Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Author Interview: Joyce and Jim Lavene

How long does it take for you to write a book? It takes months for the idea to grow and fill in enough to write it. The characters have to get in line and we have to find the right place to set it. Once we sit down at the computer, it takes about three months to write the book. Then it's another few months of editing with the publishers. 

How do you write together? Do you write an outline together and then separate the chapters, or what? We come up with the basic ideas and write out a long synopsis of how we think the story will go and what will happen to the characters. After that, when we are ready to sit down and write, we tell each other the story as we type it in to create the rough draft. It goes something like this, 'And she walks out of the house and sees Roger across the street.' 'No, that's not possible. Roger is out of town.' 'Is he? Then that must be Sam.' 

What kinds of writing quirks do you have? Not sure if it is a quirk, but we have rituals. We start each morning rough draft writing session with a latte as we talk about what we're doing. We break at five pages for a short meditation time. We have a snack and write another five pages before lunch. After lunch, we do promo work and revision. We always celebrate a new book with champagne and sign contracts with our special pen set. 

Where did you get the idea or inspiration for the main character in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries? Jessie! We love her. She is every woman. We wanted her to be scared sometimes, curious, not always certain of what she's doing. She is a compilation of people, but mostly our sister-in-law, Marcia, who introduced us to the Ren Faire many years ago. She loved going! Marcia passed away in 2004 at the age of 43. Too young. But we like to think she lives on through Jessie. 

Who is your favourite author, and why? We'll have to separate on that question. Probably Jim's favourite author is Anne McCaffrey. He loves all of her books and has read them dozens of times. He has a thing for dragons and science fiction. Joyce loves Barbara Hambly and Tanith Lee equally. She loves their wonderful narratives and descriptions. 

What is the writing process like for you? Is it the same with every novel you write? Our writing process is about the same with every book. Some differences are shifting and moving offices. We now write on laptops that are networked together. Sometimes, one of us will have a virus and the other will work by themselves on editing. We quit our day jobs in 2012 and that made a huge difference because we have all day to write. 

Do you belong to a writing group? If so, how does that help you, and do you recommend joining a writing group for people who want to write for a living? We do belong to several writing groups, Sisters in Crime, national and local. We also belong to some very small (five or six members) local groups. Both of us feel that it's not necessary to belong to a group, but it's fun. If you can keep from comparing your writing to others' and not allow yourself to be overly influenced by the group, we recommend it. 

Who has been your favourite character to write about so far? Why? That would be like asking us which of our two daughters we like the best. Each of our characters has their good points and bad. Sheriff Sharyn Howard was our first, so we love her for that. Peggy Lee was very interesting with her poison plants. Jessie is the most fun to write. Dae O'Donnell in our Duck mysteries is mysterious and dedicated. Our new series features Fire Chief Stella Griffin. She's a fighter for what she believes in. Oh, and Zoe Chase in the new food truck mystery series loves food and is trying to get her own restaurant. The new Pie Shop mysteries feature Maggie Grady, who is trying to redeem herself. They are all good friends!

Do you think a writer needs an agent to get published? It all depends on what sort of publishing they want to do. Publishing avenues are opening up to writers like never before. There is a great deal of freedom publishing your own digital books when you want, and about what you want. No one telling you how to write. On the other hand, if you want to play with the big boys (and girls), you probably need an agent. They are very hard to get. We have a wonderful agent, Gail Fortune with the Talbot Fortune Agency. She knows so much more than we do about publishing. It's nice to have her in our corner. 

How do you make a living as a writer? (I hope this was what you meant.) Writing fiction. We write the occasional non-fiction, but mostly we write mystery and romance for Berkley, Charter Books, Amazon, and Harlequin. We have published more than 60 books, usually on the average of four to six books a year. 

What are you working on currently? We are working on the second book in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries, set in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Stella Griffin is a Chicago firefighter who comes to Sweet Pepper to help them rebuild their volunteer fire department. She finds a lot more than she bargained for when one of the town's most influential women is killed during a house fire. She also finds out that the cabin the town gives her to live in is haunted by the ghost of the former fire chief. We have had a great time writing about Stella and her friends! Thanks for interviewing us! 

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