Q) PC or Mac?
A) I’m a fully converted Mac-lover. I love my Mac and I’ll never go back, LOL.
Q) If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
A) You know, I’m kind of fascinated with time travel. I feature it throughout my Moore Mysteries. So I think about it a lot. I also feel very “comfortable” when I think of living in the timeframe when the French Impressionist painters were alive. One of the most favorite people from the past I’d love to visit Mr. Claude Monet during the peak of his garden season at his pink stucco country estate of Giverny. I’d ask if I could be an apprentice painter and gardener, and beg him to let me hang around!
Q) Why did you decide to become a writer?
A) It wasn’t until eight members of my family and friends died within five years that the urge to write became overwhelming. When my father died, I lost it. I needed an outlet, and writing provided the kind of solace I couldn’t find elsewhere.
I created the LeGarde Mystery series (the first of my three mystery series) with the founding novel, DOUBLE FORTÉ (2004), a chilling winter mystery set in the Genesee Valley of upstate New York. Like my father, protagonist Gus LeGarde is a classical music professor. Gus, a grandfather, gardener, chef, and nature lover, plays Chopin etudes to feed his soul and thinks of himself as a “Renaissance man caught in the 21st century.”
The creation of the series lent me the comfort I sought, yet in the process, a new passion was unleashed. Now I’m obsessed with this parallel universe. I live, breathe, and dream about my characters, and have written ten LeGarde mysteries in eight years. (UPSTAGED – 2005; TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON – 2007 Twilight Times Books; MAZURKA – 2009 Twilight Times Books, FIRESONG – 2011, DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU – 2012; with more to come.)
That was just the beginning. I now have two additional mystery series: Moore Mysteries and Tall Pines Mysteries, three writing guides, and a romance, The Seacrest! So far, twenty-one books and counting!
Q) When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
A) I adore spending time with my family – wife, daughters, and grandkids. You can usually find me outside, either in my gardens or on hikes in the beautiful Genesee Valley. I love photography and cooking, as well.
Q) What is your philosophy on writing?
A) One of my favorite sayings that I use when I sign off from my articles or blogs is “remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you love to write, write like the wind!”
I guess it’s a strange concept, but I have this vision of unleashing swirling gusts of words just like the wind that rattles leaves in trees and blows hats along the sidewalk. Don’t stop to analyze, don’t hesitate, don’t edit yourself to death. There’s plenty of time for that later. Just let it all out in one big gushing explosion of words, and keep going until you reach the last chapter. The editing comes later. ;o)
Q) What is some advice you’d like to share with new writers?
I’m going to give you the essence of one of my chapters in WRITE LIKE THE WIND, a new writing advice guide I’ve just released through Twilight Times Books. I spent years learning all this stuff, and am very happy to share it:
A) I collect little buds of knowledge through my association with other writers, continued voracious reading, and through the process of relentless writing.
Following are ten suggestions that can help a young writer tone up his or her skills.
1) Just write. To start, write for a few minutes every day. If your passion is like mine, you’ll find you can’t stop. You’ll make it happen. I schedule very early mornings for writing, from 4:00 to 6:00 AM. It’s the only quiet time in my hectic life and I couldn’t accept spending less time with my wife, daughters, or grandsons. So, I go to bed early and forget about TV. What’s more important? In doing so, I’ve produced sixteen novels in a bit over ten years. See? It works!
2) Cut out the flowery stuff. I adore adjectives and adverbs, and I ache to describe scenes in lush detail. But in the end, I have to hack away all the excess. If you read a line out loud and it feels stilted—stop! Take out all the extra words that slow you down, and just tell the story. Use descriptive words sparingly. I’ve found that over time, my style has become simpler and more streamlined. I’m going back now and red-lining much of the early work before it reaches the bookstores. It hurts like hell to do it, but it’s absolutely necessary.
3) Observe, observe, observe! Soak in every tiny detail that surrounds you. Colors, textures, sensations, expressions, birdsongs, sunlight, and the ground you walk on… notice everything, and brand it into your brain for that next chapter you’re going to write.
