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Thursday, 29 May 2014
So What is it You Do, Anyway?
Topic: Writing

I know, I know. I’ve stepped away for a couple of weeks. It’s disappointing (to me, and hopefully at least to some readers) that after more than a year of faithful weekly blogging I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a couple of times, this time for two weeks.

This is a symptom of the degree of exhaustion my day job has been causing of late (what? Canadian authors don’t make buckets of money?) – coupled with my potentially foolish or at least self-punishing decision to go back to university at night.

A couple of weeks ago I was “tagged” by writing and education colleague Mark Smith, author of Carvaggio: Signed in Blood, as part of a Writing Process Blog Tour. In essence, writers will answer four questions about their writing process (and already I’m nervous about trying to describe what I do as having any kind of “process”), and then we’ll introduce our readers to three other writers we know who will hopefully do the same thing – and hopefully not seem infinitely better versed in coherent process than I.

Thus, without further ado, the questions:

What are you currently working on?

Regular readers of this space (I know you’re out there) know that for longer than I care to admit I’ve been working on what I’ve been lovingly – or at least not hostilely – referring to as W3.doc, the name of the file of the third novel in the Winston Patrick series. At one point I mentioned that the publisher wanted an actual title, only about six weeks after the release of Last Dance, which I took as a comforting sign of their belief in the project and the series. Of course, that was two years ago so it’s entirely possible their patience is fast wearing thin.

Since the premise of the third book begins with a missing person, I initially came up with Failing to Appear, though I’m certainly not married to that title. On the other hand, both Deadly Lessons and Last Dance were ‘working titles,’ neither really intended for final publication. The publishers felt otherwise, though, so they stayed.

In a subsequent post – say, next week – I’ll talk about another project on which I’m working simultaneously, because really, I need more things to occupy my time.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Uh, oh. Does it have to?

I guess I could call the series a very specific sub-genre in which the protagonist was a lawyer but gave it up and became a teacher instead. That makes it different, right?

Certainly, the books fall within the ‘reluctant/amateur sleuth’ sub-genre of crime fiction. Winston doesn’t really set out to solve crimes or be involved in violent incidents; he just happens to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

On the other hand, the book’s setting within a high school community but not being written as a young adult novel might bring at least some sense of being fresh to the genre. Those of us who work with teenagers – tortured souls, some might say – have come to discover that we often take for granted some of the extraordinary lives these people have already lived before their twentieth birthdays; their stories are not always given the attention they would merit.

Not that I mine students’ lives for crime dramas, mind you.

Why do I write what I do?

Regular readers know my influences include stalwarts of the genre like Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais and others. I’ve always enjoyed mystery writing and legal/courtroom thrillers. My series blends my passion for the law (you don’t want to sit near me in meetings when legal issues come up for discussion – at least most of my colleagues don’t) and what I know and have experienced as an educator. It’s clichéd to say we write what we know but we do: and I know kids. In fact, few things take me out of a story more than when teenagers are portrayed in a manner that doesn’t seem genuine, as in a book I just finished reading.

Still, I’d like at some point to take Winston more in the direction of the courtroom drama – a bit of a departure from the first three books – and the fourth one that’s planning is underway – that would require a great deal more research on my part. Given my inherent disorganization, it’s not clear how likely this will be to develop.

How does my writing process work?

If it could accurately be described as a process, I would say that mine ebbs and flows. I go through periods of real productivity – fewer periods than I’d like, unfortunately – followed by droughts, often precipitated by fatigue, where not a lot happens. I concur with nearly all writers I know who have been asked the question: consistent writing, even if for shorter periods of time, always yields better results than when gaps of time have appeared between bursts of productivity.

Often times, my stories have begun with a single incident: a news event, a story I’ve heard, or an experience that has been shared. From there I’ve literally been pulled into a web of “what would I do if I were confronted with a situation like this” daydreaming, followed by “how would Winston deal with it?” When those questions are strong enough in my mind they form the basis of my story. Admittedly, I tend to do only a very rough outline of where I’m going and I discover the rest along the way. When it happens organically, as it did as I was typing out some handwritten pages the other day, it’s quite inspiring and can spur me back into the story with new gusto.

And now, let me introduce you to some friends…..

Debra Purdy Kong

Debra Purdy Kong’s volunteer work, criminology diploma, and numerous day jobs have provided the inspiration and background for five published mystery novels, all set in the Lower Mainland. The first two in her Alex Bellamy white-collar crime mysteries, Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption, came from ideas generated while working for a firm of chartered accountants. Later employment in the security field as a patrol and communications officer provided great background material for her Casey Holland transit security mysteries, The Opposite of Dark, Deadly Accusations, and the recently released Beneath the Bleak New Moon.

Sharon Rowse

Sharon Rowse is the author of the historical mystery The Silk Train Murder—which is set in 1899 Vancouver, and was nominated by the Crime Writers of Canada for its Arthur Ellis Awards--and its sequel, The Lost Mine Murders. Sharon has also written four books in the contemporary Barbara O’Grady mystery series, of which A Shadowed Death is the most recent. Sharon lives in Vancouver, where she is at work on the third book in her historical mystery series, The Missing Heir Murders. 

Robin Spano

Robin Spano grew up in downtown Toronto, studied physics at Mount Allison University, dropped out to travel and explore North America on her motorcycle, worked as a waitress in several towns along the way, and now lives in Lions Bay, BC. When she’s not lost in fiction, she loves to get outside snowboarding, hiking, boating, and riding the curves of the local highways in her big black pick-up truck.
Her secret dream was to be one of Charlie’s Angels, but since real life danger terrifies her, she writes crime fiction instead.
She’s a founding member of Off The Page Toastmasters – a public speaking group for writers.
She is the author of the Clare Vengel Undercover novels Dead Politician Society, Death Plays Poker and Death's Last Run (which I just started reading this week)

Visit their blogs to find out about their work and their processes. Tell them I sent you! 

Posted by davidrussellbc at 12:01 AM PDT
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