Sunday, November 7, 2010

Christine Merrill Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?

First thing in the morning.  I pretty much stumble out of bed, make sure my son is getting ready for school, and then boot up the computer.  I check e-mail for about an hour, while eating breakfast.   I do on-line jigsaw puzzle, (which happens every single day).  And then, I open the manuscript and get to work.

I like to be done with the writing part of my day by noon, if I can manage it.  In the afternoon, I’m free to do what I want.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

Always the computer.  I have terrible handwriting and would frustrate myself too much, if I had to go back and retype my scribbles.  I do keep a notepad handy though, and take notes as I work, to keep track of names settings and things that need more research.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?

Anywhere I can.  I usually start with a single idea, asking myself a “what if?” question.  Then I build from there.  Need to Know came out of some time I spent as a librarian at a job where I was seriously bored.  I had a lot of time to read, and saw an article on CIA agents who didn’t tell their wives about their real careers until after they’d retired.  For their whole lives, they’d been bringing home fake pay stubs and lying to their families and everyone else.

I thought there had to be a way to work that into a story.

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?

I am very goal oriented.  An ideal day is 1000 words.  But if I’m getting close to the end of a project, I might think in terms of revised pages per day.  I adjust the daily totals based on the due date the book is due.  If I fall behind, I have to make up the words.  If I get ahead, I can schedule a day off.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?

Actually, I’m both.  I write Regency set historical romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon, and the publisher takes care of the cover art for those. 

But I’ve self published Need to Know, which is a contemporary comedy/thriller. For that, I had a very clear cut idea of what I wanted to see on the cover:  something that would represent both of the main characters.  I had a gun and file for the spy and spilled nail polish and library card for Liz, who is a librarian.  The first cover was a photograph I took myself, using props.  But then I turned it over to my friend Elaine Milewsky, who is a graphic artist, and let her rework the same idea to make it look more polished.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?

I like making things up.  Even when I was doing other jobs, I found myself telling stories in my head to stay entertained.  When my kids were little, I decided that it would be a good idea to start writing them down and trying to sell them.  Writing seemed like a good stay-at-home career.

It was not a particularly practical idea.  But then, I am not a very practical person.  But I am very stubborn.  I worked at writing because I had wanted to do it since I was in high school.  And in the end, the work paid off.  Now I can do it full time.

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?

Not yet.  The ebooks I’ve read have all been on my computer.  But I have “Kindle” at the top of my Christmas list, since the laptop is too heavy, and is holding me back.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

My favorite authors include Jennifer Crusie, Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett, and P. G. Wodehouse.  But right now, I’m reading two books: “ Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders” by Josephine Ross and Henrietta Webb
and ”Feed” by Mira Grant, which is a political thriller with zombies.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

Someone did one for an anthology I was in, and I did one on my own.  I think these two projects were my lowest sellers, over all.  I’m not planning to do any in the future, since I haven’t seen results from them.

But I am open to the idea, since I like to play with technology and software.  The one I did for myself was a flash animation, and I had fun with it.  The trouble is, I tend to obsess on details.  I just did a Powerpoint for a writing group presentation that was a work of art, complete with animation and music clips. That took me a whole week to put together.

But I have to remind myself that movie making is not as productive a use of my time as writing.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?

I’m fascinated by questions of identity and the secrets that we share with or keep from the people around us.  Need to Know was a great phrase that seemed to capture that, and tie in with the espionage theme of the book.

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

I’m working on several things at once.  For H M&B I’m doing a Christmas novel that will be a Regency reimagining of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And in my spare time, I’ve started a sequel to Need to Know, which will be called Wet Work.

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