Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Maegan Beaumont

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Maegan Beaumont is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. The cover art above is from her May release, Carved in Darkness, the first in her Sabrina Vaughn mystery series.

Fifteen years prior to the start of the book, a psychotic killer abducted seventeen-year-old Melissa Walker. For 83 days she was raped, tortured, and then left for dead in a deserted churchyard . . . but she was still alive. Melissa begins a new life as homicide inspector Sabrina Vaughn. With a new face and a new name, it’s her job to hunt down murderers—a job she does very well.

But when Michael O’Shea, a childhood acquaintance with a suspicious past, suddenly finds her, he brings to life the nightmare Sabrina has long since buried. Believing his sister was recently murdered by the same monster who attacked Sabrina, Michael is dead set on getting his revenge—using Sabrina as bait.

Sounds like a very chilling read! Below are Maegan's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!

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

I fell in love with books at a young age and I’ve always had a very rich imagination… for as long as I can remember my mind has been constantly moving and creating scenarios about just about everything I see and do. It gets a bit noisy in there sometimes, so I think writing is a way for me to quiet the voices and keep myself sane.

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

I give them a full life—even if I don’t put it in my story or even write it down. I give them a childhood and adolescence… I “watch” them grow up and develop into adults. This helps me know them as real people so gauging their behavior and reactions to story development becomes second nature.

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

I use a 20-30 word outline that highlights my major plot points in the novel, but from there I just… write. There are times when I’m not quite sure where it’s all gonna go, but then I have that light bulb moment that gives me the piece that fits the puzzle perfectly. Those are my favorite writing moments—when your plot is working and things are coming together in amazing and unexpected ways.

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 a murder mystery—plot wins, in my opinion. Characters are sooo important, because if your reader doesn’t like or care for them, then none of it really matters anyway, but for me, as a reader, nothing stinks more than a lame plot that leaks like a sieve or insults my intelligence. That tells me the writer doesn’t care or thinks I’m too stupid to know any better. I hate being treated like I’m stupid.

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

Time. There is never enough time to write as much as I want, be a good mother, a wife who is present and accounted for, to be a caring friend who listens, to hit the gym and cook balanced meals and be on time when picking up my kids from school. I’m the type of person who hates to fail. When I stumble, I feel failure nipping at my heels…

As for what keeps me motivated… this will probably sound strange, but I never felt like I had much of a choice where writing is concerned. I have to write. Which usually means that I’m not as present in my life as I’d like to be. I’m late picking up the kids. I skip the gym more than I should. I bail on lunches with my girlfriends and disappear into my office for what feels like days… my middle son is currently building a time machine in his closet—I have every intention of giving it a try when it’s ready for human testing.

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

On a typical day I’m up by 6:30am. I make lunches and get my kids to school by 8am. After that, I come home and have breakfast and am in my office by 9am. I spend about an hour or so answering and writing emails, updating blogs, Goodreads and Facebook (important stuff!) and working on stuff for my critique group. About 10-10:30am, I start writing.

I usually go over the stuff I wrote the day before and make edits and changes that occurred to me during my down time (sometimes I read something that I’ve written and it doesn’t sound right or I thought of something I like better…) and I incorporate them. I usually write until about 2-2:30pm, and then I close up shop and go get my kids from school by 3pm (if I remember to keep an eye on the clock). I don’t write when the kids are home because it turns me into a raving lunatic, so my evenings are devoted to being present and accounted for… this is what I shoot for when I’m alone at home. My husband is home a few days during the week and when he’s here, I try to spend time with him.

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

Don’t be afraid. To try. To fail. To dream. To learn. To grow. To let go. To move on…  life is too short to be wasted on fear.

8. Tell us more about Carved in Darkness and its protagonist, Sabrina Vaughn.

Carved in Darkness is about a young woman who is kidnapped and brutalized before being left for dead by her attacker. She survives, but her time in captivity drastically alters who she was meant to be. She learns to adapt and even thrive but suffers from PTSD and a myriad of other issues because of her ordeal. As the story unfolds, we see our protagonist struggle to come to grips with her past and by doing so, realize that the only way to truly be free is to find the man who abducted her before he can find her.

