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Topic: Veil Of Lies Questions for Jeri Westerson

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Subject: Veil Of Lies Questions for Jeri Westerson
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 4:33 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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The image from San Silvestro (Matilda chapel in the Vatican).

This is just one of the images of the Mandylleon.  see others here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_of_Edessa

I would like to thank Jeri again.  This thread will be open until Midnight EDT for questions.

 



Last Edited on: 6/21/11 6:44 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 8:15 AM ET
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Jeri, thank you so much for agreeing to join us here!  PBS has been a wonderful way for me to find new authors.  (And just in case you ever wonder about this: no one had your books just sitting around on their shelves, and I just couldn't wait; I bought all three.wink)  

I posed this question earlier, when we were reading and discussing Veil of Lies:    I'm curious about his lack of a sword.  I know it was taken away during his treason time.  Was that symbolic?  Does he not have a sword now because he simply can't afford one?  Or is it to do with being a knight?  After all the medieval novels I've read, you would think I'd know more about swords! 

So that's my first question.  Here are a few more:

Have you been approached by any television or film companies to make Crispin a star?  I thought Veil almost read like a screenplay!  I could visualize each and every scene.

Did you have Crispin's back story completely worked out in your mind when you began Veil?  Or is he revealing things to you as you go along?

Is it possible for dewey-eyed fans to attend the Historical Fiction Conference you just attended? 

 

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 9:58 AM ET
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jeri, i'm one of your fans and i think the Cripin series is so great the pictures you paint in my mind are just fantastic 

my question is Crispin was a trained knight so why is he always getting beat up by the common people?i under stand why he doesn't fight back at the 

people in power but not the common people and some other questions are the same as Vicky T's about a movie or TV companies? thanks for agreeing to join us.

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:43 AM ET
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Hi Jeri and welcome to PBS,

You have a very interesting and well developed cast of characters.  Assuming that Crispin is your favorite character.......who is your 2nd favorite character in the novel?  Which character was the most difficult to develop?  And I have to ask....  in the novel, was the Mandylleon "real" and did  it really have the "power" of truth?  Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I enjoyed VEIL OF LIES and am lookinfg forward to reading more of your novels.

Warm Regards,

Anna S.

Subject: Hello from Jeri Westerson!
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 12:11 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2011
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Thank you all so much for inviting me! I am on the west coast so I'm just now climbing into my writing chair for the day. The cats are settled in my window, the weather is warming up--should be about 90 today--and I'm raring to go.

Vicky's questions: I'm curious about his lack of a sword.  I know it was taken away during his treason time.  Was that symbolic?  Does he not have a sword now because he simply can't afford one?  Or is it to do with being a knight?  After all the medieval novels I've read, you would think I'd know more about swords!  

Jeri: Well, it's all very Freudian, isn't it. It's no coincidence. He's been emasculated, in a sense, so that wonderful phallic symbol is now taken from him. In the accounts I've read of someone who has been degraded--knighthood taken away--their sword and spurs are taken from them and broken before their eyes, their surcote is torn, etc. They are basically stripped of the outer accouterments of a knight. This was so in Crispin's case. Now, anyone can own a sword, but you have to have a certain level of income to be allowed to have it (many aldermen of London owned swords, for instance, hence Simon Wynchombe's sword). Crispin not only can't meet this income requirement but he doesn't particularly feel deserving of owning one.

Q: Have you been approached by any television or film companies to make Crispin a star?  I thought Veil almost read like a screenplay!  I could visualize each and every scene. 

Jeri: Thank you! I was certainly raised on movies and watched a lot of swashbuckling films when I was growing up (Errol Flynn is my fav. When you read Serpent in the Thorns there are definitely Errol Flynn moments in that one as well as more on knightly degradation). So I when I write I defintely think of it in terms of movie scenes and action that is very visual. But to answer your question, I wish! Still hoping to be approached. I would dearly love to be. Anyone know any producers? Someone in the discussion on Veil said that they thought Hugh Jackman would be perfect for Crispin and that is exactly whom I have pictured all along.

