Friday, October 3, 2008

Louisiana Saturday Night with Author Erica Spindler

It is my pleasure to introduce to you, Erica Spindler. Erica and I go back many years to SOLA-RWA, critique groups, pre-publishing. It thrills me to see how much she's accomplished and to watch her become a household name. For me, Erica's books are like eating Pringles: Give me more! Give me more! I hope reading her interview inspires you and motivates you to chase your dreams until you catch them.

1) Tell us a little about yourself and what part of Louisiana you live in.
I’m originally from Rockford, IL. My husband and I moved to New Orleans 25 years ago- we fell in love with the city on our first visit. We still love the area and except for a brief time after Katrina, have never considered moving.

Does living in Louisiana influence your writing?
Absolutely. An author uses details about a place to bring a story’s setting to life for a reader. And what better place than one she loves and knows intimately. It doesn’t hurt that Louisiana is such an interesting place to write about!

2) What do you write and tell us about your path to publication.
I’d planned on being an artist and university art instructor. I studied and planned for that career, had earned a MFA at the University of New Orleans and secured a teaching job at a local university-- then I was bitten by the writing bug.
I came down with a summer cold and had stopped at a local drugstore for cold tablets and tissues. A free category novel was dropped into my shopping bag- a Nora Roberts romance. I’d always been a voracious reader, but had never read a category romance. Well, I read that one and became addicted to them! For the next six months I read as many as I could get my hands on. Sometime during that reading frenzy, I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing one.
The moment I did, I knew I had found my true calling. Goodbye paint and brushes, hello pen and keyboard. It took several books and a pocketful of rejections before I was published, but it was worth the wait.
Although I left the romance category behind in favor of suspense, I never abandoned the lessons learned there: ones about character, motivation and relationships. The suspense-filled tales that I write today have their roots in my earlier work.

3) How much do you know about how your books are going to be structured, who the characters are, and what the plot is going to be, before you actually start writing, and how much comes to you during the writing process?
Once I get an idea for a story--with my suspense novels, that idea begins with the villain or crime--I sit down with legal tablets and begin brainstorming. I jot down every idea that comes to mind, sometimes filling two entire tablets. During this process I begin narrowing the ideas to the ones that fit together, excite me, etc . . . Once I feel I have enough of the pieces, I go to my laptop and begin a synopsis. My synopses used to be really long, like 50 pages! Nowadays, I just like to have enough of the characters, plot and setting to get a good start. Sometimes I’m not even certain how it’s going to end!

4) How much do you research? Do you love it,
hate it or look at it as a necessity?
When it comes to research, I’m part bloodhound, part pit bull. I research every part of my novels that I know nothing or little about; it may include police procedure, technical terms, or simply a locale. Authentic details are absolutely essential to creating a story that suspends a reader’s disbelief and totally engages them in the story. I’ve found that nothing can provide that detail as well as a person actually in the field--be the lingo of a psychologist or the day-to-day routine of a homicide detective. Often they steer me to the best sources for further information. For example, in Bone Cold the psychiatrist I consulted with directed me to the best sources on several psychiatric illnesses.

5) If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning writer, what advice would you offer?
That’s easy: Believe in yourself but never stop learning.

6) Do you have or have you ever had a critique group? What advice do you have for those writers who live and breathe critique groups?
Early in my career, I worked with a couple different critique groups and they were good experiences. I think the keys are trust and respect. You have to have both for it to work.

7) Do you blog? How does blogging/MySpace and websites fit in with your writing and has it helped you market your writing? Can you tell if your website/blog has raised your profile as a writer?
I have a blog, though I only update weekly. Truthfully, I don’t know if it’s helped market my writing, but I do enjoy the opportunity to connect with my readers.

8) How has writing changed for you now that you're a well- known author. .. and in some homes a house-hold name. :)
In some ways it’s harder- more pressure to top my last book, to please my fans, my publisher and myself. But don’t get me wrong- I’m so thankful for my success. To know so many people enjoy my stories is unbelievably satisfying.

9) What piece of writing advice have you been given that you still bring to mind each time you sit down to start a new book?
“Keep your butt in the chair.”

10) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I keep regular business hours, 9-5, Monday thru Friday. Except when I’m on deadline when all semblance of normalcy gets blown to smithereens.

11) What is the last book you read and why did you read it?
I’m currently reading TAN LINES by J.J. Salem. It’s a big, sexy romp-- a la Jackie Collins-- perfect summer reading and nothing like what I write.

12) What professional organizations do you belong to and why? Or how have they benefited you?
In the early days of my career, Romance Writers of America provided writing essentials: networking with other writers, writing tips, and marketing info.
I still belong to RWA, but have recently become involved with International Thriller Writers, an organization dedicated to promoting the thriller genre.

Wrap it up: Tell us what's new on the horizons for you.
I’ve just finished my next novel, BREAKNECK, to be released January 20, 2009. It heralds the return of Detectives Kitt Lundgren and M.C. Riggio, continuing the partnership they formed in COPYCAT.

Also, I’ve started writing and researching my next project, tentatively titled BLOOD WINE, a thriller set in California’s wine country.

I've marked my calendar for BREAKNECK. I hope you have too.

Visit Erica's website HERE.

Go HERE to order her books.
And then . . . go write!


Debra Harris-Johnson said...

I really lerned a lot from this interview. Thanks Jess and of course yet another book to add to my list

Cecelia Dowdy said...

Wow! Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

Mindy Blanchard said...

Fantastic Interview, Jess!

Winona said...

Ah! Erica Spindler . . . I first found her at a conference in Houma. She spoke. I fell in "love." I bought several books that day. Now, I'm one of those fans who just can't get enough.

I refuse to loan my authographed copies I got at that conference, but I have shared other copies of my Erica Spindler library.

Thaks, Jess, for such a great interview.


Christa Allan said...

I met Erica several years ago through one of my students whose mom was a friend of Erica's (shout out to Tim Snyder and fam!). Erica graciously spoke to my classes, dragged in her edited manuscript, and spoke about writing.

I'll always appreciate her willingness to offer my students a slice of a real life author. She was also a great encourager to me in the wee beginnings of my own journey.

Christa Allan said...

Oh, I forgot! Great interview!

Erica Vetsch said...

Wow, very nice interview. I saw one of Erica's (LOVE her name ;) ) books at the store last night. I'm going to pick it up next time I'm there.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Spindler speak yesterday at the LA Book Festival. Nice post. (I found your blog by googling Louisiana blogspot writer.) ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Great interview! I'll be sure to look for the books.