What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
How long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I usually begin research for the next book while I’m working on the current book. That means it’s a constant process. Often the next book is sparked from research I stumble across while I’m writing the current book. But if I’m not reasonably focussed about it, research can also lead me down endless rabbit holes, so there are times when I have to step away from it for a short while.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I would have to say a little of both. When writing is going well it can be very energizing, but by the end of an intense period I’m pretty wiped.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Probably dozens. I have a drawer load that I may never return to, but there are at least another eight planned, but not yet published, D & D books on my list.
Why are the D&D books set in Chicago?
Because the series was sparked by an article I read on the Haymarket bombing that happened in May 1886. I read that the authorities arrested, tried and hanged a number of anarchists for involvement in the crime, but that they never specifically identified the individual who threw the bomb, so it led me to speculate on that person’s identity and motivation. That speculation became Madman. Reading about how dynamic Chicago was during the 1880’s, politically, architecturally and socially made me want to walk around it some more, and the book series was born.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
No, but I do believe that a story needs time percolating on the back burner while I go and do other things. Often I find myself at what I think is an impasse in a book and set it aside for days at a time. It’s usually not long before the solution pops up that makes finishing a book faster than if I sit and churn out 500 words a day only to throw away half of that output.
Which character came to you first, Diamond or Doran?
They came as a pair. I actually wrote a screenplay for something else and they were minor characters who kept waving their arms about in my peripheral vision saying ‘Use us. We’re more interesting’. And they were right!
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
I love a fountain pen and have a few very nice ones. Longhand is my preferred method because I can scribble my novel ideas out much faster than I can type. But eventually I have to transfer my written draft into a computer for proofing and editing. If I could find reliable dictation software that can understand my voice and produce an accurate draft, that would be my ideal Christmas gift!
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
No. Setting goals each day doesn’t work for me. I know many writers do, but I just find I work better in bursts, so I may go a few days and write nothing and then spend three straight days doing nothing but writing.
How do you decide what to write about?
At the moment, with D & D, the main characters have a broad story arc. It can twist and turn in unexpected directions if I have an inspiration driven by the logic of their character development, but I know where all those characters will end up. Obviously, research plays a part in what else I decide needs to be included in each story. In Madman the anarchists’ stories led me to give Sinead Doran a cause that brought her into conflict with her family. In Poison I wanted to look at the way mental health and poverty were treated in Chicago during the 1880’s. In Vendetta it was about minorities struggling to assimilate and the advances made in obstetrics during the period. Broadly speaking I like to write about ordinary working people and how they lived lives not that different to our own. They had desires and skills, obstacles, passions and loves just like we do today. I hope that comes across in my books.
I loved answering all of your questions.
If you have more please comment on this blog.