Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Leave a comment for your chance to win a paperback copy of Made To Be Broken signed by Kelley and a signed copy of my book, Endo. Both will arrive in an evidence bag with a toe tag, fingerprint cards and a few ‘Crime Scene’ bandages. Check for details at the end of the interview.
A. I think, in some ways, I was lucky to have my first book published when I had three kids already, two under the age of two at the time, because I quickly learned how to make the most of what little free time I had. As the younger two hit school age, the extra time gave me a chance to do more. I’m finding now that I overdid it a bit, so I’m easing back!
Q. Where do you write most often? And, do you ever break from your location and go out to a coffee shop or park to write?
A. I write most often in my basement office. It’s quiet and distraction-free. I’ve learned, though, to write in other locations—on the road, it’s a must. I do enjoy the clichéd coffee-shop writing thing now and then. I’ve discovered that as long as no one is talking directly to me (or likely to), I can tune it out.
Q. Please give your thoughts on outlining. Do you stick hard and fast to your outline or do you massage as you write?
A. I definitely massage as I go. The first act usually matches my outline, and the second has most of the main points, but the third almost always changes a lot. These days I don’t even bother to do more than jot down the basic idea for the resolution during the outlining phase.
A. A lot more went into the first novel, Exit Strategy. For this one, it was only things specific to the plot, like adoption law in Michigan.
Q. Did you bend any writing ‘rules’ in the Nadia Stafford series?
A. I bend them so often I don’t even notice anymore! I can’t remember any specific ones for this series, though.
Q. Made To Be Broken had no prologue which was a bit of a surprise to me. However you did start this book with a (silenced) bang. How important is the first scene?
A. I went back and forth a few times on the opening to this one. The natural prologue would have been the murder of a previous victim, but that would have given away too much of the mystery. I initially started with the hitman job Nadia does with Quinn. Then I worried because that wasn’t the main plot, so I changed it, starting with Nadia and her assistant, Sammi. I had her leave for the job with Quinn, then return to find Sammi had disappeared. But that meant a very slow start, one that didn’t properly introduce Nadia as a hitman. So I reverted to the original version.
Q. You handled what could easily have turned into blatant exposition gracefully in the book. What is the trick to making necessary information seamless and non-expository?
A. If it’s necessary (and it shouldn’t be included if it isn’t) then it needs to be broken up into the smallest chunks possible and woven into the narrative. Writing pages of exposition is begging modern readers to skip pages, meaning they’ll miss something the author thought was important to the story.
Q. You write complicated female protagonists and Nadia Stafford is definitely one of them. Do you ever feel a responsibility to represent woman in fiction?
A. No. My focus is on strong and complex characters, male and female. Writing them from the female POV means that those traits are more obvious in my women, but I’ve tried to work them into the men as well.
Q. I’m always happy when a piece of information jumps out at me in a fiction novel. One of those nuggets from Made To Be Broken was that a cougar sounds like the scream of a woman. Is this information you filed away for use some time never knowing if you’d ever need it? As an author, do you feel you look at things around you differently?
A. I do file away trivia like that, and I suppose it makes me look at the world differently. I’m always hearing things that I think would make a good tidbit or twist for a book, then holding onto them until I find the right place.
Q. You made purely Canadian references in this book: Canadian Tire and Lotto 6/49 to name two. Is there a risk of alienating U.S. readers?
A. There is if it’s overdone. I make sure that the meaning is clear—Canadian Tire is identified as a store, Lotto 6/49 is obviously a lottery etc. If it comes naturally to me, as a Canadian, to use a certain reference, then I do, but I don’t go out of my way to add it for flavour.
Q. You also use brand names like Maglite instead of flashlight. Any worry that readers will see this as ‘product placement’?
A. Again, it’s a matter of quantity. If every item is identified by brand name. then it smacks of product placement. I use them only when the character would, so with Nadia, it’s for things like her equipment.
