No, I didn’t have too much to drink at the Labor Day barbecue, thank you. I’m just celebrating what I believe Labor Day really is to me, and to many, if not most other people. It is the beginning of a new year. I am not trying to diminish the significance of Labor Day, which according to Wikipedia “honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of the country.” Nor, will I start a conversation about what’s happening today to workers in our country, although that’s a topic worthy of discussion. I’m simply acknowledging that for most of us, the end of the summer and the beginning of a new school year marks what most of us consider a new year. Ingrained in us since we were students, reinforced when we send our own children to school, that back-to-school fever is more about new beginnings, fresh slates, and starting over than the 31st of December ever was. Kissing goodbye the celebration of summer and all the gifts it brings is not without sadness. Who won’t miss fresh blueberries, carnivals and county fairs, beaches, lakes, and pools? But admit it. If you pause and peek inside, there’s a little excitement that comes with a new year. What do you plan to do during the seasons to come? Will you look for that new job? Finally take the art class you’ve wanted to take? Go back to the gym? Maybe put those words that have been swirling around your head and filling your heart to paper? Will you give yourself permission to take a break from shopping for school supplies, stocking up on peanut butter and snacks, and put down the catalogues telling what you must wear this season? Will you let the new year be one when you embrace the passage of the luxurious laziness of summer and open your heart and life to all that is yours if you only let it be? My Happy New Year includes a few resolutions, of course. I will defend the time I set aside to write against all distractions, external and internal. I will honor the gift that has been given to me and find joy in doing it. I know I will still complain about deadlines, edits, and what point of view I should write in, but I am determined to focus on having gratitude for what I have and not whine about what I don’t have. I am excited to meet September and the months that follow with a renewed commitment to a new life I have chosen. (More on that later this week.) How about you? What do you plan to do with your new year? You don’t have to be a writer or an artist to jump in. All you have to do is begin.Read more
( picture by https://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/deveer.txt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) I love traveling. By car, train, airplane, it doesn’t matter as long as it gets me from home to someplace else. Sadly, actual travel isn’t always possible. I have a job and I’m expected to show up more often than not. And I’m not on anybody’s richest people list. But I’m determined not to let the practicalities of real life hold me back. I can always travel in my imagination.
Between books, movies, television, and the internet I can virtually visit any place in the world. France, Spain, Iceland, Croatia, Fiji, Antarctica, anywhere. All I have to do is turn a page, click a mouse, or change a channel and I’m there. Given the choice, I’ll take an actual trip over a virtual one but sometimes I have to make do.
Virtual travel does have one advantage (besides no lines at airport security) over actual travel, an insurmountable advantage. You can’t actually travel to a place that doesn’t actually exist. No trains stop in Wonderland. No buses run to Oz. You can’t buy a ticket on Southwest to Tatooine, even on sale. And no roads lead to Hogwarts. (You can drive to Universal to ride the Harry Potter ride but that’s not the same thing.) However, through a page or a screen you can visit any place not of this world as well as every place in it. Far off planets, underground kingdoms, fairy realms, undersea metropolises are yours for the adventure and you don’t need a passport.
If you prefer your fictional road trips closer to home, pack up your invisible Woodie and turn on your imaginary GPS. Visit an idealized town, a Norman Rockwell painting, a place that didn’t exist but should have. Go to Pleasantville or Lake Wobegon. Stop in Hill Valley, California on the way. Fictional road trips don’t have to make geographical sense. Drive to Shermer, Illinois and indulge in a little suburban angst then head down south and stop a spell in Yoknapatawpha or Maycomb County. If you seek small town charm with an edge, detour to Cabot Cove, Maine or to Midsomer County where villages are replete with murderers, blackmailers, and other deviants. And don’t forget to add Castle Rock; Twin Peaks; Eerie, Indiana; Sunnydale, California; and Cicely, Alaska to your itinerary. Not everyone’s into small towns, not even the fictional kind. If that describes you, head for the big city. The bright lights and dark corners of Basin City, Metropolis, Dark City, and Gotham await your arrival. Fiction is a travelogue who’s “only boundaries are those of imagination.” Where do your fictional travels take you?
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I can’t comment on Virginia Woolf’s first ingredient for a successful literary career. Having money certainly helps. I’m fortunate to have a daytime situation, to borrow a phrase, that pays my bills. The security of knowing a roof over my head doesn’t depend on the number of sellable words I produce makes it easier to me to pursue a career in fiction. I imagine being penniless and worried about basic survival would make writing difficult but I don’t know about impossible.
