I’m having a ball featuring former reporters turned mystery novelists. Michele and I most likely crossed paths on our reporter beats in the San Francisco Bay Area and now I’m lucky enough to have her visit my blog. I know you’ll enjoy what she has to say as much as I do. Here is Michele in her own words!
1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?
I write something every day I’m home, whether it’s a review or a blog or my work-in-progress. That said, there are a couple of day every week when I’m gone, either with my grandchildren or at meetings.
I don’t work full-time any more so I can schedule my time more easily.
First I check email. I belong to several different loops and groups, so it takes a while to skim them, file, delete or answer. Then I check fb, Twitter and add anything I need to and then I check the to-do list and calendar and all of that takes about two hours.
I tackle at least one big project every day. Either reading someone else’s book to swap reviews, reading my critique group’s chapters or working on my next book.
I try to carve out about three hours a day for my own writing because I’m shooting for at least 3,000 words a day, but that doesn’t always happen. Oddly, I find my most productive writing time is late afternoon, early evening, between 2 and 6 p.m. Then I have another short spurt between 7 p.m. until about 9.
2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?
When I get writer’s block, I’ll get up and take a walk or do some housework. If I’m stuck with a scene, sometimes I’ll just write LEAVE THIS in red letters and go on to a scene or chapter or event that I’ve blocked out in my head. I actually sent one book to a beta reader with the red LEAVE THIS intact. Thank God, I hadn’t used any profanity, I saw that done too often in newspapers when I was an editor. But the best advice for writer’s block is to just sit down and write. If you need to, set a timer for 15 minutes and just write… anything. Your will, grocery lists, birthday cards, rants at the utilities company. Once words are on paper, or pixels on the screen, usually the kinks work themselves out.
3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?
I really like Chris Roerden’s books, Don’t Sabotage Your Submission and Don’t Murder Your Manuscript. And the basic Elements of Style. For more than 20 years the AP Stylebook was my Bible and I love Eats, Shoots and Leaves for grammar and punctuation. Not to mention Elizabeth George’s Write Away. There must be hundreds of writers who’ve written books on writing from Stephen King to Eudora Welty, so pick your genre and read, read, read.
4. Who do you read for fun?
Oh man, I read everything for fun! I love Janet Evanovich and adore Antonia Fraser. Elizabeth George is one of the writers I always buy in hardback and I’m a sucker for Daniel Silva and Robert Crais. I still love mysteries, but I read Pulitzer nominees, books short-listed for the Booker Prize and even best-sellers. I have friends I visit a few times a year and it’s great. He reads thrillers and spy stories, she reads post-modernist fiction. It’s like camping in a bookstore!
5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.
I won a prize for an essay I wrote in high school, but it didn’t faze me because I was going to become a chemist. Then the first organic chemistry class in college changed my mind! I ended up as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News and that’s probably when I started thinking seriously about writing fiction. That was (mumble, mumble) moons ago. I had a few starts of both a novel and a short story collection I entered into contests, but never won, so I guess I’ve known for years I wanted to be a writer. About six years ago I decided if I was going to do this, I had to get serious, so I wrote, and rewrote and edited and rewrote my first book, a mystery called Edited for Death, which was published last year.
6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Read, read, read. And then, write, write, write. Read as much as you can in the genre you’ve chosen or, if not a genre, read fiction in general—good, so-so and terrible. You can learn from of it, even if it’s “I’d never write like that, how did it get published?”
Early on, find a critique group. Not your friends and family, strangers. They’re more likely to tell you the truth. Remember, they’re going to want you to succeed, so listen. You don’t have to incorporate everything, but the criticism will be a mirror of how your writing is seen.
And last, grow some ego calluses.
7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?
Curiosity. If you’re curious about the world around you, if you wonder why people behave that way, if you want to explain things, you have a story to tell. A solid grounding in the language—syntax, structure, grammar, spelling—is an added bonus!
8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?
Anything chocolate, mores’ the pity! I knew a woman years ago who was maybe a size four on a bad day. She was such a chocolate fiend, she’d start at the dessert table at any buffet. When the good fairies come to visit, that will be one of my wishes. I could live on carrots and lettuce and still gain weight!
9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?
I’m gaga for “Lion in Winter” with Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. Last time I was in France, I went to Chinon, where Henry II died and the movie takes place.
The other one I love is Warren Beatty’s “Reds”. Historically, it’s a turning point in history, but I think the way Beatty structured the film is just spiffy, interspersing clips of “witnesses” into the story. I’m seeing a theme here…I guess I like films about real people and their interactions.
10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
I think your questions have touched a lot of parts of my life. The only other items are that I have an elderly, lame cat and my bed is littered with books I’m in the middle of reading. I’m either going to trip over the cat, break a hip and lie there some night, or get crushed to death when the pile of books falls!
Thanks so much for having me as a guest.
Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home. During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series. Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review and a Memorable Book for 2011 on DorothyL, is available in paperback at Amazon and B&N.
Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky vampire chronicles, is available in ebook at Amazon. The first book, SNAP: The World Unfolds, received a 4-star rating from the Paranormal Romance Guild. The second book, SNAP: New Talent, is also available from Amazon the third, Plague: A Love Story, will be published in June.
Visit her website: www.micheledrier.com