Writing Strong Female Characters

Look who’s back!  Thriller and sci-fi author Steven M. Moore is my guest blogger today, and he’s offering advice on portraying strong female characters in your writing.  Whether you are a male or female writer and/or reader, please consider the points Steve makes here, because they certainly apply to both perspectives.  And female readers, Steve would really like to hear from you especially.

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Female characters, four years later…

I’ve been writing full speed now, trying to satisfy Ashley Scott and my muses.  Who’s Ashley Scott?  For those who have read The Midas Bomb and Angels Need Not Apply, Ms. Scott is a DHS agent and analyst and a good friend of NYPD detectives Chen and Castilblanco.  She thought it was time to receive top billing and my muses agreed.  She will appear in my new novel The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan, which she and the muses are tasering me to finish (about 60% complete now—I can’t wait to see how it ends!).

I wrote the post “Female Characters” four years ago (http://stevenmmoore.com/?p=224).  Based on my own experience with just three novels (eight now—yep, I’ve been doing this for a while), I gave some advice about portraying strong female characters in your writing if you’re a male writer.  My thesis:  It’s tough, but you have to do it.  You stand to lose half your potential audience if you don’t.  I won’t repeat any more of that advice here (writers and readers might enjoy reading that old post), but I’ll make some comments about what’s gone on since then.

For those in the know, strong female characters are as much a part of my writing as sci-fi and suspense.  Dao-Ming Chen blossomed in Angels; Kalidas Metropolis and Jay Sandoval foiled a conspiracy in Full Medical; Sirena was more than a match for Rupert Snyder aka Vladimir Kalinin in Evil Agenda; Caitlin Murphy and Asako O’Brien kicked butt in Soldiers of God; and Jenny Wong played a pivotal role in Survivors of the Chaos and Sing a Samba Galactica.  In my YA novel The Secret Lab, Shashibala Garcia tamed Mr. Paws, the mathematical cat, and thwarted his evil master, and she was only twelve!

Readers, especially female readers, have the final word about whether I’m any good at portraying female characters.  I find the human female as strange as any other human male does, often thinking that we’re separate species that just happen to play together to perpetuate the human race.  As a consequence, I have always challenged myself to write about the “divine feminine,” albeit less directly than Dan Brown.  You can tell me if I’ve succeeded in giving an accurate portrayal—I’m still learning.

Stereotypes abound when male authors write about female characters.  Here experience counts.  I can’t imagine how anyone can be a marriage counselor without ever being married, especially a priest (historically priests have given both men and women terrible marital advice), so a care-free man about town (more likely, an introverted ostrich with his head in the sand) who has never married has one strike against him when he sits down to write.  As I said four years ago, I’ve been lucky to know, admire, and love some strong women in my time.  That experience counts and allows you to avoid the media and pop culture portraits of women that are often two-dimensional stereotypes, especially when the writer or screenwriter belongs to a different culture.  I’m aghast at some of TV’s sitcoms, for example, and their portrayal of women.

Some of that experience is lacking when the male writer has no female siblings.  For eighteen years of my life, my main experience with women was the apple-pie relationship with my mother.  I had one brother and no sisters.  My knowledge of the divine feminine was minimal when I wrote my first novel at thirteen.  That contributed to its inferior quality that made me chuck it when I left for college (the plot wasn’t bad, though—something akin to the movie City of Angels).  Like many pubescent teenage boys, my ideal woman could be found in the centerfold of Playboy (my apologies to all women except those who have seen the Matthew McConaughey movie or read Fifty Shades—you have no right to complain about Playboy).   I think this would have been different if I’d had a sister (don’t look for Freudian meaning there).

Male writers have to get beyond women as sex objects if they’re attempting to write about women.  Even if they write erotica or romance novels or cross-genre novels involving erotica or romance (historical-fiction-vampire-romance?), they will have a tough time if they can’t get beyond this.  Of course, both males and females treat each other as sex objects at different times, but the male-female relationship is much more complicated than this.  Moreover, a lot of fiction, beyond that already mentioned, doesn’t even need any sexual tension.  Hollywood is notorious for ruining good stories with their insistence on adding a female part to be the protagonist’s love interest, or vice versa.