As far as Ms. Woolf’s second ingredient? Her essay was written before Starbucks and co-working. Nowadays it’s possible to borrow or rent space in someone else’s room to write. I often do. I find it hard to work at home. Home signals my brain it’s time to unwind and recuperate from the day’s stress. Home is my hermit cave. My place to retreat and recharge. (Yes, I’m an introvert.)
Writing fiction isn’t stressful. I love writing. But it is work, at least when you get to the point you’re writing on deadline for a publisher. Since my mind equates home with anything but work I struggle to focus on the business of writing when I’m there. Plus, my day job starts early. Getting up at oh-dark-thirty to get ready and get there makes staying awake past eight pm difficult.)
Writing away from home boosts my productivity. The fiction flows easier when I’m not surrounded by things my brain associates with downtime. I write first drafts in long hand so even without nearly ubiquitous Wi-Fi and 4G and a computer small enough to slip into a large purse, I can work almost any place. But I have preferences. I choose public places so I’m not tempted to nap. I’d rather nap than eat so I write in public places where sleep is out of the question. I need some background noise. Not enough to distract me but enough to act as white noise which keeps me from paying attention to the silence. I’ve never lived way out in the country. I’m used to the buzz of the urban environment’s hustle and bustle. Table space is preferred but I can do without. I’ve worked crouched in a corner of an airport waiting area. Electrical outlets are a plus. I do, eventually, have to type what I wrote and a laptop’s battery never lasts as long as you need it to. Access to coffee is a bonus. Not mandatory but awfully nice.
I’ve written in libraries, airports, on airplanes (a great technique for avoiding being turned into a captive audience for an overly-chatty seatmate. Just don’t make eye contact.), in bookstores, in coffee shops, on trains, in restaurants, in hotel lobbies, even in concert halls during intermission. My two favorite writing places are in Dallas, Texas. How I miss them now I no longer live in the Big D. One is the communal table in the Joule hotel’s lobby. Handcrafted from reclaimed wood, it’s a work of art surrounded by the Joule’s other contemporary art works—paintings, sculptures, video installations. Writing at the communal table is like writing in an art gallery (which I’ve done). With built-in electrical outlets, a staff who doesn’t mind if you squat, and a coffee shop a few steps away finding a seat at the table on a weekday can be a challenge. Many downtown Dallas denizens find the communal table inspiring. But on weekend mornings and late evenings the table often sits deserted, waiting for someone to use it as a creative space.
Fort Work Co-Working shares the title of favorite. I considered renting an office to write but I didn’t need an entire office to myself and it would sit empty for most of the day while I worked at my full-time job. I only needed desk space. Behold, co-working. A monthly fee purchases access to desk space whenever it’s needed, which for me meant evenings and weekends. I’d grab a space at a desk near a window (Fort Work’s desks are communal tables like at the Joule but with a more streamlined appearance. No reclaimed wood. Plenty of outlets, though.) and write, surrounded by tech startups and entrepreneurs and with easy access to coffee and energy bars.
I will continue to struggle to work at home. Going someplace else to write isn’t always practical. But whenever possible I will search out space to borrow (or rent) in someone else’s room. Especially if that room comes with coffee.
People often ask me why I set my novel, Murder in G Major, in Ireland. I usually come up with a story about how Ireland is a locale where a ghost wouldn’t seem out of place but my protagonist would (I love a good fish-out-of-water story) but the true reason is as ethereal as my story’s specter. The setting just came to me.
The nidus of my paranormal murder mystery rests in a daydream I had. (Yes, I daydream movies in my head. It’s a great way to pass the time when you can’t decide on a book from your TBR pile and nothing in your Netflix queue appeals to you.) I imagined an African American classical violinist stranded in an Irish village with only the clothes on her back and her violin. And sometimes a harmonica. I imagined she won a prize for fiddling in a pub’s open mic contest and she used the money to rent a room above the pub. I remembered this daydream when a writing instructor asked “What’s your story about?” and it eventually became the backstory for my novel’s amateur sleuth.
