I recently interviewed former Murder, She Wrote head writer Thomas B. Sawyer. If you haven’t watched that interview, go check it out. Among the many topics we discussed, we talked about his new book, The Art of the Real Tom Sawyer. Below is my video review of this book, so you can see what’s inside. Enjoy!Continue reading
Tag Archives: Author Interview
Book Review — Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Murder, She Wrote author Terrie Farley Moran. Her latest novel starring Jessica Fletcher is Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle. Below is my review of this book.Continue reading
Murder, She Wrote Author Interview: Terrie Farley Moran
Terrie Farley Moran is the co-writer, with Jessica Fletcher, of the fabulous Murder, She Wrote mystery novels based on the long-running television series. Her newest book is Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle. I had the pleasure of interviewing Terrie, and during our discussion, she revealed big news: the title of the next Murder, She Wrote book! Watch the entire video interview below to find out what the title is. During our discussion, Terrie shared insights on how she got this incredible gig, her thoughts on Angela Lansbury, her creative process, and much more. Enjoy!Continue reading
Murder, She Wrote Head Writer Discusses Angela Lansbury & Stan Lee
Thomas B. Sawyer is the former Head Writer of Murder, She Wrote. Before breaking into television, he was an illustrator and worked for Stan Lee at Marvel. Tom is a good friend, and I had the chance to catch up with him to discuss his diverse career as an artist, TV writer, and author. We talked about what it was like writing for Angela Lansbury in her iconic role as Jessica Fletcher, the early days of the comic book industry, and much more. Watch my video interview with Tom below and pick up a copy of The Art of the REAL Tom Sawyer, a book celebrating his career as an illustrator. Enjoy!Continue reading
Clive Barker Imajica Interview: Connie Martinson Talks Books
On February 2, 1992, Clive Barker was interviewed by Connie Martinson about his book Imagica. You can watch the full interview below.Continue reading
A Conversation With Barry Manilow
Barry Manilow is my all-time favorite musician. He’s a Grammy, Tony and Emmy award-winning icon who has 50 Top 40 hits, including 12 #1 singles and more than 85 million albums sold worldwide. With credentials like this, it’s no wonder Barry Manilow is the #1 Adult Contemporary Artist of all time, according to Billboard and R&R magazines, and that Rolling Stone referred to him as “the showman of our generation.” Simply put, he’s fantastic, and I’ve wanted to interview him for the past three years. Yesterday, that dream came true. Barry and I discussed his new album, This is My Town: Songs of New York, which is available April 21, his nearly-40-year relationship with his husband Garry Kief and much more. I hope you enjoy reading this interview. And don’t forget to pick up Barry’s new album – it’s spectacular!
Author Interview: Steven James
I met Steven James at ThrillerFest VIII. In addition to seeing him moderate several panels, I attended his workshop on organic writing and was very impressed. Following the conference, I read Placebo, his first book in the Jevin Banks series, and I’m currently reading his newest novel, Singularity, the follow-up to the aforementioned title. Below is my interview with Steven James; I hope you enjoy it. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Singularity – it’s a great read.
Your newest novel, Singularity, is receiving even better reviews than the first book in the Jevin Banks series, Placebo. For those that have yet to read it, what’s the premise of Singularity and what inspired it?
Jevin Banks, one of the world’s greatest illusionists and escape artists, ends up stumbling onto a sweeping conspiracy while looking into the suspicious death of one of his friends. As far as what inspired the story, I’d say a growing interest that I have in emerging technology and the uncharted waters it’s taking us into.
Do you write a specific amount of words every day, and how do you keep stay motivated to stick to your timeline?
That’s a good question. I find that when I go by word count I get easily discouraged since I might fly and write several thousand words one day and then the next day delete everything I worked so hard on. Typically, I go by time. I set a certain number of actual manuscript hours that I would like to work in a given day and then as I write I keep a timer and take scheduled breaks, but keep track of the time down to the second (I know, it’s a bit fanatical, but it keeps me on track).