4) Listen to the voices. Listen to the grocery clerk, the bank teller, children at play, at the airport, professors, grandparents, and neighbors… listen! You’ll never create natural dialogue without listening closely.
5) Tap into your emotions. When someone close to you dies, it’s an overwhelming, dreadful experience. But, the same emotions that flatten you at that time will be indispensable when you write about loss. Recreating the deep-seated feelings will make your book come alive and ring true with readers.
6) Make your characters feel deeply and give them a rich history. This takes time and is particularly important if you’re writing a series. If readers don’t care about the characters, they won’t come back for more. Don’t worry about defining them in detail in the beginning—just start writing and they will develop. You can always go back and add more detail that supports your character’s growth.
7) Perfection comes later. When you first start writing, don’t let yourself become paralyzed by self-editing. Just let the story out. This is what I mean by “write like the wind.” The creative process can be stifled by too much early analysis. There’s plenty of time for that later. When you’re ready to go back to it for editing, hack away at the unnecessary prepositional phrases and the ungainly adverbs, extract those awkward scenes that stand out like sore thumbs, and supplement those that seem abrupt. Then, set it aside for a while.
After I’ve completed a novel with at least one round of edits, I put it down and start on the next book. Many months later, I’ll come back to it. It’s best if I don’t remember much (I’m often surprised at how much I’ve forgotten) as that’s when one is in the best position to challenge one’s own work. Sometimes I’ll be surprised at an unusually eloquent passage, or humiliated by a flimsy section through which I obviously rushed. That’s the time to roll up your sleeves and be ruthless. Cut out the excess and fortify the weak!
8) Find a skillful editor and beta readers. I’ve been lucky. I have writer/reader friends with eagle eyes who will scour my manuscripts and be brutal where necessary. Try to find one person who is willing to follow along with the book as you create it. That’s the best way to start. Share this service. Swap chapters as soon as they’re done. That’s what I do with one of my writer friends who’s a talented writer and a superb editor. She catches things I’d never notice, and I try to do the same for her. We aren’t shy about helping—if a passage sounds stilted, she tells me immediately. If I want to “see” more of the details in a scene, I ask her to elaborate. It works well. Then, when the book is in a reasonable shape, I ask my beta readers to take a look at it, focusing on typos and possible inconsistencies. The finished manuscripts read more smoothly and are of higher quality, and are finally ready for my publisher’s editor to go through. It takes many iterations to flush out all (or most!) of the typos, extra spaces, missing quotation marks, etc. I’m astounded at how well my author’s brain “sees” what I “meant” to type. It takes a legion of other willing volunteers to catch everything. Caution – don’t ever think you’re “done” until your publisher forbids you to tweak it anymore.
9) Maintain the tension. You want your readers to need to read more. Keep up the pace. Make it flow seamlessly from chapter to chapter. And try to avoid unnecessary excursions into boring territory. I like to use plenty of dialogue; it moves the book along quickly. Short chapters also help the reader feel as if he’s made progress. Readers say that with short chapters they’re more apt to think, “Just one more chapter before I go to bed.” Of course, if the tension and suspense are stimulating, your poor readers will stay up way past bedtime.
10) Polish it ’til it shines. When the story’s complete and you’re ready to submit it, don’t send in anything but your very best work, buffed to perfection. You may have to go through it dozens of times, but it’s worth it. Have your friends and family do the same. Each time they scour your manuscript, they’ll find something new. It seems endless. But if you keep at it, you will produce a superior product suitable for submission or publication.
Q) Who are some authors you draw inspiration from?
A) These days I am nuts about Michael Prescott’s thrillers. He writes with consummate skill and I love “learning” from him. I’m also a die-hard John D. MacDonald fan, particularly of his Travis McGee series. I’ve been enjoying Warren Adler’s books lately, too. And I find there are so many new Indie authors out there who are just wonderful, like Joan Hall Hovey. It’s a veritable smorgasbord in our new world of instant downloads and free eBooks. I’m loving it! I also have read and loved the following authors: John D. MacDonald, Dick Francis, Clive Cussler, Laurie R. King, Rex Stout, Peter Mayle, Tony Hillerman, Alan Bradley, & Dean Koontz.
Genre - Romantic Suspense
Rating – R
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