Got a Question?

So Bob and I took December off from HWSWA. I was reading and sleeping all month and he was trying to convince his wife they should buy an abandoned mine with heavy equipment in the Arizona desert. Now it’s 2021 and we’re regrouping: I’m still in bed but I’m working (a lot of writers work in bed, do not judge me) and he’s given up on the mine and is heading into the hills with one of his dogs to do whatever it is he does in the hills. Mountains. Whatever. We touched base briefly, trying to figure out if we wanted to do anything online this year. He’s halfway through one book, needing to start another in his ongoing series, and I am still in bed reading, so it would have to be something easy. Like answering questions. As in you all ask a question and we go to Slack and argue about it. Like Questionables only two people answering.

(He never told me what kind of mine (I asked) but it was in Mayer, Arizona, so it did seem sort of fated. Those of you who’ve been on Argh for a long time man remember when, fed up with the male half of the population, Lani, Krissie, and I decided to buy an abandoned nuclear missile site in the Pacific Northwest and move there; Lani said we would call it Clitoris because that way, no man would ever find it. Good times.)

So do you have a burning question you desperately need an answer to? Or, you know, just something you’ve wondered about? Anything you want two answers to, really. Put it in the comments below. Please remember that half of the team answering this question suggested I eat my left arm to survive a snowstorm in New Jersey.

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40 thoughts on “Got a Question?

  1. Lol. Bob’s mine reminds me of the guy who was “inspired” to start a restaurant without actual chef or business training. That dudes wife stuck it out.

    Since we live closer to the end times, I’m going practical, and morbid to some. What are you planning to do to/ for your incomplete works upon your demise? And what gets donated to literary museums from your belongings?

    Don’t mind me, I’m the cheery sort who firmly believes in the exercise of writing her obituary to make sure she feels the beauty of this life. 😀

    Serious and funny replies accepted.

    Happy 2021, y’all.

    1. Obviously his wife was a saint, that is right up there with people with no experience who want to start restaurants because they’re good at cooking…how adorable. Of course it would also help if they were good at waitressing, cleaning, food prep, managing, training staff and plumbing… i.e. the practical stuff

  2. A question that has probably been asked already many times to both of you: how did you actually start writing and kept going to the point where you had a complete publishable book? When I say how I mean in a very practical way.

  3. I think a lot of us have entertained disappearing into the desert this year. Or the mountains. Either really!

    My question is how do make the move from Amazing Idea to Actual Story? Have you ever just stopped at the idea stage and known that there wasn’t much further to go with it? Or is it a good idea to pursue fleshing it out?

    1. Every idea has been done. Even amazing ones. It’s taking an idea and making an amazing story that’s the hard part. I used to outline, but I’ve written enough now, and been corrupted by things like writing with Jenny, that I now take an idea that’s usually a character in a time and place (setting), explore the character, then chuck a problem at them.
      Solving the problem is the story. People read more for character than story. If it’s an interesting character, surrounded by even more interesting characters, the story will come. It won’t be easy (why they pay us writers the big bucks) but that’s when butt in the chair comes in.
      We’re rewatching Luther here– Idris Elba as a British detective and the first episode is similar to Silence of the Lambs, except — well I’ll let you watch it. Brilliant how it plays out over seasons.

      1. Luther is brilliant.
        Stop answering questions in the comments, Bob. There’s a plan here.

      2. This is super helpful. You’re right. The ideas are always there for the taking. It’s finding the right problem to throw at a character that gets tricky. Thank you!

  4. I have no question but I’m going to hijack to say the I just finished Gin’s Rhubarb Pie and I loved it. Both it and Six Cloves have 5 star reviews in my library system/Hoopla! I couldn’t wait until Thursday.

  5. I read on Reddit a sub where it has writing prompts – I love some of them, they are such clever ideas! So how do you decide what is a great book idea, one that will last all the way to a finished story and what is destined to be nothing but a series of fun rabbit warrens? Do you jot down the rabbit ideas just to get them out of your head so you can focus on the “real” stories or ???

  6. How do you keep yourself out of the story, or should you? By this, I’m thinking about how you create characters who are wholly themselves independent of you as a person (they aren’t independent of you, the writer, because you write them). Characters may be nothing like you and you want them to stay that way, stay who they are, but then do things happen or have things happened that you have/had to guard against to prevent your own personality from sneaking in there and making them behave in ways they seemingly wouldn’t? Thank you for letting me ask. I love your books and your writing, both you and Bob and you without Bob (no offense, Bob).