Q. How difficult is it to keep a balance between character plots and the main plot or do they rely on each other to such a degree that the equal balance is automatic?
A. They do rely on each other. That wasn’t always the case with my books, but I’ve learned to consider character development more when coming up with the plot, so the two can progress in tandem.
Q. Are the involved, intricate relationships in Nadia’s life there to help balance out her anti-heroine archetype?
A. They are. When working with an anti-hero, a writer needs to balance that "anti" part with other things. Readers want to identify with the main character, which is tougher in this type of book, so backstory and outside relationships are important. Readers don’t need to like the character, but understanding her is important.
Q. Do you ever make a personal statement in your fiction writing? Take Nadia’s feelings about Tim Hortons or how she feels about non-unionized workforces – is that her opinion only or is it tinged with Kelley Armstrong?
A. It’s Nadia, which readers sometimes have difficulty understanding. I’ve had more than my share of e-mailed complaints because of a statement a character makes. I explain that I write first-person narrative, which means it’s the character talking, not me. An author hasn’t done her job with character development if she doesn’t know what a character’s opinions would be…or if they all match her own!
Q. What is the most important thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry?
A. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m not sure what’s most important, but one bit of new knowledge that I think is important to pass on is that it’s not a closed industry. Unpublished writers like to tell themselves that they aren’t getting picked up because publishers don’t want new writers or new material. The truth is that editors are always looking for new work. They want to find new authors. The problem is getting your work to the person who falls in love with what you’ve written.
Q. What’s more difficult, getting published or continuing to be published?
A. Getting published was harder, but staying that way is tougher than I imagined. Before I was published, like most writers, my entire focus was on getting my foot in the door. I didn’t really think about what would happen after that. The next step, though, is staying published, and it’s far from a given.
Q. Was there a time when you were first published that things weren’t as you expected? Did you struggle even though you’d been published?
A. That’s always a tough question to answer because when writers complain about the hardships and stresses of the business, it sounds like whining, particularly to all the would-be authors who would love to be in our shoes. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. I love it. Of course there are things that are tougher than I expected. Staying published, for one thing. I’m at the point where I’m not in danger of losing my career if the next book fails, but there’s still that constant pressure to do better and fear of starting to slide backward.
Q. With so many books being published all battling for diminishing shelf space, it’s easy for those starting out as writers to get discouraged. What advice can you give aspiring writers dreaming of getting published?
To be eligible to win a signed copy of Kelley’s Made To Be Broken and a signed copy of my book, Endo, all you have to do is leave a comment. Come back to the blog on July 18th to see if you are the winner. This is a worldwide contest and the shipping is on me. Simple right? Remember, regardless of how many comments you leave, you can only have your name (blogger ID) entered in the contest once. Good luck.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
June 6, 1935 – March 8, 2009
My mom passed on early on March 8th and though we’d been preparing ourselves for this time, it was nonetheless very difficult to accept. My mom was extremely important to me, her family and her friends which showed in the number of people who came to pay their respects at her visitation and memorial service. I want to thank everyone who in their own ways showed support for our family. Many kind words made there way to me and I cannot express how important they were in keeping me strong through this very trying time.
I can take solace in the fact that I remained a big part of my mom’s life and helped her as much as I could in her waning years. I can also feel good knowing that I have followed her final wishes to the letter (and will continue to do so until every last one is taken care of). I have to thank my wife Sandy and our daughter Alex for all their help. If not for them I don’t know what I would have done. Our friends have been incredible not only by offering to help, but by jumping in without being asked and doing whatever they could. Raquel, driving Alex and Sandy to the hospital so that I could stay close to mom. Tony delivering food to the hospital knowing I wasn’t going to leave her side. Richard, who answered his phone any time of day or night to let me vent. These are just a few examples and may sound like small things, but they were huge to us.
