An Interview with Allison Brennan

One of the best things about being a member of Murderati is getting to get to ask other writers questions about how they work, generate characters, etc. This week, I had so many questions I’d been wanting to ask Allison Brennan, one of my favorite authors, and I thought you’d all enjoy her answers as much as I do, so I’ve asked her permission to post this Q & A here. Please come ’round and give a hearty welcome to Allison and tell us whether you start with character, ideas or some combination, and as an added bonus, everyone posting in the comments will be up for a drawing for her last trilogy and her new paranormal out Dec. 26th. That’s four terrific books! Comments open until next Saturday at midnight and I’ll announce the winner next Sunday!

And on to the interview:

1)      I’ve got to tell you, that from the first sentence of your story "Deliver Us From Evil" in the What You Can’t See anthology (out Dec. 26th), I was utterly riveted and it made me want to pick up the book right then. Tell me a little bit about what inspired the story.

Back in August of 2003—before I sold, before I even had an agent—I had an idea for a supernatural thriller series. I started writing it, but it was shortly after this that I found an agent and sold THE PREY to Ballantine. So the supernatural was put on hold for awhile. I sold in romantic suspense, a different genre, and I was very happy to do so. I love romantic suspense. It’s the best of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned.

But I still thought about this series and told my agent about it. She loved it—but because of my contract, I couldn’t sell it yet. Then an opportunity arose to be in an anthology with two people I adore, Roxanne St. Claire and Karin Tabke. My agent said, “What about the paranormal?” And I said, “Well, it’s a series but . . . let me think.” Five minutes later I came up with the idea of a prequel to the series. I know how the first book of the series starts, but I had been stumped on the hero’s back story which made getting past page 100 really difficult. The novella is the prequel to my series. It stands alone. The hero of the series is in a coma the entire novella, but at least now I have his back story and I’m happy with it.

2)      "Deliver Us From Evil" is a departure for you in that you’re dealing with an aspect of the paranormal, and with pure evil. Were there any differences to writing a supernatural thriller vs. a suspense-thriller? If so, how did you handle those differences?

I found writing supernatural to be very freeing. I love everything supernatural. Growing up, I read Stephen King, John Saul, Peter Straub, Edgar Allen Poe, and many more. Remember the television series “Friday the 13th: The Series?” I loved it. But for me, I wanted my paranormal to be grounded in reality. Meaning, I wanted to write about supernatural things that I thought really could happen. There are so many unexplained things in our world, exploring the good and evil in them is enticing.

In paranormal, you get to make up the rules. Rather than writing about a human being who is evil, I could explore the roots of evil itself, as well as the human fascination with things like the fountain of youth, power, immortality. Because ultimately, no demon would have any power if we humans weren’t flawed and desiring more: more life, more wealth, more stuff. It helps that I believe in ghosts and demons and things that go bump in the night. So I thought, what would scare me the most? And I started writing about it.

My mom just read the ARC of WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE. She doesn’t read much paranormal anything, but loves crime fiction. She called me excited. “I loved it. It was still a crime story, but with a demon.” Exactly. It was what I wanted to accomplish. A supernatural story set in our world. BTW, my mom didn’t tell me she loved it just because she’s my mom. Believe me, I know exactly which books of mine my mom didn’t like as much, and if you ask her she’ll tell you exactly why she didn’t like them, as well as which of mine are her favorite.

3) I know some writers love the short-story or novella length, while others grip onto the novel length with every survival instinct they have. You’ve done all three: novel, short story (a fantastic tale in the Killer Year anthology), as well as the novella length. Were there challenges to writing something shorter than what you’re used to? And if so, how did you handle those challenges?

Hell yes. It took me longer to write a 39,000 word novella than it took me to write my last 100,000 word novel. Every word matters more when you write short. In the KILLER YEAR antho, they wanted 3-5K stories. I wrote a 7,500 word story and it took me a week to cut it to 5,900 and then I emailed JT and begged for those 900 extra words. She said fine, because Gregg came in short (Thank you Gregg! Oh, and his story is incredible. Makes me feel completely inadequate that I needed three times as many words as he did, and he packed a bigger punch.)