    1. Writing Robert E. Lee in my Duty, Honor, Country series was hard because I think he was 100% wrong in his choice to fight for the Confederacy. But I had to understand why he did it. Every character has a primary motivator. A thing, that in the crunch, will make the decision how they act. Often it’s unconscious to the character. But the writer must know it. Breaking Bad was a good example of this. He had a particular mental disorder and the writers had to stay true to it, even when there were obvious better and legal solutions to his financial problems. But at the very end of all the season, his wife finally asks him to tell her why he really did the terrible things he did and he’s honest about it.

      1. Even knowing the motivation, would it be harder or easier to write about Benedict Arnold whose main connection to West Point was he tried to sell it to the British during the Revolution than Lee who achieved such high standing at West Point before he made the wrong decision?

        Thanks for accepting questions Bob and Jenny!

  7. Every question I’ve thought of has been answered in a previous post or interview or podcast. I don’t think you want questions like “When will you finish and publish ‘Stealing Nadine’ or ‘Arresting Anna’ or ‘Haunting Alice’ (I/we would really love to know!)?”

    14 days, 21 hours and some minutes left in Trump’s “reign”. Happier New Year ahead.

    1. Tough one. I’ve written lots of series. I thought Area 51 was done. Then I re-read it and realized there were lots of threads I could pick up and I did.
      I think when you don’t have the passion for it any more. I left Area 51 alone for almost15 years, but then, upon re-reading, realized there was something more I wanted to unravel.
      In my Green Beret series I did six Dave Riley books, then moved on to Horace Chase. But he was so flawed, I knew he couldn’t last. So, spoiler alert, he dies at the end of his third book and Riley is in the background. I remember Walter Moseley two years ago at Thrillerfest being asked why his protagonist drove his car off the cliff and he said “Because that’s what he would do.”
      After killing Chase, I invented Will Kane and took the Green Beret series back well before the first book to 1977 because I thought Kane was a great character and that time period unique in New York City. I got tired of books and shows that relied on cell phones and googling stuff. So I’m not working on the fifth book in that series and really enjoying it because it has an entire cast of characters I like, not just Kane. There’s Morticia, the waitress, Thao the Montagnard cook studying to be a doctor who saved Kane’s life in Vietnam. Strong the cop with a secret I still haven’t revealed in four books and won’t until it needs to, etcetera.
      I’m well into Shane and the Red Wedding and it follows the HEA in Agnes and the Hitman. Is it really an HEA? I’m pretty far in and not sure. Agnes is off stage, at a cooking school in Paris, while Shane is at Two Rivers trying to put on a wedding that’s turning into a bloody mess. But the undercurrent I’m trying to sort out, which just occurred to me as I wrote this is: what price is love worth? Not quite “if you love someone let them go” but more if you love some, how much danger can you put them in?

  8. QUESTIONS:
    Any tips for getting the most out of an MFA creative writing program as a genre writer (in this case romance)? This is definitely putting the cart before the horse, since I may not even get in. But in the event I do, and you wanted to give me some tips any time between February – September, that would be lovely.

    Alternately, what are some ways to grow/ and learn as a writer if I don’t get into that MFA program? I feel like I’ve gotten comfortable in category-style romance, and I’m trying to develop the skills to eventually do the layered, beautiful, crunchy stuff Jenny does.

    Any recommendations for promoting your first book? (It’s digital only, if that changes the tips). I’ve got a book coming out in April (yay!) and a background in marketing other people’s art, but this is my first time trying to talk something up that has my name on it. How do you find the balance between helping people find your art, and not driving away all your friends and family? (Annoying them is fine. Driving them to avoid you, not fine).

    Ever tried to write a screenplay? Why or why not?

    Have you ever had delicious food in a book be a key plot point in a book you loved, but you were scared to try the food in real life in case it turned into a Turkish delight situation? (I put off trying chicken marsala for the longest time because I didn’t want to ruin Bet Me, so I’m just curious).

    What keeps you from being bored with the genre you write in? What keeps you coming back to that type of story over and over again?

    Are there any types of stories you love reading/watching, but that you’d never want to write yourself? Why?

  9. I would love answers from both Bob and Jenny as well as debate between them on WHY for goodness’ sake there are two genres (romance & thriller) that are practically 100% gender-segregated. Do you think it’s all about biological differences expressed in reading & writing preferences? Social norms? Inability to understand what the other genre is talking about? Boredom with the other gender’s obsessions? (Since I gather that each of you has moved a bit in the other writer’s direction since you last collaborated, I figure you both have Insights & stuff.)