Some writers have said they barely edit their work while others put their drafts through several revisions. How do you handle the editing process?
There are very few people who can pull off writing great stories with very little editing and revising. I’ve read some of the work of people who say they barely edit their work and, honestly, you can tell. Personally, I go through a lot of drafts (with Placebo, I went through the prologue at least fifty times tweaking it until I was happy with it).
For fans that haven’t read your work, how does the Jevin Banks series differ from your bestselling Bowers Files books, and do you prefer one over the other?
Ah, so you’re going to make me choose between my children, are you? Well, the Bowers books are more police procedurals, darker, more suspense than anything else. The Banks books are a little more light-hearted and conspiracy/science thrillers.
Speaking of Patrick Bowers, what’s next for the FBI Special Agent?
I’m currently working on Checkmate, the eighth and final book in the chess series. After that, we’ll see what happens. I’m nowhere near running out of ideas for Patrick’s storylines.
One of the characters from your Jevin Banks novels is Charlene Antioch. Did you choose her last name, Antioch, because it means the “cradle of Christianity”? Additionally, what inspires other character names in your Bowers and Banks books?
Huh, I had no idea about that meaning. I don’t choose names that have hidden messages in them because because I don’t want anything to get between my readers and my stories. Decoding what different names might mean would be a distraction for readers. Instead, I just choose names that sound cool to me. Now my secret is out. But I shouldn’t admit that, should I? Yes, there is a master plan at work. I just don’t know what it is yet.
Do you use any tools like Scrivener or Scapple while writing? What are your thoughts on software designed for authors?
It’s funny you should ask that. I do use both of them—mainly Scrivener. I don’t think I could write a novel without it. I’ve abandoned Word and Pages, they’re just too slow and the features don’t help me with a big, complex project like a novel.
Kurt Vonnegut once shared the following piece of writing advice:
“First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
Some writers, like Vonnegut, despise semicolons while others think they’re perfectly acceptable. What are your thoughts on this never-ending debate?
I avoid them, but you will find a few in my books if the pace, flow and context call for them. My editor seems to like them and it’s a back and forth thing of me deleting all the ones she adds. I have a friend who says before you write you need to perform a semicolonoscopy on your writing.
Your stories are filled with characters and multiple plots. Since you’re an organic writer that doesn’t plot everything out ahead of time, how do you keep track of what’s going on while writing a story?
I find myself reviewing the story from the beginning—not necessarily reading through it all, but at least trying to keep the context in my mind as I write. I’m a big believer in context determining content and it boggles my mind that people can write a book without that constant scrutiny of what is happening in the story and what that means for the direction of the narrative.
Your Jevin Banks novels feature a considerable amount of scientific information. Do you gather this information prior to writing? When it comes to this information, how do you know when you’ve struck a healthy balance of showing and telling?
I had to do a ton of research for this novel on transhumanism, the hypothetical singularity, robotics and cybernetics, consciousness and nanotechnology. As you mention, it’s always a balance. As I edited the book if I found myself getting bored, I knew that readers would as well. When I was working on Placebo I needed to research quantum mechanics. Talk about confusing. I finally realized I knew as much as I needed to about physics to write my book. I think I included maybe one page of explanation in the final draft. So, you can over-research stuff. Most of the time the best bet is just sitting your butt down and writing.
In May 2014 you have an instructive book for writers coming out called Story Trumps Structure. Can you give us a preview of what’s inside?
Too many writers straightjacket their novels by trying to follow a certain structure—three acts or plot outlines and so on. That stuff can so easily get in the way of telling a great story. I couldn’t find any books that talked through how to break the rules to tell unforgettable fiction, so I decided to write one.
What made you decide to pursue an M.A. in storytelling and would you recommend other aspiring writers do the same?
