Tuesday, April 06, 2010

My mystery author guest: Gerrie Ferris Finger

As I said yesterday, Gerrie Ferris Finger won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition in 2009. Her April 27th release from St. Martin's Minotaur, The End Game, is the result of that win. The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Moriah Dru’s weekend off with her lover, Lieutenant Richard Lake, is interrupted when Atlanta juvenile court judge Portia Devon hires Dru to find two sisters who’ve gone missing after their foster parents’ house burns down. In The End Game, Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel. And here, she puts a new spin on an author interview. See what she has to say below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in the comments.

Interview with Gerrie Ferris Finger:

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

Like most writers, my love of the written word began at an early age. Writing, shaping letters, was fun. Putting sentences together was even more fun. I knew I would be a writer, but my journey was not linear. I married in college, had two children, then didn't work until my children were school age. During that time, I wrote a novel. It was never published. I submitted to a few agents and publishers, and got nice remarks and encouragement to keep writing. I landed a job at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution where I worked for almost twenty years. I retired to write novels, particularly crime novels.

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I have to hear their voices, and, once I do, they tell their own stories.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I write by the scene method, building the story scene upon scene keeping in mind the setting and where my characters obviously go next. I build toward an arc, the scene where the hero or heroine has an epiphany. I know how the story will end and keep within that stricture. Sometimes it's hard to keep the characters in line.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

The characters in my books drive the narrative so I have to give the edge to character over plot. Characters often do surprising things which enrich the plot, and a new cast will give freshness to some time-worn plots.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Since I retired, my challenges are few. Family needs can intrude on writing time, or the routine of everyday life, like the dog has an appointment at the vet just when I'm really rolling on a scene. Since St. Martin's chose my novel, and will release it in April, I've had to take a lot of time away for promotion. I, like most writers, would rather be writing, but promoting has been fun. It's been delightful to meet you virtually and be interviewed here.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

I don't write every day, but at least five days a week. I typically write for four hours and like to end the day with an idea that carries into the next scene. When I travel to friends or family or go on vacation, I carry my laptop with every intention of writing, but find concentration isn't there. Also, I take time off to play golf, a passion I love to hate.

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Write what you know and learn everything about the discipline you choose, or the discipline that chooses you. I'm naturally drawn to crime fiction, while others prefer fantasy or romance or the literary style. Each has its demands and techniques. Understand how character, plot, theme, setting interact within a given genre. There are many excellent books to guide you. I gained from Don't Murder your Mystery.

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.

I watch all the CSIs, sometimes twice; same with Criminal Minds. I don't know that I've been inspired by these shows. I have yet to write forensic-ladened fiction and probably won't. I don't read details of autopsies. Tell me why the guy died, and get on with the plot.

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I've finished the third in the Moriah Dru series. Dru is the heroine in The End Game. And I have another series which I've neglected while promoting this book.

10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

I'd like your readers to take a look at my website. Also I blog here. I comment regularly on Facebook and not only to promote my book. I love to chat with family, and friends I knew or have come to know on the social networks. I appear less often on Crimespace, but I find it more intimate than Facebook or Twitter.

The End Game will be released just in time for the Malice Domestic conference, which is no coincidence since I won the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's competition for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel. After Malice, I'll be appearing at bookstores and libraries from Virginia to Georgia. My stops are posted on my website. It's going to be a busy spring!

Okay, Gerrie, I'm going to kick off the day with a question of my own. What's this mysterious other series that you mentioned?


Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Morning, Beth, and thanks for having me here. The other series is lighter. My protagonist is Billie Nikkel, which is the title of the first book in the series. She's a former photojournalist who does work for PIs, lawyers, insurance companies, suspicious wives, etc. She gets in a whole lot of trouble shooting people who don't want certain aspects of their lives caight on film or digital.

Tea said...

I would love to read The End Game. I also enjoyed the interview with Gerrie Ferris Finger. Thanks Beth.

Donnell said...

Congratulations, Gerrie, on your amazing success, and, Beth, wonderful interview questions.

Anita Clenney said...

Fascinating interview. I'm looking forward to reading The End Game. I love new spins on stories.

Mario said...

Great interview. This book will now be on my TBR stack.

Cricket McRae said...

Great interview -- I'll definitely be reading The End Game. Oh, and Gerrie, I know exactly what you mean about loving to hate golf...

Hearth Cricket

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Thanks to each of you for reading and commenting. Beth asked great questions, and, by your comments, my answers were thought-provoking. Best to all. Gerrie

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I enjoyed this interview, Beth. Congrats to Gerrie for your success and best wishes with your new project. The End Game sounds fascinating.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Excellent interview, thanks! But I knew I'd like Gerrie when I saw her dog!

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Conda, dogs make the world a better place and Bogey adores publicity.

Sheila Deeth said...

Dogs is good. I enjoyed the interview. Thanks.