Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Interview with Patricia Crandall

I had the pleasure of editing one of her books and some short stories. Here is what she had to say about the writing process.

1) Please tell us about what you like to write? List your websites, what you do and anything else you'd like our readers and writers to know about you. (Please list your accomplishments too).

I write in all genres – thriller, mystery, general, humor, y/a, novels, short stories, flash fiction, essays and poetry. I do not like to be restricted by one particular type of story or a character. With one exception, I have two series characters in my popular Bottle Mining stories linking Gert Carver and Nina Westacott.

Gert and Nina, friends for many years, now share a common passion – bottle mining. They meet an eclectic variety of characters as they trade-off collectibles and old bottles at flea markets and solve gentle mysteries/problems involving neighbors, relatives, past students, farmers and hicks in and around the upstate New York community of Indian Falls. My short stories including Gert and Nina are The Crazy Jug, The Pink Victorian Lady, The Rescue, Hikers and Bottle Miners and The Conjurer.

I have published a vast number of poetry/haiku, numerous articles and short stories published in small press magazines, a variety of newspapers and presently on web sites. I have won poetry awards and have four books in print, ‘Melrose, Then and Now,’ a historical volume, ‘I Passed This Way,’ containing poetry, ‘The Dog Men,’ a thriller which draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings, and ‘Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner,’ – seeking adventure in abandoned dump sites and the challenges of entering flea markets.

I have recently had short stories published in four Phyllis Scott Publications – ‘The Pink Victorian Lady,’ in The Landing & Other Short Stories and Blue Eyes & Other Romantic Short Stories, ‘The Rescue,’ in All in the Game & Other Short Stories and ‘Not Suitable Viewing for Children,’ in The Fear Beast & Other Short Stories.

I live with my husband, Art, at Babcock Lake in the Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. My daughter and her family live nearby. Also living near us is our son. I have two granddaughters and one grandson. I devote time to my family, writing and community work. I enjoy reading, skiing, golfing, knitting, walking/hiking, swimming, exercising and traveling.

Beachfront Press

2) You are a busy writer. What is the most challenging for you as a writer?

The most challenging for me as a writer is putting aside the time to complete a story, novel or poem. Writing the first stages of a story is easy. Words and ideas flow. Plots and characters take shape. Whereby, comes a moment of truth. There is too much ‘story.’ The masterpiece needs to be cut. I am challenged to be disciplined. Thus, the real work begins and it is tedious. Through persistence in weaving the story, the end result is generally satisfactory. Still, I find a professional edit is needed in order to send a finished story to a publisher. Challenges are ongoing. However, when the story is published, it is worth the time spent and the cost.

3) How do you manage your time?

Managing time: I write every day and the amount of time varies. Some days, I spend one half hour writing. Most of the time, I write or re-write three hours at a time. One hour in the morning and two in the evening. More talented writers than I am, who procrastinate writing their stories, ask, “how do you write as much as you do?” Simply, every day I write something and I work on several stories at once. This keeps my ideas fresh and the flow of writing consistent. I then set the work aside for a week or longer. When I reread it, my interest is revived and I am ready to continue until it falls flat again.

In good weather, I long to be outdoors with family and friends. After 6:00 p.m., I disappear and retire to my desk and computer to get my writing ‘fix.’ I will glance at the beautiful red sunset sinking over the lake and rivet my eyes back to that difficult sentence on the computer. A writer will find time to write no matter what the circumstances.

4) Can you describe your surroundings as you write?

This poem best describes my surroundings as I write;


Laden on an ell-desk, work-piles wait.
A cluster of photographs surrounds
a scratched and watermarked blotter.
One clear frame portrays
three school chums visiting
after twenty-odd years.
A hectic-electric typewriter clacks on,
spewing artful wordage.
Four male generations peer
from a silver antique frame
My father, a toddler,
sits on great-grandfather’s knee.
I swivel to a tape dispenser,
snip off a narrow adhesive
and seal an envelope bulging
with a manuscript.
A daughter framed by pastel hearts
smiles to celebrate graduation day.
A postal scale denotes
One Forever stamp will leave its mark.
Through a picture window,
denuded trees neighbor with green pines.
The lake beyond is calm.