I didn’t handle the challenges all that well, but in the end, I loved the shorter stories so much. I think writing short taught me a lot about brevity. (Aside: When I was a junior in high school, my American History teacher gave me an ‘A-minus’ on my final essay. He wrote, “You brilliantly wrote in ten pages what could easily have been said in five.”) Needless to say, short is not my strong suit. And even though I kept the novella to under 40,000 words, I still went waaaaaaay over the 30,000 words my contract specified.

The KILLER YEAR antho was my first short story ever. I’m writing another now and already, I can see I’ve improved in how I approach writing short—more action, less back story, fewer characters, and no subplots.

4)      You always have fascinating characters, and I know you write three books a year, plus the other works (short stories, etc.) Finding a character and getting the details are generally different for every writer, so I’m curious: how do you brainstorm characters? Do you write out descriptions, do a dialog with the character, chart them, or something else? What inspires you, character-wise?

(blushing deeply) Thanks Toni. I think your phrase “finding a character” is how I do it. I find out all about them as I write the book. I generally know a little bit about my characters, but not much. I don’t really know enough until I get them on the page. I don’t write out descriptions (which really screws me during the copyedits sometimes), I don’t dialog with them, chart them, or anything that would considered “plotting” (shivers.)

What I do is start with the idea. Like, “Earthquake under San Quentin.” I knew from SPEAK NO EVIL that Theodore Glenn had been convicted of killing four strippers in San Diego, but it was a throwaway line to get Will Hooper out of town because I didn’t need him in the story at that point. But when I started my prison break series, Theodore became my villain. I wrote the scene of the earthquake and put Glenn there. What was he doing? He had something in his hand. It was a letter. To Robin. Who the hell is Robin? Right—she testified against him. Then he shreds it in anger. Wow, he has some emotion there—the only emotion he has. So you can see I learn about my characters as I write. They sort of tell me. Usually when I get stuck writing it’s because I start telling my characters what to do rather than letting them do what they need to do.

I did know that Glenn came from a good family, wasn’t abused as a child, and he isn’t a traditional serial killer. Usually when I get in their heads I figure them out. Sometimes they come fully formed, like Joanna Sutton my heroine in TEMPTING EVIL. Sometimes it takes me a little digging, like Kate Donovan in FEAR NO EVIL. She was such a tight-lipped bitch, er, heroine, it took me awhile to figure out what made her tick. Anthony Zaccardi in the novella came fully formed, it was the heroine Sheriff Skye McPherson that I had a bear of a time with. Again, because she’s a closed, private person and just didn’t want to open up.

5) I’m blown away by your descriptive prowess–I can see the places and feel as if I’ve been there after reading your books. I know you haven’t traveled to every place you’ve described, nor seen all of the crimes. How do you research the locations and details? Do you spend a lot of time researching ahead of time, or on the fly? Do you map your world out and use only real-world details, or do you fictionalize parts? And how do you ultimately decide where your next series will be set?

(Blushing again—the check’s in the mail, Toni.) I’ve always felt my descriptions were lacking. I get bored easily, so I don’t like to over-describe anything. In fact, I usually layer in description after I write the book. Like—during editor revisions. I research most everything on the fly. Major story plot points I usually know ahead of time. For example, before I started writing KILLING FEAR, I talked to a former corrections officer who worked on death row to find out where my prisoners needed to be to escape, what wall needed to come down in the quake, etc. I couldn’t start without having that information. But like now—I’m 60 pages into book three and I found a body submerged in a river. Okay, I knew the guy was dead, but I had no idea anyone was going to find him. So I stopped writing and did some research on underwater forensics just to make sure that my cops weren’t being stupid in how they retrieved the body and vehicle. In FEAR NO EVIL, my last book, I had to understand how webcams worked and how they could be masked. Well, no one (okay, I don’t) want to be bored with pages of explanation about how packets are sent and bounced around satellites and given false DNS numbers or whatever (that was a year ago, I pretty much forget everything I learned.) So I talked to an IT friend of mine who explained ad nauseum everything I needed to know. I wrote two pages where my heroine explained this to the hero. Boring. I cut and cut and trimmed and got it down to the basics—two short paragraphs and then a couple well-placed sentences further along. I wasn’t bored, my hero wasn’t bored, and hopefully my readers weren’t bored! I sent the paragraphs to my IT guy and he said, “Yeah, that’s exactly it.”

