Monday, September 27, 2010
I can’t imagine how any author could avoid putting herself into her characters in one way or another. I certainly do. And I put in just about everyone I know, in bits and pieces along the way. My latest novel, Conundrum, is 95% autobiographical, although it is a mystery. That was tough to write—all about my mother’s betrayal and the greatest pains I’ve suffered. It wasn’t, though, cathartic for me at all, and that wasn’t why I wrote it, either (that’s another story), but I’m very much in that book. I’d say most of my other nine novels in both genres only pull from my passions and opinions through the voices and actions of my characters.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’ve done a lot of quirky things. (I just looked up the word to be sure) Peculiar. Well, that’s subjective, isn’t it? To some people running a commercial pygmy goat farm might seem peculiar, but seemed pretty normal at the time. I chased a couple of bottlenose dolphins around at sixty feet underwater, which was one of my best experiences in scuba diving. And I hid behind my very tall husband when four 9’ reef sharks headed my way. Maybe not quirky but funny nonetheless.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’m sure most authors say this, but I’ve written since I could hold a crayon. I even “published” a neighborhood magazine back when I was about eight called “The Stone Canyon Gazette.” It was in those ancient prehistoric days before copy machines and electric typewriters. I organized a handful of neighbor kids and we handwrote ten copies of each issue on construction paper, including drawing the same drawings ten times. We charged ten cents. The mothers complained I had too many entries in the magazine and didn’t feature the other kids enough. Already hogging the limelight! After that I helped my mother with her scripts, collating and offering ideas. I got my first rejection letter at age twelve from the producer of Woman from Uncle regarding my script idea.(I was raised in TV industry.)
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’m very picky. I’d make a terrible book reviewer as I tear things apart. Being a professional copy editor and writing coach makes it hard for me not to want to redline all the books I read. And I find mistakes in almost all books, even highly acclaimed releases. With that said, I have only recently been reading CBA books as I do have some being published in that market. I don’t write to CBA. I’m not inclined to preach to the choir and feel led to the lost. So I mostly read NY Times ABA best sellers, to study what makes them popular (since that’s what I’m aiming for with all my commercial mysteries). I also read a lot of literary fiction, international authors, classics. I don’t read Romance in any form—not my thing. Otherwise I like anything from historical (not romance) to sci-fi to westerns. I’m a big fan of Walter Moers (who draws really hilarious pictures in his books), and I’d say my favorite books I read in the last year are The Art of Racing in the Rain (Stein), The City of Dreaming Books (Moers), The Thirteenth Tale (Setterfield), This Body of Death (Elizabeth George) and The Shadow of the Wind (Zafon).
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I run, run, run. Keeping sane isn’t a problem for me. I’m a type A multitasker. I do fifty things at once. I get frustrated wishing I pushed myself to write more, as I can’t keep up with all the book ideas I have, but I’m trying to learn to be balanced. I make sure to take my dog on a couple of walks a day. I read and relax for enjoyment, each a lot of chocolate, and take to the woods when I can. I don’t have kids at home anymore and I work at home, so I am blessed to be able to set my own schedule. Sometimes I edit at midnight. Other times I write at 6 am. Whatever moves me.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
In general, raising two awesome daughters. But overall, I don’t feel I can’t take credit for accomplishing anything in life. God gave me these great kids; I certainly don’t deserve them. My mother always cursed me with: “Some day I hope you have a child just like you—so you can see how much aggravation you gave me.” I thank God he didn’t listen to my mother! As far as writing, my best book is coming out in a few months: The Map across Time. It is truly my heartsong, the best thing I’ll ever do. To me it’s perfect, as it is the book of my heart. Okay, it has a stupid fat while talking pig with a bad British accent. Can’t be helped. But when I hold THAT book in my hand, I will say “Okay, I can die now. It is finished.” (Okay, I know God is not finished with me yet and I have lots more books to write, but you get the idea, right?)
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
That’s not a fair question. I would pick so many! And the rule is you have to live in a perfect world. So I would probably be something that flies, since that’s got to be amazing. However, I wouldn’t want to have the mentality of an animal, because then I wouldn’t enjoy being one, right? I want to be me as a bird and really get into flying. Otherwise, the deal’s off. And I wouldn’t want to be a part of that predator-prey chain either. Always running and hiding so I don’t get eaten. No fun.
What is your favorite food?
Depends on the day. Chocolate is the easy answer. I love Thai and Indian food. I ran a b and b for 15 years and cooked a lot of gourmet breakfasts. My husband’s pumpkin cheesecake is up on the top of the list. Any kind of ethnic food.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I think handling over twenty years of rejections and frustration over not getting published. Not really a writing problem. I had agents who loved my writing; they just couldn’t sell my novels. As far as the craft of writing goes, I always have minor roadblocks in trying to hone the craft and push myself to be a better writer. Mostly what has helped me is prayer and waiting on God. For example, I’m working on plotting book #11, Intended for Harm, a modern-day story of Jacob in a dysfunctional family. Yet, as much as I want to start digging in and writing the book, there are some key elements missing to the themes and I know God is working with me on this. I’m waiting for him to help me finalize the last bits and get that aha moment of the pieces all fitting together. Like all my books, I know there is a reason I’m meant to write it and a message it means to impart. I could just start writing, but I send his hand holding me back. Wait, he says. Not ready yet. I am thinking there is something I’m going to see, some revelation, that is going to smack me in the face and then I’ll have my green light. Writing as a believer is way different than writing when in the world. It’s all about God and what he wants out there. We want to produce much fruit, but Jesus also says without me you can do nothing. Zilch.
Tell us about the featured book.
I think this interview is featuring Someone to Blame. I wrote this book on a whim mostly, to have something for Jim Bell’s mentor track at Mount Hermon. I had just finished book two in my fantasy series and decided to write another mystery. It started in omniscient POV ABA audience. As usual, it has about 14 POV characters, shifting third person. Very commercial style book. I had pitched it to Zondervan but never got a response back. Then I submitted it in the Zondervan contest. I was a bit flippant about the idea because I had submitted the first chapter to the Genesis contest in ACFW and it was trashed badly to where I felt like giving up on CBA (I feel that way a lot). But to my surprise, the book won the contest (publication and an advance). It’s a very edgy, gritty book with a lot of slimy characters. In essence it’s a murder mystery but since those aren’t popular in CBA it’s being called a “relational drama.” It is a heavy story about a family that’s suffered great tragedy, and although they hope to heal by moving to a small town on the north coast, they collide into a drifter who comes to town when a string of crimes erupts. It explores both internal and external blame through the eyes and actions of all the characters.
Please give us the first page of the book.
You can read the first chapter at http://www.someonetoblame.com/. The book starts with Irene in the truck as her husband is driving a windy river canyon road on their way to their new town, which she’s never even seen. She’s thinking about freefalling and how that word fits best the state she is living with after having suffered a recent horrific tragedy in their lives. She thinks about when people fall to their deaths from high places how merciful it is they only suffer a few moments of fear and then die. But real life isn’t like that. When you suffer tragedy you freefall forever. It sounds a bit morbid, but it’s conceptual. The book ends with Irene sitting in the same truck, but completely changed by grace. You got to read it to see the journey.
Sounds like a very interesting read. How can readers find you on the Internet?
You can go to the book’s website I just listed or come see me at http://www.cslakin.com/. And my fantasy series is at http://www.gatesofheavenseries.com/
Thanks so much!
And thank you, Suzanne, for spening this morning with us.
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