The typewriter is now in a corner of the room. In its place on the desk are a computer and a printer. A copy machine for large manuscripts sits on a wall unit with numerous shelves filled with books and an old bottle collection. A rocking chair on a plush, oriental rug is inviting to a guest, but please guest, don’t stay too long as I have a pile of work to do. It is a perfect room for a writer…a view of a beautiful lake, pine trees and nature abounds.

5) Where do you get your inspirations? Who inspires you?

Writing inspirations are everywhere. Newspapers are a good source for material. Headline – ‘Pregnant wife and baby survive murder plot.’ What if…? While on vacation, ideas flow, particularly for the perfect character in my next novel or short story. Taking a walk down a wooded path provides great ideas for writing poetry and Haiku.

Inspirations for my writing career began with the ‘Nancy Drew’ series by Carolyn Keene when I was a pre-teen in the 1950’s. Each holiday, I would request the latest Nancy Drew title and upon receiving it, I would curl-up in an over-sized chair and begin reading the fast-paced adventure.

I dabbled at creating my own mystery stories at an early age. My first effort detailed a long, frightening chase by a sinister man. A dark tunnel appeared, leading to (of course) a haunted mansion. The not-so-brilliant ending had me saved by the man of my life at the time - my father.

I have been inspired by Agatha Christie. As a writer, I find Agatha Christie an excellent study, particularly in developing characters, descriptive scenes and her exceptional talent attributed to writing a variety of books including original mystery plays, romantic novels, a memoir of archaeological expeditions in Syria, poetry and her area of expertise, plotting mysteries.

As well as Agatha Christie, I like to write in the style of Mary Higgins Clark and the outstanding, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. Even though I like to read the fast-paced, violently descriptive, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell novels, I am not comfortable writing in that mode.

Inspiration is found reading an advertisement on the side of a bus, reading a new author as well as old, familiar ones, stopping to listen to a street preacher shouting or a bag lady mumbling demonic prophecies, and in a child’s drawing. I seek and find inspiration everywhere.

6) Do you use any set formulas for writing? How do you develop your stories? Do you use an outline? What do you use, if anything?

I do not have any set formula for writing except to write something every day. My stories develop as a brainchild and the characters take shape at their own pace. I frequently ask ‘what’s next?’ I feel claustrophobic using an outline. I write helter-skelter and admittedly, it is the hard way.

7) How do you develop your characters?

My characters develop themselves. I create them using a combination of real and imagined people. I’ll admire one person’s hair color, another’s features, still another’s body type and put them together. Any attempt I make at molding a character does not work. If I force a character to act against his/her will, the story is all wrong. I will sit back and think it through, letting the character direct me. I have read other author’s essays confirming this dilemma. It is a fact. A character will lead and the writing flows until the next hurdle due to plot, scene description, etc.

8) Have you learned anything from other writers? Editors?

I consistently learn from the unique style of other writers. I pay attention to the voice they use. When a writer captivates me, I do not want to imitate his/her writing. I want to achieve what they have accomplished by leaving a reader satisfied and anxious to read more of their books.

A good editor is necessary to make the suggestions and corrections that will make a story the best it can be. At times I cringe at the slashing an editor does and/or the suggestions he/she makes to re-write the story when I believe I have created a masterpiece needing few corrections. The editor is usually right. There may be exceptions, but someone needs to keep the author in line so the work becomes acceptable for publication.

9) What kind of writing goals have you set for yourself?

My writing goals are varied. I write mainstream, mysteries, non-fiction, historical, flash fiction, young/adult and poetry. I work on several stories at the same time. This pace keeps my thoughts fresh. I continually submit my work for publication and enter contests. My ultimate goal is to write well.

10) Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Do you have any last comments or advice you want to give our readers and writers?

My pattern for a writer’s success is Winston Churchill’s famous quote: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. Never, never, never give up!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. We know our readers will be able to get a clearer picture of what you write. Linda

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