Sunday, December 24, 2017

My interview with ROMANCING THE BOOK

Regarding the January 1st release of "THE ADVENTURES OF DRAGOS AND HOLMES" on Amazon, here is a portion of my upcoming interview with ROMANCING THE BOOK, to appear on their site on February 2. I'll provide the link later.  Meanwhile, you can preorder it here.

Are you a plotter or pantser?
As impulsively as I have lived my life, and as much as I have always trusted my intuition, when it comes to writing I’ve turned into a downright methodical plotter. I lay the book out chapter by chapter and scene by scene on Scrivener (which I now could not live without!). I write brief descriptions of the action and notes about the comings and goings of characters in each and every scene, even if it is only a sentence or two, all the way through to the end. Then I go back and fill in more information, looking it over carefully for structural problems that I want to fix early, before they get harder to find behind too many words. I print it out in this skeletal stage, and go to a cafĂ© to drink strong shots of expresso, marking the physical copy with various colored markers. I’m looking for plot points that were left dangling or need reordering, or researched more thoroughly. My writing professors drilled into my head that a good writer takes the hand of his or her reader and leads them through the plot at a reasonable pace, making sure that “red herrings” not withstanding, they never feel abandoned or confused. Once I am confident that I am not going to be embarrassed later by structural missteps, I can relax and let my creativity flow.

Do you have a writing routine? I work about six hours a day, sometimes more, in two sessions: between 9 and 2, and then again after dinner. When my brain announces it is dead for the day, I turn to Netflix, where I am currently binge-watching “The Crown.” I usually keep my writing schedule seven days a week, but in my project completion projection on Scrivener I give myself the option to work only six days. Right now Scrivener tells me I must complete 960 words per day to finish the next book on schedule. No problem!

What kind of research did you do for this book? I read at least forty books, maybe more, before I got very far into writing Dragos & Holmes. I wanted my research on Victorian London, shipping routes, sailing ships, communication (telegrams and mail delivery), and many other details to be resident in my brain so that I didn’t have to pause in my writing to look something up. I had a map of Victorian London embedded in my memory, as well as the major European ports and rail lines. As further research on small details became necessary, I tried to bunch it all up so that I could spend a day doing nothing but research, and then go back to writing. Looking things up as I write can easily send me down a fascinating rabbit hole from which I may not emerge for hours!

As I start the sequel, I am following the same procedure to bone up on New York City in 1895, where Dragos and Holmes will spend the first two episodes rescuing a child and finding a serial killer whose weapon of choice is aconite poison.

At the moment I am reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr, a very badly written (but informative) book that is an instructive example of how not to write historical fiction. Critics have called it “flabby with historical detail.” To me, it read like a high school essay on New York City history with a plot and stiffly drawn characters stuck in around the edges—a cautionary tale for all writers of historical romance.

What writers have influenced you? From a very young age I have been drawn to expansive romance-adventures written by masters like Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo), Miguel Cervantes (Don Quixote), Voltaire (Candide), Lord Byron (Don Juan) and Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn).

What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books? I wrote a book many years ago, called “Hair Suit,” which I just revised and republished as “Her Perilous Journey.” Two years after the early edition appeared, a very long, complimentary review appeared on an early internet review site, in which the reader concluded that I must have left the country, or even committed suicide, because I had never followed up with another book. I had led such a perilous life, he said, and seemed so determined to gain experience no matter the personal risk or the foolhardiness of my choices, that exile or suicide were the most logical explanations for my “disappearing.” I wanted to find the gentleman and tell him I had only been distracted from writing by husbands and children and was still quite alive and writing again. But he signed his review, “anonymous.”

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