

Not only is the story not yet at a place to be properly critiqued—neither are we. A first draft is a place of discovery and experimentation, a place where creativity needs to flow unimpeded. Criticism, at this point, slams the writing light to full red. It forces us to rethink our work, to go back and change. It intentionally switches us to editor mode.

It also does something to our confidence. Even when the critique is gentle and constructive, it makes us doubt ourselves and where we thought our story was going. You might think a critique is necessary at the beginning, that it will save us unnecessary work down the road. I think that's premature. I think that there's a bigger risk of squelching a good idea before it has a chance to be fully developed. That's the worst kind of editing—it's censoring.

That's why I keep my first drafts to myself. I might give a sneak peek of a scene to one of my inner-sanctum betas, just for a taste of what I'm writing. But I never give enough to inspire criticism and I never hand a red pen over with it.

Green Light... Go!
The next time you find yourself stuck in first draft traffic, don't despair. The writer in you has the power to switch that signal and turn that red light green again. You don't need a miracle. You just need to learn how to take back that control.

The switch is all yours. Learn to use it to your advantage.

 


Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. She's the author of the urban fantasy trilogy The Books of the Demimonde as well as WORDS THAT BIND. She also writes for YA and NA audiences under the pen name AJ Krafton. THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, her Victorian dark fantasy inspired by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, is now available.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Interview with Author Sue Coletta


This week, I got a chance to virtually sit down with MARRED author Sue Coletta.

Introduction
A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime, Sue Coletta is a crime fiction author.
She's written five novels: Marred, A Deadly Yearning, A Strangled Rose, Timber Point, and Silent Betrayal. Marred, a psychological thriller, is slated for release on November 11, 2015, Tirgearr Publishing.

The Interview
Q: Sue, I’d like to imagine that you and I are doing this over a cup of coffee in your living room, since you seem like the type of person I’d like to have coffee with. If we were, indeed, in your living room, having coffee, would you feel the need to offer baked goods? And if so, what would it be?

Sue: If we were having coffee, I’d be breaking out in hives all over my body. I’m allergic to coffee. I know, I know, a writer who doesn’t drink coffee. Crazy! So, I’d be drinking tea, but yes, of course I’d offer you a baked good. I used to bake a lot, but now, time is an issue, so I hope you don’t mind if I offer you an apple and walnut pasty ring from the local bakery. The icing drizzled on the top is to die for.

Q: You and I are both drawn to write about blood, mystery, and murder; in your honest opinion, are we messed up in the head?

Sue: Umm…depends on who you ask. *awkward smile* On my site I have a free giveaway, 60 Ways to Murder Your Fictional Characters. After people have had a chance to look it over, I tend to get comments like, “Bet your husband sleeps with one eye open.” Or, “Remind me never to cross you.”

Q: What is the best, and worst, thing a reader has ever said about your work?

Sue: Marred, my debut psychological thriller, hasn’t released yet. But in the past I’ve definitely had some comments from agents and editors. Worst: Rejected! (Is there anything worse than that, regardless of how they sugarcoat it?) Best: You have an amazing ability to drag your reader along, forcing them to flip the page.

Q: What are your favorite authors and how have they affected the way you write?

Sue: My all-time favorite author is Larry Brooks. His thrillers are so mind-bogglingly awesome; how they twist and turn; how you never know what’s real and what’s not. Because he’s also a friend, his writing has been a huge influence on the way I write and how I structure my novels.

Q: At what point did you go from ‘writing is a hobby’ to ‘writing is what I want to do?’

Sue: I’ve always wanted to write professionally. Years ago, I wrote children’s stories. It wasn’t until I wrote my first novel that I chose to make my dream a reality.

Q: You’re pretty awesome at blogging. How important do you think it is, in this day and age, for writers to build their own platforms?

Sue: It’s everything. Without a social media presence you’re sunk. We live in an amazing time, where we can reach across the world in an instant. To not take advantage of that would make no sense. And, thank you! You’re an awesome blogger too.