9. Where did this story idea come from?

It’s sort of a strange story… I was in my early 20s, stopped at a red light next to a beat-up old station wagon. Behind the wheel was probably the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She was young, maybe seventeen or eighteen and with her were two kids—maybe five or six—and they were obviously twins. They all looked so… sad and maybe a bit scared. I stared for a few seconds before the light turned green and she puttered off, the kids' faces still visible behind the grimy glass of that station wagon. I couldn’t stop thinking about any of them. Who were they? Where were they going? Where had they come from? Why did they look so sad and scared? The story kept building and changing in my head for years until I finally realized it wasn’t going to go away until I wrote it down.

10. Are there any characteristics that you share with your protagonist?

I’d like to believe that I’m not as damaged as Sabrina but we both sport a pretty tough exterior in order to protect a super soft underbelly.We’re both willing to do whatever it takes to protect and take care of the ones we love, we respect our elders and we’re both smartasses.

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

I’ve got quite a bit going on right now… My debut novel, Carved in Darkness, is set for release next month through Midnight Ink (May, 8th) and I’m currently working on its sequel. I’m also working on a related novel based on secondary characters from this series as well as an unrelated crime thriller set in south Boston.

12. 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 have a thing for cheesy television shows. Xena: Warrior Princess was a personal favorite and if it was still on, I’d probably still watch it. There—I said it.

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

Sure. I have a write a weekly blog dedicated to helping fellow writers with plot problems (plotting is kinda my thing) and other writing questions. I also have a website that offers a list of my author events and appearances… and of course I’m always happy to speak with book clubs about my book as well as critique groups and conferences about the writing process. A few months ago I did a Skype appearance for a writing class held by The New York Writers’ Workshop. That was a first for me and I found it both fun and exciting. I’d also like to say, thanks for reading!

Thanks, Maegan! Now, who has a comment or question for Maegan?


jenny milchman said...

Maegan, I met you when Les Edgerton first told us about this amazingly talented author we all had to meet--now you are published!!! So happy for you. And excited to read your book--I will look for it everywhere we go. Congratulations!!

Tj O'Connor said...

Great interview. I share many of your stuggles with time and commitments and guilt with all the above! I look forward to meeting you soon and reading your work.

Unknown said...

Carved in Darkness is an amazing novel and I can't wait to read the second.

Les Edgerton said...

Great interview from a terrific writer! The second in this series is even better. Maegan is a fighter and didn't really relate how hard she fought to get this book written. She's tough as nails and there's just no quit in her. This is the start of what is going to be an amazing writing career.

Maegan Beaumont said...

Hi, Jenny!
I remember you! It was the Skype class that you taught with Les for the NY writer's workshop that I talked about with Beth--such a great experience!

thank you!


Maegan Beaumont said...

Thanks, TJ!

Being a writer isn't for the faint of heart, that's for sure. :)
I'm looking forward to Bouchercon in a few months, hope to see you there!


Maegan Beaumont said...

Rae ~

I'm so happy that you enjoyed CARVED... book #2 is well under way!

thanks for stopping by! :)


Maegan Beaumont said...

Hi, Les!

thank you so much for your praise and support--it means the world to me!


kristenboe said...

Really great interview, Beth!

Thanks for sharing your insight, Maegan. Your book is fantastic. Can't wait for the sequel!

Susan Delcampo said...

Wow, I've known Maegan for years and I've never heard/read the story of how she came up with "Carved in Darkness." That's awesome! It reminds me of J.K. Rowling seeing that little boy with the lightning bolt scar and taking off.
Congratulations Maegan :-)

Maegan Beaumont said...

Kristen ~

thanks for stopping by and for being such a supportive writing buddy.
this time next year, we'll be celebrating you're debut--mark my words!


Maegan Beaumont said...

Hi, Susana!
It's great ideas and even greater writing pals that keep us going. I'm glad you like the book--I couldn't have done it without you!


Lois Winston said...

Best of luck to you, Maegan!

Maegan Beaumont said...

thanks, Lois!

Unknown said...

Ah, kids with wild imaginations... But indeed it takes toughness to follow imagination down its dark and scary tunnels and bring back a readable story and a published book.

Well done, Maegan.

@Beth Groundwater: perhaps an idea might be to have an excerpt your readers can read? Or link to the opening chapter of Carved in Darkness?

Beth Groundwater said...

I did provide an active link to the book's Amazon page in the third sentence, and there you can click on the "Search inside this book" link under the cover art to read the first few pages.

Unknown said...

The inspiration for tour story - a stop at a red light and noticing the people in the car next to you - is fascinating. Usually those are moments people never think twice about when driving. And for you, it let to meaning and a novel. Fantastic. Congratulations!