21 Questions for Daria
When my husband and I decided to sail across the Atlantic, then again to the Caribbean, and finally to Europe, I kept a log of all our experiences. I was going to write a book based on those logs. But when we got home, I realized that so many people had already written accounts of the same sort of experience that there was nothing new and exciting about it. So instead, I decided to write a novel based in those experiences but as a murder mystery. It’s called The Naked Truth.
My husband, Alex, was writing novels and I was editing them. He was just about to start his third when I thought, heck I can do that, too. But what would I write about? That’s when it struck me that a murder mystery set in the sailing world could be fun.
Well, I wanted my lead characters, Jessica and Xander, to keep sailing not just to get stuck in one place investigating a single murder. And, having worked in the pharmaceutical arena, I wanted to weave my knowledge of medicines into it. That’s all I’ll say.
I’ve always been writing. I wrote poetry and prose as a child and even won a poetry contest for a poem I wrote in Ukrainian. (That was my first language even though I was born in the States.) But an advisor in high school told me I’d never be a writer, so I became a scientist who wrote.
I wrote grant requests in my first research job. Then I became a copywriter in pharma. And lastly I wrote strategic plans for global marketing of big brands. It’s all a form of writing. But most of my life was spent writing non-fiction. The transition came when we decided to write a how to book on boat anchoring and then a cruising guide to the remote west of Ireland. That led me to want to write other things, like fiction.
How to keep it fast paced. Sailing is sort of a slow life. And how to resolve that what is witnessed may not be as it seems.
I go for a walk, I write something else, I spend time gardening,I read someone else’s work, I do research online. I never ever run out of things to do. Eventually, something clicks and I start back on the book again. I don’t force it because I just know that some days I won’t write much of anything good. Other days it flows unchecked. I go with the flow.
I write in my office upstairs in our house by the sea in the country. I can see the sky moving past me in the roof window overhead. When I stand up I can see the fields behind our house, and we often have horses or donkeys grazing there. It’s very pastoral.
My most productive period is after 3 pm, which is great at this latitude because it gets dark early in the winter which makes me think it’s time to get to work sooner. But I often write poetry and flash fiction in the morning. That’s when I tend to be more literary.
I don’t really think so. But I did introduce a device in the book that I found great fun to write. (I can’t tell you about it. You have stumble across it yourself.)
While we were sailing, we had a number of funny experiences with nudists. So I set the murders in those settings, which were only slightly embellished from the original.
So far, yes. But I do research and add in elements in those settings that I might not have experienced.
I get to my desk around 10 am. I open the file on my laptop so that the moment I feel the urge to write, I can go right to the page and start. But first I usually look at email, Facebook and twitter, read the paper to see what’s happened in the world while we were sleeping, pin some things to Pinterest if I want to find them again. Get some marketing done for the various projects we have ongoing.
Then I might write. Some days I can do 10,000 words. Other days 200. But I try to write something every day. In between, I might do a blog entry – I have several blogs that I write.
I took two creative writing courses. One at the New School in New York when I was in my twenties. That was focused more on advertising copywriting. And another in Ireland at the Linenhall in Castlebar with Jean Tuomey. That one was brilliant as it taught me to wrap the writing in emotion.
Reading, sailing, skiing, walking, watching nature unfold around me.
Oh yes, I have at least four projects already waiting for my attention. The next is my mother’s memoire. I have been struggling with how to present that one, but I think I have it figured out. I also have enough material to complete a book I call The Joy of Sailing, but I think that’s just the working title. I also want to write a book on integrated marketing and another on cultural competence. Then we’re also updating the boat anchoring book, but that’s more of an edit.
But my ultimate goal is to write the great short novel – akin to Joseph Conrad’s or Hemingway’s works. I just need to work out the subject matter in my head. I will not write another entertainment novel until I get this out of me.
I love my Kindle because I have loads of books in it and I can throw it in my purse if I’m going to be waiting somewhere or on a train or bus. If I don’t like something I start, I can just go onto the next.
And Kindle gets books out there and read very inexpensively. It makes self-publishing a little more rewarding financially. Incremental sales via digital downloads make a difference.
But I still love the feel, the smell and the process of reading a printed book. Holding it in my hands, flipping back to a previous page, there is nothing like the experience of a fine book in your hands. And there is the excitement of searching through a library. An electronic library is too utilitarian. Imagine a digital Trinity … the book of Kells made accessible to many but it wouldn’t come alive as it does in real life.
So far, I’ve only done cursory edits. My next step is to read it from beginning to end, fixing major problems and correcting obvious typographical and grammatical errors. My story is chronological and straightforward, so I don’t have convoluted plot twists, although I may find differently. The next reading after that, I will be reading it out loud to see if there are any technical glitches.
In that round I will also cut. One thing that writing magazine articles has taught me is that when you’ve written 4000 words and the editor tells you to cut to 2500, you find a lot of extraneous stuff that can be cut without losing the story. In fact, it makes it much crisper and more pleasing to read.
Finally, I will turn it over to my husband who edits all my writing. We both edit each other’s work and we do very well with it. We realize that our comments are all to make the best possible outcome for each other’s work and we are very respectful of each other’s points of view. We don’t try to change the work, we clarify and enhance. The editing is the hardest and most important part of writing a book.
Alex has tried crowd sourced editing, but I don’t think I want to do that. When I’m happy with the edits, I’ll send it to a few good friends for opinions and written reviews. That’s when I will be exposed.
Because my husband is skilled at producing nice books – he was a printer in a prior life. As finding a publisher these days is tough for this kind of book, it’ actually easier to get it out there on our own. We are both skilled marketers so the only thing we won’t have is book store distribution. But with amazon worldwide and print-on-demand, there is no upfront cost for us. We write, design, produce and market our books ourselves.
Well this book is not out yet, but I get great feedback from readers of my magazine articles. People like the style and pace I use in writing about sailing, and I’m trying to maintain the same here. I’m looking forward to seeing what they think of my plot!
Not because of this book. This is more of an exercise for me to see if I could write a novel and if I liked doing it. What it will change is my ability to write the next one. Which will make me very proud, I know it. If that’s what I set out to do, that’s what I will do.
Yes, I have set up a personal website http://dariablackwell.blogspot.ie/ and I am already well tied in to social media with advance promotions. We also have a publishing website where we promote all of our books, which gives us a slightly bigger footprint. When Naked Truth is ready to launch, I will unleash a media blitz and send out review copies to a few key places. I also have connections with several sailing organizations with publications of their own. I will ask for book reviews from all of them.
Hmmm, walking down a beach somewhere and all the people are reading my great global short novel and saying, “Wow, what a great story! This is on the line of Hemmingway or Conrad. Beautifully written, too.” Yes, that’s where I’d like to be.