My writer-self is scattered. I write Regency romances and paranormal romances as Dorothy McFalls. And I also write cozy mysteries as Dorothy St. James. I brought my love for historical research to my latest cozy mystery published by Berkley Prime Crime, OAK AND DAGGER. Set at the White House, Casey Calhoun (organic gardener) must solve a mystery that dates back to the nineteenth century in order to save lives now. I wove fictional and real events together in this book, much like I try to do in my historical romances.
I love the historical romance genre. As a reader, it lets me be swept away into another time and place. Talk about a mental vacation. (Don’t we all need those from time to time.) As a writer, historical romances feed my need to research. What could be better than to immerse myself in letters, drawings, maps of the Regency time period. The more time I spend learning about the time period, the more alive the characters become to me. I can see my fearless heroines moving around in the world of the Beau Monde dressed in gorgeous gowns. And the heroes with their tight superfine jackets stretched over their muscular chests. SIGHS.
I am currently working on a new Regency series as well as developing a mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
First, don’t stop writing. Even if you’re only writing a few sentences a day. Keep coming back to the page. Keep honing your writing skills. Even if you’re writing about why the book isn’t working out, at least you’re writing. You’re working.
Second, I find that if my plot isn’t working, my mind will start shouting “STOP!” It took a while to recognize this. When that happens, I will stop work on my pages and go back and rework my plot. (Notice that I’m still writing. I’m not doing this work in my head.) I will write down what I think the main character is doing and why. I will write plot maps. I will write fresh interviews of my characters. Often I will learn something new, something surprising. I then am excited about the story again and eager to write/revise/rewrite the rest of the book.
Finally, I’ve discovered that every time I reach the two-thirds mark of my book, I’m hit with writer’s block. Why? Heck, I have no idea why. But it always happens. It used to scare me to death. I’d start thinking, “Oh no, I can’t finish this book. And I have an editor waiting for it. I have a deadline. What am I going to do? I’m doomed.”
After almost losing my mind several times, I learned that if I jump to the end and write the final scene I’m able to start writing again. Once I have that final scene written, I go back and write my way to the satisfying conclusion. I know what threads I need to tie up. I know where I’m going. I need to see the end point in order to reach it.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
It gets better. The first bad review stings. The first great review can be overwhelming. The more books you publish, the more reviews that come in, the less power each one will have. For one thing, I’ve found my confidence in my story-telling ability growing. I don’t need a review to tell me if I’ve done a good job or not. I’ve also discovered that my books aren’t going to please everyone. No book can. I’m sure you’ve read a book with rave reviews to have it fall flat for you. Or read a book that critics have panned only to have it touch your heart in a way you’ll never forget. I know I have experienced these things many times. It’s not the book that is flawed, or the reviewers. The reader brings her background and experiences to the books she readers. It’s a collaboration that is a personal connection between the reader and the story. Sometimes that collaboration simply doesn’t work out. It wasn’t meant to be. If my book didn’t reach a certain reader, that’s okay. It wasn’t meant to be.
In the summer, I love boogie boarding in the ocean. In the winter, I enjoy knitting and crocheting. And no matter what time of year it is, I read as many books as I can get my hands on. My favorite genres to read are non-fiction, romance, mystery, and science fiction.
What is your favorite motivational phrase? I have two that help me with my writing:
“Whether you say you can or you say you can’t, you are absolutely correct.” Henry Ford
“Difficult, difficult, difficult. Easy, easy, easy. Neither difficult nor easy.” Zen Buddhism
What is your favorite book?
Come on now. It’s impossible to pick just one. Often, it’s the last great book I’ve read (or re-read.) For me a book is a resounding success if when I reach the end of the book, I flip back to the first page and immediately read it again. Now that’s good reading!
Who is your favorite author?
Sadly, we lost one of my favorite authors this past year. Barbara Mertz, writing as Barbara Michaels wrote gothic romances. And as Elizabeth Peters she wrote some of the best romantic mysteries ever written. I consider her books gifts to readers everywhere. If you haven’t read her Vicky Bliss mystery series, do so! You won’t be disappointed. And while you’re at it, grab a copy of one of her Amelia Peabody books, too. They’re fantastic
What is your favorite movie?
A few good movies that come to mind are Gigi and An American in Paris. I suppose my mind has been in Paris lately. I like my movies fun and filled with equal parts adventure and romance.
White wine or red? White
Coffee or tea? Tea, definitely tea.
Cook dinner or order take-out/delivery? Cook dinner (well, let my husband cook dinner.)
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? Chocolate, is there any other flavor? Seriously. Is there?
Pancakes or eggs? Eggs
Sleep in or get up early? Sleep in, although I always get up early now that I have a baby at home.
Laptop or desktop for writing? Not so easy to answer. I have a laptop hooked up to a full keyboard and a full-sized screen. This way I have 2 screens. But I can take the laptop with me if I need to. So I guess my answer is laptop. Definitely the laptop.
Dorothy is GENEROUSLY giving away a copy of her novel; THE NUDE: A HISTORICAL ROMANCE ebook. All you have to do to enter the contest is answer the question; Name one of Dorothy’s favorite movies (answer found in this interview.) Good Luck ALL QU FANS!!