Today’s Ninja Writers author interview is with Vicki Williamson. Her debut mystery novel Finding Poppies is available on Amazon here.
What makes your protagonist different from the industry standard?
I think this is an interesting question, however, I’m not sure I know what the industry standard is. What the norm for the industry is … It seems as if the modern industry standard for a female protagonist is ‘strong’ but again, that can mean many things.
My main character, Ellen Thompson, is strong, so she’s not truly different from the standard, but she’s strong in a variety of ways. The most enduring reach of her strength comes out in her intelligence and her ability to govern her emotions. Throughout her adventure in Finding Poppies, it is necessary for Ellen to get in the head of a man she’s tracking. To figure out and understand clues he’s left for someone else. Even when faced with tragedy, she is able to think.
Tell us about your book(s).
My first novel is titled Finding Poppies. It’s a thriller about a woman, Ellen Thompson, who finds a clue to a lost art treasure. Her calm, normal life is disrupted when she decides to follow the clue. She travels to exotic locations and begins a relationship with a police detective who gives her aid. There’s adventure, danger and a little bit of romance with a few twists and turns.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. When everything is flowing and I’m right with my characters, writing is like a great high. I love it when writing is as if I’m reading a wonderful book that I can’t put down – I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen. And then there are the times where writing is like pulling teeth. When I must force the words to come, knowing most of them will probably be terrible. For me, both are part of the process.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I have to say yes to this, as I’m one of those folks who don’t feel emotions deeply. I’ve always been way more logical than emotional. Maybe that’s why I get such a thrill when I write a scene and it causes a true visceral reaction.
What does literary success look like to you?
To me, literary success happens every time I have someone tell me how much they enjoyed my story.
What’s the best way to market your books?
I’ve had the best success with face to face interaction with readers. Book store signings, expos, etc. Social media, I believe, is the best friend of the indie author and reaches a much larger audience but the one on one is so much more gratifying. I love to visit with potential readers and from their side, it allows them to meet me and have a person to put with the name.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do extensive – EXTENSIVE research for my books. I spend more time researching places, subjects, lore, etc. then I do in actual writing. Not all the research comes out in the books but the knowledge helps me to write a better scene. I don’t spend much time prior to beginning a book, but I’m researching all through the process of writing. I write completely organically, so I may not know what I want to research until I’m moving on to the next scene.
I tried to edit out all unnecessary content. By this I mean words and sometimes complete scenes. If it didn’t move the plot forward, it got cut. After my first draft, I cut ~500 ‘thats’ from my manuscript.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read ALL my reviews. I’m happy to say, so far, the clear majority of them have been good and they’re always wonderful to read. As I said, that’s success for me. For the not so positive ones … they upset me. I liken it to someone telling you your baby’s ugly. I process them. Attempt to understand where the reader is coming from. Curse them under my breath. Tell myself you can’t please everyone and by the next day, I’m back writing.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Completely. My husband told me for years I should write a book and I always laughed at him. I’d tell him, “I’m a reader – not a writer.” Then one day, I realized I had a story in me. My first book, FP is dedicated not only to my husband, Mark who has always believed in me, but also to my brother, Brian who after reading the short story, which I would turn into my novel, told me it was a great outline to a novel and to dazzle him. These two men have been instrumental in this journey I’ve decided to take.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The first draft of FP took me five months and then another eight months for rewrites, editing, cover, etc. One thing I learned was the writing of a novel is the tip of the iceberg. The lion’s share of the creative portion is in the creation of the story, but the work is just beginning with the end of the rough draft.
I just finished the first draft of my current work in process. It has taken me nine months to finish. Not only was this book just harder to figure out but I spent time and energy in the marketing of FP and not all my thoughts were on the WIP.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Writer’s block … not really. There are plenty of times when I just didn’t feel like writing or allowed myself to become distracted by the internet or other things. And I’ve had times when I just didn’t know what to write – when the research wasn’t digging up the correct connections. Even then, I know if I sit down, relax and write, the words will come. Some are sure to be crap but some will be worth keeping.