Tuesday, already? Boy, time sure flies when you’re obsessed with publishing a novel. :) Actually, tomorrow I’ll have an update on Baby Grand. I spoke to my agent yesterday and am ready to embark on the next step. Today, however, I am pleased to introduce you to Leslie Tentler, the latest writer in my Debut Author Q&A series. Leslie has penned what sounds like a terrific crime thriller, which, readers of this blog know, is my kinda book.
Name of book: Midnight Caller
Book Genre: Suspense
Publish date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: MIRA Books
What is your book about? Midnight Caller is about FBI agent Trevor Rivette, who is required to return to his hometown of New Orleans due to a serial murder investigation there. Trevor still has family in New Orleans that he’s been estranged from for years, and going back home forces him to deal with his troubled past – all while he’s on the trail of a brutal killer dubbed as “the Vampire.”
Trevor’s counterpart is Rain Sommers, a New Orleans late-night radio show psychologist who has her own dark legacy and ties to the city’s Goth community. In fact, it’s those ties that entangle her pretty quickly in Trevor’s investigation and point to her as the killer’s ultimate target.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process? Outlining a story in advance is very difficult for me. I’ve always been a “panster” – someone who writes freeform and lets the story take shape as I go. I’ll have a general idea about direction for the next couple of scenes and a story culmination I’m working toward. That’s the way I wrote Midnight Caller. However, I quickly learned that publishers want full outlines for future books, so it’s something I have to do now. I’ve been trying multiple methods that are supposed to make outlining easier, but for me it’s still pretty excruciating.
What motivates you to write? These days, fear of missing deadlines! But, really, to me there’s something so satisfying about having an idea for a character in your head and then bringing him or her to life on paper. I have to fall a little (or a lot) in love with my main characters to feel motivated to tell their stories all the way through. If a character isn’t “grabbing” me, it’s a sure sign of trouble.
Did you experience writer’s block? I experienced writer’s block with the third book in the trilogy I’m currently developing for MIRA. About 8,000 words in, I reached a complete panic for about a week, feeling unsure about the story and my ability to continue. I was literally frozen in front of the keyboard. It took me awhile to see past the panic and realize the problem wasn’t with the plot I’d outlined or the characters, but that I’d started the first couple of chapters out in the wrong place. Once I rewrote them from a different perspective and point in time, the flow started again. But it was a pretty terrifying week.
How long did it take you to write this book? It took about nine months to write the first draft of Midnight Caller, then longer still to edit and revise it into a viable manuscript. Midnight Caller was my first completed novel, so I had the luxury of taking it slow and learning as I went. Now that I’ve developed a rhythm and discovered more about story building, I’m finding the subsequent novels have come faster.
How difficult was it to find a publisher? My agent did all the work in submitting to publishers, so I’m not sure how difficult it was. The submission process took a few months.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? I don’t think anyone understands how hard and time-consuming writing a book is unless they’ve written one. Think about the TV show, Castle, where the main character is a best-selling, prolific author but seems to spend very little time actually writing. I understand it’s necessary to portray him that way for entertainment value – no one would want to watch a show where the guy is sitting bleary-eyed in front of his computer screen night and day.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I loved building the storyline between Trevor and his brother and sister, who are secondary characters in Midnight Caller. Telling the story about what happened to tear the Rivette family apart, and showing the love still between the siblings despite everything, was something I enjoyed.
Had you planned for this novel to be the first in a three-book series from the beginning? Definitely not. As an unpublished writer, I’d always heard that you should focus on a single book, since publishers wouldn’t want to take a multi-book chance on someone new. The fact that the publisher wanted a series was something I hadn’t expected.
That being said, the decision was made that the books would be loosely tied together as part of the “Chasing Evil” trilogy. Each book focuses on a different agent working for the FBI’s fictional Violent Crimes Unit, and each focuses on a different investigation.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I’ve heard the saying as “luck is when preparation meets opportunity” and I’d have to agree. You’ve got to be prepared with a solid manuscript when that door of opportunity opens for you. I know how hard I worked to prepare Midnight Caller before sending it out – writing, revising, editing and polishing, and putting it in contests to get professional critiques.