Welcome to the one hundred and tenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with writer and behavioural educator Louise Crawford. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Louise. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Louise: Many moons ago, a friend asked me if I’d like to try writing a spy novel together for fun. It was not a bad book for a first attempt, but she lost interest and I did not. I then wrote a vampire novel while going back to grad school in psychology. The first chapter later (after marriage, baby, finishing grad school, and finding a critique group) won first place in a contest. That gave me enough confidence to keep writing and look for an agent.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Louise: I started off writing science fiction and fantasy because the first critique group I could join was for those genres. My first agent wanted romance, so I read a bunch of romance novels and rewrote my dark fantasy into a romance novel. But all through writing science fiction, fantasy, and romance, I was reading a bunch of romantic suspense, mysteries, and thrillers. So I wrote a chick-lit type mystery which is on the edgy side, called ‘Blaize of glory’ and it was published by the first e-publisher I’d ever heard of, New Concepts Publishing then later by http://www.hardshell.com when I decided to separate my mysteries from my other genres.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Louise: Oh wow, the list is long. In the Blaize/Zoloski series: ‘Blaize of glory’, ‘Hat trick’, ‘12 jagged steps’, and coming soon ‘Blaize of trouble’. In my BHPD Detective series with Art Murry and Billy Kidman, which has a supernatural element, ‘Beverly Hills voodoo’, ‘Fortune cookie karma’ (coming out in paperback and e-book this month from http://www.hardshell.com) and ‘Bad moon rising’ (available in hardcover from 5 Star). In my new suspense series set in Sacramento, with helicopter pilot Jane Blackwood and her foster brother (a serial killer), ‘Born in blood’, coming out very soon from New Concepts Publishing.
Morgen: Ooh that sounds very Dextery, I love Dexter. 🙂
Louise: I’ve also written a series of historical fantasies being re-released by New Concepts:
‘Mariah’s love’ and ‘Rathyn’s war’, ‘Rhiannon’s choice’, ‘Jarad’s return’, and ‘Darius’s revenge’. These are Xena-type, lengthy, fantasy romance novels. I also wrote a fun contemporary fantasy called a ‘Witch for good luck’ about a witch who is under a curse and must help a human couple find true love before her final deadline. Her efforts create humorous havoc on the unknowing couple. When I started writing romance, I co-authored a number of books with Ramona Butler:
‘Sabrina says’, ‘Trouble in 3-D’, ‘Sagebrush Cinderella’, ‘Dance with destiny’, ‘High flying love’. ‘High flying love’ and ‘Mariah’s love’ were both finalists in Romance Writers of America’s annual contest for best short contemporary romance, and best long fantasy romance, respectively. Okay, are you winded yet?
Morgen: Oh no, do keep going. Well, tired the list but please keep going. 🙂
Louise: Ramona and I also wrote ‘Jaded hearts’, a fun, steamy, novel about a kickboxer who is an FBI agent tracking a serial killer that has kidnapped her niece. She and the cop, who is also after the ‘Sin City Killer’, have secrets that keep them apart. Lastly, I co-authored a thriller called ‘The courier’ with Jay MacLarty.
Morgen: Wow, you obviously like collaborating. 🙂
Louise: As to when I saw a book of mine on the shelf in a store…it was Wal-Mart and a woman was taking one off the shelf to buy and I blurted, “That’s my book!” Then I asked if she’d like me to sign it, which I did. My hand shook the entire time.
Morgen: I love that, and oh what a way to see it. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Louise: All of it, unless my publisher lets me know of a joint-author ad I can participate in, then they sometimes do the cover art prep for all the authors and send it in—but we pay for the ad.
Morgen: You mentioned earlier some competition success, do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Louise: Yes, I have won or been a finalist in many competitions. I’ll only name a few because the list would take up the rest of this page. ‘Mariah’s love’ was a finalist for best fantasy romance in RWA’s annual contest. ‘Rhiannon’ was a finalist for best fantasy romance in the annual Eppie contest (for electronically published novels). ‘Hat trick’ won best mystery in the annual Eppie contest. It was also nominated for the Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Mystery. ‘12 jagged steps’ was nominated for the RTM Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Mystery. ‘Beverly Hills voodoo’ was an Eppie finalist for Best Mystery. It was also a Reviewer’s Choice nominee. ‘Blaize of glory’ won second place in the Houston Writers contest for Best Mystery. ‘Jaded hearts’ won third place in the Duel on the Delta Romance contest. I don’t know if my being a finalist or winner in competitions has helped. Possibly. I do remember an agent turning down my fantasy novel because “anyone who has been a finalist and / or won in that many contests and hasn’t gotten an agent must have something wrong with them.” Go figure. I’ve had several agents since then, depending on the project.
