Welcome to the one hundred and fifty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with mystery / suspense author Patricia Gligor. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Patricia.
Patricia: Thanks for inviting me, Morgen. It’s an honor to be here.
Morgen: Ah, thanks Patricia. It’s lovely having you here (I’m always delighted when I get a “yes”) and I know from your emails how much you’ve been looking forward to this. 🙂 Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Patricia: I’ve lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for most of my life. As a child, I read all of the Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries and I was fascinated with them. When I was ten years old, I wrote a poem, The Night, for my Sunday School magazine and it was published. When I saw my ‘by-line’ under the title of something I’d written, I was hooked for life.
Morgen: Isn’t it great. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Patricia: I’ve tried writing in other genres but the simple truth is that I love a mystery. I’ve completed two mystery / suspense novels, Mixed Messages and Unfinished Business and I’m in the early planning stages of a third novel for my series.
Morgen: Ah, “series” – music to an agents / publishers / readers ears. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Patricia: I’ll admit that I was a ‘slow starter’ when it came to marketing. For more years than I care to talk about, I focused solely on my writing and neglected the marketing side of things. I’m now a member of Sunny Frazier’s Posse and, under her guidance, I’ve been working diligently to catch up.
Morgen: I’ve had a few of Sunny’s posse here, what a community. 🙂 Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Patricia: I know that some authors prefer a pseudonym and probably have good reasons for using them, but no, no pen name for me. I write under my maiden name which is now (I’m divorced) also my legal name. For me, it’s a way of honoring my father and my grandfather. By the way, ‘Gligor’ rhymes with ‘tiger.’
Morgen: And a wonderful name it is. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Patricia: Only about a million when I wrote short stories. When I think back to how I used to handle rejection, I have to laugh. At one point, I had mailed out several short stories to various magazines. Within a couple of days, I got a stack of rejections. I remember throwing the rejection letters, along with my stories, on the living room floor. I stomped around the pile of papers for days, vowing that I would never write again! Eventually, I picked them up – and picked myself up – and got back to work, which, of course, is what we writers have to do.
Morgen: I felt like that when my first piece (at my first writing class) was slaughtered, but thought “I’ll show them” and I did. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Patricia: I’m jotting down ideas for my third novel and beginning to do some research for it. Also, I’m actively seeking a publisher for Mixed Messages.
Morgen: Oh good luck with that, let me know how you get on. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Patricia: I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block but, when I’m temporarily stuck, I walk away from my computer and do something physical; yard work or scrubbing the bathroom seems to work. I almost always come back to my desk with a new idea or a solution to whatever problem I was having. Also, there’s an added bonus: a weed-free garden or a clean bathroom.
Morgen: 🙂 A question some authors dread, where do you get your inspiration from?
Patricia: Everywhere and anywhere. For example, I was driving along one day, minding my own business, when I saw a car with blacked out windows pull out of a driveway. Nothing extraordinary about that, right? But, it got me wondering why anyone would want their windows to be so dark and, somehow, it triggered an idea for one of my characters. Lawrence Berger has albinism, a condition which makes his skin and eyes, ultra-sensitive to sunlight.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Patricia: I’m a plotter, big time! I outline my novels, chapter by chapter, before even thinking about writing the first word of the first chapter. The outline is subject to change as I write because sometimes my characters have ideas of their own and, after all, it is their story.
Morgen: Don’t they just (I love that). Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Patricia: My characters are composites of people I know, or have come into contact with, and myself, which makes them believable to me (and, hopefully, to my readers) because they’re based on real people. I take bits and pieces, character traits, habits, personalities, physical characteristics and assemble them to create unique characters. It’s important to me that the names I choose suit them. Sometimes, I just know what their names are and, other times, I resort to a name-your-baby-book or even my high school yearbooks.
Morgen: The ever-faithful baby book. 🙂 How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Patricia: I’d say I do a fair amount of research because, even though I write fiction, I want my ‘facts’ to be accurate. As for feedback, I recently had two people who read Mixed Messages tell me that, although they’re usually good at figuring out whodunit, they didn’t suspect the character who really was the killer. But, they said, when they found out who it was, it all made sense to them. Needless to say, I was thrilled; that’s exactly what I was going for.
Morgen: Absolutely, you do have to be accurate. Someone will always point errors out if not. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Patricia: First, I have an idea, something has struck me as story material. I immediately jot it down on a piece of paper. (I keep a pad of paper in my purse, in my car, on my night table, etc.). I let the thought swirl around in my brain for awhile and, little by little, as other ideas form, I write them down too. When I have several scraps of paper, I copy them all onto one sheet and it goes from there.