But why Ireland? My fascination with Ireland defies logical explanation. I love Irish music, especially pub songs, Irish pubs, Irish whiskey, Irish festivals, Irish accents, Irish epithets Irish names, even Irish wolfhounds. (Although I have absolutely no space to keep one of these magnificent beasts.) I don’t know where I get it from. My surname is Scottish, of the great clan that spawned the legendary Gordon Highlanders. I didn’t grow up in Ireland nor in an Irish neighborhood. I didn’t know anyone Irish. My mother’s an Anglophile, not a Hibernophile. No one talked about visiting Ireland. My parents and I traveled a lot when I was a kid but Ireland never made the itinerary. If I, as a young adult, hadn’t planned a trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (with stops in London and Scotland at Dad’s request) my parents never would have set foot on emerald shores.
Where does my Irish-love come from? For the longest, I assumed it was “just one of those things.” Some people love France, some love Italy, some New York, some California. Me, I love Ireland. Just one of those things. So I thought. Until I discovered genealogical DNA testing.
Dad and I are genealogy buffs. We’ve managed to trace our family through censuses and social security death indexes and marriage certificates and draft cards along the paper breadcrumb trail from Oklahoma to Alabama and Virginia to the Carolinas. We made it as far back as the mid-1800s where we, like many African American family history researchers, hit a wall. Then Dr. Henry Louis Gates, host of PBS’s “Finding Your Roots,” started talking about DNA. I knew about DNA, of course. I’m a physician. DNA determined your eye color, your risk for certain diseases, and whether or not you were a crime suspect. And at big research institutions like National Geographic DNA helped sort out where humans originated millions of years ago. But Dr. Gates explained DNA could also help you figure out where your family came from a thousand years ago. Or five hundred years ago. Or a couple of hundred years ago. DNA testing had become simple and affordable and was now being used by family history researchers in a new (to me) field called genetic genealogy. I went online and Mom and Dad and I all got DNA testing kits for Christmas.
Guess what? I’m Irish. Fourteen percent, anyway. (Thirty-two percent Benin/Togo and twenty-four percent Cameroon/Congo, thanks for asking.) Slap my face and call me Shirley. Maybe my Hibernophilia isn’t so out-of-the-blue after all. Maybe it’s some sort of epigenetic love call, some trace memory of a long-forgotten ancestor. Or maybe not. Maybe it is just a thing. A thing I make no apologies or excuses for. A thing I enjoy. I’ll go on daydreaming about red-headed men with sexy brogues, drinking Irish whiskey while listening to the Dubliners, enjoying the craic at pubs and festivals, and setting stories in the land of storytellers. And when March seventeenth rolls around I’ll smile as I repeat the phrase, “Everybody’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.”
An author speaking at a writing seminar I attended commented it surprised him whenever someone complimented him on how well he’d described such-and-such a place, the geographic location in which he’d set his novel. His secret—he hadn’t really described the place. He included a few key details, aspects of the environment important to his point of view character, and left the rest to the readers’ imagination. He didn’t believe in complex descriptions of place.
I’m the opposite. I love stories that describe place so vividly I’m transported to the location and feel as if I’m walking the streets and eating in the restaurants and shopping in the stores alongside the characters. When Poe’s narrator approaches the House of Usher on the “dull, dark, and soundless day,” with “clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens” and sees the “bleak walls,” “vacant, eye-like windows,” and “rank sedges,” I’m right there with him and share his “sense of insufferable gloom.” The place becomes a character. New York City is as much a character in “Law and Order” as the detectives who investigate its crimes. Nero Wolfe’s brownstone is a character in Stout’s series just as much as Wolfe and Archie. Mitchell’s Slade House and Carroll’s Wonderland are the stars of their stories.
Some argue detailed place descriptions aren’t needed in the modern era when traveling halfway around the world is as uncomplicated as pulling up an airline’s app on your smartphone. Back in the day, authors had to describe their novels’ settings in detail because a reader in rural Pennsylvania was probably never going to travel to downtown Paris. Nowadays, even if that Pennsylvanian can’t swing airfare to the City of Light, she can visit virtually. Google Earth will let her zoom in until she can almost read the menu at a restaurant along the Seine.
So what’s a modern writer who loves rich descriptions of place to do? Invent one. World-building isn’t restricted to fantasy and science fiction. If you imagine a village, as I did in my novel, Murder in G Major, you have some license to describe what you’ve created. Readers can’t find satellite images of a fictional locale so you have to tell them where the pub is and whether the church is next to the post office or the school. When I write, I visualize my characters interacting with their setting, like watching a movie in my head, and put on paper what I see in my mind. I have difficulty writing without a sense of place.
