I have a really cool opportunity coming up. I get to meet Charlaine Harris, Dean James, and Carolyn Haines. That's right—I'M MEETING FAMOUS PEOPLE.
As a writer, the best thing you can do is pick the brain of another writer. What do you do? How have you done well? What should I not do? Do you have a magic wand that made you famous?
These authors will be coming to the Delta to promote three books: Harris' new graphic novel, Cemetery Girl: Book One, The Pretenders, James's The Silence of the Library written under the pseudonym Miranda James, and Haines's The Seeker written under the pseudonym R.B. Chesterton.
I've read them all, I love them all.
Although they aren't YA books, they are all mysteries and Haines' book is pretty scary (I may or may not have slept with all the lights on in my house that night).
Cemetery Girl is the story of Calexa Rose Dunhill, who woke up in a cemetery and has no memory of who she is. Taking her name from the graves she is surrounded by and from the cemetery itself, Calexa searches for answers on who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.
The Silence in the Library is the fifth book in The Cat in the Stacks Series and is about the town librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine coon cat Diesel. During National Library Week, the library plans an exhibit to honor the centenary of famous novelist Electra Barnes Cartwright—creator of the beloved Veronica Thane series. Charlie, who admires Cartwright and has a collection of her books, is excited to meet her and learn that she will be making a very rare public appearance. The news of her appearance goes viral and soon collectors are swarming the small town. A rumor begins that there are unpublished Veronica Thane novels, and Charlie soon realizes these collectors will stop at nothing—even murder—the get what they want.
The Seeker tells the story of a young graduate student, Aine Cahill, who travels to Walden Pond to work on her dissertation to prove her aunt Bonnie was Henry David Thoreau’s lover during his supposed solitary time at Walden Pond. Upon arrival, Aine's cursed family past comes back to haunt her, and she must fight to hold onto reality while the spiritual world and her sinister legacy attempt to take over her life. Lastly, she must discover whether or not there really is a young girl lurking in the woods surrounding her cabin.
When you have the opportunity to talk to talk to a writer ho has been successful you should always do so. You never know who they know or what they know what might be helpful. So, I got to ask these authors several questions, and I am going to share the answers I thought were the most interesting.
Harris is the author of the Sookie Stackhouse books, which inspired the True Blood TV series. I haven't watched it yet, but I feel a Netflix marathon coming on.
As a writer I was excited to ask Harris some questions that were more for me rather than for my article. Come to find out, she used to work for the same newspaper I write for! She worked in the offset darkroom for $1.60 an hour, "standing on concrete all day. Quite a job." I can only imagine! How cool that this amazing author got a similar start, right down to us being in the same building.
God knows EXACTLY what He is doing.
What inspired the story?
Inspired. I really don't like that word. That implies the process is magical. I believe if you're a writer, the ideas come because that's what you're supposed to be doing.
What advice could you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is hard work. You have to enjoy being by yourself. You have to be self-motivating. And you have to be persistent.
I had told her about my experiences writing and that I recently received some rejections. This was her response:
This is a tough business, Courtney, and it's not for sissies, that's for sure.
Who do you prefer, Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple and why?
Miss Marple is my favorite. Having grown up in a Southern family, with steel magnolias in the form of grandmothers, great-aunts, and aunts, I really enjoy characters like Miss Marple.
What advice could you give to aspiring writers?
Read, read, and read some more. Read good books and try to understand what makes them good, what makes them satisfying to readers. Read a few bad ones, too, so you can identify the mistakes you need to avoid in your own writing. Above all, write and hone your craft. Writers often find critique groups helpful. I get great feedback from my critique group.
Haines is definitely a favorite author of mine. I wrote a paper about her in grad school a few years ago and was able to speak to her then about her Sarah Booth Delaney Series. She was great, and we are Facebook buddies now. Pretty cool if you ask me.
I've read several of the Bones books, and they are incredibly different from The Seeker, tell me about writing dark and writing light. How is it different and why did you choose to do it?
I am a dark reader, for the most part. I grew up in a haunted house, and my mother and grandmother were wonderful storytellers. We would all gather up in Grandma's room, and Mama and Grandma would have all of us kids (there were 3) shivering under the covers. I was a huge Poe reader as a young person, and a ghost story or haunted house is irresistible to me. But I also love humor--and while I am terrible about scaring people, I am equally bad about playing practical jokes to make people laugh. So I think it's only natural that I enjoy both humor and fun and a little walk on the dark side now and again. My writing simply reflects my personal preferences, and I also believe that by allowing my creativity to run rampant, I keep myself fresh as a writer. If I could only write one kind of story each time, I'm afraid I would grow stale and boring.
Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym?
Part of it is a courtesy to my Bones readers. I never want a reader to buy a book expecting a particular kind of read and end up disappointed. The pseudonym (though we never tried to keep it secret that R.B. Chesterton is me) is a signal – hey, this is different. Look before you leap. And also there is a prejudice that women can't write scary, so I took initials. My book is "gentle" horror, or what might be termed "British" horror. It isn't bloody or gory (not my cup of tea), but it is creepy.
So, like I said, SUPER COOL opportunity. Anytime you have an opportunity like this, TAKE IT! You never know what you may learn.
I was iced in for days and had three wonderful books to read. Now, go out there and rub elbows with some famous people.
Courtney Warren is a writer for her local newspaper, as well as a graduate student at Hollins University where she is pursuing a degree in Children’s Literature. She has a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, the home of the Fighting Okra (which she is incredibly proud of). She loves to read just about anything placed on the shelves but has a special place in her heart for the Harry Potter series.
When she is not writing about herself in third person, she loves to write stories about middle schoolers with spunky attitudes who intend to save the world, as well as drinking Earl Grey tea from a very prissy teacup.
Check out her blog, Tea, the Spirit, & a Pen.