Morgen: I wonder if that agent would do the same thing today. Winning is hard, getting an agent is nigh on impossible. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Louise: I originally wrote the books with Ramona Butler under “Ramona Crawford”. Publishers say that books with one author sell better, and they insisted on one name on all the projects I co-authored. If I were doing it again, I’d put both names on all the books I co-authored because of reader recognition and name branding. Authors used to use a different name for every genre they wrote in, but the genre lines are blurring and I think with e-books readers will look for more books by one author, even if it’s a different genre.
Morgen: Absolutely. Well, I’m hoping this is the case because I can’t stick to one genre and am going the eBook route, but then I figure the more genres I have (although I’m releasing writing guides and short story anthologies to start with) the wider audience I’ll have. Here’s hoping anyway.
Louise: I now write under Louise Crawford or L.F. Crawford. I use L.F. Crawford for books with male protagonists, geared toward male readers, like the Murry / Kidman series. Statistics show that male readers are more likely to buy a book written by a man, whereas female readers don’t seem care.
Morgen: That’s interesting. Joanne Kathleen Rowling went with JK for the same reason. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Louise: I think if you go the traditional route, an agent is the only way to get there. But with all the new avenues opening up for writers, I don’t think they are vital. Now, if a writer has a big contract with a major publishing house, then an agent can help protect the writer’s interests. So, from a legal standpoint, an agent may be needed. For many of the smaller publishers, the contract is pretty standard, and there are many helpful writers’ organizations that can give advice about what is standard and what is not. (MWA, RWA, Sisters-in-Crime, SFWA, Authors Guild, to name a few).
Morgen: We’ve mentioned eBooks a few times, presumably your books are available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Louise: Most of my books are available as e-books, or will be, so I hope readers will check out my websites for updates: http://www.louisecrawfordbooks.com (for fantasy, adventure and romance), and http://www.lfcrawford.com for suspense. The process for an e-book usually runs faster from acceptance to publication with small e-book / paperback publishers, and authors often get to write the back cover blurbs and pick excerpts from the books. The publisher does the cover art, but will ask for suggestions. They will suggest edits and have you read a final version before it’s published. Yes, I read e-books, although once I started writing and getting published, my reading time dropped a lot.
Morgen: Me too. I was an avid reader in my teens, before I left home and haven’t read so much since (I’m talking very avid, like torch under the duvet avid – I blame Stephen King for me wearing glasses). What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Louise: My first acceptance was for ‘Sabrina says’ and yes it was a thrill. I think now it’s more of a business to me. I may be thrilled, but I know it’s only the beginning of a long process.
Morgen: 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Louise: I get them all the time. I’m constantly sending out projects. I shove the letter in a file, or these days, I save the email in my email file, and figure out whether I want to send it out again right away, or sit on the book for awhile and think about the next step.
Morgen: 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Louise: The second book in my in ‘Blood suspense’ series, ‘Memories in blood’, where Jane Blackwood remembers more of her past, and her brother, Nelson, gets arrested for murder. I’m also working on a novella, ‘Murder on mars’, which is science fiction / suspense.
Morgen: You’re definitely keeping busy. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Louise: I used to write every day, now I write at least one day a week, usually at the weekends. The most I’ve written in a day is probably 20 pages, and after a spurt like that I wouldn’t get much written for several days.
Morgen: Oh dear. That’s amazing to hear considering how much you’ve written. So you clearly don’t suffer from writer’s block. 🙂
Louise: A blank page is always intimidating. There are a million ideas and no matter how lousy my first draft is, I can work with it—so there’s no writer’s block, only fear that gets in the way. I either go do something else, like mow the lawn or I persevere and get something on the page.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Louise: I usually have a good idea of the plot, but as the characters develop, the plot may change.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Louise: I don’t think I’m any different than other writers when it comes to characters. You use what you know about yourself, what you observe in others, and you figure out the rest as you go along.
Morgen: 🙂 Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Louise: My critique group. Right now there are two other people in the group, and I ask them to meet and read as time allows.
Morgen: Writing groups are great, aren’t they? Our trouble is time. There are usually 8-9 of us and have just upped the 2-hour session to 2.5 and sometimes we still only squeeze all our reading in (which I’m always keen to do). Due to holidays there were only four of us this week and we still only managed to finish on time. This is why I’ve gone the hired editor route as it would take too many fortnightly sessions (I run a writing workshop the Monday in between) to get enough read. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Louise: I do a lot of editing. My writing may be better, but I also know it’s far from perfect. I work on it until I can’t stand working on it anymore.
Morgen: My limit is usually four runs at it. Then it goes to Rachel, my editor who pulls it to pieces so I do wonder whether I should have sent her an earlier draft but then there’d probably be nothing left.
Louise: If the feedback from my critique group is good, I will send it out. If it’s not, or I’m not happy with it, I may let it sit for awhile or forever.
