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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Double Hitter!

Today we've got two interviews with two great suspense authors, so be sure and not only read what they have to say about their latest books, but leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of their books!

Before we jump into the interviews, congrats to Carolynn for winning of copy of Baker's Fatal Dozen! (You could be a winner next week, so leave a comment!)

Welcome, Ramona! Tell us about your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL

I had published nonfiction before, but getting The Call for my first Love Inspired Suspense left me screaming like a kid. I missed the first call – the editor left a message for me to call her. My fingers shook when I dialed so much I almost misdialed. When I hung up, I just screamed and jumped up and down. The champagne came later.

Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.

The idea for suspense stories set around a writer’s colony first occurred to me about 20 years ago, but I wasn’t mature enough as a writer to complete them. The first one, A MURDER AMONG FRIENDS, came out last year, and THE FACE OF DECEIT releases September 9th.

The idea for THE FACE OF DECEIT came after I visited a pottery studio and saw a plaque with the raised image of a face on it. I asked the pottery whose face it was, and she said, “No one in particular.” By the time I got home, I had the basic plot about a potter who witnessed a murder as a child, and as an adult, the face of the killer begins appearing in her art. That’s how my heroine’s “face vases” were born.

I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

In the beginning of THE FACE OF DECEIT, my hero, Mason, is quite lukewarm in his faith. Over the course of the novel, he has to face that part of himself and decide why and how he needs to change that. I found that part of his arc reminded me of all the times I’ve let criticism or rejection distract me from what I really need to do in my life as well as in my faith.

What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

To never give up. This year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, we had a final panel of all the instructions…more than 40 of us. When we went down the line to state how long we wrote before being published, the answers ranged from 6 months to 20 years.

You never get too old to get The Call for the first time.

Great advise. Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

I would love to create an ongoing series heroine, like Sue Grafton or Margaret Maron. But I also want to keep writing romantic suspense because I love the idea of bringing two people together in the midst of a wild, suspenseful ride.

Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?

To persevere, to network, and to trust yourself. About 25 years ago, I heard Harlan Ellison say that “Any writer who CAN be discouraged, SHOULD be.” His point was that if you are driven to write, no amount of rejection or criticism will deter you. You take what you can from the criticism, understand that rejections are never personal, and you keep working. And keep learning.

I have also learned the amazing value of networking with other writers, as well as agents and editors at conferences. If a new writer can’t travel, then online blogs and social sites are a great way to get to know others in the industry.

Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

There are literally hundreds of great books on craft, and a working writer should have at least one on characters and one on motivation and conflict. Charlotte Dillon’s website is awesome for craft articles and advice (www.charlottedillon.com/WritingRomance.html). But don’t forget to nourish the creative spirit as well with books such as Anne Lamott’s. Online, one site I love is McNair Wilson’s blog on creativity (http://www.teawithmcnair.typepad.com/).

I also recommend taking a screenwriting class or getting one of Syd Field’s books on screenwriting. Nothing breaks down the basics of building a good plotline like a script.

Thanks so much for joining us, Ramona!

Our next guest is Dana Mentink. Welcome Dana.

Briefly tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.

I was born with a pencil in my hand. Kidding! That would have been painful for my mother. I was one of those geeky writer types in high school but I didn’t embark on anything professionally until after my girls were born. Then I started writing like crazy. Fast forward through seven zillion rejections and Barbour bought my first book for their mystery line. I was given a contract to write suspense for Harlequin’s Steeple Hill in September last year. The first book (Killer Cargo) released in June and the second (Flashover) arrives in December, I think.

Congratulations! What has it been like crossing over from cozies to suspense?

Not as easy as you’d think. The pacing has been tricky to nail down. With mystery there is time for cogitation and humor. With suspense, it’s a frantic, action driven book that can’t slow down for a second. I have to wear a seatbelt when I write suspense.

Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.

I always write about what I’m interested in. Killer Cargo takes place on an animal sanctuary, primarily home to endangered frogs. I love frogs. I’ve collected little frog statues for years. Did you know frogs are an indicator species? That means they are the first to show signs of stress due to environmental pollutants and such. Very important. Kermit is one of my heroes, you know. As Kermit says, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.” That frog inspires me, I tell you.

Love the uniqueness. What are the differences you see that stand out the most between a cozy and a suspense.

With cozies, there is room for eccentricity and humor. As I said earlier, the pacing is different too. The focus of a mystery is solving the crime. The focus of suspense is surviving the crime, if that makes any sense.

Everywhere I go, I meet people who are writing suspense. Any advice in breaking into this competitive field?

As my agent says, write a good book. Read what’s out there and LISTEN TO CRITICISM. Believe me, I’ve had PLENTY of criticism from my editors and as much as I hate to admit it, they are usually right.

What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

God can use the tiniest little folks (like me!) to reach people with His message. Now that’s pretty awesome!

Amen. :-) Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

Donald Maass and his Writing the Breakout Novel really rocked my world. And, it goes without saying, the Bible because God wrote the only breakout book we’ll ever need! God bless and thanks for your time.

Thank you, ladies for joining us today!
You can learn more about both these writers and their other books by going to their websites.

Ramona Richards
Dana Mentink


Blogger Anastácio Soberbo said...

Hello, I like this blog.
Sorry not write more, but my English is not good.
A hug from Portugal

5:24 AM  
Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Hi, Ramona and Dana. Both of your stories sound unique and wonderful. Ramona, isn't interesting how anything we do in daily life can lead to a great story concept?

Dana, I love the idea of a sanctuary for frogs. There's an elephant sanctuary here in Tennessee. I did a story on it for the magazine I worked for at the time, so I was able to visit the sanctuary and get closer to the elephants than the public can. It's amazing what they do there and the love they have for those sweet animals.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Sharon R. said...

Ramona & Dana,

Thanks for the resource information and the encouragement. I am motivated to start writing again.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Rae Ann Parker said...

Hi Ramona! Thanks for your inspiring comments.

Dana, I recently took a screenwriting workshop and found it to be a light-bulb moment for my writing.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Monica McCabe said...

Hi Ramona and Dana! Your books looks very intriguing. Murder clues being revealed in art - whoa! And a sanctuary for endangered frogs? How fabulous!

Isn't creativity wonderful? Imagination can take every writer a different direction. That's what I love about reading too, it takes you to places and events you'd otherwise not experience.

I'll be looking for you on the bookshelves...

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trish, I read that story! I found the magazine at my hair stylist, and I had this wonderful, "Hey, I know her!" moment.

And wait until you hear how I came across the idea of the plot for the third book. :)

7:59 PM  
Blogger windycindy said...

Hi, Both ladies sound like wonderful
people and prolific authors. The
"Love Inspired Mysteries" are my favorite stories to read. Please enter me in your drawing. I really appreciate it! Many thanks, Cindi

12:10 AM  

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