At the time, I was doing a lot of speaking and working as a family entertainer. It was helpful to learn stage presence, how to come up with stories and tell them orally. Looking back would I do it again? I’m not sure. I think getting an M.A. in any creative writing field can be a big waste of time and money. We learn best by writing. I’d tell aspiring writers to read the books on writing craft that are out there, check out Writer’s Digest magazine, and write. That’s where the education happens. That’s how you become a writer.
At ThrillerFest VIII you moderated numerous panels and gave a presentation on organic writing. What did you enjoy most about the conference?
I’d say the organic storytelling workshop. It’s just so different from so many of the other seminars on plotting out your novels and following a certain structure and template that it was fun to get the word out there on how to write organically. It rocked the boat a little bit and that’s always a good thing.
When you’re not writing, what genres and authors do you enjoy reading?
I tend to go against the common advice that’s out there in which published authors tell aspiring writers to write in the genre they read. I read some thrillers, but for the most part I avoid them so that my writing doesn’t subconsciously mirror the writing or plot lines of other authors. I read books on the craft of writing as well as poetry and philosophy. When I have time I might pick up a literary novel. I wish I had more time to read recreationally, but I’m pretty consumed in my own projects and don’t get out of my writing corner in my basement much—either mentally or physically.
Did you have any mentors that helped you cut your teeth in the writing industry? If so, what were the most important lessons they taught you?
I had an editor fifteen years ago who called me a writer. I’d had a few things published, but no books. When he said that to me I told him, “No I’m not.” But he looked me in the eye and said, “Yes. You are.” That encouraged me and kept me going. Advice? Well, he once told me not to fall in love with my first draft and I’ve found that to be some of the most advice for my fiction.
Author Interview: Taylor Stevens
Taylor Stevens is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author whose debut novel, The Informationist, took the literary world by storm in 2011. Since then, she’s published two more novels starring the popular protagonist Vanessa Michael Munroe: The Innocent and The Doll. I had the pleasure of meeting Taylor at ThrillerFest VIII in July, and she was kind enough to grant me the interview below. I hope you enjoy it.
You grew up in a communal apocalyptic cult where, as a teenager, you entertained the children with stories. What inspired these stories and did you use them as a way to briefly “escape” your dire surroundings?
Imagination was very much an escape mechanism. We didn’t have access to the outside world, so basically no novels, no television, no outside music and very, very few pre-screened movies. We spent a lot of time doing mundane manual labor—washing laundry, cooking, taking care of younger children—or out on the streets begging and that often meant considerable hours getting to/from our begging spots with nothing to keep our minds engaged in-between. Telling stories turned me in into the de facto entertainment and that’s pretty much how it started.
You’ve said that your scholastic education stopped at the age of 12 when you were separated from your parents. Having met you and read your books, I can say, without a doubt, that you’re a very intelligent woman. How did you go about catching up on those lost years of learning after you broke free from the cult in your 20s?
For some things, I still haven’t. There’s a huge difference between intelligence and education and although I’m very fortunate that I have the ability to self-teach through absorption, there are some things that I’m resigned to never grasping. For example, since math for me stopped when I was around 11, I still struggle desperately with math concepts. Math is one of those things that you can’t just skip three years and pick up where you left off by reading a few books. Even though I understand everyday mathematical concepts well enough to, say, manage money, I’m so bad at math in general that even using a calculator I still have to add numbers three times just to be sure I get the same answer twice. I read a lot—I’ve read so many text books cover-to-cover—that in many subjects you could say I’m better read than many people who’ve gone to college. But it’s splotchy and not exactly an “education” in the strictest sense. I couldn’t put it on a resume. I’m still kind of screwed in that regard if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out.
Being a mother, I’m sure finding time to write must be hard. How do you overcome this challenge and do you set out to type a specific number of words every day?
I do have to juggle around their needs and there are times when this is easier said than done, but it’s far easier now than it used to be when they were pre-school and kindergarten ages. There are also chunks of time, for example during research and promotion—which in my case often means having to travel—as well as key points when contributing to a manuscript in its journey through the production pipeline, that it’s just not possible for me to put new words on a page. My goal, when I’m actually writing, is 1000 words per day, 6 days per week. I don’t always hit it, but that’s the goal.