As far as setting—after getting knocked when I got something wrong about Seattle, I’m tickled to be writing a book set in Sacramento, where I’ve lived since 1989. When I write about places I haven’t been or haven’t been for a long time, I try to contact locals for big picture questions. The rest I get from maps and photos. It’s the map I was using of Seattle that screwed me up, though.

In TEMPTING EVIL, I actually planned on going up to the Centennial Valley to visit for a long weekend, but with five kids it’s really hard to just drop everything and go on a trip. So I ended up talking to two people who live there. One in particular was a huge help to me getting a sense of the area and what to expect. For THE HUNT, which was set in Bozeman, I relied a lot on my husband who went to MSU, and my brother-in-law who is a wildlife biologist.

6) After the two anthologies you have another series coming out, starting January 29th which follow three stories after a disaster frees prisoners from San Quentin. Tell me a little bit about this trilogy, what inspired it.

Well, I needed to come up with an option book idea. I panicked—I had no ideas. Okay, that’s not true, I had a lot of ideas, but none of them were romantic thrillers like I’d been writing. In fact, one of my ideas is a western-set historical crime novel centered around pre-1900 San Francisco. Then I read a newspaper article about the latest seismic report for San Quentin at the same time as the Gov started transporting prisoners out of state because of prison over-crowding AND an article about some legislators talking about selling San Quentin because it’s on 437 acres of prime California real estate. Earthquake. San Quentin. Story.

Well, it’s funny how our muses work at planting clues to future books. I had never planned on writing about any of the characters from my NO EVIL series again. As far as I was concerned, they were over and done with. But I got a lot of mail about characters from those books and if they were going to get books of their own. Then I remembered that in the middle of SPEAK NO EVIL, Will Hooper—my heroine’s partner—had to go to an appeal court hearing to testify against Theodore Glenn, who he had put in prison for murdering four strippers. I read that scene again and Glenn was incarcerated in San Quentin. Wham! He became one of the escapees. It just sort of came together and that’s KILLING FEAR.

As far as books two and three go, the second book I had a one-liner: two escaped convicts trapped with romance writer in the middle of a snow storm. In book three (PLAYING DEAD), the last escaped convict is innocent and he has to convince his daughter, who testified against him for murdering her mother, that he’s innocent and to help him find out what happened fifteen years ago. That’s the book I’m writing now, and to be honest—though I have some ideas about the story—I have no idea who did it. That’s half the fun of writing.

7) Do you start your story with the characters, the ‘what if?’ or some combination? And how do you know when you’ve hit on "it" — the idea that will sustain a trilogy?

I start the story with a situational premise and characters. Sort of. Kind of. It really depends. Since I always believed that “story is character,” they develop simultaneously. I don’t always know when an idea will sustain a trilogy—I had three different ideas and my agent picked the earthquake story. And she was right—the other two weren’t bad, they just didn’t have the punch of the prison break trilogy.

8) You’ve got a terrific panel you teach on being a "panster" instead of a "plotter." While I know you can’t go into a panel’s worth of detail here, tell us about what it is about ‘pantsing’ that you like so much, what it brings to your writing, and how you handle foreshadowing and pay-offs if you haven’t plotted out where you’re going. (Because clearly, you handle these well.)

Stephen King said in his book ON WRITING (which I love, and it’s even better on audio) why should we be control freaks? All stories have to come out somewhere. I’ve found that I don’t like to plot because if I know what’s going to happen, I get bored with the story.

I like the discovery of character and story as I go along. I have the premise—I know the external conflict (i.e. escaped prisoner seeking vengeance on those who put him behind bars), but until I get in his head I don’t know why. What makes him different than all the other vengeful serial killers out there? What makes him tick? Why should I tell this story? Why doesn’t he just go down to Mexico and disappear? The guy has money, why is he risking his life and freedom for revenge? It’s these kind of questions I answer as I get into his head. But I don’t know them when I start writing. It’s like a puzzle without having a box. All the pieces are in my head somewhere and as I write, I start putting them together and seeing the big picture. I’m also not scared of writing crap. I dump the story out there the way it unfolds, then I can go back and layer in foreshadowing and all that other stuff. Usually, it’s already there and I just have to clean it up—I just didn’t know it when I was writing. The muse is scary sometimes.