Q: Did you have Crispin's back story completely worked out in your mind when you began Veil?  Or is he revealing things to you as you go along? 

Jeri: When I set out to write a medieval mystery, I knew I would have to have a very special protagonist, someone that would carry a series and be unique enough to catch the attention of readers. And when I came upon the idea of creating hardboiled detective fiction in a medieval setting--something entirely new--that I would have to really pull out the stops. I knew I wanted a knight as a protagonist because there are already so many monks and nuns in the amateur sleuthing biz. But I wanted a guy who wasn't an amateur. Who people hired specifically to solve crimes. And I also wanted a knight because I am intrigued with the whole knightly code of honor, the band of brothers thing, and all the action, violence, and sex that I could include because of it. But following the tropes of a hardboiled mystery meant that the detective was usually a loner, was hard drinking, was a sucker for a dame in trouble, was usually down on his luck with a chip on his shoulder. I knew then that he had to be an EX-knight, a fellow who lost it all. Once I had that, I knew exactly who Crispin was. And when I started researching John of Gaunt, I knew I had my motivation for Crispin to have committed treason for a good cause. It really fell into place. And then I created an entire biography for him as I do for all the characters, both big or small. That doesn;t mean that aspects of their personality don't reveal themselves as I'm writing, but I have a lot in their bios that may never make it to the novels. Those notes are there to inform how they react to things and possibly to provide new plot twists. I know his entire future except a death date. I refuse to acknowledge that he is long gone.

Q: Is it possible for dewey-eyed fans to attend the Historical Fiction Conference you just attended?   

Jeri: Absolutely! You don't even have to be a member of the Historical Novel Society but you can be. It is made up of fans and writers. The HNS conference is primarily for those who want to become writers with a few pure fans sprinkled in. And you can become a member of HNS and get on the online listserv. We chat.

Q: my question is Crispin was a trained knight so why is he always getting beat up by the common people?i under stand why he doesn't fight back at the people in power but not the common people?  

Jeri: Well, John, anyone can get beaten up. Are there many common people beating him up? Usually they are the sheriff and other people above him in rank. But he will certainly do his fair share of fighting back. Funny thing is, I wrote Veil of Lies way back in 2004 so I sometimes have a hard time remembering what happened in the book.

Q: You have a very interesting and well developed cast of characters.  Assuming that Crispin is your favorite character.......who is your 2nd favorite character in the novel?  Which character was the most difficult to develop?  And I have to ask....  in the novel, was the Mandylleon "real" and did  it really have the "power" of truth?  

Jeri: Thanks for asking Anna. Yes, Crispin is my favorite, the one who is the most real to me. (Funny story: I was doing some more research on John of Gaunt, reading a pretty good book about him, and as I'm reading along, in the back of my mind I'm thinking that I should come across info about Crispin soon--and then I had to pull myself up short. "No, Jeri," I told myself. "You will not come across Crispin in this text. He doesn't exist!" But he does to me!) Anyway, Jack is, of course, next on my mind. He was only going to be in the first book briefly (and Veil of Lies is not really the first book, by the way. There is another that got rejected all over town, including by my publisher. So there may be a prequel sometime in the future) but everyone liked him so much that he got a lot more parchment devoted to him. As the books progress--and when you get to Troubled Bones this October each book will now be a year later--he becomes even more important as you can truly see him progress and grow up, and Crispin will "grow up" right along with him.

I think, in a way, the villains/murderers are the most difficult, because, for the most part, they are there to serve the story and as a consequence they don't get as much depth as they perhaps should. But anyone can have a backstory. I use a sort of questionaire to fill out about them. I don't think about the answers as I write them down. I just get into character and write the first thing that comes to mind and some very surprising stuff flows out. A psychiatrist would have a field day with me!

As for the relics and venerated objects (because in some of the books, like The Demon's Parchment, it is more venerated object than relic) I really leave it up to the reader to decide if it had powers or not. These people are a product of their time and though Crispin denies belief in their power, it doesn't mean he isn't effected on some subconscious level. Did it make Simon tell the truth or did he just want to confide in Crispin? Hmm.      