Morgen: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Louise: First I get an idea for a story. Ex: for ‘Beverly Hills voodoo’, I had a dream about two detectives talking about a headless corpse and speculating on what happened to her head. I woke up and jotted notes. Once I’d finished the projects I was already working on, I did research on why someone might be beheaded. What reasons and emotions might drive a man to behead a woman? Revenge, love, hate, fear. Injustices from the past? What kind of person would be driven to kill? Once you start asking yourself questions, you know what kind of research you need to do. I started researching cults and religions, decided on Voodoo, and then decided to set the book in Beverly Hills for greater contrast between cultures and belief systems.
Morgen: Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Morgen: Most interviewees say that and I agree although I prefer to edit on paper. What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Louise: Sometimes nothing. Sometimes one song over and over so it kind of becomes white noise.
Morgen: That’s interesting. I have classical but that’s on a loop so it does become white noise after a while. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Louise: I prefer first, like in my Blaize books. But third works, too! It just depends on what feels most natural with the character I’m writing.
Morgen: Some people start with one p.o.v. and change part-way through. I tend to stick but it’s an exercise I’ve started doing on the Monday nights (picking one of the earlier written pieces and re-write in a different tense) and it’s interesting to see the differences. Do you use prologues / epilogues?
Louise: I only use them when there’s a time change or a point of view that I won’t be using in the rest of the book.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Louise: Yes, I have a dark angel story that I never got back to rewriting, a vampire novel, same thing, a thriller, and several others that I never quit finished.
Morgen: Maybe you will, although it sounds as if you have enough new ideas to keep you going. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Louise: Favorite: staying at home with my dog, and writing. Least favourite: book signings, although they don’t scare me quite as much anymore, and I think I’m a much better speaker now than 15 years ago.
Morgen: Ditto the favourite especially when I hear him squeaking a toy for attention. 🙂 I guess I have book signings (if I do go anything but eBook route) to look forward to. I’ve done a few open mic nights but I’d say that would be less scary as there are more than just me doing it. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Louise: That it’s still hard work. I thought it would get easier.
Morgen: Oh dear. I guess I’ve got that to look forward to too. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Louise: If you love you, you’ll find a way to do it. Write every day and persevere.
Morgen: Yep, don’t give up. If you do give up, you didn’t want it badly enough. What do you like to read?
Louise: Everything from space opera to thrillers to fantasy. It just depends on whether the story grabs me or not.
Morgen: And that’s what makes a good book. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Louise: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. You may have to find a used version, because it’s old. But he has great examples of “show” don’t “tell” and all the other stuff you may hear from other writers when you first get your work critiqued.
Morgen: I found http://www.amazon.co.uk/Techniques-Selling-Writer-Dwight-Swain/dp/0806111917 on Amazon and interestingly the lowest price was the same new and second-hand so I guess a popular book. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Louise: I live in California, USA. With the world becoming more Internet-based, I don’t know that it matters where you live.
Morgen: Yes, most people say that, and I agree. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Louise: I do have a Facebook page; I have tweeted a few times, and joined Linked-in or other sites that no longer seem so active. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m experimenting with these sites to see if there’s an impact on sales.
Morgen: You do, we’re friends. 🙂 (thank you for finding me) Where else can we find out about you and your work?
Louise: At my websites: http://www.lfcrawford.com or http://www.louisecrawford.com or Author Central on Amazon, or at my publishers’ sites: http://www.hardshell.com and http://www.newconceptspublishing.com.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Louise: I think it all depends on what the writer wants. The more effort I put into my writing, marketing and promotion, the more I build up a readership.
Morgen: I do think it’s all about longevity. This is partly why I’m doing these interviews (spotlights, red pens etc), plus I’m having a ball. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Louise: Only that writing can be very cathartic, and fun! If you enjoy writing, then you’re more likely to stick with it, even when you get rejection letters.
Morgen: Absolutely. A writer who wants to write has to have passion. Do you have a piece of your writing we can include here?
Louise: This is from ‘Born in blood’:
Shivering more from fear than the cold from the river, Elena Diaz clambered up the bank and into the jungle, then hunkered down behind dense undergrowth, the Ceiba trees towering overhead. Her lungs burned, breath ragged from her escape. She listened to El Serpiente’s men crush through the coca fields on the other side of the river, watched the glow of their flashlights, thirty or more, sweeping back and forth, back and forth—searching for her, while the dogs barked and howled in frustration.
Water trickled from her hair, down her back, and from the hem of her capris, spreading a stain at her feet that she could just make out in the moonlight. The chill night air cut through her wet clothes and she rubbed her bare arms, while praying her swim threw off the dogs long enough for her to reach the Jeep.
Then she heard the first splash. Shouts.
They were crossing the river.
“Move, move, move.”
Morgen: Excellent – thank you, Louise.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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