9) I have yet to fathom how you write three books, plus short stories, plus a novella, plus regular blog entries at Murder She Writes and Dishing with the Divas, plus your own website and still have time to raise five kids. I am pretty certain there are four or five of you running around out there somewhere. So how do you do it? What sort of writing habits do you have?

First, I gave up cleaning. It was a huge sacrifice, but it had to be done. My minions, er, children pitch in and help (I pay my minions well, so no calling child protective services on me!) I used to love cooking, but I have six picky eaters (five kids and a husband) so now quick and easy is always on the menu. I cook extensively and bake only three days a year—Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Easter. The other 362 days it’s 20 minutes or less . . .

It helps that all my kids are in school—the youngest is in preschool. So I write five days a week from 9-3. I have to stay disciplined, which is hard because I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. This means that inevitably, about two weeks before deadline, I’m writing several nights a week (Starbucks is open until ten in my town—11 on the weekends–and there’s a bar open until after midnight . . . ) and I’ll write Sunday afternoons. Afternoons during the week and Saturdays are usually full of kid stuff and lots of driving.

10) What’s the best writing advice you’d like to pass along? And what’s the best "life advice" you’ve ever received?

The best writing advice I ever got was from Stephen King’s ON WRITING. I’ve read it twice and listened to it twice. I highly recommend it, even though I still have a love affair with adverbs. They are a perfectly acceptable part of the English language, I don’t think they should be banned. King reminds us that it’s all about the story. The story comes first. Everything else is secondary. When I get stuck or worried that I’m not any good or it’s all been a fluke, I remember that it’s about the story—my story—and I have to write it my way.

As far as life goes, don’t sweat the small stuff.

39 thoughts on “An Interview with Allison Brennan

  1. CJ Lyons

    Hey Allison! Great interview!!! Thanks, Toni, for sharing it.

    As a fellow pantzer, I find that it usually takes me at least three drafts before I’m reasonably happy with a story–the first is my “crapola” discover the story draft, the second is aimed at what readers would want, the third to polish and ((shiver)) copy-edit.

    How many drafts does it take you before you’re happy with your work?

    Thanks for sharing!CJ

    Reply
  2. Kathy Reschini Sweeney

    How cool to get an inside look at how you came up with your books, Allison!

    Toni, honey, you should do interviews for a living.

    Back to decorating the tree!

    Reply
  3. Mary-Frances

    Hi Toni,Great interview–I’m a big fan of Allison’s books. I’ve read every one of them–they definitely helped inspire the current manuscript I’m working on. On Writing is also one of the my favorite books and I was so excited when Allison mentioned on another blog that it was available as an audio book with Stephen King as the reader. I fully expect Santa to download it into my Ipod this xmas.

    Reply
  4. Kendra

    Nice interview, Allison. I always enjoy the behind-the-scenes peeks into authors’ books.

    Didn’t King say something like–the road to hell is paved with adverbs? That line rattles in my head while writing. Every time I use a adverb it feels like a sin. I shouldn’t take it so literally.

    Reply
  5. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Allison, so great to get a window into your process… you are as ever astounding! I got the copy of WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE – thank you!!!! and can’t wait to sink into “Deliver Us From Evil”.

    Pari, you were asking about high concept – Allison is the mistress:

    “San Quentin. Earthquake.”

    It doesn’t get much more high concept than that!

    Reply
  6. Tamar Bihari

    Great interview, Toni! And thanks, Allison. That was the most cogent description of pantsing I’ve heard. As an outliner (well, a loose outliner, with said outline subject to change as the muse dictates), I never understood how pantsing works. When I tried to imagine doing it, it sort of felt like being blindfolded, spun around so many times you don’t know your own left from your right, then being told to jump into a rushing river, swim ten yards to the north, and and dive to the bottom to pick up a diamond earring (while still blindfolded). But what you’re describing is something far more imaginable, and I now understand some of how it can work, and work well. You set up the characters and conflict beforehand, so you have somewhere to go. You’re not blindfolded, and maybe not even dizzy. 🙂

    FWIW, I too am massively impressed with your ability to focus on the writing while parenting five kids. You inspire me.