 



Last Edited on: 6/21/11 12:17 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: SHAKEN
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 12:58 PM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2011
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Not about Crispin, but please tell me if your protagonist in your Noodle Girl short story died along with her hubby and those other nasty men, and I'll leave quietly.

 

Subject: Crispin's "issues"
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2011
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I'm wondering what inspired Crispin's weaknesses, especially his drinking.  I assume Sam Spade had something to do with it?  I also think it's interesting to consider how he 

could deal with this, if he was so inclined.  Ale is safer to drink than water in this time period, after all.

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 1:17 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2011
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First, I'll address Jackie's question about SHAKEN: Stories for Japan. (And in case you don't know what that is, about twenty mystery authors got together to write original stories with a Japanese theme to put together an anthology as a fundraiser. All the proceeds from the book go directly to Japan earthquake relief, and we just got the word that even cranky old Amazon has agreed to wave their own fees and 100% will go to the charity! It's available on Kindle and Kindle for your PC. It's priced at $3.99. Good stories and a good cause.) My story is called "The Noodle Girl" and this is a SPOILER ALERT**********************yes, Jackie. She dies.

Q: I'm wondering what inspired Crispin's weaknesses, especially his drinking.  I assume Sam Spade had something to do with it?  I also think it's interesting to consider how he could deal with this, if he was so inclined.  Ale is safer to drink than water in this time period, after all. 

Jeri: But no less alcoholic than wine in that time period. It is indeed inspired by the hardboiled detective of the 1930s and 40s. He drinks to forget but also to remember, because wine is more expensive than ale but it's also what he used to drink as a nobleman and so he spends the extra money or puts it on his long tab.   

 

   

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 1:40 PM ET
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HI Jeri Thanks for suggesting this.  My question is about Jack.  You said in your interview that he was just to be in a few scenes.  When did you realize that he would be much more than you had intended? 

Does Jack remember his parents?

Will you also tell us about Simon Wynchecombe, why does he hate Crispin so much?

Is Crispin doing penance is a way staying in London, surely he could have gone and sold his sword else where?

 



Last Edited on: 6/21/11 1:41 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 2:03 PM ET
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And thank you, Jerelyn for making it happen!

Q: My question is about Jack.  You said in your interview that he was just to be in a few scenes.  When did you realize that he would be much more than you had intended? Does Jack remember his parents? Will you also tell us about Simon Wynchecombe, why does he hate Crispin so much? Is Crispin doing penance is a way staying in London, surely he could have gone and sold his sword else where? 

Jeri: When I wrote the real first book in the series (called Cup of Blood--guess which relic?), Jack was in less than 40% of the book. I just thought a scrappy young urchin would be an interesting side note, because hardboiled detectives didn't have sidekicks. Secretarys, but really no sidekicks. But my agent really liked him and suggested building him up a bit and I cottoned to the notion of his being around more and being useful, not only for Crispin but to serve the plot: he's someone Crispin can bounce ideas off of, he can do the odd errands, he can help, he can get into peril--all those things are useful to the story. And as the series moves on, as he grows up, there are more twists that Crispin has to go through. In the upcoming Troubled Bones, for instance, Crispin has to have The Talk with the thirteen-year-old Jack since there is no one else to do it.   

Jack remembers his mother and talks a bit about his backstory in The Demon's Parchment and more in Troubled Bones, as well as Crispin's parents and siblings. There will be more. It's just something you dole out in small doses as you go to add interest and to keep the readers on their toes. :)

Simon Wynchecombe is a great character. I wish I could have used him throughout the series but every year there are two new sheriffs elected. And since I am following the history, he has to disappear from the landscape. He's pretty much gone by The Demon's Parchment. It's not that he hates Crispin so much as he likes power better. And now he has the upper hand over someone who was once a nobleman and threw it away. He's a little disgusted with him, a little envious, and a little admiring. He has ambitions to be the mayor of London but he never does get that gig. 

