It's almost time for the agent round of PitchWars and excitement is growing! This week I thought I'd take advantage of the ramping up to introduce everyone to my fabulous mentees (does anyone else think this is just way to much like manatee?) Well unlike lazy, drifting manatees, my crew is a bunch of hard-working, enthusiastic, and generally awesome ladies. See for yourself:
Today, it's Chris Bailey's turn. Chris has an adorably sweet island mystery, Nancy Drew-style.
Hey Jen. First, thank you so much for mentoring me and my manuscript for Pitch Wars, and for offering this opportunity to write about my writing!
My pleasure. Of course I already know this, but for the benefit of everyone else, what’s your book all about?
For twelve-year-old Ellie McCoy, growing up on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast is a little excitement short of perfect. When Ellie’s dog snuffles up a severed human finger in the lush garden at the island’s most exclusive high-rise condo, she’s scared breathless. It’s sort of what she wished for—a call to adventure.
The trouble is, her Lassie-lookalike dog wolfs down the evidence. The sheriff says there’s no proof of a crime, her dad forbids her sleuthing, and her friends mock her for playing Nancy Drew.
Ellie is sure of what she saw, and sets out to gather enough clues to bring the bad guy to justice. What she doesn’t realize is how dangerous a cornered criminal can be.
So much fun, with a shiver of intrigue! What’s your favorite thing about your main character?
Ellie does things I would never, ever have the nerve to do. She goes right up to strangers and asks if they’ve seen anything suspicious!
She also helps me out by giving me an excuse for researching interesting topics. I’d read in the news about young job seekers, mostly from Eastern European and Asian countries, who are recruited for work programs in foreign countries. Some programs are legitimate. Others, not so much. These workers may have legal status or not, typically perform unskilled labor, are often kept from complaining with threats and violence, and may have no choice about living in company-owned housing that eats up a big percentage of their wages.
Until I started specific research for this book, I had no idea that there’s a organization in my community that works with underage victims of human trafficking. I’ve been able to meet some dedicated volunteers while fact-checking the mystery!
You just hit on my very favorite part of writing. I recently blogged about how one of my highlights of writing AT YOUR SERVICE was interviewing a Rockette, so I totally get it. Another thing I love to do is put "love notes" to friends and family in my books. Little references only they will get. Is anything from Secrets at Spindrift lifted from your life?
My dog, like Ellie’s, is a tourist attraction. Seriously. Everyone asks to pet him. He’s begging me for a Facebook fan page so even more people can Like him. He’s convinced they’ll send him treats. Also, he’s a litter hound. Every time we go for a walk, I have to drag him away from discarded pizza crusts and chicken wings and chewed gum.
Interruption for a brief public service announcement: Litter Is Nasty. Please Stop Throwing Trash From Your Car.
So sweet! He's a total cutie! Okay, on to more serious stuff. What’s your writing process like?
Wake up and write!
The truth is, I’m a planner. When I give up for the night, I make a few notes about the direction I want to take the next day.
In the beginning, it’s all about what if. What if that thing my dog just snatched wasn’t a riblet? Next thing you know, some character shows up and starts talking. He—or she—brings along some friends. They start talking to each other. So dialogue comes first. I write stuff down. Then I have to go back and add setting and action, or I’d have nothing but chatty naked cherubs floating in mid-air.
I’m indebted to Suzanne Johnson, an urban fantasy/romantic suspense author, who teaches a plotting method she calls Quilting 101—Patchworking the Perfect Plot . Her online class helped me make sense out of stitching external plot arcs and character arcs into a solid story structure.
What got you interested in writing?
Reading. My two older sisters had started school by the time I was born, and I couldn’t wait to be a big girl and read all by myself.
By the time I was a middle grade reader, I was consuming the legal limit—twelve library books every two weeks. Horse stories. Dog stories. Mysteries. Fantasies. All the books.
One afternoon, from my sunny nook, I overheard a bit of kitchen conversation. Auntie said to my mother, “The way she reads, I know what she’s going to do when she grows up.”
I looked up from my book for a moment, so grateful that Auntie, who had also been my kindergarten teacher, could see into my soul, and was about to reveal that I was going to be an author.
“She’s going to get a job in a bookstore,” Auntie said.
Yeah. Being misunderstood is a bummer. I haven’t worked in a bookstore yet, but that might be cool.
I, for one, am happy you stuck with your own plan! What inspires you when you're writing?
Two things: deadlines and headlines. A deadline is a gift from someone who cares about your writing; headlines are story prompts from the world at large.
Nicely put! Okay, enough with this serious stuff. How about a purely fun one I'm going to torture all you mentees with. What current reality show could you be cast on? (If you answer Big Brother, I will have to disown you. If you answer Iron Chef, you will have to come visit.)
Me on any reality show is a stretch. But there was that talent scout encounter in December. . . .
My husband and I were invited to light the first candle of Advent, which required us to be in church extra early, and in the front pew.
After the service, a delegation of men from the choir approached my husband. “We heard you singing during the processional. We need more tenors.”
My husband shook his head and pointed to me.
That’s right. I’m the tenor in the family. Sign me up for The Voice.
How about instead we since your praises. Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Chris. I hope this is only the first of many because I think you're on your way to big things! Good luck in PitchWars!!