Q: If you could pick one of your own characters to meet with, who would it be, and what would you say to them?

Sue: Of course I love all my characters, but I have the most in common with Deputy Frankie Campanelli. I would have to ask her how it feels not worry about what anyone thinks and to say whatever comes to mind.

Q: You have a 99 cent pre-release sale today of your novel, MARRED, but it comes out on 11/11. How will you celebrate on the big day?

Sue: I do, yes! The sale lasts until Marred is released on 11/11/15. My publisher would kill me if I missed this opportunity for a shameless plug.

When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed. Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller begins tormenting Sage—she can’t outrun the past. When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister. Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

 
 
 
To take advantage of the pre-release sale, and to view all buying options, go here. On release day, I’m hoping to have a book launch party at a local inn that does mystery dinners, where you solve the murder while enjoying a great meal. Folks around here love local authors, and I have a connection there, so I’d like to combine my book launch with the event.

Thanks, Mia! Done with your coffee? Great. Well, it’s been nice chatting with you. Now get out of my house so I can get back to work. Books don’t write themselves. Oops. Sorry about that. My inner “Frankie” slipped out.


Despite being kicked out of your house, Sue (I have a feeling Deputy Frankie Campanelli and Aston Ridder would get along great), a big thanks for the interview, and more importantly, the apple walnut pastry—it was delish.




Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in Sacramento, California. Her international bestsellers, Stalking Sapphire and Silencing Sapphire, were published in 2013, and followed by the third book in the series, Sentencing Sapphire. Mia is currently working on completing the series’ last two installments, due out through Diversion Books in 2016 and 2017

Monday, November 9, 2015

10 Questions for Author Sue Coletta About Her New Book, "Marred"





Introduction

Author Sue Coletta is always thinking up ways to commit murder…on the page, or so she says. Although we've never met in person, Sue and I have bonded over writing and become long-distance friends who cheer each other on.  

Sue is one of the hardest-working writers I know, so I was especially thrilled when she signed a deal with Tirgearr Publishing for her new psychological thriller/mystery Marred - which will be officially released this Wednesday, November 11! Way to go, Sue!

A four-thousand-word excerpt of Marred also scored first placement in the upcoming anthology, Murder, USA. Sue is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and she generously agreed to answer my questions about her new book and upcoming projects.

The Interview

Eliza: I really enjoyed reading an advance copy of Marred. Tell our readers a bit about the book.


Sue:  Marred is a psychological thriller/mystery. The story is told through three different points of views: Sage and Niko Quintano and Niko’s snarky deputy sheriff, Frankie Campanelli.

Bestselling author Sage Quintano was brutally assaulted by a serial killer, an attack that caused her to lose her unborn child, scarring her in way she didn’t think possible. Niko Quintano, a Boston homicide detective, insists they flee to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff.

Sage buries secrets from that night, secrets she swears to take to her grave.  

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass. A strange caller torments Sage. She can’t outrun the past. Searching Niko’s case files, Sage finds similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her twin sister.

Cryptic clues…hidden messages…is he hinting at his identity? Or is trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Eliza: What made you decide to specialize in writing about crime?

Sue: It’s what I love to read/watch. I’ve always been fascinated with forensics and serial killers, so it only seemed natural to write about them.


Eliza: Who are some of the authors who have inspired and influenced you?

Sue:
 Thomas Harris amazes me. Is there no better serial killer thriller than Silence of the Lambs? The way he dives into the killer’s psyche is mind-blowing. Not many authors can create a serial killer who readers root for, but look at Hannibal Lector. Love him!

Larry Brooks, who’s also a friend, has influenced me the most. Not only are his craft books the best in the business, IMO, but his thrillers are incredible. While reading I never know what’s real or what’s made-to-look real. He’s caused me many sleepless nights.