And as for Crispin staying in London, it is penance for him. He was born in London and spent a lot of time there at court. It's his town. He feels at home there and knows it far better now that he has to travel the streets of it in pursuit of his new vocation. He could have left and become something better, perhaps, a quiet scribe in some other town, earned enough to get a sword and some respect. But it's like picking at a scab, he can't let it go. He must keep watch over the throne and protect the kingdom and what better place than in London. Even he doesn't realize all the dynamics of that.        

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 3:29 PM ET
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Jeri,   What is the story about Gilbert and Eleanor Langton?  Did Crispin know Gilbert from the wars in France?

Is there a chracter that was hard for you to write?

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 4:07 PM ET
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Q: What is the story about Gilbert and Eleanor Langton?  Did Crispin know Gilbert from the wars in France? Is there a chracter that was hard for you to write? 

Jeri: No, he met them on the Shambles. I imagine him stumbling in one day with maybe two pence to his name and ordering wine, which is not quite enough to buy wine. He made a deal with Gilbert that if he told an interesting enough story, that Gilbert will cover the rest of his wine. Well, naturally, he told his own story and that got him two jugs! He kept coming back and Gilbert felt sorry for him. Eleanor didn't like it at first but then she warmed to Crispin, sort of taking him under their wing, since they had no children. And that's all backstory that never shows up in the books!

There really hasn't been a character too hard for me to write, though I much prefer to write about men than women. So all women are hard for me to write. I know, weird.

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 4:34 PM ET
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OK -- not about Veil of Lies or Crispin (whom I love), but about writing in general:

1) How much, if any, attention do you pay to customer reviews (e.g., on Amazon)?

2) You do a terrific job of getting the historical details right. How much research do you do for each book?

3) Can you describe your writing process to us -- e.g., do you write every day; do you set daily/weekly goals of so many words/pages/chapters; do you experience "writer's block" and if/when you do, what do you do?

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to join us and answer questions.

(Edited to fix typo)



Last Edited on: 6/21/11 8:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 5:33 PM ET
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Hi Deb. Good questions.

1) How much, if any, attention do you pay to customer reviews (e.g., on Amazon)?

I love to get five stars, don't read any of them below four. They are not helpful. I mean, this isn't a group effort. I did what I did, wrote what I wrote and let the chips fall where they may. If you didn't like it, fine. But it would never occur to me to write a review on something I didn't like, because it's all subjective. I like chocolate icecream and hate cherry. I write a bad review about cherry. Book reviews are necessary to the business, they have to happen, but those from Amazon are not going to end up on a book jacket. 

 

2) You do a terrific job of getting the historical details right. How much research do you do for each book?

I have at least ten years worth of general research in my pocket about the Middle Ages, but I had to do a lot more when I lighted on this period and decided to write mysteries. Each book I accumulate more knowledge. Each book also comes with its own special challenges depending on what or whom I am writing about. For instance, in the Crispin book I just finished writing, number five, we are introduced to Henry Bolingbroke, Gaunt's son and eventually Henry IV. So I needed to research him. Archery featured in Serpent in the Thorns so I needed to do research there. So there is preliminary research--about a month of it before I start to write--and then research as I go along when I come across something I have a question about. Because I have learned through experience that if I don't stop then and there and just go on merrily writing, and if I discover that this thing I put in there on which the plot turns is anachronistic, then I've screwed myself. So I stop, look it up, do some checking, and proceed on.

 

3) Can you describe your writing process to us -- e.g., do you write every day; do you set daily/weekly goals of so many words/pages/chapters; do you experience "writer's block" and if/when you do, what do you do? 

I am fortunate enough to write full time now without a pesky day job and I write every day, including weekends. It's less of a job and more like an addiction. But because I currently write two series a year and I hope to add a third, I have to get cracking and write fast! So my minimum is ten pages a day, which is approximately one chapter's worth or about 3,000 words. I can write more, of course, but I usually start writing the actual novel (because I start earlier and look at emails and Facebook and/or blog first) at 9 am and stop around 3 pm, with an hour of lunch in between. So that's only five hours but then there is research to do and other work related things, like more email and such and household errands. Housework? What's that? Sometimes, of course, this routine is disrupted if I'm doing an appearance somewhere. Lots of driving time eats into my day. So I usually write at least something on Saturday and try to give myself a day off on Sunday and holidays, but not always.

