Hopping Around Blogs

Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series, invited me to answer a few questions as part of a blog hop. Her blog can be found at http://www.writinghorses.blogspot.com (for some reason the link wouldn’t load; sorry) and I hope you take a moment to visit.

And just have to say I love answering questions. Kind of like filling out forms, which I also love. Weird, I know.

1.What am I working on?

Ghost Roads, which is a prequel to The Memory Keeper. All the fault of a friend named David, who came by my place of work while I was in the midst of meeting with bigwigs from FEMA. I’m sitting there with suits and ties, he pops in the door and says ‘I can’t believe you killed Kelly!’ and leaves. You should have seen those FEMA guys. A little mountain town and a clerk who’s killed someone. But anyway, so many people had a connection to that character that I decided to write a prequel with him. I also have a few projects percolating. The fourth book in this series of course, then reworking an older story, and then one that’s completely different than anything else I’ve done, relating to myths.

Mt. Baring; location of the myth story.

Mt. Baring; location of the myth story.

2.How does this differ from others in the genre?

I’ll take this question as relating to the mystery series as a whole, rather than just to the prequel. And it’s a hard one to answer. What does make one mystery stand out from another? There’s a dead body and the reader has to figure out what happened to it. I guess, for mine, there are two things. One is the setting. Mountains and forests pull at me. They are mysterious on their own (I swear Bigfoot is out there somewhere), but more than that there’s a connection for me that I try to share in the stories. Second is family. The layers in relationships, the history that influences the present, the ties that hold you back or allow you to fly fascinate me. The connections that run so deep with another person, simply because of shared DNA and shared experiences also fascinate me. Why are we so bound to these others in our lives? How do those bindings impact our daily actions and decisions? I find the stories I write always seem to end up looking at those questions.



3. Why do I write?

To read a book I haven’t seen on a shelf yet. To bring a daydream to life. To answer questions in my own way. To bring peace to inner turmoil. To be able to manipulate life the way I want it to go. And because I haven’t been able to figure out a way to stop. The stories keep finding me.

4. How does my writing process work?

What writing process? I guess it’s a process of discovery. Meaning, suddenly discovering that I have a free half hour. Or suddenly discovering I have a whole day. I write in the mornings on weekends (except for the last few months of moving), in the evenings on weekdays (except when work wears me out too much, or there are cardboard boxes needing unpacking), or whenever I can squeeze in a few moments. I tried a regular schedule but failed. Life is too chaotic, hence a chaotic schedule, tossing words out here and there as I rush through. Sometimes I need quiet to write, but usually there’s music playing. There’s specific types of music I like to write to, such as Gaelic songs, movie themes, etc. I try to avoid music with lyrics I can understand as I get distracted by the story in the song and listen instead of writing. Usually I write on a lap top as I can type faster than I can hand-write. And I don’t like writing where someone can see me. I hate that feeling of a story being exposed before it’s done. So basically whatever works as I can fit it in.

A couple weeks ago I sat down to write in my newly created space amid moving boxes and the cat (Zim, ruler of the world) spilled tea all over the laptop. For some reason my son found it hilarious that I put the laptop on a cookie sheet in the oven. But hey, it worked, and I used the laptop last night.

Zim when he was first found as a drop off in the woods.

Zim when he was first found as a drop off in the woods.


Over the years I have struggled (and lost) to overwhelming guilt whenever I wrote.

You know what I mean. How dare you take time to sit and write, when there are dirty dishes in the sink? When dinner has to be made, eggs collected, dogs fed, etc., etc.

If it wasn’t the specter of chores slapping me with guilt, it was a little voice whispering that my writing would never benefit the family, that I needed to do something to help out more.

Then of course there’s the guilt for taking time to write ‘when you know you’re really not any good’. That’s the nasty inner guilt-slinger again.

Today is a very wet day in the woods. Raining, after days of rain. A perfect time to build up the fire, put on the kettle, and write. Right? Until guilt reared up. So first I went out into the rain and planted several things that were gasping in too-tiny pots. Into bigger pots, and some into the ground, went bell peppers, thyme, marjoram, parsley, costmary, lovage, sage, golden bush, forget-me-nots, beans, peas, and…well you get the idea. I came inside in late afternoon soaked.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that feeling of coming inside cold and wet, knowing you’ve accomplished something. There have been many, many times I’ve worked out in the rain. In the Pacific Northwest, if you wait for good weather, you’ll never get anything done. I remember days of climbing up into the woods with my father to repair the pipeline that brought water to a water wheel and generated electricity for us. Coming back down covered in mud, soaking wet, hauling a soggy backpack full of tools, smelling like pipe glue. I loved coming inside, where my mother would have tea waiting. Or hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. A reward for the work.

And that’s what I realized today. Writing is my reward for work. I have to ‘earn’ the words. If I do something first, I am then justified in taking time for myself. It’s stupid when I spell it out like this because no one puts that expectation on me. My husband is the first one to tell me, leave everything and go write. Matter of fact, he’s doing the dishes right now.

If the only way I can silence guilt is to buy it off by doing some chores first, then I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do.

Now what I need to learn is how many chores is enough. Because I also have a tendency to do so much that I end up too tired to write, or with no time left in the day. But oh well. One lesson at a time.

Meadow Rue