Morgen: You say “sheet” does that mean you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Patricia: I wrote the first draft of Mixed Messages using pen and paper. I didn’t seem to be able to ‘create’ using a keyboard; it didn’t feel natural to me. I would write a chapter and then key it into Word. Talk about doing things the hard way! When I began to work on rewrites, I found that I was able to use the computer effectively. Through that process, I became accustomed to doing it that way and, for the most part, I wrote Unfinished Business on my computer. Oh, how much easier and more productive that was! Now, I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Morgen: Me too… my handwriting is SOOOO slow now. 🙂 Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Patricia: Although I love music, when I write, I prefer absolute silence.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Patricia: Actually, I like them both. My novels are written in third person but I’ve read a lot of novels written in first person that I thought were excellent. I may try it someday myself. Sorry, but I’ve never tried second person nor do I ever plan to. In my opinion, that ranks way down there, along with writing in the present tense. Just not my thing.
Morgen: That’s a shame (I love it) but few editors like it so you may be wise. 🙂 Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Patricia: I love prologues and, sometimes, epilogues if they’re used properly. Actually, the first few drafts of Mixed Messages had both. The reason I omitted them is because I discovered that, for the most part, editors frown on them these days and I sure don’t want to do anything to make an editor frown.
Morgen: They do as a rule, and no, you don’t. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Patricia: Surprise! I read mystery / suspense. There are so many good books out there that I hesitate to choose but the novels by Mary Higgins Clark, Joy Fielding, Patricia McDonald and Sue Grafton are definitely among my favorites. I also love the ‘Women’s Murder Club’ series by James Patterson.
Morgen: My German friend has read everything Sue’s written – I have a paperback of ‘Undertow’ to send her for Christmas as well as the latest Kathy Reichs (I’m pretty sure my friend won’t be reading this). I’ve just got into James Patterson. A colleague at the British Red Cross reads everything of his and, although I love short stories, I thought the short chapters would drive me mad but they’re always cliff-hangers and he / they (Michael Letwidge is my favourite collaborator) make it seem to easy. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Patricia: Besides reading, I enjoy going to flea markets and yard sales, I love to travel when I have the opportunity and I discovered gem hunting a few years ago and plan to do more of that.
Morgen: I love car boot sales. They’ve fizzled out for the winter now so I’ll be taking my mum to charity shops in the winter but it’s the not knowing what you’re going to find which is great. Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Patricia: Yes. I’m a member on several sites including She Writes, The Book Marketing Network, Facebook and Twitter.
Morgen: You are, I’ve just found you; another advantage of having an unusual name. How valuable do you find these sites?
Patricia: I think they’re of great value in that I’ve ‘met’ some interesting people on the sites and picked up more than a few good tips on writing. Also, I think that social networking is a great way to market your writing and get your name out there.
Morgen: It does seem to be the way to do it. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Patricia: I have a blog where I post topics of interest to writers and readers of mystery / suspense novels: http://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Patricia: I’d like to thank you, Morgen, for spending time with me today. It’s been a lot of fun.
Morgen: I’m delighted to hear that because I ask so many questions it’s a relief that the author is still awake at the end… fun is always a bonus. 🙂
I then invited Patricia to include an extract of her writing and the following is an excerpt from ‘Mixed Messages’:
Ann heard the sirens the second she stepped onto the front porch. She hated the sound; it evoked too many bad memories. As she hurried down the steps and into the yard, anxious to see what was going on, the wails got progressively louder, coming closer and closer. She couldn’t tell which direction the cries were coming from but she was sure that something bad had happened to someone. Was there a fire close by? she wondered. Did someone have a stroke or a heart attack?
She looked up and down the tree-lined street but couldn’t see any flashing lights or emergency vehicles. Abruptly, the screams stopped. It was almost as if they’d never existed, as if she’d imagined hearing them. Everything seemed normal again.
Morgen: What a hook… thank you Patricia.
Update July 2012: Mixed Messages was published in April 2012 by Post Mortem Press and is available on Amazon in paper and Kindle formats, and a trailer on YouTube. Also, I’m currently working on editing Unfinished Business, the sequel. I plan to send it to my publisher for his consideration by the end of this month. Fingers crossed!
Absolutely, Patricia, let me know how you get on. 🙂
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