There is very little sex in my books, for example, much less than you might find on cable TV.  There is often sexual tension.  I’ve progressed in my view of women and can chuckle when recalling that thirteen-year-old and his first novel.  My characters, men or women, aren’t asexual—they’re just normal.  And by normal, I’m thinking normal as we should define it today—heterosexual people and all their LGBT friends.  (Don’t have any?  Your loss!).  Kalidas Metropolis, one of my finest characters in my opinion, is a lesbian who sings arias from Carmen while in the shower (she’s in Full Medical and Evil Agenda).  I don’t think I made her into a stereotype, but readers might think otherwise.  There’s also a teen’s search for sexual identity in The Secret Lab—yeah, parents, your teen can have sexual angst.  It’s all part of life.

Here’s the key, I think, when writing about male or female characters:  their sexuality is part of their personality.  A writer should focus on the personalities.  Of course, many characters are finely annealed alloys of several real people whom the author has observed.  I don’t see how you can write without being a people-watcher, in fact.  Anyone can include female characters in a novel.  The author who has trouble with them hasn’t studied enough women in real life.  The movie As Good as It Gets where Jack Nicholson portrayed an OCD romance writer who couldn’t relate well to anyone, especially women, was hard for me to understand.  How could this guy be a successful writer?

That doesn’t mean the writer has to describe everything about a woman, including her personality, to the nth degree.  For physical description, give some clues and let the reader fill in the details.  To get inside her mind, give some clues too—imagine yourself in there as an observer—then let the reader fill in the details.  Sounds kinky and a bit schizoid, I know, but a writer has to do it.  You have to do it for any character!  It’s kind of fun imagining how a female character thinks or reacts to certain situations, a bit like being an amateur psychologist in the abstract.  Maybe all marriage counselors should have some writing experience?  Or, should all writers be amateur psychologists?

And so it goes….

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Readers, what are your thoughts?  Writing from the perspective of the opposite sex is tricky; many writers have succeeded, others…not so much.  Any suggestions for novels where the character came alive, or fizzled, because the author just didn’t master the trick?

Many thanks to author, Steven M. Moore, for his contribution.  Be sure to check out his web page for information on his latest project and to order any of his thriller and sci-fi books, including his new release, Come Dance a Cumbia…with Stars in Your Hand!  Also, check out my interview with Steve from a few weeks back to learn more.

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Also, if you’d like to guest blog on Gina Fava’s Blog, please contact me via my website

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Gallivanting Around Town Today

I can’t seem to sit still this week!  Two wonderful colleagues and friends were kind enough to host me on their blogs:

  • Steven M. Moore Here I chat about endangered languages and the fun that writers can have with language and dialogue.
  • J. H. Bográn Here I share some thoughts on writing and reading True Crime books.

I hope you’ll visit these hardworking authors, as they have many great novels to share.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

To donate to the American Red Cross relief effort, people can visit www.redcross.org ,call 1-800 HELPNOW, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999to make a $10 donation.

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My friend and colleague, J.H. Bográn tagged me with these interview questions last week.  Who am I to pass up a blog hop?  But don’t think he can just tag me from out of the blue and get away with it–keep an eye out for a J.H. Bográn guest post right here later in November.

Okay, I have fulfilled my civic duty and exercised my informed right to VOTE on this fine Election Day. I have my coffee.  My computer’s fully charged. Now, let’s have some fun with these questions…

What is the working title of your book?

My suspense thriller is The Sculptor, where the hunt is on for the serial killer who sculpts and plasters female grad students in Rome.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

In college, I studied in Rome, Italy just as the US was entering the first Persian Gulf War.  Tensions ran high for Americans in a foreign country, and many of the scenes I wrote depicted the peril–bomb scares, abductions, armed guards on every street corner, etc.  This tension formed the backdrop to the romance element in the book, a close interpretation of how I met my husband, also a student in Rome at the time.  The villain is a mix of Hannibal Lector and American Psycho, and my Art in Rome professor.