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  7. pari

    Allison,Wow.

    I admire the h*ll out of you for so many reasons, it’d take a novel to tell you.

    Like you, I’m a pantser. I think, though, that the cleaning up must come easier with each project you complete. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

    Toni,Thank you so much for bringing Allison to Murderati this morning.

    Alex,Yep. I got it.

    Reply
  8. Elaine

    I love your comments about your challenges with length, Allison, since I seem to have the same problem.

    I remember one paper I wrote for an art history course at community college, when I literally begged my instructor to let me go over the five-page limit on the paper I was writing about Michelangelo. At the time I had a ten-page draft in hand. She finally relented a little, but told me that under no circumstances could I exceed seven pages. I wasn’t pleased but I got that paper down to seven pages, got an A on it, and learned a lot about editing in the process.

    In my current job I have to write short (I write finance news summaries for some websites in the the UK), and it drives me crazy sometimes because writing short does not come naturally to me. Still, I’ve had this job for almost three years now, and I think I’m a much better writer than I was when I began.

    Reply
  9. Holly D

    I can’t wait for the new release. I’m also impressed with your writing abilities while raising 5 kids. I’m also raising 5 kids and somehow I don’t manage to have enough time to write as much as I would like. I get to write in short sperts. Thanks for the wonderful interview.

    Reply
  10. Louise Ure

    Great interview, Allison and Toni.

    And your last line (“it’s all about the story”) is echoed by Ursula LeGuin:

    “In order to write a story, you have to trust yourself, you have the trust the story and you have to trust the reader.”

    All three of you ladies make it sound easy.

    Reply
  11. Pammy D

    Hey Toni and Allison:

    Great interview! Very fun meandering around inside Allison’s head to see how her process unfolds. Sometimes I make myself crazy when I don’t have every plot point completely figured out. It’s nice to know that you can allow your story to develop more organically.

    And I’m with you on the cleaning thing. Therefore we’re down to once every month or so whether it needs it or not. Jeez!

    Thanks!

    Reply
  12. kitty

    Amazing and informative interview Toni and Allison.

    I’ve read King’s ON WRITING twice and have given that book to so many friends. The one thing I remember most about it was something like, “It’s not how big your vocabulary is, it’s how you use it.”

    Reply
  13. Erin

    Great interview Toni & Allison. I love the way you sort of let the characters write themselves instead of telling them what to do. I’m always interested to find out how authors do their thing! I don’t know how you do it with 5 children though. I’ve only got 2 and they keep me going all the time. They’re still in pre-school though, so maybe I’ll have a little more “me” time as they get older.

    Reply
  14. teri

    Great tips on how you write, Allison. I’ve read the first three books and have been waiting for the prison break tri. Now I’ve got to find the anthology too!You’re amazing and thanks so much for explaining the process after that first draft.Teri

    Reply
  15. allison brennan

    Hi CJ: I can’t tell you how many drafts. I completely rewrite every book twice, it seems, LOL. But usually after the second time I feel like it’s there. Once to get down the guts, the second time to flesh it out. Ultimately, though, the second time is a complete rewrite 🙂

    Thanks Kathy! We’ve had the tree up for a week, but only decorated it last night — I had copyedits due. Publishing may be the slowest business on the planet, but when they need something, they need it now 🙂

    Thank you Mary-Frances!!! I’m so glad you got the audio version. To me it’s far more powerful than reading the book.

    More shortly . . . I have a Christmas choir thing my daughter is singing in 🙂 (She didn’t get my voice.)

    Reply
  16. allison brennan

    Hi B.E.–I always find it fascinating how other writes do things as well. I remember taking this workshop from Suzanne Brockmann on writing continuing characters–sort of non-series series, LOL, and she is the most detailed plotter I’ve ever seen. She shared color-coded charts and multi-book character arcs and all these fabulous things–her outlines take her more time to write than her books! I thought, “If this is what it takes to get published, I’ll never be published.” Fortunately, there’s more than one way to write 🙂

    Kendra, I’m sure I’ll rue the day I wrote an adverb, but I take heart in the fact that my editor often adds them in during line edits 🙂

    Hope you like it Alex! Funny you mention the high concept idea. I didn’t understand high concept, either, and someone said I had one. Really? I asked. Same thing. Earthquake at San Quentin. Now, I doubt I’ll come up with another one in the near future . . .

