Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New interview with mystery author Michele Drier

I'm happy to welcome Michele Drier back to Reviews and Interviews to update us on her writing projects and tell her a bit more about herself.

You can read Michele's last interview.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Santa Cruz, California to a family that migrated west to San Francisco in 1849.

My mother named me Michael, after author and actress Blanche Oelrichs, who wrote under the name of Michael Strange. After months of saying, “Yes, she’s a girl. Yes, her name is Michael,” my mother finally caved and I became “Michele.” My maternal grandmother belonged to a writing club in San Francisco in the early part of the 20th century and wrote poems and jingles—one of which won her a travel trailer during the Depression.

I’ve lived in San Francisco, the Bay Area, the Central Valley, the Sierra, Southern California and the North Coast, spent time as a reporter and editor for daily papers in California, and managed large non-profit agencies.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews, Michele. Please tell us about your newest release.
My newest release is actually the first book I wrote. “Edited for Death” is a mystery from a different angle. The protagonist, Amy Hobbes, isn’t interested in solving any murders, it’s all she can do to keep her life in order and put out a daily newspaper. Of course, newspapers cover deaths, and the reporters and editors who deal with stories about deaths—whether natural or homicide—begin to wonder about how the body came to be.

There’s always chat about a murder in the newsroom, and a lot of speculation. In “Edited” Amy’s cops reporter, Clarice, is in the forefront and pushes for more coverage of what Amy sees as a routine murder.

While looking into the life of a famous California Senator who recently died—of natural causes—Amy’s quest suddenly meshes with Clarice’s interest in a “routine” murder and they’re off on a chase that leads to the discovery of a piece of art that was stolen by the Nazis in WWII and ended up in a small Gold Rush town.

What’s the next writing project?
The next project is the second in the vampire romance series, “SNAP” and follows Maximilla Gwenoch as she puts together a celebrity magazine covering the growing glitterati population of Eastern Europe. And, of course, her involvement with the mesmerizing vampire, Jean Louis.

I’ll probably also be working on the next Amy Hobbes mystery at the same time, with Clarice wanting to investigate the death a couple of farm workers whose bodies are found in a vineyard. Things in the wine industry are not what they seem, including tons of grapes sold as premium varietals.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
Making it all hang together. Margaret Mitchell wrote the last chapter of “Gone with the Wind” first. I’m a pantser (write from the seat of my pants rather than outline) so, like Mitchell, I know where I want to end up. I wouldn’t ever have the courage to write the last chapter first, though.

Writing like this can be a rocky road, because the characters develop strong personalities and sometimes behave in ways that I didn’t anticipate. Weaving these new directions or behaviors into the main fabric of the story can be tricky. I have a couple of alpha readers who bring me up short with a well-placed “Huh?” on occasion.

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
Hummm, a little of all three, I think. In “Edited”, several scenes take place in World War II. I’ve been to Germany, so the place descriptions were fairly easy, and I’ve read about the art thefts and seen the film “The Rape of Europa”. I was also married to a Holocaust survivor so the scenes of one of the characters trying to track down his family are based on facts. I had the trusty “XXX” in places (meaning “look this up”) and one of those forays lead me to the fact that GI’s killed German SS guards who had surrendered during the liberation of Dachau. That act gave me the motive for one of the main characters to change from a slacker to a passionate politician.

In “SNAP” I’m writing in a different genre, and one that I don’t read much. I read (and am still reading) fantasy and paranormal books and looking for the pacing and plot development. I also did a fair amount of online research on blood substitutes and Vlad the Impaler.

I do most of my basic research (does this make sense, could this have really happened) as I’m plotting the book in my head. Much of the information in the Amy Hobbes series is pulled directly from my career as a newspaper editor and there’ll be a real murder that we covered in every book.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
Oh, you don’t want to know! I write in my spare room/office/storage space. I have a computer desk piled high with stuff...paid bills, tax information, newspaper clippings that I’ll “do something with” some day, sticky notes with phone numbers, passwords, authors who I want to read, grocery lists. On the floor is an open dictionary. The windowsill has family pictures, I’ve pinned up some pages from a Henri Cartier-Bresson calendar, and some icons from the British Museum calendar—both from a few years ago. One of my favorite things is my framed certificate as a Charter Member of the San Jose Chapter of NOW from July 1972. I’m also sharing the space with a highchair and stroller (in case a grandchild pops out) and a LOT of Christmas wrapping paper that I need to do something with.

I try to walk about 30 minutes every morning and that’s when I do some plotting or think through some thicket of words I’ve written myself into. But mostly the muse shows up when I make myself sit down and write. I read a few pages of what I last wrote to find the scene, and just start writing.

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
I read two or three books a week and I read almost everything. In the mystery genre, I love the English. Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Martha Grimes, Ruth Rendell. The English in general. Lady Antonia Fraser (although not her mysteries under a pseudonym) Doris Lessing. I read history, biography, some bestsellers (Cutting for Stone, The Help, The Kite Runner ilk), not Patterson or Gresham, although I won’t miss a Michael Connelly, Daniel Silva or Robert Crais.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Writing is a strangely solitary existence; your characters and setting are almost more real than reality. That part is fun and stimulating.
But once a book is completed and the marketing begins—not so fun. It’s like trying to sell your children when the world is overpopulated.

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews, Michele!

1 comment:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Have to say, I love California!
San Francisco is my favorite city after New York. CA is a great location for a mystery novel. Wishing you much success.

Jacqueline Seewald