It's my pleasure to host another author from the '25 Years in the Rearview Mirror - 52 Authors Look Back' blog tour! As you know, this is a great anthology put together by Stacy Juba, featuring 52 authors who reminisce about life 25 years ago. You'll want to learn more about the book and the tour at the bottom of the page. Right now, however, I am pleased to introduce Karen McCullough.
Hi Karen. Tell us how you started writing.
Actually I sort of slid into writing sideways. I spent fifteen years as a computer programmer, a job I loved until burnout set in. (You know you're burned out when you start dreaming lines of Cobol.) I moved into writing software documentation, discovered that I actually enjoyed writing and began doing more nonfiction. But I've always been a reader, and I've always had stories swirling around in my head, so it wasn't a surprise when I decided to try writing my first short story. (I do have to credit my husband for planting the seed, though. One day, kind of out of the blue, he suggested I try my hand at writing a science fiction story. So I did.) That was so addicting, I had to do it again. And again. And pretty soon my short stories were turning into novels, and well, here I am, many novels and shorter stories later, still doing it. I sold my first book to Avalon Books in 1988, and The Night Prowlers was published in 1990. It wasn't the first complete novel, I'd written, however. It was the sixth. I'm definitely persistent.
Tell us a bit about your writing process - are you a pantser or a plotter?
Pantser with some plotter tendencies. When I start a new story, I generally know the opening scene and have a pretty good idea where I want the whole thing to go and how it will end. What I don't know is all the stuff in between. So usually, I'll write the first couple of chapters, going on until I realize I don't know what happens next. Then I'll stop, get out a pad and pen and make a list of possible scenes, incidents, plot developments, etc. I include everything I can think of that might happen in the story, based on the beginning I have and the end I want. I try to go with a few wild and crazy idea, search for the most unlikely and improbably things I can conceive. It surprises me how often those off-the-wall ideas will turn into actual incidents in the plot or at least lead to some interesting twists. Then I take the list and put the incidents in what seems like the most likely order for them to occur. I don't use all of them, and I find that things pop up and occur to me as I'm writing, but that list usually gives me enough ideas and direction to move ahead with the story.
Sounds like your computer programming background resurfacing! What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like taking long walks, around the neighborhood where I live or in various parks through the city. I love working in the garden when the weather permits. There's something about digging in the earth and encouraging things to grow that feeds my soul. I like watching sports on television, especially baseball, pro football and college basketball. We have a minor league baseball team, and I enjoy going to those games. I like to travel and explore new places.
What is best piece of advice about writing you've ever gotten?
A couple of things. One line from Elmore Leonard has always stuck in my brain: "I leave out the boring parts."
The other, and I can't remember where I first heard this, but it's proven very true: "Grow a thick skin." Writing for publication is not for the faint-hearted. It's a guaranteed way to experience more rejection and criticism than you ever guessed you could handle. And if you can't handle it, you're in the wrong business.
Do you have any advice for others just starting out in writing fiction?
It's so easy to publish these days that the market is getting flooded with bad writing. You need to rise above it. Don't put up for sale the first thing you ever wrote, unless you've revised and re-edited several times. Get at least one reader or critique partner you trust and don't send out anything until they've read and approved. Finally hire an editor. I spent years as a professional editor myself, but I still hire someone to go through my independently published books before I put them up for sale. It takes at least one other set of eyes to see problems of consistency, usage, grammar, etc. You're too close to it to see all the problems.
I'm currently working on the sequel to A Gift for Murder, tentatively titled Wired for Murder. It's almost 2/3 done, but it's taken me a long time due to life issues intervening and gobbling up my time.
I love the title for the sequel. Thanks for stopping by at 'Expression Express'. Here's more about Karen and her latest book:
Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.
Blurb: A Question of Fire
When Catherine Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won't enjoy it, but she doesn't expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms. Nor did she anticipate she’d become the recipient of his last message about the location of evidence that would prove his brother innocent of murder. Now the killers are after her to get that information. She’ll need the help of attorney Peter Lowell, as well as the victim’s difficult, prickly younger brother and a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.
- Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002W5RBZS
- Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-question-of-fire-karen-mccullough/1004338298?ean=2940012198129
- Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/A-Question-of-Fire/book-UFvwtnxQ3UeEPBOnm6ynRA/page1.html
- Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/43245
- Order trade paperback from author: http://www.kmccullough.com/order.php
And now, more about 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror
If you enjoy magazine columns and Chicken Soup for the Soul books, you'll probably enjoy our collection of essays designed to warm your heart, raise your spirits and compel you to examine your own life. Get a full listing of authors, essay titles and retailers here: http://stacyjuba.com/blog/25-years-in-the-rearview-mirror-52-authors-look-back/
Follow the 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror Blog and Radio Tour schedule here and enter for some neat 'My Memories Suite' digital scrapbooking software: http://stacyjuba.com/blog/25-years-in-the-rearview-mirror-blog-tour/
And don't miss the chance to join the 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror Yahoo Group, a fun and inspirational group that discusses the past and will help you to stay on track for the future. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/25YearsRearviewMirror/