Last week my dear friend, the fabulous writer Janet Brown, asked me to participate in a blog hop … one writer after another passing a baton consisting of four questions about the writing life. Janet hopped from Susan Blumberg-Kason’s blog to mine, and I am hopping from hers to Diane Vallere’s.
The author of Tone Deaf in Bangkok, Almost Home and the forthcoming Light and Silence (all from ThingsAsian Press), Janet is one of my favorite essayists of all times. I call her that, rather than a travel writer, because her writing is so much more fluid and perceptive than what often passes for travel writing today. She is a master of observation and deserves a place on your shelf with your travel classics.
In a completely different realm, Diane is a master of fashion and humor, which she combines to create her fabulous mystery series—Style and Error and Mad for Mod, the latter series paying tribute to Doris Day. Diane’s books are light-hearted fun … well, except for all the dead bodies piling up along the way!
With that, I will now answer the four questions:
What am I working on?
I’ve never been a writer to work on only one book at a time. I like to write in concentrated bursts, then take a break. A big break. But I still want to keep writing, so during the break I’ll work on something else, going back and forth until I have leapfrogged my way to finished novels.
Right now, I am leap-frogging with a historical/domestic/political suspense (how’s that for a genre?!) novel set in Vietnam from 1937 to 1975 and a mystery novel (hopefully the start of a series) set in L.A. in 1971. I’m in the first draft stages of both and moving along as fast as I can while also conducting massive research for both projects.
|The Hollywood sign in 1971 - it looks |
as if a giant rat has been nibbling on it
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
While my books contain mysteries and (hopefully) suspense, they are not fast-paced. I like stories that build, and lately I have been reading a lot of mysteries written by women in the 1950s and 1960s. In these books, careful pacing carries the plot, and psychology, rather than action, drives the suspense. As for the historical genre, the main difference is that with my debut novel, The Map of Lost Memories, I wrote about a place that has little, if any, fiction written about it in English—1920s Indochina.
Why do I write what I do?
Setting inspires me. I am inspired by places that fascinate me—Vietnam and Los Angeles being at the top of the list. I am fascinated by the way setting shapes character. I love learning more about a place, and writing a novel about it is the perfect way to immerse myself in it, especially in that place during different periods in time.
|Searching for settings in Vietnam - a bedroom |
in a house overlooking the Saigon River
How does your writing process work?
I am The Queen of layering. I can’t say that I outline, but I do sketch out my novels before I start. Then I sketch a chapter, but before I move on to the next, I will rewrite it one, two, maybe three more times, drawing a new layer over it each time. This is not a revision process. That will come later. The initial layering is all very much first draft from-the-gut writing. As for the revising, I am without a doubt at least a three draft writer, if not more. And when I say draft, I mean full revision. I’m trying to change that with my new mystery novel by doing more work in advance—character development, plot points, etc. I’m curious to see if that will help. So far, so good!