To avoid writer's block, because I simply can't afford to have it, I create outlines for each book. I work out ahead of time the general storyline (which I have to submit to my publisher anyway in order to sign that contract) and then I break it down into chapters as to what thing needs to happen when. I've already taken notes on the history and written some scenes of dialog as I think of them (I have a notepad by my bed) and new ideas generally happen while I'm writing it. I keep a sprial bound notebook on each book, a sort of diary of what's going on, who did what to whom, scenes, research, and talking it out to myself when something  isn't working. Though I have an outline it isn't etched in stone. If the story needs to go somewhere else, it does, but then I try to adjust my outline. I always know how the books will begin and how they will end. It's all that pesky stuff in between that's the problem. And the murderer changes, too, if I think it's too simple.     

Bonnie (LoveNE) - ,
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 8:19 PM ET
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Hi Jeri! Thanks so much for your time. I'm so excited to have the chance to ask you questions! 

What was your job before writing?

What is Sisters In Crime?

How many times do you have to edit and rewrite before a book goes to print?

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 9:19 PM ET
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Hi Jeri and welcome to PBS!

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 9:28 PM ET
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Hopefully we will be hearing from our west coast members, as it is just 6:30 their time. 

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 9:31 PM ET
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I'm completely beside myself by the opportunity to address a living, breathing author!

The story is a splendid combination of the epic historical setting, the hard-boiled detective (himself a combination of underdog and an almost-but-not-quite anti-hero), and the mystical/magical powers of the Mandylion. You've already described the process of starting with the medieval mystery and deciding on the noiresque flavor, how did you decide to add the supernatural edge to the story?

Have you always felt comfortable with writing fiction? As a writer of non-fiction who aspires to one day crafting works of fiction, I find I have great difficulty with dialog. Did you have any areas that developed more slowly than others? Do you have any advice on the topic of dialog?

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 9:34 PM ET
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Hi Jeri! So nice of you to come and do this Q&A with us! I dont have any questions for you but I do have a few comments.

Yours was one of my favorite Interviews we have ever run in the PBS Blog.

Every time I see that Geico commercial with the Ninja sword fight I think of you. The pen is mightier than the sword! When the commercial comes on and the guy asks the question, "is the pen mightier than the sword?", my personal puchline is, 'Yes, Jeri Westerson says it is so!"

I hope you have a wonderful summer! And thank you again!

Cheryl

 

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:08 PM ET
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Hi Bonnie!

Q: What was your job before writing?

Jeri: Goodness. I've had a few. But I was a graphic artist for fifteen years or so in Los Angeles. When I semi-retired to have a baby, I thought to get back to it when he was a toddler. So two years later I looked into it and discovered that the entire graphics industry had gone to computers, where I, alas, had not. What else could I do for a living as a stay at home mom? I had written novels for years just for fun (without anyone knowing it) and I thought why not do this as a serious thing? When I told my husband that I think I want to be a novelist, he asked, "Um...do you write novels?" So I researched the industry, learned the formatting, about agents and query letters, and set to writing historical fiction. Unfortunately, the kind of HF I liked to write was not the kind editors wanted to publish! So a former agent recommended I switch to medieval mystery and I'm glad I did. Things pretty much accelerated from there and I was published within four years as opposed to those ten with nuthin'.   

Q: What is Sisters In Crime?

Jeri: It's not a group of rampaging nuns. :) It is an international organization of mystery writers and readers. Our mission: To promote the professional development and the advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry!          

I am a big proponant of SinC as I am certain the information I received, the networking, all helped get me published, whereas before I was working in a vaccum. Currently I am president of the Orange County California chapter. So I am serious about it! If you have a local chapter, you should join or at least find out about their programs. We really offer stellar speakers, and some chapters offer workshops for writers. It's open to all, even men. They are our "misters" in crime. 

