Last night, I attended the book signing of cozy mystery writer Anne Canadeo at Book Revue in Huntington, New York. Anne is the author of the Black Sheep knitting mystery series (she also wrote the popular Thomas Kinkade writing as Katherine Spencer) and was discussing The Silence of the Llamas, which is the latest book in the series. As often happens when I attend these appearances and the authors talk about their experiences while writing their books, I find myself nodding along. Here are nine things Anne said that I thought were pretty spot-on:
- ‘All the characters in the book, including the villain, are a reflection of the writer.’ Whether consciously or unconsciously, I imbued practically all the characters in Baby Grand with elements of my personality or fragments of my thought process. A piece here. A piece there. What’s fun is when people who know me read the book and pick up on them.
- ‘Fun things happen by accident.’ All the time. I plan, plan, plan, but sometimes the characters have something else in mind. I was surprised by many of the twists and turns that occurred in Baby Grand as I was writing.
- ‘Even though I knew my ending as I was writing, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.’ Imagine getting into your car and getting ready to drive to a destination that is familiar to you. Hmmm… let’s see, you can take the highway if you want to get there quickly, or perhaps the scenic route if you’re in the mood for pretty. There’s lots of ways to get to one place, and that’s part of the magic of storytelling.
- ‘I need an outline or else I find that I’m wandering aimlessly.’ I experience this as well. Although my process is to just jump in and start writing wildly, without an outline, I reach a point — probably about a hundred pages in — where I get that “wandering aimlessly” sensation. That is when I sit down and do a very, very basic outline that serves as a guideline to get me from chapter to chapter and eventually to the end of the book.
- ‘Sometimes writing is miserable, but you’re compelled to do it.’ As one of my graduate professors used to say, there are so many more exciting things we could be doing — spending time with our families, meeting friends for lunch, going to the movies. Why do we sit at that computer and suffer? Because, for some reason, we’re compelled to do so.
- ‘You can talk and talk about writing, but you really just have to sit down and do it.’ This is VERY true. Waiting for inspiration is a myth if you’re a working (or serious) novelist. Gotta just sit there and write. Now.
- ‘When I’m writing, I do not think about the reader.’ It sounds cruel, perhaps, but worrying about what readers will think about a book will keep me from writing anything at all. Everybody is different. We all find different things funny, scary, thought-provoking. I truly believe that if you just concentrate on writing what’s in your heart, readers will find you.
- ‘Being a writer is pretty lonely.’ When I’m writing, it’s just my computer and me. In the middle of the day or night. I wouldn’t quite call it lonely, although I am indeed alone. Writing is a solitary endeavor. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the marketing aspect of Baby Grand right now — interacting with readers at store appearances and book clubs. I get to share my characters with others who — thank goodness — seem to love them as much as I do.
- ‘The most fun is being done with a book.’ Amen.