Thanks Alan, for hosting me, and for asking me to talk about one of my not-so-secret addictions – crime fiction. I got hooked on crime fiction in my early teens, and I just don’t see myself going off the stuff any time soon. I also happen to really enjoy writing, so when I decided to start a blog, I knew it was going to be about crime fiction. It’s actually a little odd for me to be bogging here about my blog, since I’m really rather self-conscious about it. There are so many wonderful blogs out there. But, here goes…
When I started my blog, I have to admit I had an ulterior motive: my own writing. I’d made the decision that I wanted to really focus on my writing. I’d had my first novel, Publish or Perish published, and I was working on B-Very Flat. I knew that social media like blogs are good ways to spread the word about one’s writing, but at the same time, I didn’t want my blog to be all about my own novels. That can get very tiresome. I don’t like tiresome. Readers don’t like tiresome. Besides, lots of other people have written crime fiction that’s so wonderful I could only dream of being that good. So I decided my blog would be about all sorts of crime fiction, not just my own. So now you know the story behind Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.
Once I started blogging, I found I loved it. I’ve had the real honor of befriending people from all over the world who read and write crime fiction and are nice enough to chat with me about it. And I get to think about and write about crime and mystery fiction, which is, well, it’s fun. So to those of you who are kind enough to stop by and comment when you do, thank you. I learn from all of you.
Alan asked me to talk a little about how I choose topics and books and so on for my blog. As I was thinking about how to describe what I do, I realized I feel a little like Agatha Christie’s Ariadne Oliver. In Dead Man’s Folly, she’s thrilled to get out of a speech she’s supposed to give entitled How I Write My Books. Here’s what she says about it:
“I mean, what can you say about how you write books? What I mean is, first you've got to think of something, and when you've thought of it you've got to force yourself to sit down and write it. That's all. It would have taken me just three minutes to explain that, and then the talk would have been ended and everyone would have been very fed up. I can't imagine why everybody is always so keen for authors to talk about writing. I should have thought it was an author's business to write, not talk”
That said, though, I don’t just randomly sit down and write. So here, in case these ideas help folks who may be thinking about starting a blog, is how I do what I do:
First, the idea…
I like blogs best that are focused on one idea per post. I suppose it’s a matter of taste, but I learn most from blogs that focus on one main theme, idea, question, etc.. So that’s what I do with my own blog. I get my ideas from lots of places. One of my favorite places to get ideas for topics is from other blogs and from comments on my own blog. I frequently start thinking about something once I’ve read someone else’s blog post, or a comment I read. That’s one of my favorite things about the “blog-hopping” I do.
Another place I often get ideas is from books that I happen to be reading. Crime fiction books all have so many terrific themes, topics, ideas, characters, and so on that they’re a rich source of inspiration. So when I’m reading a book, I’ll often tap it for blog ideas.
And now for my other source of inspiration: music. If you stop by my blog, you’ll notice that I often use the title of a song, or a line from a song, as the title of the post. Music’s a very big part of my life, so when I hear a song, I sometimes think, “That would be a great idea for a post!”
I’ve got other places I get ideas, too. I sometimes even use things that happen to me personally as inspiration. I think a person can find inspiration for writing from lots of different places, and, as corny and cliché as it sounds, I like to be open to inspiration where I can find it.
Next, the books….
Once I have my idea for what to write, I think about other books I’ve read that have something to do with the idea I have. There’s no magic to that, really. I’ve read a lot of crime fiction books, like everyone else who’s a crime fiction fan. So I think about books I’ve read. I often catch myself thinking, “Didn’t Colin Dexter/Agatha Christie/Michael Connelly/Barbara Vine/Someone else write a book where X happened?” If I remember the story well enough, I make a note and gather other relevant stories. If I don’t, I go back and look at the book if it’s one I have. If it’s one I borrowed from the library, I go there. This part of what I do is fun because I get to renew my acquaintance with books I haven’t read for a while. The good folks at the local libraries I use have gotten to know me : ).
As Forrest Gump says, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
…and the picture, of course…
I also take a ‘photo for each blog post. I like that part. It lets me be creative in a fun way. I’m proud of most of those pictures, actually, ‘though I say it myself.
And then, the writing…
Once I have everything together, I write my blog post. That’s the “paw-work” that takes the least amount of time. Unless there’s a technology glitch of some kind, and that does happen.
So there you have it. That’s how I do what I do online. Nothing magical or mystical about it. It’s just something I love to do. I’ve been honored and flattered that people have commented on my blog and have encouraged me to put those blog posts together in book form. As you may (or may not) know, I’ve decided to do just that. Right now, I’m working on my third Joel Williams novel, and I would like to get that done. I am hoping that later this year, I’ll get to work on a book tentatively called The Mystery Professor’s Guide to Great Mysteries (thanks, Alan, for that title!). When it’s ready, I’ll let everyone know. For now, though, I have some heavy dates coming up with Joel Williams ; ).
Thanks again, Alan, for your hospitality! I promise I picked up the towels off the floor.
Margot – Thanks so much for visiting today! I know all my blog readers will be fascinated by the process you go through writing your amazingly insightful blog posts on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. And thanks for tending to your towels!