Welcome to the next stop on The Writing Process Blog Hop.
I’m Ethan Cross and thanks for ‘hopping’ in.
First off, I’d like to thank the author who invited me, Tom Avitabile. Tom is a great guy and a wonderful writer as well as a #1 Bestselling Author (an exclusive club of which I’m also a member)! His latest book is an excellent thriller called The God Particle, which you can find more info about here: http://thestoryplant.com/our-authors/tom-avitabile/the-god-particle/http://tomavitabile.com
As followers of the blog hop know, we are asked four questions about our books and processes. So here are my responses…
1) What am I working on?
I’m currently working on the fourth installment of the Shepherd series. This new book will be sort of a new beginning for the series (I’m sure any of you who have finished FATHER OF FEAR will understand why I say that). It will hopefully take things in a new and interesting direction for the characters. And the setting will also be quite different, since the majority of the book will be set within the walls of a prison.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Without quoting a blurb or running through the standard book description, I would say that my goal with my Shepherd series was to write books that I would want to read. And I love books that are fast-paced with a lot of action. I tried to take the serial killer genre but put a slightly different spin on it. There are a lot of books out there that feature the hunt for serial killers; after all, these men are like aliens among us. They think and act in ways that most of us cannot begin to comprehend, which in turn makes them fascinating. But while most novels of this type take the police procedural approach and the following of clues to find the killer (and my books do have some of that), The Shepherd is designed to get the reader into the killer’s head and wonder how the other characters are going to escape. In other words, it’s not a “follow the clues to unmask the killer” type of book. It’s more a “oh my God, he’s in the next room…and he’s got a shotgun” type of book.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I’m not sure where my fascination with crime and thrillers first stemmed, but I can say with almost one hundred percent certainty that I’ve never read a fictional book where no one was killed or no crime was committed. It sounds pretty morbid when I read those words, but honestly, I think it all comes back to what’s at stake. The more that’s at stake, the higher the level of excitement and tension. My goal with writing is to create a book that I would want to read, and crime/action thrillers are the type of books that excite me because they have the highest stakes.
I suppose that my love of crime thrillers could be attributed to the fact that most people, including myself, lead fairly normal lives. We don’t face life and death circumstances. We’ve never been accused of murder. We’ve never had a serial killer invade our quiet lives. But these are fears and situations that we can explore through the world of fiction. A talented author or filmmaker can put us in the shoes of someone that has experienced things that we can only dream of or has faced the things that we fear the most. But in the end, we still get to come back to reality and lead a safe and happy life. Fiction is the ultimate escape because it’s the only time when you can escape yourself. And if I’m going to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, I want that person to lead a life or have experiences that are drastically different from my own.
Going a step farther, it’s a lot of fun to get into the head of a killer and imagine the world through a different set of eyes, but it’s like an actor playing a role. I don’t become a killer or let dark thoughts consume me. I think that we all have a darker side (myself apparently more than others), and I just tap into that part of my brain. But that’s the cool (and therapeutic) thing about writing…I get to be all of the characters, good and bad, hero and villain.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that my sense of compassion for both the killers and victims has grown since writing this type of book. A lot of situations within The Shepherd and The Prophet stem from imagining the scariest possible scenarios for me on a personal level, from both an internal and external viewpoint. The highest stakes, if you will. It’s not what I’d like to do to someone else; it’s what I would never want to happen to me. And I think that’s why it resonates.
4) How does my writing process work?
Of course, it all begins with a cool idea and interesting characters, but there’s much more than that to a novel (in fact, those are the easy parts). I typically start by just thinking of everything I want to happen in the book (character moments, action sequences, etc). Then I begin to fit those pieces together. I have a dry-erase board and a cork board. I brainstorm on the dry-erase and then begin lining up notecards on the cork board. These cards contain just enough info to let me know the linear progression of the book and how the pieces fit together. Then I craft an outline.
I’m an obsessive outliner. For THE PROPHET, I wrote a 170 page outline that went through two major drafts with feedback from my editors. This outline contains pretty much everything that’s going to happen in the book, even thoughts, research, and snippets of dialogue.
But for me, that’s the hard part. Once that’s done and the “writing” begins, things flow, and I’m able to focus on the intricacies. After the outline was done, I wrote the 125,000 words of THE PROPHET in about a month and a half.
And now a word about the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour, coming on September 8th. We have two great authors who are ready to share their thoughts, practices, processes, fears, and joys with you.
Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family was deported to Dublin, the Strumpet City.
Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for ‘The Wine and Gold’. He also played football (soccer) in secret!
After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff; Paddy, Tommy and Sean.
Murphy financed his education by working summers on the building sites of London in such places as Cricklewood, Camden Town and Kilburn.
Murphy also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world. But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while – thirty years ago. He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened. Having raised his children and packed them off to University, Murphy answered the long ignored internal voice and began to write.
He has no plans to make plans for the future and is happy to let things unfold as they do anyway.
I’m K.M. Cholewa. I’m a novelist, ghost writer, and writer of personal and political essays.
I am the middle child of five of a Polish immigrant father and a college educated, American mother who eloped in Switzerland after meeting in Germany in the 1950s. My last name is difficult to pronounce. Yet, I’ve always been fond of it and felt it gave me a certain anonymity in the world, sort of an anti-Cheers, where nobody knows your name.
My first home was the bottom floor of a two-flat in Chicago. Mom danced to Tom Jones on t.v. and Dad played poker in the back room of Ozzie’s Barber Shop on Lawrence Ave. We later moved to the suburbs and it was different. Serious white bread. Still, my parents threw some good parties. There was always booze in the house, but not in a bad, alcoholic way.
I am the proud product of benign neglect.
I attended the University of Illinois and overall I would have to say I was quite happy there. I loved moving away from home and having my own bedroom for the first time in my life.
After college, I moved to the Jersey Shore, and lived there, more or less, for the next two years. I liked the life. Good money waiting tables, writing a little for the local beach rag to have something for the resume, and hanging out by the ocean. I loved the off-season, too, when it went ghost town.
I hit the gas hard out of New Jersey when it was time to go and went to graduate school at the University of Montana’s Writer’s Workshop which had a good reputation and was sort of “hot” at the time. We don’t need to go into all that but I came out with an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English with a teacher training emphasis.
Cosmic journey, yadda, yadda.
Working in politics, yadda, yadda.
I live in Montana.
With my dog, of course.
K.M. (Kate) Cholewa (Ho-le’-va)