The Informationist, your debut novel, was a bestseller that was well received by the public and critics alike. How did it feel when James Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm Entertainment, picked up the film rights? And will you play an active role in the development of the screenplay?
That was an incredibly surreal experience. I believe the exact words out of my mouth when my film agent gave me the news were, “I’m sorry. I don’t think I heard you right. Do you mean James Cameron as in “Titanic” James Cameron?” Whether or not The Informationist actually gets turned into a movie still remains to be seen. Last I heard he was working on Avatar 2, 3 AND 4. That’s a long wait. Generally speaking authors have no input on any aspect of movie making. There are exceptions—I expect if I wrote Twilight or Harry Potter things would be different—but I really respect James Cameron as a film maker and love what he’s done with the female characters in his films. I trust him and am just as eager as my fans to see what he does with Michael Munroe.
Do you draft an outline before sitting down to write a book or do you start with an idea and see where it takes you?
I’ve done it both ways. With The Informationist it was very much by the seat of my pants and it was probably more of a surprise to me how the story unfolded than it was for my readers. Vanessa Michael Munroe as a character was definitely a by-product of pantsing, because I certainly didn’t have her figured out before I started writing. But it also took me roughly three years to write The Informationist. Granted, it wasn’t my full-time job, but still. I do outline now. This came about as a matter of desperation—I didn’t know if I could write another book, and I had to prove it to myself by first telling myself the story. But what I found from doing that was that I could write a whole lot faster when I knew what was happening before I actually began.
As it is now, because I work on such tight deadlines, I can’t afford to spend a month or more writing in one direction only to find out it didn’t work and have to go back and start again so I have turned into an outliner. I have heard of some authors making copious notes, writing out family histories for the characters and such, but I have never done that. My outlines are something closer to simply talking out the story to myself, a “tell don’t show” proposition that runs into about thirty pages. Once the writing begins, those thirty pages will turn into about 500 or so, which will be cut down to around 450 and that will turn into a 320-page book, give or take.
My favorite book of yours is The Innocent because the subject matter was fascinating and it featured great emotional depth. Clearly, this was inspired by your experience growing up in a cult. Was writing this novel a cathartic experience for you?
I actually get this question quite often and it always makes me smile. Drawing directly on my background wasn’t necessarily easy, but I’d long come to terms with and already made my peace with what happened growing up—I don’t think I could have produced the book otherwise. Mostly, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to showcase more of Vanessa Michael Munroe’s skill and badassery while at the same time offering readers access to a firsthand account of cult life that most thriller writers don’t have. If there was any part of the experience that was cathartic, it was in finally being able to give a voice to the hundreds and thousands of kids who were raised like me—to raise awareness of the issues and prejudices we face. There is so much misunderstanding and judgment against us simply because of where we were born and how we were raised, choices that were made by our parents, not us. Our story has been hijacked by the cult, by the media, by sociologists, by basically everyone. It was fantastically satisfying to finally have our story told from our point of view—not some twisted version put out for ratings and sensationalism.
What do you find most satisfying about being an author?
Every day I wake up grateful that I get to do what I do for a living. I consider each additional book to be a stay of execution which allows me, for one more year, to still get to plan my own schedule, spend hours alone in relative quiet, and be able to be available to my children whenever they need me. I’m completely ruined for real life. I don’t know that I could ever hold a corporate job—not that I couldn’t do the work, I just don’t think I could handle the lifestyle that comes with it.
In The Doll, you wrote the following line:
“Munroe focused on the ground, processing. He’d given her what she needed to know, and she in turn had scattered seed that might lay fallow or might, if she was lucky, eventually sprout into saplings strong enough to split the hardened topsoil that kept him as the Doll Maker’s doer.”