One caveat. Internal consistency matters. Just because a place is fictional doesn’t mean the bus station can be on Tenth Street in chapter one but move to Fourth Avenue in chapter twelve. Unless, of course, you’re writing speculative fiction where moving bus stations is a plot element. I sketch maps to help me keep track of what’s located where.
Do you believe less is more when it comes to describing places or that less is less? Do you prefer locations real or imaginary? Or either so long as the writer transports you? (This blog post originally appeared on Club Hen House)
Occasionally I browse through books on writing, not exactly looking for inspiration or rules but reminding myself that every writer faces similar struggles in the act of creation. Recently I reread parts of P.D. James’ Talking About Detective Fiction. It is an amazing book, mainly for her vast knowledge of the history of the genre; however, this time I focused mainly on the chapter titled Telling the Story: Setting, Viewpoint, People. Setting is important in my books, mainly because they are set in a place perhaps not familiar to an English speaking (or reading) audience. Namely, Switzerland. James points out that most readers relate to the characters. It is true that today many mysteries are character driven, not plot driven. Where does this leave the setting? Of primary importance she says, noting that the setting is “where these people live, move and have their being.” She reminds the writer that they have a duty to breathe the character’s air, see with their eyes, walk the paths they tread and inhabit the rooms furnished for them. Beyond the need of a setting to create a place for the character to spring to life, setting can inspire the story itself. This is true with my first Agnes Lüthi book, where an ice storm traps the characters in a château on the shore of Lac Léman. In Swiss Vendetta, the château returns to its medieval origin with the power out and modern conveniences made irrelevant. This informed the plot and the characters throughout the book. What does isolation and discomfort do to the psyche? It changes people. James’ uses Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles as an example. Would The Hound of Wimbledon Common have evoked the same sense of apprehension? Probably not. Superficially Switzerland is perfect. Literally picture postcard perfect. Every view can evoke an exclamation of delight. Look at the château, the pastoral landscape, the milk cows on parade with their flowered headdresses, the historic cities, the rivers, the lakes, the mountain, the Glacier Express…. The list is endless. To me Switzerland is the St Mary’s Meade of Agatha Christie. St Mary’s Meade was charming, yet bad things happened there (really so many people died under the nose of Miss Marple that it should be quite disturbing, but it isn’t). For the setting of my next Agnes Lüthi book I’ve chosen a boarding school as the center piece of the story. A charming, rural, idyllic setting where, yes, bad things will happen. To my mind, the setting isn’t only a place but it is an active participant. Certain events take place because of the setting. It can inspire a plot and also determine the course of the action. P.D. James called to mind the words of John Bunyan when she set one of her detective stories in a beautiful setting. He said: “Then I saw that there was a way to Hell, even from the gates of Heaven.” I’ll keep this in mind as a cast my mind to the beauty of the landscape that is my chosen setting. Inspiration indeed.Read more
I would like to wax poetic about the joys of the word and of the earth, but in fact what I’ve realized after today’s early morning gardening exploits is that gardening and writing are both work. There is a short term sense of satisfaction: the plants are in the ground, the words are on the page, but that satisfaction only lasts a few weary minutes. What we really want to see are the end results – the plants in full bloom and ground cover spreading – just as we want to see the completed page mesh with all the others, the final product polished and perfect. Perfect? I think that’s also a fallacy. Should the plants have been closer, arranged differently, different plants entirely? Maybe I shouldn’t have planted them there at all (the soil was very rocky). In writing we have the same concerns: is this the right story, the right point of view, are my chapters hitting the high points, is that the right word? And never, ever perfection. Fortunately, time helps. The plants grow (usually) and the book is finished. We have distance and perspective and are left with that very special sense of accomplishment that makes all the agony worthwhile.Read more
Last weekend I was honored to moderate a panel at Killer Nashville on getting a debut book to print. My co-panelists Patricia Dusenbury, Danny Lindsey and Rona Simmons were such a pleasure to meet and we each had a different story to share. The morning of the panel we spent some time thinking about our message, sharing our stories of path to publication, and ruminating about what we wanted to do next or do differently. This conversation led to the realization that the most important question any author can ask is: what is my goal. That became the theme of our panel. My goal was the start of a lasting relationship with an agent and publisher to launch a series. Series equals long term relationship with ‘the team’ made sense to me, however I’ve come to realize that if someone has a stand-alone book a long term relationship may not be as important. Several members of our audience expressed a sense of