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Mystery Video of the Moment

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interview with Ann Charles - Part 3

Welcome back readers! Today's installment offers a glimpse into Ann's writing. We hope you enjoy it!

MLM: Why Mystery/Suspense/Crime/Thriller? What was the draw for you?

ANN: It’s the dead bodies. I tried for years to write straight romance, no mystery, no thrill or suspense, just romance plots, and I sucked at it. I couldn’t think of enough reasons to keep the hero and heroine apart, and that problem showed through on the page. Then I threw in a dead body and suddenly everything just clicked into place. I had conflict, I had tension, I had excitement and fear. All of these emotions heightened the romance in the story, and I was finally able to write romance scenes and dialogue that sparked. So, in the end, when I stand up on stage to win my “big” award some day, I’ll start it with, “I’d like to thank all of the dead bodies...”

MLM: All of us are influenced and impacted by TV, movies, books and/or authors at different times in our lives. Who, what and which TV, movies, books and/or authors influenced you? When in your life did you discover them and why were they so influential for you? (Don’t be afraid to give us more than one of each kind!)

ANN: I grew up sneaking reads of Stephen King novels and Harlequin Presents books—so, horror, romance, and sex have been on my mind since I tried on my first training bra. I’ve always been a big movie nut, too. Tremors, Jaws, The Mummy, The Big Country, The Big Sleep, The Thing (the newer version with Kurt Russell), Twister, and Bull Durham are some of my favorites. I watch these movies repeatedly, analyzing the scene and dialogue structure.

For example, when I’m working on a romantic scene with a lot of witty dialogue, I dig out Bull Durham or The Big Sleep and watch for what makes the scenes with the hero and heroine sizzle. Is it that the looks they exchange say one thing while their mouths are saying something else? Is it the words themselves, which have hidden meanings due to a previous scene? Is it the way they don’t touch each other when it’s so clear to the audience that they wish they could?

As to why they were so influential for me, I guess it’s because they are fun, and I seek out things that make me smile or laugh or cringe in fear. I’m not one for dramas, serious movies, or sad tales. I want to escape the daily barrage of negative news and events that always seem to be on the television or in the papers. I want to focus on the things in life that make it wonderful, which to me are love, sex, fear, and excitement.

MLM: Of all of these influences, is there any one TV, movie, book and/or author in particular that you try to emulate in your writing? Which ones and why?

ANN: Sure! Someday I’d love to be able to make readers cringe and gnaw on their knuckles as well as Stephen King and Jaws. I’d like to make readers fall in love with and sigh over my characters like how I adore Humphrey Bogart, Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, and Brendan Frazier. As you can tell, it’s hard for me to pick just one or two of any one format. Stephen King is just one of the authors I study these days. I read Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz yearly because it was a story that really taught me how to incorporate setting with story, and a refresher is always good. I also analyze Rachel Gibson’s romances because her heroes knock my socks off and I want mine to do the same to readers. There are so many excellent authors and movies out there that it is hard for me to choose just one.

MLM: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like mysterious, suspenseful, creative, unique etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.

ANN: “Quirky”

As in: “Ann Charles’ books are a delicious mix of quirkiness!” :)

MLM: In Part 2 we discussed stress and the holidays. While stress may not always be conducive to writing, do you find that the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how? How tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode? What does it take to get you back on track?

ANN: Usually, holidays make it hard to focus and I tend to not get as much promotion and marketing and writing done during that time, but this year was different because I had a book release coming in January for which I needed to build buzz. There was no rest for the wicked. Santa didn’t even bother with the coal this year because he knew I’d be too busy to notice.

Right now, I’m working on clearing my plate enough to get busy writing the third book in the Deadwood series. I’m doing a lot of listening to songs that remind me of the book and characters and watching movies that inspire my creativity. It’s a definite shift in gears from the promo and marketing mindset, but the urge to write is building momentum and will hit me full on very soon, I can feel it.

MLM: Also in Part 2 we asked you about where you’d put the hot tub and why. Does this show through in your writing? If so, give some examples how, please!

ANN: I said I’d put the hot tub inside in front of a big screen television so I could watch some of my favorite movies while lounging in it. I think this shows in my writing, because I don’t take myself too seriously on the page. My main goal is to entertain readers and take them away to a place where bad things happen to Violet Parker rather than to them. The fun is watching how she reacts and keeps going in spite of all of the crap blowing up around her.

MLM: Who decides what the characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one deciding who done it, where they done it and with what?

ANN: I have a little say in the beginning. I make a high level plot outline of what “could” happen, then I hand everything over to my muse and let her take over. She often leads me in directions I didn’t expect to go, and this whole process drives my husband a little crazy. He thinks I should plan everything out in detail well in advance and I just can’t. I trust my muse will come up with much better ideas than I could. Due to this loosey-goosey process, I consider myself a seat-of-my-pants (aka “pantser”) author. I’m often happily surprised by what comes out as the story progresses. In that way, I’m entertaining myself with the story as it rolls out, and I hope that transfers over to my readers.

MLM: Of all the stories you’ve written please tell us:
a.) Which character did you have the most fun creating and why? What about this character makes it stand out above all the others? 

ANN: That’s tough. I am fond of several characters. I’d have to say that so far Harvey in this Deadwood series has been the most fun. I didn’t even have any plans for his character until I came up with the first line of the book, “The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.” At that point, I saw Violet Parker standing there with a double-barrel shotgun pointed at her nose and I had no idea who was holding the gun. From that Old Man Harvey, the gun holder, was born. He turned out to be Violet’s partner in the series and is a huge hit with my readers. Go figure. I laugh every time I write a scene with him in it.

b.) If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why?

ANN: Wow! You ask tough questions. The female in me wants to meet my heroes—Doc Nyce in the Deadwood series, or Mac Garner in my Arizona series—for obvious reasons. J But overall, I’d like to meet Violet, because her voice resonates so strong inside my head. I’d like to sit across from her and try to figure out exactly what traits we share.

c.) Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?

ANN: That would have to be Ray Underhill from the Deadwood series. Why? Because I’d probably end up in jail for beating him up with a stapler. :)

d.)If you could choose to visit one setting/world you’ve created which one is it, where is it and why this destination over all the others? What makes it stand out over all the others?

ANN: I’d want to visit Jackrabbit Junction, Arizona (fictional town in the Arizona mystery series) because I have been to Deadwood multiple times and know it well, but I don’t know the sites and sounds of my Arizona town nearly as well. I want to smell the desert after a rainstorm, feel the heat of the springtime sunshine on the top of my head, see the purple mountains in the distance. And I’d want to see Ruby’s General Store at The Dancing Winnebago RV Park, because it’s stocked with food and drinks that I love.

MLM: Thanks for joining us again this week and for giving us another great interview!
Be sure to return next week for an excerpt to Nearly Departed in Deadwood!

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