I’ve done this once before, with pretty much the same luck: no one to pass it along to. But Alice White asked me to take part in it, so I thought I’d give it another go. At least it gives me something to write about this week, if nothing else lol.
Seriously, it’s kinda interesting to do this again. I took part in my first blog tour back in March, and it’s gonna be interesting to see how the answers have changed. If they have. In some ways, I think you’ll find they haven’t. On the other hand, there have been some changes, though I wouldn’t say they’re monumental in any way.
Read on and see what I mean.
What am I working on?
In my original answer for this question, I talked about how I was working on A Temporary Thing, the first novel in my Rural Empires series. Well, in an interesting turn, this story will now be going back to what it was originally intended to be: a novella, or perhaps a really short novel of 50,000 words or so that will be given away as a free eBook for promotional purposes, leading up to the release of the actual first novel of the Rural Empires series.
So, I’m gonna sit down and restructure both A Temporary Thing and Startup. In fact, I’m giving serious thought to dropping a couple of characters, or at least one, that I’m having trouble fitting in in a convincing way (at least to me). But who knows what I’ll do at this point?
I just finished a short story called “Cleanup Detail” that was inspired by the Michael Mann movie Collateral (if you haven’t seen it, do so, even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like Tom Cruise; it’s an excellent movie, and he plays the part perfectly). My story has a twist ending, though.
I’ve also gotten a slow start on a novel with the working title Witnesses that is a coming of age story, this time inspired by the Stephen King novella The Body, basis for the movie Stand By Me. Ever since I read that story I’ve wanted to do my own version of it to see if I could recapture the seventies I grew up in, and I think I finally hit on a plot that’ll let me do that. Stay tuned.
Beyond that, I’m working on at least two websites at any given time, and mulling over WIPs (and future WIPs) when I have time to do so.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t think my answer to this one has changed much.
First, there’s the humor. While I don’t intentionally inject humor in my stories (and not all of them have humor in them), it seems to work its way in nonetheless. The reason for this is simple: how many times have you been confronted with a stressful situation of some kind—whether it be the passing of a family member, financial catastrophe, or what have you—and at some point you, or somebody involved in the situation, has made a joke?
It’s a normal thing. We use it for stress relief, if nothing else. Sometimes those jokes come at what seem to be inappropriate times. You’re supposed to be grieving for a beloved family member, but you make a joke about something, maybe the flowers, or the dress someone wore to the funeral (“She looked more like she should be standing on a street corner than sitting in a funeral home.”). And I’m sure we’ve all heard of gallows humor or trench humor. Combat vets can tell you about the black jokes that get told in the heat of conflict.
I put my characters in stressful situations, and since every character a writer creates is an extension of the writer in some way, my characters often react with humor, even if it is very dark humor. And some, like Lyle, are smartasses anyway. Lyle tends to be sarcastic when confronted with bad luck, and he uses humor to break the tension—or at least try to—in bad situations. Many of my other characters are the same way.
And, again, I don’t write about Mafia dons or cartel leaders, at least not as main characters. My people tend to be a lot lower on the totem pole, the guys who could usually make better money if they got a job at McDonald’s, but something in their mental makeup precludes that. They have to live the lifestyle they lead or they get restless. They’re basically compelled to live life on the wrong side of the law, either because there’s something different there, or just missing altogether.
Why do I write what I do?
I’m gonna leave this answer just the same as it was last time. Not because I’m lazy, but because it hasn’t changed.
Because the criminal world has always fascinated me. Why do these folks do what they do? What motivates them? They know their lives will likely be short and violent, so why not do like the rest of us and get a normal job?
I tried for years to write science fiction and fantasy and, as much as I still love those genres from a reading standpoint, I can’t write them. I lose patience with all the world building that’s required because I can’t seem to come up with something new and original, at least not in my opinion. I did manage to finish a couple of fantasies back in the nineties, but they’d take considerable reworking for me to let them see the light of day. And it’s something I’m considering, since the main character was a bounty hunter. Crime fantasy, anyone? We’ll have to see.
How does your writing process work?
Ditto for this one. I still work the same way, though perhaps I’ve come to do a slight—heavy, heavy emphasis on that word—bit of outlining since my original answer. And I have in mind a novel that will involve either a cop or a private eye, and it’ll be a mystery, so I might have to at least outline the placement of clues in that one. My previous answer begins in the next paragraph.
I’m a pantser. By that, I mean I write seat of the pants. I get an idea and mull it over. If it sticks with me, I’ll eventually write it. If it burns in my brain, I’ll write it soon as possible.
But I don’t outline. I tried that one time with a space opera. Used the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing idea and adapted it to my own method. Me and a friend brainstormed over the course of several weekends, putting everything in order and writing down two- and three-sentence synopses of the individual scenes. You know, sorta like an elevator pitch, except we did it scene by scene.
I suspect two problems caused that project to die out. The first is that it wasn’t all mine. Several of the ideas came from my friend, enough so that I would have felt better calling it a co-authored work. But the other was that I knew how it ended. In detail.
When I work, I have a general idea of where I’m going, but I don’t dictate ahead of time how I’m going to get there. And I might not arrive at the end-point in quite the way I originally envisioned. I keep a file of notes for each novel, jotting them down in a notebook and then transferring them to computer, but a lot of those ideas end up falling by the wayside. The main point of them is to get the creative process working.
I have to write a novel as if I’m reading it, and I like that because I often end up getting surprised along the way. If I get surprised, it’s hoped that means the reader will too. It keeps me interested in the book and lets me finish it, rather than losing interest because it’s all mapped out and done already.
As for that eternal question all writers get asked—where do you get your ideas?—the one that’s part of the writing process, I’m a crime fiction writer. I get my ideas by paying attention to the news, for the most part. Or learning about real-life criminals. Spree is, in essence, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. I write a novel to answer a question. In this case it was: could a couple of people get away with a thirties-style crime spree today? I wrote the novel to see if they could pull it off.
And that’s basically it. Hope you enjoyed it.