What genre does your book fall under?
I’d call it a suspense thriller–a mystery, with elements of action, suspense, romance, and peril that keeps you reading into the wee hours to find out what happens next.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

If Bradley Cooper agrees to play the male lead, I’d speed-read Acting for Dummies a few times and then cast myself as the protagonist.  Won’t cast the villain now, that would reveal too much.  The genius, Kevin Spacey, needs to play some role.  And, Jimmy Fallon.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Graduate student Mara Silvestri, targeted by Rome’s serial killer, The Sculptor, must uncover the family secret that draws him to her before she winds up the prized masterpiece in his collection.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m currently seeking a literary agent, but I’m open to both avenues of publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I outlined it in a couple weeks, produced the first draft in about three or four months, revised and polished it in another three or four months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The story is comparable to Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs, or maybe The Relic by Preston and Child, and somewhat akin to a Lisa Gardner novel or a Harlan Coben mystery.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Real life experiences inspired the book, but then again, what book isn’t inspired by life?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Rome, Venice, the Alps, and Tuscany. (Location, location, location, right?)  Romance, bro-mance, terror, wine, art, plot twists, characters you want to hang with, and a dog.

The new tags are:

And here are the rules:

* Give credit to the person / blog that tagged you
* Post the rules for the blog hop
*Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

The Eightfold Way of Writing to Keep Readers Happy

What are the DOs and DON’Ts of novel writing? Today, thriller and sci-fi author Steven M. Moore is my guest blogger, and he should know them.   After all, among his many other works, he’s just released the third book in his “The Chaos Chronicles Trilogy.”   Here he offers us his Eightfold Way of reader-oriented DON’Ts that writers can use to keep readers feeling satisfied.

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The Eightfold Way

The media has become fixated on spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs boson (the so-called “God particle,” a name that would surely make Mr. Higgs cringe).  The Higgs mechanism (i.e. the spontaneous symmetry breaking) is necessary to give mass to some of the vector bosons in the electroweak or weak and electromagnetic interaction theory.  Forgotten in all this media hoopla is the theory that led to the idea of quarks and gluons, the Eightfold Way of symmetries popularized by Mr. Gell-Mann.  (Note that I refrain from using the term “discovered.”  In theoretical physics, the math is “out there.”  You just have to figure out what math matches up to the experimental data.  Experimental physics is where “discoveries” are made.)

Now that I’ve had some fun imagining your eyes glazing over as if you’d just had tequila mixed with sleeping pills, let me say that this post is not about physics.  (My eyes are glazed too, because the above is hardcore physics and I’ve been sipping my Jameson’s while writing like a madman.)  The Eightfold Way I consider here is the shining path that leads you to a finished novel that someone might want to read. It’s my distillation of rules for writing a novel—a distillation that is not the quality of a fine Irish whiskey, but I’ve put some thought to it and would like to share (I’d like to share the Jameson’s too, but the internet hasn’t discovered e-drinking yet).

What are the rules for successful novel writing?  There are many and everybody has his or her own list.  All writers are not equal—what works for one might not for the other.  Moreover, since I’m not David Baldacci or Stephen King, you might think that I’m being a bit presumptuous—I am not a successful novelist.  I might be considered prolific, but, by my own standards, I’m not successful—I would certainly like to have more readers.  Nevertheless, I’m an avid reader.  Since I’m also a novelist, when I read a novel, I read with a critical eye, especially in my capacity as a reviewer.    Readers rule, especially nowadays when there’s a plethora of novels available just waiting to be read.  My Eightfold Way is reader-oriented.  It’s a list of DON’Ts if the writer wants to keep his readers happy.  Are you ready?

(1) Don’t just write about what you know.  In fact, the adage “Write about what you know” is completely off base.  I don’t know who said it initially, but he or she clearly wanted to eliminate the competition.  Here’s the scoop:  If you have no imagination, you shouldn’t be a novelist.  I’m not just talking about sci-fi, either, where this rule is obvious.  If you’re writing a romantic novel about vampire love or a thriller about finding a serial killer, I bet you have no direct experience in either (not $10k—how about one of my eBooks?).  Your imagination has to rule your writing.  Moreover, what you imagine has to be put into words that move and still make sense to the reader.

