Whenever anyone asks me about my writing process, I'm always reminded of the line from Shakespeare in Love, "It's a mystery." I can answer the obvious questions:
--Am I a plotter or a pantser? If I have enough time, I prefer to plot out stories in advance. But, when I'm on a tight deadline, I sometimes have no choice but to just jump off the cliff and start writing by the seat of my pants.
--Do I come up with story lines or characters first? Oh, definitely stories. I've been known to turn in entire synopses to my editor that don't include a single character. I just outlined the plot. My lovely editor would then ask gently, "And are there going to be any people in this story?" Over time, I've learned to really enjoy creating characters, though. I love studying the people around me and taking bits and pieces of their personalities that I find most fascinating and weaving them into my fictional characters. You know that line, Be careful what you say to me--it may end up in a book? Totally true around me!
--What's a typical writing day like for me? I drop off the kiddo at school at 7:30 and head straight to the nearest Starbuck's. I suck down a mocha latte, soy, no whip, curse the fact that my barista can't just give me a caffeine IV drip, and then I get to work. I work for 5-6 hours, typically. I give myself permission to stop after ten pages each day, but I average more like 16-17 pages a day. On a good day, I might write 25 pages or more. I do that 5-6 days a week. I find if I stop writing for more than a day or so, I have a dreadful time getting going again. The trick is for me to keep writing every single day at a high rate of output.
--Do I ever get stuck? Every single book, without exception, I do. It's the one thing that's completely consistent for me in every book I write. I get anywhere from 50-100 pages into the book and stop cold. I have to ask myself the question, "where the heck am I going with this?" By the time I'm done with the opening of the story, it's already going in a different direction than I originally envisioned, and I have to adjust and add or subtract plot content. Characters are starting to come to life, and yes, they routinely do things I hadn't planned on for them.
--Do I ever talk to my characters? Let's just say my family is frequently heard to interrupt me when I start talking about someone to ask, "Wait. Are these people real or in one of your books?" It's one of the best parts of being a writer. I not only get to listen to the voices in my head, I get to talk back to them!
--Any advice for other authors? Two things: First, give yourself permission to write crap. You can always edit bad writing into great writing, but you can't edit a blank page into anything but a paper airplane. Second, I call it my ABC theory of writing…Apply Butt to Chair. Or in my case, ABCD Apply Butt to Chair Daily. The single hardest part of writing is finding the self-discipline to sit down and do it enough times and often enough to actually finish a book.
But, all of those things said, do I have the slightest idea what makes for that special magic of a story well told? Nope. Not a clue. It's a mystery. I'm just incredibly grateful that the stories I tell seem to resonate with enough readers that I keep getting to do it over again. We all know a great book when we read one. It's got that mix of emotion, action, surprise, humor, and happy ever after that leaves us feeling all happy and satisfied inside.
If you've got a story rattling around inside your head refusing to leave you alone, I encourage you to ABC and put it to paper or electron. Who knows? Maybe a whole lot of other people would love to hear your story, too!
After earning a degree in Russian and East European studies, she joined the U.S. Air Force and became the youngest female pilot in the history of the Air Force. She flew supersonic jets, VIP airlift and the “C-5” Galaxy, the world’s largest airplane. She also worked part-time gathering intelligence. During her military career, she traveled to forty countries on five continents, was detained by the KGB and East German secret police, she got shot at, flew in the first Gulf War, met her husband and amassed a lifetime’s worth of war stories.
Her hobbies include professional Middle Eastern dancing, Japanese gardening and medieval reenacting. She started writing on a one-dollar bet with her mother and was thrilled to win that bet with the publication of her first book in 2001.
Femme Fatale by Cindy Dees
Book #1 in the Hard Bodies series
Former teen star Olivia Harper has a problem. If she can’t shake her girl-next-door image and become the femme fatale her latest role requires, her career will flop. But with her squeaky-clean image, Liv’s hardly been kissed, let alone had her world rocked between the sheets. There’s no way she’ll ask her playboy co-star for pointers, so she turns to the sexy new military consultant for some discreet…guidance.
Major Blake Ramsey is stuck hiding out babysitting actors who can’t even lace their combat boots, until his boss can deal with the fallout from his last mission. When Liv propositions him, he can’t decide whether she’s the naïve girl she claims to be or a bombshell looking for another conquest.
But as the lessons heat up, Blake and Olivia catch the eye of the papparazzi and jeopardize both their lives...
Entangled Publishing has generously offered an ebook copy of Femme Fatale by Cindy Dees to a lucky commenter!
To be entered just leave a comment and tell us: Who could you picture as a femme fatale? Classic ones like Brigitte Bardot or modern ones like Angelina Jolie? When you hear "femme fatale", who do you see?