    Reply
  17. allison brennan

    I wouldn’t say that I’m not dizzy, Tamar 🙂 . . . I think that sometimes I get so into my books that I eat, breathe and sleep the stories. I’ll go to bed with a story problem and wake up at 4 am with the solution and, of course, the muse doesn’t let you go back to sleep . . . my kids so far are doing okay. I haven’t warped them yet, though they probably know waaaaaayyyy too much about murder and mayhem. I felt compelled to explain to my two older girls why I wouldn’t allow them to have a MySpace page. And I tend to panic when my youngest, a boy, hits his head because I’ve read statistics about a common trait of some serial killers are head injuries as children. And my youngest is VERY active.

    Yeah Pari! Another non-plotter! (I have this aversion to the word “pantser”–makes me think of a frat house prank, I dunno. I thought it would get easier with each book, but I think it just depends on the book. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being minimal revisions and 5 being a complete rewrite, my books have been: 1, 5, 3, 2, 3, 1, 2, 5.

    Hi Joye! Thanks for stopping by!

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  18. allison brennan

    Elaine, that is so funny about your professor. I think writing the short stories has helped me, too, but obviously not in editing my interviews because I realized this was really looong 🙂

    Hey Louise: remember that everyone thinks they can write a book. Few people get to THE END. I’ve never thought it was easy. Before I finished a book, I had over 100 beginnings and no endings. Seriously.

    Holly–I’m lucky that I get to write full-time now and the kids have to go to school. It’s a law or something. Yeah! It’s just keeping those six hours focused on WRITING that’s important. When I was working full-time before I was published, I wrote every night when the kids went to bed. I was a stickler for bedtime!

    I am human, Elaine. I swear. (Damn, I knew I should have hid my space ship better . . . )

    Reply
  19. Christa

    I’m coming to this late, but I hope I can make up for it by linking to it on my blog here:http://freelancemother.blogspot.com/2007/12/secret.html

    Sorry – I haven’t figured out how to work TrackBacks yet….

    Anyway, loved the interview. I too responded most perhaps to the description of pantsing. Writing short stories taught me how to do that, and although I’m still a little leery of writing a whole novel that way, my outline is considerably looser on this novel than it was on the first. Maybe I can describe myself as a “pantser-in-training”?

    Reply
  20. allison brennan

    Hi Jane! Thanks 🙂 . . . BTW, a tangent, I’m in the middle of writing book three of the Prison Break trilogy. I know the premise of the FBI series and the set-up for the first book (it’s Jack Kincaid’s book–if you’ve read FEAR NO EVIL, you know who Jack is 🙂 That’s it. But I’m writing PLAYING DEAD, and my heroine Claire works as a freelance insurance fraud investigator. So I did a little research on that, and came up with a nugget of an idea. That’s the only problem sometimes with being a writer (not that I’m complaining! I don’t want the ideas to dry up!) . . . but sometimes you get an idea and you want to run with it, but you have three books you’re actually getting paid for because you can writing something different.

    Hi Pammy! A woman after my own heart 🙂 . . . cleaning is totally over-rated. I mean, if my husband wants the house cleaned, he has two feet and two hands, and he knows where the Clorox Clean-Up is, right? I figure I keep the kids fed and clean, he can take care of the house.

    Kitty! I love that line too! 🙂 . . . I spoke to an advance journalism class and bought up a bunch of copies from my local Borders (they gave me a nice discount) and gave them to the teacher. I think everyone can learn something from him.

    Hey JT, how’s the book coming 🙂 . . . did I ever tell you I teach a workshop called NO PLOTTERS ALLOWED with my friend Patti Berg? Yep. I remember the first time I gave it was at RWA in Reno and Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer were giving their fabulous talk to the Kiss of Death (romantic suspense) chapter. Bob made a point of talking about some of the workshops, and pulled out mine–he couldn’t believe that anyone could write without plotting. He was stumped. I had to go up afterward and explain that yes, people can write without plotting. Sometimes, I said, I don’t even know who the killer is until near the end. (I’ll admit, I’m 100 pages into PLAYING DEAD and I while I know who pulled the trigger, I don’t know who’s behind it. Finding out is half the fun of writing!!)