(2) Don’t confuse your readers on time, place, or point-of-view (POV).  The action in my novel The Midas Bomb, for example, covers only a week.  I had the timeline laid out, of course, but I soon realized that the reader could be confused by the rapid succession of events, especially since flashbacks are mixed in.  Consequently, the day and time are a subheading to each chapter.  (One reviewer expressed appreciation for this, so I know I made the right choice.)  For POV, I’m not a purist.  Switches within a chapter are OK as long as they’re clear—for example, at the beginning of a new chapter section.  However, it’s a little weird when Susie knows what Bob is thinking, unless Susie is a mind reader.  Bottom line here: don’t make your reader say, “Huh?”

(3) Don’t write overly explicit and excessive character description.  I hate it as a reviewer; I avoid it like the plague as a novelist.  Leave something for the reader’s imagination.  If you’re too excessive, you might contradict the image he already has in his mind.  Your character might have a dragon tattoo, but it’s unimportant to the reader if it’s unimportant to the plot.  Minimalist writing should be your goal.  Of course, you have to be clever enough to provide some logical but misleading clues in a mystery, for example, or the reader will have no fun.  The key to description is that old slutty Goldilocks—you want just enough, no more, no less.

(4) Don’t be verbose or erudite, especially in dialog.  Many experts call Herman Melville’s Moby Dick the greatest American novel.  I don’t think so.  It’s number two on my list of “worst books in the English language” primarily because it’s an overly detailed manual on how to turn whale’s blubber into lamp oil.  If anything, Greenpeace should ban it.  In fact, most of the books in my list suffer from verbosity and eruditeness.  One reader talked about the pages and pages in Giants of the Earth describing the motion of grass (maybe that’s where the phrase “boring as watching grass grow” came from?).  The 70+ page speech in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is another turn-off.  The pages and pages of description of sea flora and fauna in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea is a huge turn-off.  You get the idea.

I reviewed a book recently where the author obeyed his grammar checker to the nth degree and omitted all contractions in his dialog.  Oops!  Contractions are an important part of natural dialog; the latter should always reflect everyday speech.  Anything else sounds pompous.  Of course, you might want your character to sound pompous, but handle with care.  Street jive is the other extreme, of course.  The trick is to entertain your readers, not bore them or annoy them.

To me, verbosity also includes an overuse of adjectives and adverbs.  That’s the minimalist thing again.  Consider:  “You’re a cad!” she said angrily.  The “angrily” is unnecessary as are most variants of “said.”  These latter are wraith-like words that a speed-reader passes over.  Of course, artistic license allows you to spring a surprise.  Consider:  “You’re a cad!” she said with a wink.  Now the adverbial phrase “with a wink” expresses possible flirting instead of the obvious anger.  It’s no longer superfluous.

(5)  Don’t dwell on minutia.  That’s the minimalist idea yet again.  Moby and 20,000 Leagues again come to mind.  Assume the reader already has a good idea about how to brush his teeth, for example—I’m reminded of those websites where one watches someone go through their day.  Boring!  I have better ways to spend my time.  If a character goes from point X to point Y, the reader doesn’t need to know what happened between X and Y, unless it’s essential to the plot (he sits on a butterfly and changes the space-time continuum?).

(6)  Don’t be cute.  The TV series Lost had many followers, but most people were turned off by the convoluted pseudo-spiritual ending and the many flash-forwards were confusing, to say the least.  The writers were too cute.  I’ve seen this happen in novels I review.  I might be old-fashioned, but I avoid flash-forwards entirely.  Garcia-Marquez in one of his novellas, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, gets cute and announces the ending right up front, then spends the rest of the novella telling the reader how that came to pass.  He gets away with it—he’s a Nobel prize winner, after all.  Generally speaking, though, you won’t.  [Note:  Gina Fava, an ardent Lostee, respectfully disagrees with this point about the use of flash-forwards.  The use of flashbacks, flash-forwards, and flash-sideways (a Lost thing) may be artfully entertaining, but do proceed with caution as they may lead to a degree of confusion.]

