Here are a few of the questions I’m asked most frequently…
Where do you get your ideas?
I’ve just always had them. I don’t know what you all were daydreaming about in school, but I always had a storyline running in my head. It was just a few years ago that I learned nope, not everyone has them. Hmm. Makes me glad I’m a writer. Otherwise those storylines might be mistaken for hallucinations, and I’d have to spend my days heavily medicated. (Which some days doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.)
Anything can spark an idea. A song lyric, a scene in a movie, a news story. Then I just play the ‘what if’ game until a story unfolds.
How did you get started writing?
I began writing out of sheer desperation. Always an avid reader, I’d found that my favorite authors just couldn’t write fast enough to keep me in reading material. Someday if you twist my arm and buy me very strong margaritas, I might be convinced to share my whole embarrassing road to publication story. The short version is that my second manuscript sold first, and then a few months later my first manuscript was bought, too, after it had undergone several major surgeries.
So…are all those scenes from personal experience?
I assume you’re talking about the love scenes, not the murder scenes. If so…no. But my husband lives in hope.
Do you have any hobbies?
That requires free time, yes? Ah, I’ve heard of the concept! When time allows, I enjoy reading, flower gardening, traveling, hanging out with family and friends, and exercising (yes, really!) Oh, and dreaming up new ways to kill and maim my characters, which seems a harmless enough pastime. Some people golf. Now there’s a dangerous hobby. All those swinging clubs and small speeding objects. Someone could lose an eye.
Does the suspense in your books reflect your life?
Well, my husband lives in suspense daily about whether he’s going to get fed or not. Does that count?
Do the Mindhunter books have to be read in order?
No, they’re all stand-alone novels, connected by the agency the characters work for. The Circle of Evil trilogy would be best read in order, however.
How long does it take you to write a book?
As long as they give me. You know what they say: hard work pays off in the long run, but procrastination pays off now. I need deadlines to structure my writing time, and then I’m very disciplined about sticking to schedule and writing as fast as I need to in order to finish the book by deadline.
Does the murder and mayhem in your books make your husband nervous?
No, but the research books in my office do.
What’s a typical writing day like for you?
I get up and exercise for a couple hours since I’m going to be spending the rest of the day with my butt glued to the chair. Then I spend a while distracting myself online. Finally I open my wip and edit the previous chapter. I write ten pages a day, which might take me three hours, or all day and evening, depending on how distracted I get by Facebook. But I don’t stop until I have the pages done.
How would your family describe you?
Oh, let’s not ask them. My kids would say she thinks she’s funny. (I am.) She’s a pretty good cook. (How sad that they think so.) She writes porn. (I told you not to ask them.) My husband would say she’s a lot more fun on vacation. (Also true.)
Which is your favorite book?
Whichever one I just finished.
Can you describe your writing process?
I’m definitely not an outliner, but I find the term pantser demeaning. My process is like writing in the mist. All the signposts are there for my plotting journey, but the way to each is a bit foggy. When I begin, I have the overall suspense plot in mind. I know my characters and their backgrounds. I figure there are going to be dead bodies, but I don’t necessarily know who. I usually know who the villain is, but that’s changed a time or two. I have ideas for a few specific scenes, and that’s about it. I like to be surprised when I’m writing, and oddly enough my process rarely leads to me having to scrap or rewrite scenes. I credit a sub-conscious zombie muse who keeps all the threads connected for me.
The first couple hundred pages take the majority of my time. I can write the last hundred in two or three days.
I’m a ruthless self-editor (a habit I can’t seem to break), so I’m not someone who does several drafts. After the story is done, I go through and make a list of changes needed, and spend a week to ten days revising and editing before sending it in.
Do you need any help with the (wink, leer) research?
I am working on a sticky scene right now, and you do bear a striking resemblance to the murder victim. Care to stand in?
You were a teacher. Why don’t you write books for children?
I figure kiddie books about serial killers and shootouts would have a limited market, but that’s just me. When I started writing, I was dealing with five kids of my own and eighteen more on a daily basis. Seriously. That’s enough for anybody.
Is your husband the hero of all your books?
Absolutely. The man irons. Need I say more?