Interview with Lisa Harris
First, congratulations to Ane who won a copies of In the Dead of Night and Bye, Bye, Bertie and Terri who won a copy of Murder on the Ol' Bunions (Terri please contact us here with your email address.
Beth: Welcome Lisa! Tell us about your writing journey.
Lisa: It’s been a long one, full of ups and downs, but I believe that anything worth something is going to take time and energy to achieve. That, for me, has been writing. Zip back eleven years ago when my oldest was first born. He slept a lot and gave me--for the first time--a chance to start writing. This was something I’d always wanted to do, but had never taken that first step.
At first I wrote non-fiction, fiction, devotional, children’s stories. . .you name it. . .and quickly realized that, I was spread too thin and needed to decide on one thing to write. By this time I was working full time at home, so something had to give. Fiction won out. I began learning everything I could about writing, attended some local writing conferences, and wrote. God connected me with some amazing mentors, I found a critique group, and met some editors.
This very connection with other writers has been something that has amazed me. So many are willing to help others along this journey, and through it I’ve made friends that will last a life time.
Beth: When do you feel like it all began to come together for you as a writer—was there a particular moment?
Lisa: Most days I’m still waiting. LOL I think that’s because I know I can always improve and deepen the depth of my stories. I don’t ever want to be satisfied or think that I’ve arrived. I want to keep learning and growing through this process.
Beth: Who has influenced you most as a writer and why?
Lisa: That’s tough, because there are so many people, from crit partners, to mentors, to conference speakers, to my mom, and I’m so thankful for each and every one of them.
Beth: Tell us about the writing process for you? Does it begin with a character, setting, or plot?
Lisa: Interesting that you should ask this, because even after eleven plus years of writing, I learned something very important about my own process this past week. I’m a very structured author who writes from a very detailed outline. I suppose this is because I’ve written a number of books for Barbour and they require chapter by chapter outlines. I love writing this way and feel very comfortable knowing what comes next, even though there are always some surprises along the way. So typically, my story begins with the plot.
What I’ve realized, though, is that I’m a seat of the pants writer when it comes to characters. I don’t like filling out piles of interview questions up front; I like to learn about them as I write. Not that I don’t know my characters--many times they’ve been wondering around in my head for years--so all the basics are there--but sometimes that isn’t enough. I was recently stuck on a chapter of a historical I’m writing and realized that while I “know” my heroine, something was missing with her character that was causing a huge lack of motivation for her behavior.
Now I’m a huge believer in motivation and if motivation for actions isn’t there, the character will run flat and this is exactly what had happened. Once I went back into her past and discovered exactly why she was behaving this way, it finally gave her the legitimate reason I needed for her behavior. So in the process of an hour or two of brainstorming, I discovered enough about my heroine to deepen her character and make the situation work, something I will continue to do throughout the writing of the book.
Beth: Tell us about your latest book.
Lisa: I’ve spent the past couple years writing a cozy mystery series for Barbour that has been so much fun. Pricilla Crumb is my quirky heroine, sixty five years old, and finding love again for the second time. Add the murder of her favorite baker, a few impulsive indiscretions, and you have Baker’s Fatal Dozen.
Beth: What inspired you to write this particulate story?
Lisa: In this series, I guess Pricilla actually came before the plot line. About two years before I even started writing the books, she appeared and wouldn’t leave me alone. I’d originally planned to have her in a cozy mystery set in South Africa, but changed the setting to Colorado for my publisher. Thus was born Pricilla and Max, her handsome and very sweet love interest who manages to put up with Pricilla and love her despite here somewhat unorthodox methods.
Beth: What is the message you hope to get across in this story?
Lisa: A spiritual theme for my books is always crucial, and I try and weave them into the characters lives as they grow and change. This book’s theme came from II Corinthians 4:7-8. It’s an important lesson to learn when life throws us for a loop as it did to the grieving widow.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Beth: What do you think is the hardest part of writing a mystery?
Lisa: For me it’s finding a balance between the red herrings thrown in and legitimate clues. In the end of the story you want the reader to say, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that?” instead of throwing the book across the room because the killer is Aunt Beulah’s’ third cousin twice removed who was mentioned once in passing on page seven. That won’t work.
Beth: What are problem areas you see in aspiring writers who want to write mystery or suspense? Advise?
Lisa: Read what you write so you can learn what works and what doesn’t work. There are tons of resources on line where you can learn about the basic ingredients in a mystery. And most importantly. . .WRITE!
Beth: What are your future writing plans?
Lisa: Funny you should ask because at the moment I’m writing a historical, finishing a proposal for another cozy series, and working on an international suspense. The common thread through all of these, though, is lots of mystery and suspense. So in whatever I do, as long as that’s included, I’ll love writing it.
Beth: What is the best advice you ever received?
Lisa: To put it briefly, if you want to write, write. Too many people talk about writing, but never finish a manuscript. The other day I was getting onto myself because other people I know write 2, 3, even 5 thousand words a day and I’m happy to write one thousand (fairly edited words) a day. Then I calculated that same five thousand words a week, for 50 weeks and it comes to 250K! That’s almost three full length novels or four shorter novels. It’s amazing how much a little work every day adds up, so never think you don’t have the time.
Beth: You can visit Lisa's website or blog for more information about her books. And for a chance to win more free copies of her books and other cool things like her yearly Taste of Africa giveaway, be sure and sign up for her newsletter.
Leave a comment below for the chance to win a copy of both Recipe for Murder and Baker's Fatal Dozen.