On Creativity with Lauren Elliott
For the release of her third Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery, Lauren Elliott has waded in to answer some of my questions about her writing process. We have a copy of both books two and three to give away at the end of the interview.
KW: Do you have practices/rituals/habits that support your creative work?
LE: I wouldn’t say I have any rituals as I’m not a superstitious person. However, part of my routine is to write at least 500 words every day, whether I feel like it or not. After that I generally, but not always, find the words and ideas start to flow easier, and before I know it. I have completed a chapter which for my books is approximately 2,000 to 2,500 words.
KW: What contributes to flow in your work?
LE: Inspiration contributes to the flow of my work, and I find it everywhere. My whole life the stories have just come to me. I have always been an observer of people, and I make up stories about them as I watch them. It might be something as irrelevant as a woman sitting alone in a café and the look on her face, or the set of her shoulders, or a twitch of her eye as she glances around the room. I start to wonder what her life is like, what her story is, why she’s there, why is she alone? Character development comes from the old who, what, where, when, why and how of journalism-based observations we make daily. If I don’t write an actual story about the woman in the café, I will at least file her away in my memory banks to use for a character in one of my books later. I am constantly sending email notes to myself when I’m out and about and see or hear something that inspires me, and I think. That would make a good story, or I can use that in my book.
KW: What actions are helpful when you feel stuck or resistant to working?
LE: If I’m really stuck on a particular scene or can’t seem to work through an idea, I have a shower or go for a walk or even a shopping trip helps. After that, I can usually return to the keyboard with insight on where to go next.
KW: Is the space in which you work important to you?
LE: When I write, I enjoy the comfort of my home office. It can become cluttered at times, but it’s always a cozy space and has a door that I can close and retreat behind. Inside, I’m surrounded by whiteboards, stacks of books, photos and memorabilia of my travels.
KW: Do you read books in the genre in which you write? If so, is there a part of your process when you avoid doing so?
LE: Currently, I’m taking a break from my usual mystery genre and re-reading a book that I fell in love with years ago, Barbara Erskine’s—one of my favorite authors—Lady of Hay, published in 1986. However, the busier I get with writing, the more reading other authors’ works becomes a distraction. It doesn’t mean I forgo books altogether though. If you were to take a peek at my ever-growing TBR list, you’d find an assortment of genres. There’s everything from Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Agatha Christie, and time travel or gothic mystery romance.
KW: How do you keep track of the details of the worlds you’ve created?
LE: I develop a basic character, town/setting outline prior to writing a book or a series. However, since I’m a “pantser” (meaning I write by the seat of my pants, and not a gardener or plotter who follows a strict story board outline) many of the finer details in the story develop organically as the manuscripts progress. To help me keep track of those details, particularly ones I’ll use from one book to the next, I scribble notes on a whiteboard, frame my computer screen with post-it notes, and make notations in spiral note books, which can be found in every room of my house. Then in a pinch as in recalling the color of a character’s car, there’s always using the wonderful tool of Word Find on previous manuscripts. I’m certain that some authors out there would cringe at my disorganization, but my own brand of organized chaos works well for me.
KW: Was there a moment when you felt like a “real” writer? Did it catch you by surprise?
LE: I don’t think there is a moment when you feel like a “real” writer, being a writer is simply who and what you are. However, there is a quote by Agatha Christie’s, which expresses, far better than I can, about that “aha” moment when a writer truly understands when everything in their lives has changed.
“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”
KW: Thank you for sharing that as well as some bits of your creative process. And now we have two audiobooks to share with you all, just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.
Lauren Elliott grew up devouring the entire Nancy Drew series and then graduated to Victoria Holt, Agatha Christie, Barbara Erskine, Lynn Kurland, and Michael Crichton to name a few of her favorite authors. When it came time for post-secondary education, journalism seemed like the logical choice as she had written for as long as she could remember. Soon after graduation, while working for a small publication, she discovered that reporting wasn’t what fueled her writing passions. As someone with an additionally strong background in professional theater who had the love of storytelling and captivating and holding an audience, her fiction-writing career began to take center stage.
Lauren Elliott – Author of Mystery, Suspense and Murder
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Sally is the randomly selected winner and the CDs will be mailed out to her as soon as I get her address. Thanks to all for entering! I give away lots of books – to find out about them in the future, please consider following this blog, or my Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram.