Read an interview with Elena Hartwell, author of One Dead, Two to Go and Two Heads Are Deader Than One:
What is the main conflict in your book? Secondary conflicts?
On the surface, it’s about a private investigator chasing a killer. Under the surface, it’s about a woman learning to relate to her mother as an adult and deal with her feelings of responsibility to others. Eddie has to learn where she draws the line regardless of loyalty.
Read an interview Rich Zahradnik conducted with his fictional character, Coleridge Taylor:
Taylor: You were a reporter and I am one. Are we similar?
Zahradnik: I was only a police reporter at the beginning of my career, and I didn’t cover really serious crime like you do. You’re a much better reporter than I ever was. You’re far more focused on getting the story—often to your detriment….
An Interview with Rich Zahradnik, author of the Coleridge Taylor Mysteries.
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
Taylor, my protagonist, is a journalist and I was a journalist for three decades…though I did not do as much police reporting as he has. Still, I know how newspapers and journalism work. I feel I need to be careful. Too much realistic detail gets boring. I like to think I have a sense of humor, so hope some of that gets into the book, though the story is dark.
An Interview with Elena Hartell, The Writers’ Thread.
Question # 2: What is one “piece of writing advice” that you wish you’d never taken?
“It’s fine the way it is” from an agent about one of my novels. It wasn’t fine, it needed rewrites. Now I know to trust my instincts.
An Interview with Colleen J. Shogan with Rogue Phoenix Press
Some people think my books are political. They really aren’t. Yes, the business of politics shapes the general premise of the stories. But my series isn’t a polemic about partisanship or particular issues. A lot of people will never work in Washington, D.C. or live here. I like to think my series gives them a realistic flavor of how our nation’s government actually operates while also reading an entertaining mystery. If readers take away one lesson, I hope it’s that most people in Washington are well-intentioned and hardworking. The outcomes aren’t always the best, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a genuine effort everyday to make the country safe and prosperous.
I usually create five potential suspects, all of whom have some connection to the victim that offers a potential motive. Most of the suspects have connections to each other as well. Once I get that far, I hold off deciding who is guilty until after my protagonist and her team begin sleuthing.
How are you and Mac McClellan alike? Different?
Physically, fairly close. . We both have (had) blondish hair; Mac’s is showing signs of frost; what’s left of mine is gray. Both have blue eyes. Both combat vets, both wounded. We share roots in North Carolina. . And we both live by the Marine Corps creed of Semper Fidelis—loyalty and faithfulness are foremost in how we treat others, and expect to be treated in return.
If I don’t have an evening event to attend, I come home immediately after work and try to squeeze in an hour for writing. In the spring and summer months, I enjoy writing outside on my backyard deck. It’s not easy to write a novel this way, but I’ve discovered helpful “tricks” along the way. For example, when I’m finished for the night, I write reminder notes so the next time I work on the manuscript, I remember the next scene or line of dialogue. It helps with continuity and allows me to maximize the time I have to spend on writing.
My first four books deal with war and its consequences. I like to believe I’ve written more than a ‘war story.’ I would hope readers find something much deeper in my efforts. Without sounding like a braggart, I feel I’ve achieved that. I drew from personal, painful experiences to make those books as realistic as they could be. But it came with a price. I needed a break. Switching to writing mysteries was a big load off my shoulders.