    Thanks,
    Jinx or 7, whichever you prefer

    1. Seconding that this would be interesting to hear discussed.

      It looks to me like there is at least some overlap in audiences. There are some people who read multiple genres: romance and mystery and SF and thriller…

      Also I’ve been noticing lately a sub-genre I’ve been thinking of as ‘action romance’. Jenny and Bob’s collaborations fall into that category, and so do the Ilona Andrews novels, and the Mercenary Librarians books by Kit Rocha. Anything where the through-line and a major selling point is ‘people falling in love’, but there are a lot of fight scenes along the way and the fight-type excitement is part of the draw.

      But I’m not aware of much marketing directly at the ‘romance plus action’ audience.

  10. How do you know when to get a writing partner? When is it a good idea to write with someone else?

    I know you two met in an elevator or some such thing, but how do the rest of us find a person who is willing to co-write fiction?

    I have other questions – but I might as well ask what is the meaning of life or who invented peanut butter. You can’t solve my life, unfortunately.

    1. I think it was the Aztecs. They grew a lot of peanuts and had a lot of grinding stones. At least that’s my theory, unless it was George Washington Carver….

      7 or Jinx, whatever

  11. How do you prevent your characters or plot from always being the same thing while on the surface level they aren’t? There are a few authors I’ve read where it’s always the same story in the end – dif plot, but it just feels the same.

    How do you prevent a side character from being very one dimensional and trope based? Protags somewhat as well, but more space to play there. And villains- important, likely as much page time as side characters or less. How to make them unique without more page space? Generally, but also what do you do when you realize you’ve written a character that falls into this trap?

    How is a lover’s death anything but fridging/killing to get an emotion out of the main character?

  12. I think you’ve talked a bit about this before, Jenny, but I would like to hear more about how to make a character well rounded instead of one dimensional. Examples of both would be helpful.

  13. Is it the publisher or ebook provider who decides if your collaboration books are available in a specific ebook format? And how can I best influence the relevant body to do so (other than repeatedly searching for the books on the relevant site)? I can’t buy your jointly published books DLD and A&TH on Kobo Australia but I can buy your individually written books from that site. Many many thanks to you both for your books & blog commentaries. They have been & still are a source of joy & comfort.

  14. I’d like to know how writers are dealing with the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic (and all that entails) in a “current year” story. Do we ignore it? Include the details (do I want my protagonist and other characters wearing masks and keeping six feet apart, not going into restaurants or being able to travel? Where’s the fun in that?!?!?) I’m curious to know how other authors are dealing with this. Do we just move the story back to 2019 (instead of 2020 or 2021) or pretend none of this is real (I suppose it IS fiction, after all)? Any suggestions or advice?

    1. Not an author, but I think that’s a giant “depends on situation.” I would assume a lot of people just plan to ignore the pandemic or write in a nebulous time or pretend it hasn’t happened. If you’re writing a story taking place during the pandemic, the pandemic is going to take over everything, because it has to and it drastically limits your options. If you already have a fictional world, why put this hell in?

      This is probably easier to do in books than on TV shows. I gather some shows that are more based in reality have either written pandemic in or briefly covered it and then went “one, two, skip a few” and started ignoring it again. It seems to me that it would be easier to write it into a TV show than be filming around it–for example, I don’t think a pandemic fits “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” at all and I gather they are ignoring it, but they are having tons of people singing and dancing around each other and uh… that’s not safe….

      1. Interestingly the new season of NCIS New Orleans now playing has incorporated the pandemic AND Black Lives Matter into their storyline on a continuing basis.

        I would think we can expect to see some works specifically set within, and taking advantage of, the confines of the pandemic in the coming years. Perhaps it’ll be easier to write about after it is in the rearview mirror, so to speak.

    1. Yes! That. My god, I’m paralyzed about writing anyone who isn’t me. What if I get it wrong. And it’s certainly not my boring white woman’s voice.

  15. Please advise why I can’t find any details of books that have been published recently – I have all your books that I am aware of. I actually own two copies of some because I repurchased them for my electronic reader.

  16. My questions only consist of “Have you considered writing sequels to the books you two wrote together?” Because I cannot let go. Agnes is my favorite book.

  17. You may not remember, but when I was a kid (maybe around 10 years ago), I wrote you an email in regards to the possibility of “Wild Ride” ever getting a movie, as I was so infatuated with the story. I had long forgotten the title of the book as the years passed, until my mom gifted me a copy for New Years. Now, writing is one of my great passions—along with dancing and medicine—and that is in no small part thanks to you. Figured it was worth passing along some sort of small thanks in these troubled times. So thanks!

  18. Do you read Urban fantasy? Would you consider writing one as a play project this year? The best writing advice? Which part of the writing process do you enjoy most? Which part do you avoid?

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