LOST’s Numbers of Significance
(half-baked, literally)

(7)  Don’t use clichéd plots.  Yeah, I know, there are only so many different story types, but I’ve read about too many twins separated at birth, too many aliens that seem like mafiosos, a plethora of amnesia victims running from bad guys, hordes of star-crossed lovers with families that don’t understand, and so forth.  In particular, if I can map your story into one of Shakespeare’s plays by any stretch of my own fertile imagination, I’m suspicious.  Clichés also reduced my enjoyment of the Star Wars trilogy—too many plot elements were lifted straight from Asimov and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work.

If I were an agent (thank goodness I’m not), the last thing I would want to read in a query is “My book is like….”  (I did tell agents that my young adult novel The Secret Lab is NOT Harry Potter in space, but that’s different—I like Harry and friends, but every YA agent in the world was looking for the next Harry.)  Use that imagination.  If your novel’s plot seems clichéd, at least throw some plot twists in that wake up your reader.  As a reviewer, I love a reversed cliché.  (Unlikely heroes fall into this category—remember the tailor who “killed six with one blow”?)

(8)  Don’t name your characters without some serious consideration.  In January’s Writer’s Digest, Elizabeth Sims in the article “Namedropping” lists many good ideas about how you should choose a character’s name.  Like Ms. Sims, I take character naming very seriously as a writer.  As a reader and reviewer, I cringe at some authors’ choices.  Jeff Smith isn’t a Latino, Jane Brown isn’t Chinese, and so forth.  Again, think of your reader.  He or she will be upset if all your names sound like they’re taken from a first-grade reader.  Moreover, the appropriate name for a character must somehow fit that character’s personality.  Some best-selling writers violate this rule—a pox on their house, I say, or on their editor’s, at least.

What’s not in this list?  Many details.  That’s the easy answer.  All the grammatical details, for example (rules upon rules about split infinitives, ending a sentence with a preposition, etc).  Rules about not switching from third to first person (tell that to Patterson) or excessive use of the passive voice.  Rules about appropriate punctuation (tell that to Garcia-Marquez in Autumn of the Patriarch, at least in the Spanish version, or Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake).  I care less about these rules.  Rules are meant to be broken and writers often do so, even famous ones (should I say, especially famous ones?).

Nonetheless, my Eightfold Way contains what I consider essential that you NOT do as a novelist.  I might still find your novel entertaining if you break one of my rules, but I might not.  I probably should change my phrasing to “worst books in the English language that so-called experts say are great”—there are many indie books out there that are not worth your time because they break many of these rules.  Same goes for some best-sellers that have passed through the legacy publishing gauntlet.  The “so-called experts” will be reluctant to give the “great” grade in this case, especially counting their bias against indie books.  You, the reader, on the other hand, are very lucky.  There are many “great books” out there, both legacy and indie, in many different genres—you just need to find them and enjoy them.

However, just as Einstein might have a problem receiving tenure in today’s tough academic environment, writing a novel well does not guarantee that you will have readers.  Name recognition is the key.  That can be achieved through publicity and marketing.  If you have the budget, contract with an agency that will help you in these areas.  Moreover, it helps to have not just one book but several.  Einstein’s theory of special relativity alone would have eventually made him famous, but when you consider everything else he published in 1905, not to mention his magnum opus, the general theory of relativity, you just knew the guy wasn’t a Johnny-come-lately.  He was a prolific scientist—as a reader, look for prolific writers, and, as a writer, be prolific.

In libris libertas….

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Many thanks to author, Steven M. Moore, for his contribution.  Be sure to check out his web page for information on his latest project and to order any of his thriller and sci-fi books.  Also, check out my interview with Steve from a few weeks back to learn more.

