Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Writer's Block: Q&A with Linwood Barclay

I had so much fun with Marcus last week, I decided to invite an author again this week. Joining today's writer's block is Linwood Barclay whose latest novel, FEAR THE WORST, launched this week. Linwood is a master at suspense and, before heading out on tour, he was kind enough to offer a few pearls of wisdom:

Dana Kaye: Speak a little about your writing process. After writing eight novels, how has your writing process changed over the years?

Linwood Barclay:Well, for one thing, I don't print them out anymore. I used to print out each chapter as I went, but now I just write the whole thing as one file without ever hitting the "print" button. But I suspect that's not what you meant by the question. I don't think my process has changed all that much, but I hope I'm getting better at it with each book. I'm aware of the things I don't do as well as I'd like, and try to improve each time. I'm also learning to listen to that voice in the back of my head that warns me when something is not going well. I've regretted it in the past when I've not listened.

DK: What draws you to writing ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances?

LB:I'm an ordinary person, so I write about the kind of person I know best. I find it easier to get inside the head of a regular guy than some brilliant detective or spy or ex-military loner. Not that I don't love books about those kinds of heroes, but I don't typically identify with the situations a Jason Bourne might find himself in. But a father whose daughter is missing, I think that's a character, and a situation, a great many readers can imagine themselves in.

DK: All of your novels are packed with suspense. What tips and tricks can you offer about maintaining tension on every page?

LB: I like chapters to end with a revelation, or a turning point. That bit of white space between chapters creates a "dramatic pause" effect for me. And I love performing the thriller equivalent of a magic act. I've got you looking over here, but what really matters is happening over here, up my sleeve. But mainly, I try to write something that keeps me interested. If I'm getting bored, then the reader will get bored.

DK: The world of publishing has drastically changed since the publication of your first book. Kindle sales are rising, newspapers are shutting down, etc. How are your promotion strategies adapting to the changing market?

LB: I'm glad I'm not the one who has to devise the promotional and marketing strategies. But FEAR THE WORST is the first book where I have gone on not only real tours -- Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada -- but a blog tour. I like the part about not having to pack. The situation with newspapers concerns me deeply, having worked for them right up until last year when I decided to work exclusively on books. And among the many things newspapers have cut back in the space devoted to book reviews. It's more difficult to get books reviewed in the pages of a newspaper, but the blogs and other sites are trying to fill the gap.

DK: What piece of advice can you offer aspiring novelists?

LB: Two of three things. The first, of course, is to write. Even if you are the only one who ever reads the material. And persevere. I had written a couple of novels by the time I was 21, and thankfully, they were not published. (Not that there was even the slightest risk of that happening.) My first book -- not a novel -- wasn't published until I was 41. And my first novel came out when I was 49. So, you have to stick with it. The other advice: Read. You can learn so much by reading. All sorts of things. Stephen King's book On Writing is as good as anything I've ever read when it comes to advice in this area.

Check out Linwood Barclay and FEAR THE WORST, coming to a bookstore near you:
Borders in Baileys Crossroads, VA August 13 at 7:30pm
M is for Mystery in San Mateo, CA August 14 at 7:00pm
Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks, CA August 15 at 1:00pm
The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles, CA August 15 at 4:00pm
Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, CA August 16 at 2:00pm
Murder By The Book in Houston, TX August 17 at 6:30pm
Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, OH August 18 at 7:00pm
Books and Co in Dayton, OH August 19 at 7:00pm

1 comment:

Darwyn Jones said...

Dana - I'm really liking the guest author approach your taking. Very cool.