    Reply
  21. allison brennan

    Good luck with finding the time, Erin. What I did before I could quit the day job was write at night when the kids were in bed. (Now I still have two pre-schoolers, but they ARE in pre-school! I couldn’t do it being a full-time SAHM. My kids are 14, 11, 6, 4, 3.) I stopped watching tv with my sleeping husband on the couch, but I did write five books in two years by writing three hours every night. I didn’t want television for three years, which is one reason I’ve gone a bit overboard in buying DVD’s . . . which reminds me, it’s time for my two older daughters and I to watch VERONICA MARS. It’s our bonding time 🙂 . . . we discovered the show late and watched the first two seasons on DVD, and just started season three . . .

    Reply
  22. Allison Brennan

    Thanks Teri and Jennifer and my pal Rachael from NJ! . . . so we watched Veronica Mars, Season Three, Episode Five last night. The lesson my girls have learned from this season so far: never accept an open beverage at a party, even if you know the person. If you’re going to be drinking (which, of course, they assured me they wouldn’t do until they were 21, but I’m no fool), pick a bottle of beer or a wine cooler, open it yourself, and never leave it out of your sight.

    Seriously, I think this is a great show for parents to watch with their young teens. It has opened up a lot of discussion that has been very beneficial (for me and them!

    Reply
  23. Nancy Haddock

    Allison and Toni, what a super interview! Allison, as a former plotter, now a “baby” panster, it was fascinating to learn how the writing process works for you. You’re not only a wonderful writer, but an inspiring one. Thanks!

    Light,Nancy

    Reply
  24. Ellen

    I really enjoy all of Allison’s books, and am eager to read the paranormal prequel. have printed out all the other blog, to help me re-start my own writing, which has been temporarily put aside

    thanks, Ellen

    Reply
  25. allison brennan

    Thanks so much, Nancy! Good luck not plotting! 🙂

    Thanks, Ellen, and I hope the information helps. My one unsolicited piece of advice: write daily even when you don’t feel like it. I really believe that daily writing is the key to creating a good writing work habit. After I wrote two (unpublished) books, I stopped writing “for the holidays” because I was also working full time and thought I deserved it. The problem? It took me TWO MONTHS to get back up to writing three hours a day. Right now I’m taking a breather since I just did a marathon book, and I know as soon as Jan 2 hits and I have to sit back down and start writing, it’ll take me a week (or more) before I get back up to my normal daily writing speed. Even if it’s just 30 minutes before bed writing a scene that’s in your head . . . everything helps.

    Reply
  26. Michelle Rodenborn

    Hi:

    For Toni: Your interview style is very thoughtful and generous and displays the same kind of passion and enthusiasm that I felt from reading Bobbie Faye. Great job!

    For Allison: Thanks for the revealing and inspiring conversation that you shared with us. As a novice writer I learned some new things (pansters vs. plotters) and that the pros struggle like I do (for example, with brevity.) Hearing about how you structure your writing day was interesting and motivating. As a mom myself I know how much discipline it can take to get anything personal done!

    I also appreciate that you generously responded to all commenters and hope to hear from you!

    Sincerely,

    Michelle Rodenborn

    Reply
  27. Allison Brennan

    Thank you so much Toni for asking me to interview! It’s always fun 🙂

    Hi Michelle: I’m glad you enjoyed the conversation. Not to knock men, but there are additional challenges to being working moms. Good luck with your writing! Anything worth having is worth making sacrifices for.

    Reply
  28. toni mcgee causey

    I forgot to post the winner on today’s entry, but we did a random drawing over here at chez Causey and the winner is… Jennifer Elbaum! Jennifer, if you’ll email me your information, I’ll get those books shipped outt to you. Send me an email at:

    toni [dot] causey [at] gmail [dot] com

    I’m so thrilled so many people commented, and I wish I had twenty sets to give away!

    Reply

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