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Also, if you’d like to guest blog on Gina Fava’s Blog,

please contact me via my website

Gina Fava Interview AND Obama/Romney Debate

2 things today:

1.  Presidential Debate Tonight

2.  Author Steven M. Moore Interviews Gina Fava

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About the debate…

Click on the American Flag to learn more about How Presidential Debates Work

No matter your political affiliation, tune in tonight for the Presidential Debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney at 9pm, because if you vote uninformed, then you have no right to complain!

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About the interview…

Visiting a Winery in Montalcino, Italy (research, I swear!)

The other day, I popped over for an interview with friend and colleague, Steven M. Moore.  You may remember that I interviewed him last week, and I published his interview here.  Well, Steve was kind enough to return the favor.  Here’s the link to Steve’s Blog where he shares with his readers what makes Gina Fava tick, and where you can learn more about his latest works.

Here’s the interview in its entirety:

Interview with thriller author Gina Fava…

 As a special treat today, I offer you an interview with fellow thriller author Gina Fava. A Buffalo, NY native, Gina lives in New England with her husband, Jamie, and their two children. A writer of award-winning short stories, Gina Fava is working to publish two novels, The Race and The Sculptor, both suspense thrillers based in Rome, Italy. She’s currently writing her next thrillers in both series. She travels to Italy often to research first-hand the red wines that her characters imbibe. An active member of MWA, ITW, and SinC, Gina’s a thrill-seeking bridge jumper, a Formula One racing fanatic, and a nut for blogging about skeletal recomposition. You can learn more about Gina at her website. Thank you, Gina.

 

1) Why, how, and when did you start writing?

 

I started writing to entertain myself in grade school. In high school, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot blew me away, and his Night Shift short stories prompted me to write to entertain family and friends. It wasn’t until I returned from studying abroad in Italy that I sent my short stories and feature articles out to the rest of the world. I think I needed to experience life a bit before I realized that I had novels clamoring to get out too.

 

2) What is your biggest problem with the writing process. How do you tackle it?

 

Characterization. I love my characters from inception, but it takes some development in their infant stages until I grow close enough to them to appreciate their true personalities.

 

3) Do you feel writing is something you need to do or want to do?

 

Both. Being a writer is a part of who I am.

 

4) Have your personal experiences (or situations) influenced you creatively? If so, how?

 

Yes, in one way or another, my personal experiences always infiltrate the pages of whatever I’m writing. But never more so than in my novel, The Sculptor, in which the main character meets her love interest in much the same way that I met my husband, while studying abroad in Italy, only without the serial killer (that we’re aware of).

 

5) How much of your creative ability do you think is innate and how much is learned?

 

I think everyone is born with a kernel of some innate talent. It’s how one chooses to cultivate it that decides whether it will pop or not.

 

6) What is the last book you read? What are you reading now?

 

Blue Covenant, by Maude Barlow was the last book I read, an excellent resource on the water crisis and water rights. I’m reading Preston and Child’s Still Life with Crows right now. I love anything by Preston and Child.

 

7) Whose writing inspires you the most and why?

 

Stephen King. His characters resonate for me. His style is like comfort food for my soul. Dean Koontz’s description is akin to poetry for me. Their fiction makes me strive to be a better writer. And, King’s On Writing, inspires me to figure out how. [Note from Steve: King’s On Writing is recommended for authors of all levels and all genres.]

 

8) Do you have a favorite genre?

 

Thrillers (especially suspense, historical, horror, and sci-fi thrillers).

 

9) Should writers read in their genre? Should they be avid readers?

 

Writers should always be avid readers, and reading outside their genre helps a writer to see life from a different perspective, which will ultimately give their own writing more depth.

 

10) How do you find your plots?

 

Dreams; headlines; twists on history; what-if extrapolations on real life; my husband’s genius spin on something he learned.

 

11) Are your characters based on real people?

 

Many of my characters are inspired by real people. Most represent an amalgam of bizarre and ordinary attributes peppered with gumption.

 

12) How do you name your characters?