As far as I’m concerned, you’re one of the most talented authors when it comes to metaphor usage and this sentence is a perfect example. Do you spend a lot of time coming up with these or do they organically flow out of your writing?
Wow, thanks for the compliment. I’m blushing. My understanding of grammar is still stuck in 5th grade and 5th grade was a long, long time ago so, if you asked me to explain what a metaphor is, I’d probably just give you a blank look. Most of what I write just comes from instinct, from trying to translate emotion and feeling into words that make sense to other people, and then attempting to craft those words with as little corniness and as few reading hiccups as possible.
What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
The initial draft, for sure. This is where the actual scenes are fleshed out, the characters are built, and the plot is intertwined. It’s torture. When it comes to the nitty-gritty: action sequences are the hardest, especially when they involve multiple characters. Conversations are the most fun and go the fastest—that’s when the characters get to come alive and their conflicts play against each other.
Oscar Madison once said, “I don’t like writing. I like having written.” Do you identify with this sentiment or do you enjoy the writing process from start to finish?
Oh, yes, I absolutely identify with that sentiment. So many authors have been credited with that quote, and I’ve heard it used by so many friends, that I’m beginning to suspect it must be a universal truth among writers. Personally, I’m not really what I’d consider a “creative.” I’m far more comfortable with things like spreadsheets and data entry than crafting people and places and lifetimes out of nothing. It’s one thing to be able to make up a story with words, using broad brush strokes, and another entirely to bleed it out on paper in excruciating detail, so for me, developing the first layers of writing a book is incredibly difficult. Editing and re-writing after the initial creative work is finished is much easier and, since that’s the part of writing that makes a crappy story readable, that has worked out pretty well for me so far.
You just completed your fourth Vanessa Michael Munroe book, The Catch. What’s the story’s premise and in what countries is it taking place?
In The Catch, Munroe is headed back to Africa, this time to the north and east where she gets tangled up with a hijacked ship. Readers will have an opportunity to watch how she operates when she ends up in unfamiliar territory where she’s on her own and where she has no prior contacts or connections. And this time—unlike The Doll which entwined two timelines, two casts of characters, and two different plots—there is only one plot and one point of view. In The Catch, it’s pure Vanessa Michael Munroe, all the way.
Author Interview: M.J. Rose
M.J. Rose is an international bestselling author of 13 novels and a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers (ITW). I had the pleasure of meeting her at ITW’s ThrillerFest this summer. Her latest novel is Seduction, which I’ll be reviewing soon, and below is my interview with the author. Enjoy!
When did you first discover your ability to write, and did you always aspire to be an author?
I wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I always loved to read though. I think wanting to be a writer just snuck up on me. I don’t actually remember when I knew. As for the first part of your questions – I’m still trying to find my ability to write … I’m more comfortable coming up with ideas than actually writing.
How did you get into advertising, and how has it influenced your career as a writer?
My grandfather was in advertising and at my Dad’s company he was the one who worked with the ad agency. It was always in my blood. Then in college I started taking graphic design classes – which I loved as much as painting – and was much better at. My first job was at a very small ad agency where I wrote the copy and did the design, and I realized after a year I liked the writing better.
You wrote the first self-published book to be picked up by a New York publishing house, Lip Service. What was this process like, and how did you feel when a traditional publisher wanted the book?
I didn’t set out to do that. I got tired of my agent telling me that publishers loved my book but couldn’t figure out how to market it. So I told her I’d put it online and market it (since I was in advertising) and once I had a campaign that worked she could show the publishers how I did it. It was during that effort that The Doubleday Bookclub and Literary Guild discovered Lip Service on line and wrote me and offered to publish it as one of their featured alternates. That was about 6 months after I’d started my experiment. I was convinced it was a friend playing a joke on me.
Do you write every day? If so, how do you avoid distractions and do you set goals for yourself when it comes to the number of words or pages?
