Question Time 2014: Answers Part V

My visit to my old high school turned out well, even though I spent a few minutes sitting on a chair in the hallway outside the principal’s office. I spoke to the creative studies class, and told them how I went from writing for the school paper (the year of the infamous Cafeteria Exposé) to writing novels that are shelved in the school library. The kids were bright and eager and almost all of them stayed awake. Success!

Now, to wrap up Question Time 2014.

Dana Jean asks:

Can we ask personal questions? Are you a grandma yet? If so, Any thoughts for a children’s book?

Yes. No. No.

laurenob asks:

Does Secretariat belong on the list of the 100 Greatest Athletes of All Time?


Exhibit 1: the 1973 Preakness. Secretariat breaks leisurely and is in last place after the opening quarter mile. But on the first turn, Ron Turcotte realizes what a deceptively slow pace the leaders are setting, and urges Secretariat to take control. Just look at the move he makes around the turn. Muscular yet effortless. He eats up the ground and the field, and keeps going, to convincing victory.

Exhibit 2: the 1973 Belmont. As they say in the law, res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself.

Chills. Every damn time I watch it.

Thanks for all your great questions, everybody!

Question Time 2014: Answers Part IV

Eddie asks:

What other genre(s) would you be tempted to try besides crime? Conversely, what other genre(s) would you rather eat fiberglass that write in? And on both questions, why?

I’m tempted to write in genres that I love: science fiction, high adventure, political/espionage thrillers. But romance? Bake me a fiberglass cake — I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the patience or skill to focus an entire book on the romantic fortunes of two characters. Likewise, slice-of-life literary novels about suburban midlife crises? Even thinking about that bores me. Waiter, two slices of cake, with napalm icing!

Rich K asks:

Here is one I have wondered about for awhile which I would ask every author I might eventually meet. When choosing a theme or plot, how do you decide on where to set it? I understand growing up in California you would be familiar with the area for your characters to wreak havoc upon, so I wanted to know what drew you to Oklahoma City (yes, I know you were born there) and then into New Mexico. Will we see a novel set in Austin sometime in the future?

My novel that opens in Oklahoma City, The Shadow Tracer, is a combination of road trip, chase story, and Road Warrior narrative. I wanted the action to unfold across wide open, wild, and forbidding landscapes. That’s the American Southwest. If something goes wrong on a desert highway in New Mexico, you’re on your own, sister. The environment becomes an antagonist in its own right. I wanted the heroine of the book, Sarah Keller, to face all kinds of demons in a hellish landscape.

Also, I love New Mexico. My grandparents lived in Roswell. I spent many summers there, and our family explored that part of the country — from Carlsbad Caverns to Ruidoso to White Sands. Setting the novel there allowed me to incorporate a fantastic part of the country into a life-or-death story.

Of course, when my family visited New Mexico, we did it in a Ford station wagon. Whether it was a hellish trip is a question you’d have to ask my parents, who put up with four kids demanding, Are we there yet?

L.A., baby


Hello from Southern California. I’ll be on the road today. After I escape the Los Angeles freeway system, I’ll answer more of your questions.

Tomorrow I’m going to speak to creative writing students at my old high school. I’ll let you know how that goes, too.

Question Time 2014: Answers Part III

Jeff asks:

Nerd question about process :-) I’m assuming there are lots of fancy tools out there now for plotting and assembling novels. Would you say you take a high-tech approach to writing your novels or are you now secretly hacking away at that 1/4 million dollar Olivetti Cormac McCarthy sold at auction? There may be some options in the middle I hadn’t considered :-)

Jeff, I am not “hacking” at Mr. McCarthy’s $250,000 typewriter. Nice pun there, by the way. I am prying off the keys and selling them online, one by one. I know, you’re shocked. But I told him what would happen if he didn’t send me his new manuscript. He had his chance. The metallic screeching of the Olivetti as I twist each key loose with pliers — that’s on his head.

As for how I compose my own work: After pouring goat’s blood in a pentagram on the patio, and completing the chant, I sit back with a glass of lemonade until the smoke clears and the plot outline appears along the cracks in the concrete. Voila!

But when it’s time to actually think and write, I use a variety of tools: Number 2 pencils, Rollerball Fine Point pens, A4 typing paper, A MacBook Pro, and MS Word. For plotting and assembling novels, I employ The Elements of Style, my notes from Robert McKee’s Story Seminar, dogeared copies of Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, the pounding headache I still have after getting my mind blown reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and the love — and craft — of writing I’ve inhaled from reading books since I was six years old.

Hope that clears things up.

Question Time 2104: Answers Part II

Jason asks:

I know you prob can’t answer but… nothing ventured nothing gained right? Meg Gardiner and JT Ellison… Jo Beckett or Evan Delaney meet Taylor Jackson. Any remote possibilty?

Let’s see about that.

If that’s not enough for you, check out JT Ellison’s novels about Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson.

Question Time 2014: Answers

You asked. I reply.

From M:

I know I’ve read that you said Evan’s story isn’t over, and I’m wondering if there are any immediate plans for another book. Do you have ideas about the next installment and when we might see it?

Short answer: I do. And I don’t.

Longer answer: Just yesterday, I was going through the file titled NEXT EVAN DELANEY NOVEL, adding to the outline. The story will be written. But I don’t have a publication date for it yet. Any Evan novel won’t see print for at least a year or two. Hope that’s okay.

From Danielle:

Have you ever thought of writing a kindle short story to continue Jo or Evan’s story?

I’ve thought of writing all kinds of short stories, for Kindle and elsewhere. (My story “Strange Waters” was published in December by the Sunday Express.) In fact, I’ve written an Evan Delaney short story that should be scheduled for publication soon. When I have a date, I’ll let everybody know.

More Q&A tomorrow.

Question time: What do you want to ask me?

Once a year I open the blog to your questions. What do you want to know about my books, characters, writing, or that secret alien base on the far side of the moon? I will try to answer all questions honestly.

The floor is yours.