Monday, July 12, 2010
My mystery author guest: Cricket McRae
As promised yesterday, mystery author Cricket McRae is is is visiting my blog today to answer interview questions. Above is a cover photo of Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, the fourth book in her Home Crafting mystery series, which was just released on July 1st. In the book, Sophie Mae has accepted Barr's marriage proposal, and they're trying to keep her mother, Anna Belle, from taking over their no-fuss, no-muss wedding plans. But when Mom finds a cryptic suicide note Sophie Mae's brother wrote two decades earlier, Sophie Mae must return to her hometown of Spring Creek, Colorado to suss things out.
See what Cricket has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments.
Interview with Cricket McRae:
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
I’m envious of people who started writing when they were three years old and never stopped. That wasn’t me. But when I was nineteen I wrote in my journal that I would be a mystery author. A shiver ran down my back, and I knew it was a True Statement. Since then I simply assumed I would be a writer, and stabbed at it a bit during college and my corporate career without a great deal of follow-through. In my mid-thirties I decided to really dive in. A much rewritten version of my first mystery novel snagged an agent, who sold Lye in Wait, my first Home Crafting Mystery, to Midnight Ink. That original mystery remains unpublished, though.
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
For primary characters I like clustering. I fill up whole notebooks with little circles filled with words attached to other little circles filled with words. It’s weirdly right-brained, and a good way to get to know someone, to figure out why someone would actually kill someone else, and to understand motivation and cause and effect. I often use clustering for plotting individual scenes as well.
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I have a rough outline of what’s going to happen and then see how the characters like it as I write. It always changes a lot. I inevitably start out thinking I know how the book will end, and then something happens and about sixty percent through I really find out. Then I go back and change things to reflect the real ending and finish up the book.
By the way, that’s not a method I recommend to anyone. If I could figure out how to do it differently, I would.
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?
They go hand in hand, though for me it’s a combination of character and situation to begin with. A swaggering cowgirl with a bad mouth isn’t suitable for a cozy mystery featuring crafts and cooking. Likewise my protagonist, Sophie Mae Reynolds, would be the wrong type of character for a psychological thriller. Since I write a series, I already know the characters. I figure out the situation, which usually centers around the featured home craft, and then determine the ancillary characters. Finally, I plot within that framework.
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Right now feeling randomized is my biggest challenge. I’m promoting one book, polishing another manuscript, reworking a third, and developing proposals for two other mystery series for my agent to look over. Between that and the usual summer fare of gardening, golf, house renovations, visitors and a bit of fun, changing my focus from project to project has been a challenge.
Trying to stay organized and mindfully moving from one task to another helps keep my concentration sharp. I also tell myself that all the variety feeds my creative well rather than depleting it. That actually might be true. ; - )
6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I rarely write fiction at night, though that’s often when I write my blog posts. When I’m working on a first draft I try for an average of ten pages a day, five days a week. I try not to take two days off in a row, though. When I’m rewriting or editing I think in terms of hours – usually four hours a day is about right to stay on track.
7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Learn your craft and be persistent. Write a lot. Then learn some more and write some more. Repeat.
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.
As much as I go on about cooking from scratch and eating real food on my blog and even in my mysteries, I have a strong and secret love of SpaghettiOs with Franks. I like them hot, sprinkled with potato chips or grated cheese, even spooned out of the can cold. Though I haven’t eaten them for five years or more, I’m embarrassed to say my mouth is actually watering as I write this.
9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I just finished the fifth Home Crafting Mystery, Wined and Died, which features mead making as the home crafting backdrop to the murder and mayhem. I’ll be spending a lot of time promoting Something Borrowed, Something Bleu for the next few months as I develop the sixth in the series, and then I’ll get down to work on that. Eventually I hope to have a second mystery series and write the occasional standalone.
10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
If you want to know any more about my Home Crafting Mystery Series or about me, please visit my website. My blog features my musings on writing and all things domestic. I’m available to attend book club meetings in person within 40 miles of Fort Collins, CO or via cell phone or Skype. You can find discussion questions for my books on my website.
And finally, a big Thank You, Beth!
Okay, readers, fire away! And given Cricket's revelation about her SpaghettiOs with Franks craving, let's all divulge our secret food cravings. He, he, he! ;-) I'll go first. Along with dark, dark chocolate, which everyone who knows me at all knows that I crave like the dickens, my comfort food is cinnamon graham crackers dipped in vanilla yogurt. I can eat a whole pack (a third of a box) at one sitting, which is why I don't do it often!