Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Today's Mystery Author Guest: Suzanne Adair
As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Suzanne Adair is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Suzanne is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, A Hostage to Heritage, the cover art for which appears above. Suzanne will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow.
It is Spring, 1781, in the book. The American Revolution enters its seventh grueling year. In Wilmington, North Carolina, redcoat investigator Lieutenant Michael Stoddard expects to round up two miscreants before Lord Cornwallis's army arrives for supplies. But his quarries' trail crosses with that of a criminal who has abducted a high-profile English heir. Michael's efforts to track down the boy plunge him into a twilight of terror from radical insurrectionists, whiskey smugglers, and snarled secrets out of his own past in Yorkshire.
Sounds like a gripping read to me! Below are Suzanne's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for Suzanne, ask it!
1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?
In second grade, I experienced my first hurricane. The fury of nature made quite an impression on me. About a month later, I contracted the mumps and was quarantined at home for a week or so. I didn’t feel sick, and I quickly ran out of books to read and things to do. Then I got my hands on a pencil and some paper. The combination of being extremely bored and having something to write about was all the permission my imagination needed to launch my writing career.
2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
A Hostage to Heritage is the fifth book I’ve set in the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War. There’s a core group of characters involved in this series, and I’ve known some of them for almost fifteen years. When I start a new book, I forge ahead, write the characters, and let them surprise me.
I trust my characters to guide me. If they refuse to move the story along, I talk to them. Snags most often occur because I’ve tried to force the character do something out-of-character to serve the plot. So I go back and rewrite.
3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I do a combination of outlining and writing by the seat of my pants. Before I begin a first draft, I know how and where the book should end as well as several plot milestones in the middle that I must reach. After I turn my characters loose to develop, I depend upon them to help me hit those milestones, but the manner in which the milestones are hit is often unpredictable at the beginning of the first draft. That’s why I’m glad I can trust my characters.
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?
In the Michael Stoddard thriller series, I emphasize character growth across the story arc of each book as well as in the arc of the series. If Michael didn’t grow, there would be no arc. His growth influences the direction the plot takes.
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge is that I don’t write fiction that has a contemporary setting. In 21st-century America, we're out of touch with the hardships our ancestors endured to stay alive. To write effective fiction, I must bridge that gap.
The wrong way to write characters for stories set during the Revolutionary War would be to dress 21st-century people in 18th-century clothing. Georgian-era people lived in a different culture, and that gave rise to different priorities, logical processes, values, and so forth.
What gave me a leg up into understanding an 18th-century America that didn’t have electricity, antibiotics, or overly prudish attitudes was becoming a Revolutionary War reenactor. Especially since my family and I reenact on the Crown forces side. The lessons I've learned from reenacting inform the crafting of my fictional world.
My sons have been a great source of motivation for me. Also readers, they have contacted me to tell me how much they’ve learned by reading my books. Sometimes they thank me for helping them escape into a historical world for a few hours.
I haven’t quite figured out how to modify this experience for my upcoming science fiction, set in the 24th century. :-)
6. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Read across fiction genres as well as non-fiction. Don’t let anything stop you from writing or learning. Build a team that will give you writing support when you’re down. Persevere. Strive to improve your craft. Do the research. And whenever possible, visit places that you write about to acquaint your senses with the settings.
7. 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.
The arch-villain of the Michael Stoddard series, Dunstan Fairfax, got his surname because I kept seeing the name “Fairfax” used in 19th-century English literature like Brontë novels, and Fairfax had the ring of a quintessential English name. However the surname is more common than I first realized, and it gives me a second’s pause whenever I’m introduced to a perfectly nice, non-psychopathic person with the last name of “Fairfax.” I also wonder whether I’ve irked everyone in a certain county in Virginia.
8. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
The second Michael Stoddard thriller, A Hostage to Heritage, was just released. After that, more Michael Stoddard, of course. And I’m hoping to release the first book of my science fiction series this fall or next spring. Yes, I experience some time-travel whiplash when I switch series.
9. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?
I love talking with book club members! In fact, tonight I’m Skyping in on the monthly book club meeting of the Stamp Defiance chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They’ve been reading Regulated for Murder, the first Michael Stoddard thriller, and they’re delighted that the next book in the series will be available soon.
Please visit me at my blog, my quarterly electronic newsletter, my website, my Facebook page, or my Twitter account.
Thanks for the interview, Beth!
Thanks, Suzanne! Now, who has a comment or question for Suzanne Adair? Good luck in the contest!