After I’d read An Uncollected Death and An Unexamined Wife by Meg Wolfe, she let me pillage her brain for thoughts on how she pieced together the stories, the mysteries, the characters.
How long did it take to sort the plot details for book 1? Creating the bits of the mystery, I mean. A month? A year?
I developed the characters along with the plot. It really is character-driven. What happened was that I had many, many strands of interrelated stories that I braided together, changing and tweaking details by working backwards, then forwards again. The last third, Act III, went really quickly, once I got the first two acts properly braided. The same thing happened in the second book, and in this third one, as well. The second book took me a little over eight months to write. This one has taken me ten–I had some health problems again during the summer which really slowed me down.
Why the French Resistance? Special existing knowledge on your part, or just interest?
I’m intrigued by the potential of a little ol’ town in Indiana for having connections to a much larger world.
What would you say was the first through plot? The core around which you built the rest?
I kept testing each scene and chapter against Why? How? and What if? Since I write character-driven stories like you do, everything, whether sinister or benign, comes down to motivation. From there the plot fleshed out, as well as the subplot.
That’s the thread that interested me. I love rarities and antiques, especially books.
Do you give much thought to the positioning of story elements the way a TV or movie scriptwriter does?
What do you see as the first plot point, the midpoint event, and the second plot point?
Midpoint is when Barnes tells Charlotte that the blood on Olivia’s rug and bat belongs to one of the shady pawnbroker brothers–but that the cause of his death was drowning. Until things get cleared up a little more, both Helene and Charlotte are suspects along with everyone else.
Second plot point was when she realized that Olivia didn’t do anything willy-nilly; the notebooks were deliberately written, deliberately hidden, and if she said she had another copy of the valuable book, she probably really did have it. Somewhere.
That’s for the plot line directly related to the murder mystery.
Do you aim for specific percentage points (a 25% first act, 50% middle act in two parts, 25% third act)?
How much planning did you do for book 3, now that you have some practice? What kind of outline, scene cards, and whatnot did you compile before you started writing?
I really thought I could shave a month or two off the writing process with all this planning.
Took me four months longer to write it than I planned, and nearly two months longer than the second book. Oh well. It might be because I’m learning to construct novels—and mystery novels, no less—at the age of 60. There’s definitely less dexterity than I had in my 20’s. On the other hand, I’ve tons more life experience to draw on. But it’s probably because everything is character-driven, and if it isn’t ringing true I end up going back and changing things. Rinse, repeat.
On the bright side, Act III in this and the previous two books tends to write itself–those last 25K words just fly off the keyboard and it’s great fun. By the time I get to that second plot point I know where I’m at, how I got there, and exactly where I’m heading.
That is very nice of you to recommend the books. If you’re like most of the guys who have read the second book, it probably made you cringe. Women either love it or hate it. But there was a reason I wrote it that way. The third book is called An Undisclosed Vocation. I’m still working on the blurb. It does form a sort of trilogy with the other two, definitely takes up where #2 left off, and Charlotte has to do some serious thinking about things in it; the reader also learns a lot more about her past.
Love it. Sometimes, our art needs more from us, and more takes time. Cringe, where? Why? I think I want to go live next door to Charlotte. I finished this one eager for book 3 (which, in the “about” page of book 2, is called “An Undisclosed Location” which spoils the joke; your titles are priceless!) I don’t understand men any more than men understand women. Women, I seem to get intuitively (my wife thanks me for this about eleven times a week; somehow, she reads my mind from the next room all day long and twice on Sunday.)
I plan to publish the Kindle version of the 3rd book on November 21st—if all goes well.
I hope all goes well. So, about the cringing . . . ?
Huh. Best part of the book. Don’t break ’em up, okay? Maybe they just remind me of Sue and I. A lot.
She lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband, photographer and artist Steve Johnson.
An Undisclosed Vocation
An explosion. A death. The destruction of a popular Elm Grove business.
Charlotte Anthony, caught up in the ensuing chaos, wonders what the victim meant when he said he knew something “that could get us both killed.”
Once again, Charlotte teams with Detective Barnes as they strive to unmask the criminal. Her efforts are complicated by her relationship with Donovan, when it seems that they both have secrets they are unwilling to share—and as important figures from her past suddenly appear in town.
As Charlotte uncovers the layers of the murderer’s motivation, she also reveals the dark pasts and secret lives of those she thought she knew well, testing her faith in her fiancé, her friends, and herself.