urgency due to age or health or another time factor. They wanted to see their book in print and the immediacy of self-publishing made sense to them. There were, of course, pre-conceived notions about the path of agent/publisher and self-publishing. One of the biggest seemed to revolve around marketing. In today’s world I think that anyone publishing a debut book will have to engage in marketing – even if you have a large marketing team coordinating an effort, there will be social media and local appearances that the author takes full responsibility for. Decide to embark on self-publishing and you’ll need to take on marketing whole heartedly – there was general agreement among the audience that once your book is launched you really do want it to sell regardless of any initial dream of simply seeing it in print. When you learn that Amazon launches 5,000 books a day you understand how hard it is to garner attention for anything being published. There were also cautionary tales of self-publishing, not necessarily bad business practice or dishonesty but the need to do the research to find a publisher or platform that truly meets your needs. For example, if you are publishing a mystery find a publisher who understands what that cover looks like, not a publisher who has a stock of romance covers that will make you grit your teeth every time you see it (a ‘wrong genre’ cover also hurts marketing). There was one horror story of self-publishing that proceeded smoothly except for the fact that the finished books were in a warehouse in Asia and the fee to get them to the US was not included in the original cost. Read the fine print is the take away here. My story, by contrast, has been a joy. I met my agent and signed quickly thereafter, she sold the manuscript within a few months and I have been thoroughly pleased with every aspect of the process – lovely cover, love the title, wonderful copy editor, supportive editor, encouraging marketing staff (I’m at the end of my adjectives now). At the Killer Nashville Conference I sat through many cocktail conversations and panels thinking that I needed to reach out to my agent and publisher to thank them, it is easy to forget to thank people who are wonderful, not as easy to forget the tales of woe. For my path to publication I had some thoughts about the process, which I shared, including these points: 1. To obtain an agent go to conferences. A face to face meeting gets you over a huge hurdle. 2. Sign up for on line help. Specifically, Writers Digest First 10 pages or Synopsis critiques (there are others, but as a panel we had experience with these and they were entirely positive). 3. Enter contests. There are contests for a variety of manuscripts/books. There are also contests for short stories, which provide an outlet for a new manuscript that doesn’t necessarily take months and months to write. 4. Be ready to revise. Among my panel there was consensus that the suggestion of a major change often results in a knee jerk reaction of NO! I want that sad ending or happy ending or whatever the suggestion is. Take some time to think about it. Ask why. If you are talking with an agent or editor then you are speaking with an experienced professional. We all fall in love with our story, we also have to learn to kill our darlings. (This may not be correct but I believe that Patricia Cornwell first wanted to publish a thriller series with a very different character and someone said to her – what about a female coroner as your central character, that would be unique and make you stand out. Perhaps she jumped on the idea, but I suspect she was very disappointed they didn’t simply take the character she had already created and say Yes!) 5. Be ready to revise again. Seriously. Two times I thought I had ‘finished’. Not so. I was fortunate to have a beta reader who suggested some structural changes that I incorporated prior to sending to my agent (without too much detail they were the kind of changes that meant cutting and chopping everywhere…. I had to think about them for two months to get up the courage. Even the idea of doing it was so painful I wasn’t sure I could. But I did!). I had another great reader make suggestions after the manuscript was sold and I knew they were the right changes – it meant taking a small suggestion and really going for it. I could have gotten away with an easier edit (trim a little here and there) but the better decision was to trim by re-incorporating. Harder, yes. But infinitely better. Ironically both changes came at critical moments which meant that they were made before I sent the manuscript to my agent (perhaps getting her to sign me) and then after we sold the manuscript, which means my editor thinks I am an editing genius! (Hope she’s not reading this.) If you have a chance, take a look at my co-panelists’ books. They are great people and I enjoyed sharing an hour with them. Patricia DusenburyA Perfect VictimSecrets, Lies & HomicideA House of Her Own Rona SimmonsPostcards from WonderlandThe Quiet RoomInto the Light of Day Danny LindseyThe PresJusticeRead more
