How I Keep My Writing Different

As a business woman, I understand how important it is to be able to communicate what is different or special about your product or service. Fiction writing offers a unique challenge in that people want to read something fresh, but still have genre-specific expectations. In mysteries, we want to be challenged, but we expect the case to be solved by the end of story. In romances, we love the drama, but expect the heroine to find happiness in the end. Thrillers are no different. We want to be intrigued, we want action, and we expect the good guys to save the day. So, how, as a writer, how do I keep the story different AND interesting?

1)      I stay in the writing cave.

I haven’t read a book or watched a TV show in thriller/suspense genre since I started writing. I’m as susceptible to influence as anyone else and I try to avoid duplicating plot lines and characters.  I will confess to watching a few “Bourne” movies and “Zero Dark Thirty”.

2)      I talk to myself

I role play the dialogue, imagining what the character sounds like and how he or she is interacting within their environment. I also imagine what the character is thinking vs. what he or she is saying, bringing in non-verbal clues to let the reader know what’s really going on.

3)      I use real people as models

I use people I’ve known through the years as models. For example, Ed Agosti is a combination of two very different men I worked with. One was a gentleman farmer with an authentic Cajun accent while the other was down-to-business real estate executive.

4)      I want my characters to surprise the reader

If you read “Operation Angelica”, you’ll find that I like to change up archetypes. Elizabeth Ashton is a college educated southern belle with a wicked aim. The rough looking Dumont is a caring, sensitive person with a tragic past.  Brandon and Shannon Casey both look perfect, seem to have the perfect life, but their relationship is falling apart.  And Mike Van Dellen is a cool headed gunslinger, until he’s around the woman he loves.

5)      I try to keep it real

I knew nothing about guns or military/police procedures when I started writing “Operation Angelica”.  I read and learned as much as I could. And, again, I would like to publically thank the technical experts (you know who you are) who kindly corrected my errors with laughing. I tried to bring in cool tools and gadgets to the story while avoiding a “James Bond” type of ridiculousness. For example, Van Dellen’s bush plane is real airplane released in 2009.

My biggest hope as writer is that readers will find my stories interesting, thought provoking, and entertaining.


Writing Influences

When I was younger and not married/without kids, I read a lot. I discovered speed reading in high school and have used those skills to devour books. Seriously, I can finish a novel in six hours. As a result, I read a lot of series fiction. I’m also a movie fan, as you will learn if you keep reading.

In the nineties, I read Tom Clancy novels. “The Hunt for Red October” is the best political thriller of all time. I admit that Clancy’s Jack Ryan series got a little ‘out there’ in the later stories, but the earlier ones were superb. Clancy excelled at attention to detail and ‘do it or die’ action sequences.

My husband introduced me to Elmore Leonard novels in 2001, and I became an instant devotee. If you’ve ever only seen the movies- “Get Shorty”, “Out of Sight”, “Jackie Brown” – based on his stories, you’re missing out on the genius that was Elmore Leonard. Yes, fellow Leonard fans, I know there are dozens of other movies, but I’ll save those for another blog post. Leonard defined the pulp fiction genre -bad guys with a heart, good guys that aren’t so good. There are no innocent characters in his stories – only complicated people stuck in complicated situations. These are not feel good stories. The sudden violence shocks the senses and the endings leave you wondering who the hero of story really was. Oh, Mr. Leonard, how I miss you. At least we have Raylan Givens for another season of “Justified”.

I confess that it’s taken me a few years to admit my third major influence – Joss Whedon. I was a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” way before it was cool to be one. I mean, what super hero girl doesn’t want a hot boyfriend? She doesn’t care if he’s a vampire. She just doesn’t care. Oh, and the collection of complicated friends- that’s something we can all identify with. And then Whedon went and did “Firefly”. Let me make this clear – Joss Whedon bent the unbendable rule of television. He mixed western and science fiction into a delicious campy cocktail. “Firefly” fans are fans for life. But, Whedon really proved himself as a movie writer and director with “The Avengers”. I don’t think he’s received enough credit for managing to take all the Marvel super heroes and weave them into one story. Let’s face it, up to that point, as far as stories went, the “Hulk” movies were terrible, “Captain America” was dry, and “Thor” was silly. Only John Favreau’s “Iron Man” movies had a true story arc and character development. “Avengers” would have been little more than a Saturday morning cartoon without Joss Whedon’s magic touch.

“Operation Angelica”, has hints of all these influences – moody protagonists, disparate team members, intense action, and characters struggling against their flaws.  I can only hope that my stories are as accurate as Clancy’s, intense as Leonard’s, and as fun as Whedon’s.