Sisters in Crime invited members to answer a few questions as part of a blog hop. SinC provides a wonderful opportunity for a mystery writer to polish her (or his) craft in a supportive professional group. After you read my answers, you can check out my fellow SinC members in the links at the end of the post, and also some other blogs I recommend.
Which authors have inspired you?
James D. Doss is at the top of my list. His Southwest setting, his mix of mystery, humor and mysticism, and his off-beat colorful characters set a standard I want to live up to.
Which male authors write great women characters?
Alexander McCall Smith’s gentle and wise Mma Ramotswe in the Number One Ladies’ Detective Series makes a woman’s way of thinking and connecting an asset as a detective. McCall Smith writes about women’s friendships and women’s attitude towards men in what feels to me like an authentically female viewpoint. Another male author who does an amazing job with his female protagonist is Martyn V. Halm, in his Amsterdam Assassin Series. Katla Sieltjes, professional assassin, defies female role expectations in every way. She is a compelling and complex character. Doss wrote female children brilliantly in the best book in his Charlie Moon series, The Night Visitor.
Which female authors write great male characters?
In the mystery genre all the female writers I like write men well, but they almost all have female protagonists. J.L. Simpson has a male-female pair solving crimes in her comic mysteries. I found Solomon, the experienced PI who is paired with disaster-prone newbie Daisy Dunlop, to be a solid equal to the female lead. His friendship with Daisy’s husband is written well and is an important part of the story. Solomon is an alpha male with a heart.
What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?
It’s hard to identify one best part. I enjoy the seat-of-the pants improv of the first draft, but the big revisions sometimes feel just as creative and inspired. And I love the craft of getting the words to work just right. The blurb is the most challenging. It’s hard for me to come up with that tight paragraph that works as hook without being a spoiler and yet still gives a sense of what the book is about. It can take me a year to get the blurb right, and two years to write the whole book. The ratio of time to words is a little skewed.
Do you listen to music while writing? What’s on your playlist?
Music is important to my writing–I guess that’s obvious since one of my major characters is a musician—but I don’t listen while I write. Music absorbs my whole being. It can’t be background. As for my playlist: my personal number one song is Michael Hearne’s New Mexico Rain. Favorite musicians include Bill Miller and Robert Mirabal. Miller’s lyrics are poetic short stories with vivid characters, and he has a tenor voice that goes straight to my heart. His music has a spiritual undercurrent—not overwhelming, but it’s there, in a love song, a story-telling song or a Native flute solo. Mirabal also has a spiritual energy in his music. He a flutist, drummer, singer and dancer—an incredible, radiant performer. He’s from Taos Pueblo, and I’ve seen him a few times live in Santa Fe. The man can play didgeridoo standing up, balancing the instrument and his body in a way that has to take amazing strength, breath and flexibility. I listen to classical music the most—whatever comes on the classical station. I let it surprise me. I do a lot of imagery related to writing while I listen, but I can’t shift into the part of my brain that puts fingers to a keyboard and organizes sentences until I have silence. While I run I sometimes compose the songs for my musician characters. Though you’ll never hear them, there are melodies to go with every song in Shaman’s Blues and Snake Face (book three, coming out in November).
What books are on your nightstand right now?
I’m almost finished with Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie, a historical novel about Peter Schoeffer, the lesser known contributor to the famous Gutenberg Bible. The research is impressive. I had no idea how much politics and religion could interfere with a tradesman’s honest work back then. The controversy over making books with metal letter instead of written by hand, and making books more readily available, ran deep. Who was to be allowed to control books? We are all Shoeffer’s heirs, as readers and writers. I’m also close to finishing John McPhee’s Control of Nature, nonfiction about people living in places where nature is in a state of constant change, and the extraordinary lengths they go to try to control the ultimately uncontrollable forces. (By the time I get this posted to my blog there will be new books on the nightstand.)
Visit SinC at http://www.sistersincrime.org/
Visit J.L. Simpson’s blog at http://jlsimpson.com/ I can’t say enough good things about Lost Cause, the first fast-paced and funny Daisy Dunlop book. I look forward to the next.
Another SinC member whose blog I enjoy is Nancy Adams. Her Saints and Trees blog explores poetry, nature, spirituality, and books. Nancy and I meet at the intersection where mystery meets mystical. http://saintsandtrees.wordpress.com/
Martyn V. Halm’s blog: https://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.com/author/amsterdamassassin/ (Not a Sister in Crime, though some men are members.)
The next is unrelated to mysteries, but it’s my favorite blog.
Stuff Jeff Reads explores Shakespeare, Yeats, and Blake, Joyce’s Ulysses, and more. Literally, it’s the stuff Jeff reads. And he reads broadly. I love this blog. It’s not about the latest release, but poems that have been moving hearts for decades or centuries, brought back to you with Jeff’s insights and choices of accompanying art. Jeff makes me a better reader, which makes me a better writer. http://stuffjeffreads.wordpress.com