Thursday, January 13, 2011

Author interview: J.E. Seymour

Look at this, two weeks in a row! This week I'm featuring a wee interview I did with mystery writer J.E. Seymour, author of LEAD POISONING. Now, a disclaimer: I know her, and even did a little beta reading of her early chapters, but don't let my meddling detract from your interest. She's a talented writer with a great book and, on top of all that, is a super nice person.

Here she is:

Who is J.E. Seymour? (Married, kids, pets, guns, etc.)

J.E. Seymour lives and writes in southern NH. Married, with three kids, two retired racehorses (Spud and Hammy, they're both in the book,) a burro, three ponies, a goffin cockatoo, a retired greyhound and an insane treeing walker coonhound. Oh, and a barn cat. There are weapons in the house, yes, including a genuine Red Ryder BB gun (but nobody has yet shot their eye out.)

What have you published, and where can we buy it all?

My debut novel, Lead Poisoning, was released by Mainly Murder Press in November of 2010. It is available in trade paperback, direct from the publisher, or from Amazon.

Or, if you want a signed copy, you can call Water Street Books in Exeter, NH and order one with a credit card, and they'll ship it to you.

Alternatively, prospective readers can send me an email, and I'll supply my address to send a check so I can mail you a signed copy. We aim to please!

Lead Poisoning is also available as an ebook in a variety of formats on smashwords.

I've also got two short stories for 99 cents for the kindle.

At any given time, I have a number of short stories up on the web at various ezines, available to read for free. See my website for links.

Did you always want to be a writer growing up, or did you come to it as an adult?

I've always written, but never thought I could ever *be* a writer. I wrote books as a child, complete with illustrations, bound with staples.

Did you have a lot of support when you began writing, or did you suffer the same raised eyebrow most of us do? In other words, what kept you motivated at the start of your career?

I've had just enough praise from assorted writing teachers to keep me going. But really, writing is not about motivation, it's more of an affliction. I'd stop if I could. There are times when it feels like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, you want nothing more than to stop. But I can no sooner stop writing than stop breathing. It's just a part of me.

What is your writing schedule?

I squeeze it in wherever I can. See my answer to the first question, regarding critters and kids. I also work part time at a middle school library. I do a lot on weekends, and in the hour between the time I get home and the time the kids get home.

Do you actively look for story ideas (combing newspapers etc), or do they just come to you?

I tend to write about characters, rather than plot ideas, but I do sometimes hear something and think - "there's a story in that." I wrote a short story for an anthology a couple of years ago called "Lights Out" that came about as a direct result of a story I heard on the news during an extended power failure.

Have you ever thought about writing in a different genre?

Working in a middle school library has me itching to write middle grade or YA. There's a real lack of historical fiction for kids set in the twenties, and that would be fun to write, all those gangsters, prohibition, it's ripe for the picking! I'm thinking about setting it in one of the big hotels in the Mount Washington area.

Who are you favorite authors?

Lawrence Block. Elmore Leonard. Donald Westlake, especially when writing as Richard Stark.

If you could offer just one piece of advice to aspiring novelists, what would it be?

Pay attention to the Ps. Persistence, Patience and Practice. It took me thirteen years to get my first novel published. I had two agents (one for each of my first two novels.) 80 rejections from agents on this one before I went to small presses. And as much as you don't want to hear it, you need to listen to people who tell you it stinks. When you start out, it does stink. That's where the practice part comes in.

Do you outline your novels?

No. I am disorganized by nature, and my work is character driven. I can't tell the characters what to do, they have to tell me.

How much energy do you put into the language aspect of your novels, the “art” so to speak?

I like simple. I don't believe in over-writing, but I do believe in paying attention to the little things. I don't try to write flowery stuff. I do pay attention to things like sentence length, and how it affects the reader. Most of the time though, my writing tends to be sparse. I don't think about "theme" at all. I have a tough time thinking about things like story arc too.

Do you recommend any specific "how-to" writing books for mystery/thriller writers?

Stephen King's book On Writing is good. Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit and Spider Spin Me a Web. And Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is excellent.

What are you working on now?

Just sent out queries on the next Kevin Markinson novel - Arrhythmia. I'm also struggling to write a short story for the MWA [Mystery Writers of America] anthology.

What do you think of the e-book debate - is the trend away from paper books it good for authors, readers, publishers, anyone, everyone?

I don't think paper books are going away. I put my book in e-book format, but I don't own an e-book reader. Most of my books come from the library, although we do own a *lot* of books. I love used bookstores. I think things like smashwords that let anybody put a book out there are not necessarily good. A lot of those books are horrid. I do think there needs to be a way to shake out the chaff.

Thank you!

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