I can’t sleep. I close my eyes to sleep and I get angry at some things that have happened. I don’t have all that stuff that has to be taken care of to distract me anymore (not that I wanted all of it, but there was a positive). I get sad that I won’t see my mom again. I can’t shut off my mind enough to relax. Sleep is in short half hour spurts. I know it’ll get better and life will return to some kind of normalcy (whatever that is) but for now I’m troubled.
I know why I’m having trouble letting go. The scale is tipped too far in my mom’s favour and I can’t find ways to balance it out. My mother did what mother’s do – she cared for and nurtured me. She helped put a roof over my head and food on our table. We didn’t have a lot but what we had was more than enough. My father and mother helped me become a better person and develop into a man. She showed me how important life and love are. That things can be replaced but people are gone forever – choosing which to love is pretty easy.
She gave me a home when my world collapsed and never asked for anything in return. I got back on my feet and she was so proud of me. Funny how she was as responsible for that as I was but never said it or asked to be recognized. I would never look at her in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of way. Mom did so much for me throughout my life – going to my hockey games (until it got too rough), cleaning up all the wounds, taking me to my doctor and dentist appointments, the birthday parties, the lessons she taught me without me knowing it, the amazing stories she told while we sat around the kitchen table, playing scrabble with me, making me the Peter Cottontail costume for my kindergarten play, always finding and stressing the positive, letting me think that I found my own way. I could fill pages of things for which to thank her and that is why I feel the scale is greatly tipped in her favour.
If I live the remainder of my life by the incredible example she set I may be able to come close to balancing the scales.
Mom, I love you and I will miss you terribly.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Weeks ago I made a joke about The Secret and it made me laugh but was pretty derogatory toward anyone remotely interested in this…program? Way of life? Philosophy? Ruse? I didn’t feel guilty about the comment, but I did wonder if I gave it a fair shake. After all, Oprah devoted several shows to The Secret. Maybe there was something I missed the first time I read the back of the book. Maybe the short intro on Oprah about a boy wanting a bike, thinking about the bike, cutting a picture from a catalogue of the bike and sticking it to his wall, then the bike magically appearing wasn’t the whole story
I had to investigate more thoroughly.It was still the same pie-in-the-sky nonsense I researched when it first arrived. I watched the first twenty minutes of The Secret film on YouTube and was in awe of the production values. The producers spared no expense in dramatizing The Secret and how it has been guarded and passed down from generation to generation. At the core of this philosophy is the law of attraction. What you think about, you attract. If you think negative, I’m going to get nothing but bills in the mail, I’m going to be late, I’m never going to succeed then that is what you will attract. Think positively. Think about what you want and you will get it; you will attract it.
What works most effectively about The Secret is not a law, but a power. The power of suggestion. If people buy into The Secret they buy the book or the DVD. Marketing is the best way to describe its success.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing? What’s really at the heart of this philosophy isn’t thinking about something and getting it like the kid getting the bike he was thinking about. It’s the power of positive thinking, something Norman Vincent Peale suggested in the 50s. And like Peale’s philosophy which had no way of being substantiated, so too, falls The Secret.
No one can prove unequivocally that simply thinking about your wants will reward you with them. Nor can anyone say for certain that thinking positively will alter your life for the better. No one leaves their home in the morning thinking they want to be hit by a bus, but it happens. This is the flaw in the theory of positive thinking and likewise, in The Secret.
However, in my thirst for knowledge and while researching whether to delve further into The Secret phenomenon, I made a conscious choice. I decided that I would focus my attention on being positive and recognizing the positive over the negative. It’s been almost a month now and I have to say that it has not brought me fame or fortune. However, it has changed me in a very significant way. I am happier. It may sound strange, but it's the truth. I feel better. I wake up feeling good and go about my day feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time. Does that equal getting everything I ever wanted. Of course not. But it does make a difference in my life and in the lives of those around me.
Thinking positively has not stopped, nor will it ever stop, bad things from happening (bills will continue to arrive in the mail). Positive thinking makes those unpleasant things in life a lot more tolerable.
So, The Secret isn't a secret after all.