At different times in the course of writing a novel I work different ways. The first three to four months of a book, when I’m formulating and researching and planning, I don’t write at all except to take notes. I walk around a lot thinking and calling a few great friends with panicked phone calls about how this idea is most boring book in the world.
Once I start writing the first draft, I write 1,500-2,500 words a day, 5 or 6 days a week, first thing in the morning at 6:30. When I start on the second draft I’m happy – I love editing. I keep up that same pace – working 5-6 days a week but in less of white heat.
As was discussed at length at ThrillerFest, some authors are plotters while others are pantsers. Do you draft an outline before sitting down to write a novel or do you have a rough idea of what you want to say and let the story unfold one page at a time?
I do a bit of both. I can’t over-plot or I’d be too bored to ever write the story but I do a lot of research and need to know quite a lot about the characters and have a list of the top 10 to 15 main scenes and the end before I start.
You wrote a book called What To Do Before Your Book Launch with Randy Susan Meyers that provides writers with information on how to be successful, and your company, AuthorBuzz helps authors market their books. What was the inspiration for this book and service?
When I first got published in 1999, it was a very different world. Authors wrote and publishers published. And a lot of opportunity was falling through the cracks. Together with a wonderful author and one of my closest friends, Douglas Clegg, I wrote a book and started teaching classes called Buzz Your Book. In 2005, that lead to my opening the first marketing firm expressly to help authors (but we work with publishers too). And then last year, Randy and I both realized we’d each written a lot of blog posts that would make an interesting workbook and put What To Do Before Your Book Launch together.
Have you had any authors serve as mentors during your career as a writer?
I was in advertising during the years I was writing my first few books and didn’t know any other authors and so never had a mentor. But I have been very lucky to have a group of amazing friends who are amazing writers and I have learned so much about the craft of writing and story telling from them.
Your newest novel, Seduction, features Victor Hugo. Has his work inspired yours, and was it a challenge working a historical figure into a novel?
I was always in awe of Hugo and yes, I found his work inspiring but on a grand scale I don’t think I’m at all capable of. As for Seduction I came up with the idea for the book without quite realizing that I’d have to write in his voice. And when it came time to start, I panicked and almost bailed. What hubris! I gave up three times. It was when my agent suggested I read his letters to his friends and family that I might get past the genius thing. Sure enough the letters weren’t as intimidating as his fiction and I started thinking I might pull it off. But it wasn’t until I started writing with a fountain pen and on paper – the way Hugo wrote – that I finally was able to begin. I wrote the whole book – 120,000 words – by hand.
Seduction features two storylines and two time periods. How do you go about keeping the reader emotionally invested in both storylines while advancing the plot at the same time?
As a reader I get bored easily – so I try to keep myself emotionally invested. I figure if I can keep myself excited and I know the story, I might have a shot with the readers.
Some authors dread research while other relish it. When it’s necessary, how do you go about conducting research and do you enjoy it?
I love it. So much so that sometimes I think that I write as an excuse to do the research. In fact I have to force myself to stop.
Do you have any exciting new projects you’re working on?
Yes, I’m starting a new book Sept 1 and it’s a bit different and a big challenge.
Author Interview: Donald Bain
I had the pleasure of meeting Donald Bain after he participated in a panel at this year’s ThrillerFest. For the uninitiated, he’s the author of more than 115 books, many of which have been bestsellers. Bain is most famous for being the author of the long-running Murder, She Wrote series. If you’re a fan of the show or just enjoy a good mystery, I highly recommend that you read these novels – they’re good, clean fun.
Below is my interview with the author; I hope you enjoy it.
In your memoir, Murder, HE Wrote, you stated, “I never wanted to be a writer.” What did you want to be, and how did you wind up becoming a writer?
I was headed for a career in broadcasting. I received Purdue University’s top award for my work on the university’s educational radio and TV stations, and intended to seek a job with a radio or TV station after fulfilling my three-year Air Force commitment (I was ROTC at Purdue). I ended up being officer-in-charge of the Armed Forces Radio and TV stations in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Following that I was the base PR officer in Amarillo, Texas, where I worked in my spare time as a DJ at a radio station. Upon being discharged I stayed in Amarillo and was an on-air personality at the ABC TV station, and continued to work in radio along with owning a piece of a nightclub where I led a jazz quintet.