Q: How many times do you have to edit and rewrite before a book goes to print? 

Jeri: Well! I rewrite as I write and then when it's done do more rewriting. And then my husband reads it and offers his suggestions. And then my critique group gets it and they offer their suggestions and changes. Then once I fix it, my agent gets it and might offer his own suggestions. Finally, I send it to my editor who goes over it for story and sense and he will make suggestions for changes. I fix that, send it off to him, and await the copy editor, who goes over it line by line to fix grammar, punctuation, sense, and fact checking. I change it again and send it in. Then I get the galley, which is the typeset version and get one more chance to make changes, which I might, depending on whether I want some different wording or I found out at the last minute about some fact I got wrong. I send that back. One more pass by another proofreader offering changes on a few awkward lines that everyone else missed and then finally, FINALLY it goes to print. That enough for you? I've heard some writers who say they write all the way through, make a few changes and then no one ever touches it after that. Well bully for them! angry

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:19 PM ET
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Hi Michelle! And Hi James. You make me blush!

Q: You've already described the process of starting with the medieval mystery and deciding on the noiresque flavor, how did you decide to add the supernatural edge to the story?

Jeri: I had to figure out how to write a mystery, and the hardboiled mystery I fancied the most was The Maltese Falcon. I literally took it apart scene by scene and arc by arc. And one of the things I really liked about it was what Alfred Hitchcock called the "MacGuffin," the pivot point that the plot hinges on, the thing that everyone wants to get their hands on. Now sometimes that thing is mighty important but sometimes it only propells the plot and is easily forgotten. Since I'm also an Indiana Jones fan, I thought it would be a fun element to add a mystical relic into the mix, something that propells the plot and might be important in one book and something not so much in another. It's also a "is it or isn't it?" Is it supernatural? Does it have the power everyone attributes to it or is it a cultural bias? Let the reader decide.  

Q:Have you always felt comfortable with writing fiction? As a writer of non-fiction who aspires to one day crafting works of fiction, I find I have great difficulty with dialog. Did you have any areas that developed more slowly than others? Do you have any advice on the topic of dialog? 

Jeri: There was never any question about my writing fiction. I have always made up stories. I used to love those little plastic animals as a kid, and I played with those guys for hours, making up little backstories for them. I some of them dating each other with all sorts of issues as to why they couldn't quite come together. I mean, this is stuff when I'm eight and nine years old. So yeah, fiction it is!

As for dialog, my original intention was to be an actress, so I am all over dialog. And, of course, playing my little games as a kid, being other characters, was easy for me. But I also like writing the narrative so I guess screen writing is out. As for tips, try acting out the scenes. How would each character react to the situation? When you say it aloud, it might make more sense and be less stilted. I still do that, especially for action scenes. This is why I don't write at a Starbucks. No one wants to see a middle-aged overweight lady swinging a sword around. Or do they? smiley  

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:20 PM ET
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Thanks for the kind words, Cheryl. I usually give away sword pens when I do appearances. The pen is mightier than the sword...but in this case it's both!  

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:30 PM ET
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I studied theatre in high school, and am a huge fan to this day. I can't believe I never thought of using that experience as part of the writing process. Thank you so much for opening my daftly shut eyes!!

If I may ask another question, I've always had fun analyzing elements and writing styles of books I've enjoyed (at least on the fourth or fifth re-reading), but my method for doing so is rather makeshift. Does the way you analyze other writers' works come as naturally as your own writing, or is it a product of books or classes on the topic of such analysis?

edited to add: Thank you so very much for your answers, and for taking the time to do this Q&A!!!!



Last Edited on: 6/21/11 10:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:35 PM ET
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No one wants to see a middle-aged overweight lady swinging a sword around. Or do they? smiley

I bet they would love it! Bring a small sword though, so they dont think it is a stick-up.

Date Posted: 6/21/2011 10:36 PM ET
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How many appearances do you do in a week?  I think you are one of the hardest working authors I follow.

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