Karin Slaughter is another author who’s influenced the way I tell my stories. I could go on and on. Good or bad, I think we’re influenced by everything we read, see, and experience.

Eliza: You seem like such a nice person. What motivated you to write about a brutal, psychopathic killer in Marred?


Sue: Psychopathic killers fascinate me. What makes them tick? Why do they kill? How do they choose their victims? These questions and more I’ve pondered most of my life. As such, I’ve done extensive research into serial killers. They all have similar traits, too. Each killer goes through phases… the aura phase, trolling phase, wooing phase, capture phase, murder phase, totem phase, and finally, the depression phase. On this blog I wrote a post about the phases, entitled TheSerial Killer

Eliza: The dialogue and descriptions in Marred feel very authentic. How were you able to achieve such realism in your writing?

Sue: Easy. Wherever I go, I eavesdrop on people’s conversations. No better way to learn dialogue! Once I have it down, I go back and tweak here and there. I did, however, make a conscious effort not to load my stories with paragraphs of description, because that’s not what I enjoy reading. I much prefer a metaphor that nails the scene, or a few lines of description, than to hear about the sun, sky, trees, grass, wind, for endless pages.

Eliza: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

Sue: All novel writing is challenging in one aspect or another, right? Whoever says writing is easy, hasn’t done it right yet. J The hardest part for me was to not give away too much too soon. It’s natural to want to reveal all the goodies we have in store for our readers. To pull back and let the unanswered questions linger, and then unfold slowly takes time and attention to detail. Did you think I’d say the research was the hardest? That was my favorite part!

Eliza: Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will take away after reading it?

Sue: Secrets can, and often will, destroy you and those you hold dear.
There’s also an underlying message that I hope will help someone who’s been suffering like Sage. Please seek help and find the strength to come forward. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Eliza: Your book is already climbing the sales charts, and you’ve gotten some amazing initial reviews. What do you think about this early buzz?

Sue: It blows my mind! Once edits were complete and we had a release date, ARCs went out, and my nerves fired like spit in hot oil. I did an interview with CrimeFiction.fm podcast the other day and I described the feeling as standing naked in the middle of the road for all to judge. We pour our hearts and souls into our stories. To release that part of us into the world is terrifying. At least, it is for me. So, the buzz? Words cannot express how thrilled I am that others are enjoying Marred.

Eliza: Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that you left a door open at the conclusion of your book. Will we see a sequel to Marred?

Sue: You sure will!

Eliza: Excellent. What’s next for you?

Sue: I’m polishing a new thriller (a rewrite of my novel, Timber Point). Wings of Mayhem is about a computer forensic specialist, Shawnee Daniels, who moonlights as a cat burglar and mistakenly steals a killer’s trophy box. This novel is also told from three perspectives. Shawnee, Detective Levaughn Samuels, and the killer, who’s been especially fun to write. Wings of Mayhem is more of a cat-and-mouse, with the killer clearly depicted and named from Chapter One. The mystery element is the why behind the murders and, y’know, the twist. *wink* Even though the rewrite has been a nightmare—it would have been easier to start from scratch—it’s also been a rewarding experience. Poor Shawnee, I’ve put her through hell. *rubs palms* Mwah ha ha.

Keep watch for Wings of Mayhem in the coming months. In the meantime, Marred is available at all online retailers. Print versions coming in 2016. To take advantage of the 99 cent pre-release sale go to Amazon (link will work for all countries). Your copy of Marred will automatically be delivered on Wednesday, November 11th. Thank you!

Eliza:  Thank you, Sue, and here's to a fabulous launch of Marred and continued success with all of your projects.



Eliza Cross is the author of nine nonfiction books including her latest, 101 Things To Do With Beans. She blogs at HappySimpleLiving.com and ButteryChardonnay.com and is the founder of the bacon enthusiast society BENSA, which—unlike Mensa—welcomes members of all intelligence levels. She is currently working on a book about cooking with beer.