Monday, February 10, 2014

The Writing Process

This month our focus is on the writing process. I started thinking about it because I am currently teaching a class at Savvy Authors to new writers where we start from scratch. Every time I teach one of these classes where we start from scratch I am amazed at how many different methods writers use to get their novel started. I decided to ask some of my published friends how they got started and this month I am posting some of the answers. We start off today with Rolynn Anderson, the author of the new book, Lie Catchers.

How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
My process is haphazard at best, in the beginning, but as I proceed with the plot, I pick characters with purpose: people who act as foils to my hero/heroine, and individuals who trip them up…people who push the action and challenge the h/h.  For LIE CATCHERS, I was charmed by the fact that in Petersburg, Alaska, Norwegian men, displaced from their homeland, traveled to Alaska to become fishermen.  Some of them married Tlingit (native) women.  In a gift store in Petersburg, Alaska, I met the owner, who happened to be a “Tlingwegian.”  She was blonde and blue-eyed but with a warm complexion.  My heroine was born with that encounter.
Do your characters come before the plot?
Not a linear process, for sure.  As I develop the plot that challenges my h/h, I grab new characters off the ‘shelf,’ adding to the complexity of the plot.  I like to surprise the reader and challenge myself as a writer with “out of the box” tactics.  In LIE CATCHERS, for instance, I found out that Petersburg, Alaska, was burdened with a 1932 unsolved homicide.  What’s more, the man murdered was an important Chinese man…in a Norwegian town.  That caught my interest.  I wondered if I could solve an old crime and a new one, comparing the way crimes were handled in 1932 to how we work them today…and somehow tie in both crimes.  The challenge was too delicious to pass up! 
Do you know how the story will end before you begin? 
Absolutely not.  I may not know how it’s going to end before I’m 85% into the book.  I like surprise endings, so I tend to work to the denouement and surprise myself with a turnabout climax.  One thing I do know about the ending of a stand-alone novel…the h/h are stretched, learn and grow, finding that together, their skills, love and verve are unbeatable.

Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of plots sitting around?
Settings drive me to write a book even more than character or plot ideas.  I cruised to Petersburg, Alaska, in my trawler two years ago.  Had never been there before.  Did not know the town was full of Norwegians (my heritage).  Was not aware Norwegians settled in Alaska to fish (as did the Russians, etc.).  LIE CATCHERS was born out of my surprise and delight in discovering this charming fishing town, full of people who looked like me, ate food I liked, said ‘uff da’ the way I say it.  Okay, there’s a bit of narcissism here, but finding this town, set below the LeConte Glacier, really got my writing juices flowing! 
Where do you do your research?
Books and online.  I bought books about Petersburg in the town’s bookstore and connected with people in Petersburg to help me answer some questions about the town, but most of my research (especially about the 1932 murder) was done on line.  I e-mail individuals regularly, as well.  I have a cadre of experts I consult about forensics, for instance.  Don’t know what I’d do without all that free advice!

Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
I’m a pantser through and through, which takes more time, but is more satisfying to me.  I like to be surprised every morning when I get up to write.  I never know where my writing will take me each day…and I love that feeling!

Thank you, Rolynn for telling us about your writing process.  Can you provide a blurb and information about the Lie Catchers?

Blurb: Two unsolved murders will tear apart an Alaska fishing town unless a writer and a government agent reveal their secret obsessions.
Treasury agent Parker Browne is working undercover in Petersburg, Alaska to investigate a money scam and a murder. His prime suspect, Liv Hanson, is a freelance writer struggling to save her family’s business. Free spirited, full of life, and with a talent for catching liars, she fascinates Parker.
Trying to prove she’s a legitimate writer who cares about Petersburg’s issues, Liv pens a series of newspaper articles about an old, unsolved murder. When her cold case ties in with Parker’s investigation, bullets start to fly.

Parker understands money trails, and Liv knows the town residents. But he gave up on love two years ago, and she trusts no one, especially with her carefully guarded secret. If they mesh their skills to find the killers, will they survive the fallout?

A Rich, Intriguing Story December 27, 2013-Amazon Kindle
By Roben
I received an ARC of this book, and was thrilled to read it. I adored the setting, and the quirkiness of the characters in the small Alaska town. It made me want to go to Alaska. That kind of authenticity comes from an author who knows her setting, who understands its people, and can then convey that knowledge richly. Anderson does just that. Her mystery/suspense, is carefully woven with the right amount of history to engage the reader, and enough mystery to keep the reader guessing. This was my first novel by Rolynn Anderson, and I would definitely read this author again.
       Parker touched her shoulder.
       “May I have this dance?”
       Liv twirled to find him so close she could smell beer on his breath. A hint of cologne. Had he shaved recently? Smiling at the thought he might have done that for her, she gave him her right hand and rested her left hand on his shirt collar, intent on finding a way to  touch his chin to answer the shaving question. But the shave-or-not dilemma was a minor one.  She’d already screwed up with one man tonight; would she make a wrong move with Parker, too?  
      She drew her thumb along his chin and sighed at the silky smoothness. Forget the man’s mouthful of queries and his intense gaze. Just dance. While the singer lamented over loosing her mind, Liv’s body disappeared into Parker’s. Soothed, she was and aroused at the same time, aware Parker knew not to use words. A close shave and a close dance spoke volumes. She was the silent one, afraid to say what might start an avalanche of sentences, lowering her guard, exposing too much to the wrong person at the worst time. This man who held her was a cop and she was on his list of murder suspects. Even if Parker was unorthodox as an investigator, he still held the power of his profession. The reason for his offer to dance wasn’t clear, was it?
       The strumming ended, emptying the room of the singer’s piercing ballad.
       “Good night, Liv. And thank you for the dance.”
       Parker kissed her on the forehead, walked out the door and closed it quietly, taking with him all the unasked questions she would never answer.

Thanks again, Rolynn for sharing your new book with us as well as your writing process.

What about you? Please feel free to share how you initially start planning a new book.  


  1. Thanks for hosting me today, Rebecca. As I read this over, I see how haphazard the whole process is. Serendipity rules in my life and in my books!

  2. Just so you know, it was Janet Walters, a colleague of mine, who framed these good questions based on the sense of Who, What, Where, When, Why of a novel.

  3. Thank you, Rolynn and thanks to Janet for the excellent questions.

  4. I want to read this book if only for its setting! :-) Although I'm still a partial pantser, I'm as linear as they come--I envy you some of that haphazardness!

  5. Oh, Liz, I have plot envy of you. If only I could plan ahead, I'd save myself so much grief. I tend to double back more times than I'd like...I'll bet you linear folks never have to do that!

  6. Pleased to see there are other authors out there who are not methodical or do not adhere to the 'recommended' methods that some gurus chant. Pantster sounds just fine to me, Rolynn. It's had the required results! I do a character outline - quite deep - on my characters and the tale flows and develops from there. Following that age old 'what if?' question, I find the story takes off from there. The setting of your book is very intriguing.


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