I married and returned to New York, taking various jobs until my cousin, Jack Pearl, a prolific writer, got me magazine assignments. He also introduced me to an editor at a major publishing company who gave me an assignment to ghostwrite the history of stock car racing. That led to another book, Coffee, Tea or Me? and I became a writer despite my intentions to not be one.
You’ve been writing the Murder, She Wrote novels for many years. How did this opportunity come about? And did you think it would last this long?
I’d been ghostwriting DC-based murder mysteries for a well-known person when a publisher approached my agent to see if I’d be interested in writing a novel using characters from the popular TV show, Murder, She Wrote. I took the assignment and here I am 25 years later starting the 42nd book in the series. I never dreamed it would last this long.
How do you keep track of everything your characters have done since the inception of the Murder, She Wrote series?
With great difficulty. Fans of the TV show and of the series of novels have a much better grasp of the characters and events than my wife and I do (we’ve been collaborating on the series for quite a while).
You’ve ghostwritten many books over the years. Do you have any favorites among them, and how does the experience differ from being a named author?
Ghostwriting demands being sensitive to the “voice” of the person for whom I’m ghosting, and precludes me, to a great extent, from using my own voice. I’m especially proud of the 26 books in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series. Since her death, the novels contain my byline, which frees me up to out more of me in the books.
Speaking of favorites, at ThrillerFest you told me you really enjoyed writing The Queen’s Jewels. What other Murder, She Wrote books are among your favorites?
The Queen’s Jewels takes place on the Queen Mary Two, a magnificent vessel and a wonderful background for the story. I also enjoyed writing Murder on the QE2, another splendid ship. Trick or Treachery is a favorite because of the way the novel ends, and The Highland Fling Murders took me back to my family’s origins in Scotland. But every book in the series has something about it that pleased me.
Do you plot out your books ahead of time, from start to finish, or do you just start and see where the story takes you?
My wife, Renée, and I come up with a rough outline before starting writing, but it changes as the characters assume lives of their own and take the story in different directions.
How have you managed to keep the Murder, She Wrote series fresh over the past 20 years?
Having Jessica Fletcher travel help keep things fresh and new. Locations provide not only changing backdrops for the tales, they can become characters of their own. And having Jessica do things that the reader doesn’t expect of her also helps.
Do you aim to write a specific amount of words every day, and for how long do you write?
I used to aim for 10 pages a day, then start the next day rewriting those pages. I tend to write fewer pages each day now. What’s important to me is not allowing a day to pass without writing something.
Years ago you were an award-winning public relations executive. How did your writing and experiences in that field help you as an author?
I’m not sure that it did help me as an author, at least not the writing aspect of it. What I loved about PR was that it demanded that you develop a sense of what the public wanted and to come up with ways to satisfy those needs. It also brought me into contact with a wide variety of people and situations, each providing a learning experience.
In your free time, what kind of books do you like to read?
I don’t read much fiction when I’m writing a book, but I do read a number of non-fiction books that bear upon whatever it is that I’m writing at the moment. During those rare times when I’m between writing books I enjoy spy novels (good ones), and reading murder mysteries by those writers who I consider to be at the top of their game.
How has it been collaborating with your wife on the Murder, She Wrote series?
It’s a joy collaborating with Renée on the Murder, She Wrote series. She’s a really good writer who brings a dimension to the series that makes it better. She also provides a woman’s perception that gives the female characters more depth.
What are you working on now, and what’s next for Jessica Fletcher?
We’ve just completed Aloha Betrayed and have sent it to the publisher. At the moment we’re working on the storyline for the next book, which will take place in Cabot Cove and has high school football as a background. The working title is Deadly Rivalry.