Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Q&A: LORENA MCCOURTNEY, PT 2


We continue our discussion with award-winning mystery novelist Lorena McCourtney, whose best-selling work has drawn acclaim from both the Romance Writers of America and the American Library Association's Booklist. Her latest Ivy Malone mystery is On The Run (Revell). Read an excerpt here.

And so, without further ado, the second part of our conversation ...

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PART 2.

HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU READ A MONTH?
Probably three to five. Mysteries, of course. But at the moment I’m also reading some old 1920-30s books I inherited from my parents. Some good, some rather strange.

WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
I consider writing my job, so I get up and do it every day, just as if I were going to a job. (Of course I have to check e-mail first.) I work from about 9:30 to 4:00, with an hour or so off for lunch with my husband. But some of this time is spent in writing-related activities rather than actual writing. Research, answering reader e-mails and letters, trying to find items I’ve filed somewhere but can’t remember where, occasionally doing a little ego-surfing, etc. But I don’t try to do housework or anything else first, and then write in whatever time is left. The writing comes first.

ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" WRITER OR A "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
Something of a combination, I think, although with a leaning toward being more of an OP (Outline Person) than a NOP (No-Outline Person).

Usually by the time I actually start a book, I’ve been thinking about it for some time. When I first get a book idea, I put it in my ideas file. If some connecting thoughts occur to me, I give the idea a file of its own and continue to toss in bits of information about character, plot, settings and theme. Also, hopefully, a title. Even though editors frequently change titles, I like to have one in place to start. It helps give a book focus.

Then, when it comes time to get started on the book, I get out all my scraps of paper and separate them into various piles. This helps me see where the holes are in plot or characterization, and I can fill them in.

If an editor requires a synopsis, I do one of 5-6 pages. If it isn’t required, I tend to muddle along, aiming toward a climactic ending, but actually outlining just a few scenes ahead at a time, not the whole book. I never do a complete chapter-by-chapter outline at the start of a book, as I understand some writers do. But neither do I start one without a fairly clear idea where it’s going. (Although sometimes my good plans go awry, and I may change the identity of the murderer halfway through the book.)

ARE YOU A FULL-TIME NOVELIST?
Yes, although I’m a slow one. I need to allow at least nine months to do a book. And I take more time off than I used to for going places with my husband, who is retired. (I’m assuming you don’t consider cooking, housekeeping, keeping the checkbook organized and paying the bills, etc. a “day job.”)

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD "MADE IT"?
This is a difficult question since my writing career hasn’t been that well defined. And knowing when I’ve “made it”? Even after 37 published books, certainly not yet!

I started out writing juvenile and teen short stories (some 250 of them published), along with a couple of teen books that didn’t sell and one that did. I added women’s short stories and had about 150 of them published. I then turned to romance novels. The first was a few chapters on a historical romance, and an agent tactfully suggested I try contemporaries instead. I did, and he sold my first attempt on the basis of three chapters and an outline. I then had some 24 mass-market romances published, although that doesn’t mean I sold everything I wrote. I then switched to Christian romances and a few years ago made yet another change, to Christian mysteries. So here I am.

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Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our Q&A. In the meantime, find Lorena McCourtney online at LorenaMcCourtney.com (where you can read an excerpt of On The Run). You can also find more about her novels at her publisher's site, Revell Books.

Related links:
Q&A: LORENA MCCOURTNEY, PT 1
Q&A: LORENA MCCOURTNEY, PT 3

More mystery and suspense author Q&As:
Q&A: MINDY STARNS CLARK (Blind Dates Can Be Murder)
Q&A: GINNY AIKEN (Decorating Schemes)
Q&A: CRESTON MAPES (Full Tilt)
Q&A: BRANDILYN COLLINS (Web of Lies)
Q&A: TASHA ALEXANDER (And Only to Deceive)
Q&A: LONNIE CRUSE (Murder In Metropolis)

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Die Laughing: Funny Crime and Mystery Fiction

SHE'S THE SHERIFF!

A woman with a complicated past returns home to become the small town's new sheriff. Best Mann For The Job is by the writer/artist team of Chris and Erica Well. Read it from the beginning at StudioWell.com. Watch the trailer on YouTube.