When I saw this week’s featured author’s book in my review list I knew I had to invite her for an interview. As you can tell by her picture, she’s into martial arts and in my book that makes her worthy of a little attention (as well as the fact if I tick her off I risk getting hit with those kamas she’s weilding).
The problem I ran into was when I went to pick her up in the transporter, she immediately blindfolded me and, like so many authors before, took control and set her own destination. (I have lost count of how many authors think they can just- Ouch! Okay, Okay, go where you want. Just don’t hit me again.)
Anyway, when we step out, we’re at the foot of a gorgeous mountain rise at the end of a lush field of wildflowers and she’s set out a nice offering of wine and cheese. All right, I forgive the blindfold, but put down the weapons and let’s talk.
1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
In real life I’m Rebecca Bates, and I write mystery, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. I use the Sue Star pen name for mysteries of a lighter nature. Some folks in my city may remember my fascinating stint with Sisters in Crime. I’m the one who asked the coroner at one of our public meetings what a body would be like after nine months in a cave.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
I used to dance with a troupe of Turkish folkloric dancers, and we performed at international events.
3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as an international spy?
What makes you think I’m not an international spy?? Really, I did spy on my neighbors’ night-time activities while living in Brazil as a teenager, and that led me to making up my first stories. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to quit. I can’t not write.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
I get to pick anyone? I’d choose Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra for his amazing imagination, Daphne du Maurier for her haunting moodiness, Herman Wouk for the way he shows human nature in the face of history-making adversity, Agatha Christie for her cleverness, and Arthur C. Clarke for the mind-blowing journey he takes me across the universe.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
Murder in the Dojo would warm your heart and make you forget about time. And its self-defense tips might come in handy warding off marauding pirates.
6. Share your process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
I write almost every day, even while on vacation, even if it’s just notes jotted in the notebook I carry around everywhere. I usually only write for an hour or two each day, the earlier in the morning the better. New projects start from snippets, like a provocative suggestion someone makes, an interesting tidbit from the news, a fascinating place that I visit, or a daydream of what-if? Whatever the source, the snippet has to resonate with me in some striking way. Then I put the snippet out of my mind and go back to work on whatever else I was doing. Most of those snippets vanish forever, but sometimes one of them won’t let me alone, and then I start to wonder what kind of character would carry that idea into a story.
Once I have a bare-bones character (gender, age, occupation), then I ask myself how did that character get to be in that position? Once I know what choices the character made in his/her history, then the rest starts falling into place, like character traits, relationships with significant others, and goals. Plot comes out of all this. I ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen to this person?” Knowing the character helps me to know how she/he will cope with the problems I throw at her/him. That more or less gives me the ending and a turning point or two. I don’t outline other than this–I envy those who can! Magic happens, and the story grows in unexpected ways as I write towards the ending I already have a vague idea of having.
For research, I mostly rely on books for broad issues before starting to write. I try to keep my projects in comfortable terrain, somewhere within my experience, and I make everything up — that’s fiction! But fiction has to be believable. After I start to write, I research smaller details as I need them, and then Google is a handy tool. I can’t begin to tell you how many edits and rewrites I do!
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Absolutely, try different methods until you find one that works for you. Generally, don’t try to force what’s not working for you. How-to writing books (Writers Digest has a very good series) and writers workshops and conferences are great resources for finding new methods.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Basically, not to have one! But overall, I believe what my great-grandmother, a German immigrant, always taught: it’s good to be great but greater to be good.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
How could I stop? My near-future science fiction novel is coming out soon — The Signal, by Rebecca S.W. Bates. After that, some of my short stories will appear in the multi-genre collection Tough Mothers. Beyond that, I’m currently working on the next book in the Black Belt Mystery series, which is scheduled to come out in spring, 2013.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
My publisher’s website: www.dmkregpublishing.com
My blog: http://rebeccawriter.blogspot.com/
This is not a writing blog but rather a place where I erratically post tidbits that interest and inspire me and ultimately find their way into my projects.