 

I’ve always been enamored with interesting names, real and fictional (like Odd Thomas, Val Kilmer, or Benjarvis Green-Ellis.) I keep a journal of international names and unique words and mash them together until they fit a character’s personality and also reveal something about them. [Note from Steve: Odd Thomas is a famous Dean Koontz character; Mr. Kilmer is the actor who played Jim Morrison, among other roles; and Mr. Green-Ellis was a New England Patriots’ player—now with the Cincinnati Bengals.]

 

13) Which comes first, plot or characters?

 

Every story is different. My ideas start with either a unique character with something to say, or a twisted situation that needs resolution. Eventually, both meet up on page one.

 

14) Any comments about writing dialogue?

 

I love writing dialogue; it’s the flesh of every good story. I strive to convey volumes while using as few words as possible. My tendency is to spill my guts, but the lawyer in me is always trying to reign it in. What ends up in a scene is somewhere in the middle.

 

15) How do you handle POV?

 

 

 

Handling POV is just a matter of discipline. It’s like staying in one lane of a 4-lane highway. At times, you want to change lanes or even catch yourself veering into another lane, but you should never do it without signaling first because you’ll crash.

 

16) Do you find background material for (research) your books? If so, how?

 

Research for me involves Googling key terms and finding books, news articles, and blog posts on the relevant subject matter, and more often than not, I’ll learn something more that gives my original idea more bang for its buck.

 

Sometimes interviews are better than any written resource–a chat with an Army Ranger, or a drive-along with a police officer can provide invaluable insights.

 

Also, I return to Italy often (where my books are often based) and visit first-hand the best places to plant a bomb, abduct a victim, or taint wine.

 

Douglas Preston taught me a great lesson at Thrillerfest a couple of years back: Get into your character’s skin before you write the scene. So, I’ve shot the same guns at a shooting range; I’ve skied off the same Alpine cliffs; and I’ve toured the same wineries that my characters have poisoned. Research gives writing that proverbial edge.

 

[Note from Steve: Douglas Preston is part of the thriller writing team of Preston and Child mentioned earlier…an interesting collaboration, to be sure.]

 

17) Do you use an agent?

 

I’m actively seeking one.

 

18) Do you self-publish or traditionally publish?

 

I’m actively pursuing both.

 

19) What are your most effective marketing techniques?

 

Blogging; Twitter; Facebook; GoodReads; attending writer conferences and workshops; active membership in SinC, ITW, and MWA; attending book signings and launches of fellow authors; guest speaking at cultural events; reading excerpts at open mic events; etc.

 

20) Do you release trade paperbacks or eBooks?

 

I’m open to both.

 

21) What do you think of publishing services like Amazon, Smashwords, etc?

 

I’ve actively evaluating all publishing options.

 

22) What is your favorite place to eat-out?

 

Alden Park–excellent martinis and lettuce wraps.

 

23) What is your favorite drink?

 

It’s a tie between a lemon drop shot and Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita. [Note from Steve: I’ll second the Santa Margherita, especially in Boston’s North End or New York’s Little Italy–or in Italy, of course.]

 

24) What other interests do you have besides writing?

 

Traveling, movies, skiing, reading, political news, attending hockey and basketball games, etc.

 

25) What was the last movie you went to see?

 

Magic Mike

 

26) What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

 

Homemade pasta sauce; homemade chicken soup; homemade apple pie; open-faced pickle/Swiss cheese/rye bread sandwiches (just finished re-watching Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

 

27) If you could trade places with someone for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

 

At the moment, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. Her life intrigues me, and she can always chat with the Queen in her robe and slippers.

 

28) What is your favorite (song) and why? Piece of music?

 

“What a Wonderful World,” the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole Hawaiian ukulele version. Because life is too short and far too wondrous not to appreciate it. [Note from Steve: Good advice for us all!]

 

In libris libertas….

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Thank you so much, Steve, for the kind and generous interview. I appreciate your friendship, and, like your readers, I’m a fan of your writing advice as well as your talent. And to all of your readers, it’s great to meet all of you!

Is there a question you would have asked Gina Fava?  Is there a question you’d like to put to either debate candidate this evening?  Let me know!