1) Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?
Yes. I included someone in a story I knew whom we lost far too young. In the story, I made him an an older man with a long life behind him, and he was still his mischievous, cheerful self. The magic of being a writer is being able to bring someone back to life, alter time, change outcomes. That certainly can be therapeutic.
2) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A writer and an artist. I was a creative child, and could only imagine being that as a grownup. Though I haven’t done illustrations lately, my first published book “TV Monster” is a children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated. My dream of a career as a full-time author and illustrator did not come to pass when I was young, but it’s never too late. I continue writing, publishing, and hope to go back illustrating.
3) Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Keep writing. For myself, I’ve found that over time, I’ve learned to identify where I need to cut, where I need to add explanation so the story makes sense, how to make the story flow better. That only came from doing a lot of writing. Not everything I’ve written has been published, but that’s part of the process too. If something does not work out, move on to the next idea. You can always come back to earlier work, edit, and revamp. Try not to get stuck on one project and keep spinning your wheels forever.
4) Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?
I enjoy listening to instrumental jazz. Typically, I prefer a relaxing beat. But when I was revising “The Cold Kid Case: A Sparky of Bunker Hill Mystery,” I got into swing music, which has a fast beat. I love jazz vocalists, but when I’m writing, I find that the words in a song interfere with the words I write.
5) Do you prefer eBooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
Lately, I prefer eBooks or audiobooks. That has more to do with trying to control my overpopulation of printed books (they are stacked everywhere). Now, of course, I have an overpopulation of eBooks and audiobooks. Maybe because I enjoy live theater, I’ve come to love how voice actors interpret books and bring them to life. I greatly admire what actors do and am glad many are involved with audiobooks nowadays.
6) How much research did you need to do for your book?
Because the “Sparky of Bunker Hill Mystery” series is set in 1932 Los Angeles, I do need to research the Bunker Hill neighborhood in downtown where the the main action takes place. The Bunker Hill neighborhood is drastically different in modern times because of post-WWII redevelopment, which makes the research more challenging. Los Angeles itself is much different today than in the past, so double-checking is my friend. For example, in “The Cannibal Caper: A Sparky of Bunker Hill Mystery,” I referenced downtown’s Union Station. That train station is vintage, so I assumed it had been there in 1932. I’m glad I double-checked, because it wasn’t actually built until 1939. So I did some rewriting to remove Union Station.
7) If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
Yes, I am currently working on “The Monkey Island Murder,” the third book in the “Sparky of Bunker Hill Mystery” series of humorous 1930s cozy noir novels, which will be released this summer. Sparky, being a former street punk, has been away from school for over a year. She doesn’t want to go back, but the people she lives with now, Tootsie the former silent screen vamp and Gilbert her mysterious assistant, won’t hear otherwise. Sparky is nervous about being behind with her learning, plus her habit of getting into fights doesn’t help much on her first day back at school. Of course, there’s the murder she has to solve. Finding clues may involve a spot of grave robbing. Stay tuned.
8) What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
Write what you want and how you want. I think the source of some writers block is the feeling of: “I have to write in the popular genre, and I have to write in this certain style because that’s what I was told to do and/or everyone else is doing it.” Feeling constrained is a creativity block. Even if your ex-writing teacher will get mad at you, just throw off the chains of how you “should” write. Focus on what you “really” want to write. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit comfortably into a genre or no one else writes in your particular style. At least you’re writing. Worry about marketing later.
9) What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
The characters come first, or at least the main character. I’m not sure why, but a character will just show up to me. The character comes with a basic scenario, and then I build from there: what if the character does this, what if the situation is that? Writing to me is a series of questions I ask after the character introduces themselves and bugs me until I write about them.
10) Would you and your main character get along?
Absolutely not! Sparky is a piece of work. I would expect boundaries, basic rules being followed, especially since Sparky is eleven. But Sparky follows no rules and likes to wander off and do her own thing, for better or worse. I admire how wild and untamed Sparky is, how independent and confident she is, but she’s a tough one to live with. I think Tootsie and Gilbert deserve a medal for taking her into their mansion and being there for her, even when she screams “No!” and takes off running when they tell her she’s going back to school. Sparky is never boring, that’s for sure.