If you thought the title was tongue in cheek you will be disappointed. I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Evanovich speak last weekend at Killer Nashville in a variety of forums from panel to interview to presentation and in each she didn’t disappoint. (I also was able to speak briefly with her over a glass of wine at the reception afterward…. a little bonus.) If you have passed through an airport or bookstore you likely recognize her books and you don’t have to be a fan to acknowledge that her success merits attention – 200 million books sold, I believe. In the spirit of full disclosure, I read my first Evanovich when she was on about #9 or so of the Stephanie Plum series. I was new to Kindle and wanted a book to read by the pool on an excruciatingly hot day in Phoenix. I started with number one of the series and, since I’m a quick read, needed another book later in the afternoon. To cut to the point, by the week’s end I had read all of them. The books were perfect for a great pool location – thank you Arizona Biltmore – and I downloaded seamlessly from one to the next. All the while my husband thought I was reading serious Russian literature (Evanovich, get it?). In any business there are crossover principles to be learned (if you have major success in a hotel chain perhaps the restaurant business can pick up a pointer). This should apply to book genres as well: mysteries learn from thrillers as well as from humor or historical romance or any other success story, and of course the reverse is true. Evanovich’s principles are as universal. Her main theme throughout the weekend was Work Hard. Seriously. In any discussion this came up. Treat writing like a job because it is a job. If you aren’t willing to do this, then you need to find a different job. Her analogy – do you drive up to 7-11 for a shift and sit in the car and decide if the muse is upon you before clocking in? Good day or bad day you go in and work. And just like a clerk or barista, as a writer you will experience the range of ‘performance’ – the day you spill the pot of coffee on a customer or consistently count out the wrong change, as well as the day when you get a huge tip. It’s a job. In the case of writing just sit down and do it. Ms. Evanovich was asked: What does work hard mean if you have a full time job and a family and a million other obligations? Simple. It means that writing is a part time job and proceed accordingly. Do you have the ability to have a part time job one hour a day or three hours a day? Decide as if you were hiring out to work, then stick with it as a serious commitment to yourself. In the end, you will achieve your goal (a page a day and in a year you have a complete manuscript) and at the same time develop good habits that will stand you in good stead as a full time writer with a crushing publication schedule that requires sitting down at the job 8-12+ hours a day. (Here, she did a have a little be careful what you wish for moment.) Another overarching principle Ms. Evanovich presented was be deliberate and thoughtful. In other words, plan. That encompasses myriad components of her success. What should you write? Ms. Evanovich swears she was kicked out of romance and had to decide what to do next. Why was she ‘kicked out’? Because she wanted to insert humor. When she took a break to decide what she wanted to do long term she found a genre (really invented a niche) that allowed her to do what she felt she was good at: adventure, romance and humor. This means a brutal self-evaluation – if you love reading humor but can’t write it, then stick to reading and discover your authentic voice as a writer. This is a slightly different interpretation of write what you know, write what you love, etc. Yes, you should love your genre, but you should also be able to write it. This concept worked well for Ms. Evanovich and, as I said, I won’t ever disagree with her. There were many other topics she touched upon: the importance of the bad guy, setting, relationships within the novel or series. The list goes on and on, but in the end it is work hard, plan, work harder, keep working, and one day you will succeed. Right now I’d like to agree with that.Read more
The writer’s conference Killer Nashville exceeded expectations in many ways, but as I digest the days of panels and speakers and most importantly dive into writing again I’m thinking about Plot Twists. At Killer Nashville three great panels touched on this: How to Write Effective Plot Twists, No Soggy Middles, and Creating Tension in Your Story. What I liked best about the panels is that there is no “perfect solution”. After all, every story is different, every author’s voice is different, however, there are many points that an author can reflect upon. I take notes at these events as if there is an exam (leftover from graduate school days?) and looking over them a few points stand out to me today. Mainly the idea of spending time on the villain. Sounds simple, right? Killer Nashville is mainly thriller and mystery writers and the advice and discussions crossover between the two…however I think that when writing a thriller the audience may know exactly who the villain is that villain should be evil (Hannibal Lector and his evil out of prison alter ego were both known to the reader/viewer and both were evil personified). I write mysteries and it’s not always as clear; after all, I want my audience to know the villain but not point to them on page 5 and say there they are, mystery solved. My villain needs to be concealed until the reveal and at the same time not so much of a surprise that the reader says, not possible. As I return to work on my manuscript I’ll be giving particular focus to this development. Are they enough of a villain to be satisfying? And are the means and reasons they went undetected well-constructed? Any thoughts about the well-constructed villain. Any favorites, any weak ones? Agatha Christie’s villain in the Murder of Roger Ackroyd certainly wasn’t obvious by any stretch of the imagination but, to me, he was completely believable once revealed. There have been many others since…..Read more