I met Patricia Marcantonio in a creative writing class more than twenty years ago. Sharing a love for reading and writing, we became writing buddies and remain so today. Any time I have a question about writing or publishing I can call Patricia and brainstorm my way back to productivity. With the release of her latest novel, Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit: A Felicity Carrol Mystery, I’m pleased to introduce Patricia Marcantonio and share with you some of her writing secrets.
1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?
I became a writer because I loved telling stories. I was a voracious reader and I started making up my own stories when I was a kid. I would tell them to my parents. I was a full on nerd and loved writing assignments in school while the other kids moaned. I started writing my own stuff seriously when I got out of college. I wanted to be a novelist but there was no degree in that so I became a journalist to earn a living while writing books.
2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?
I work out in the morning and write in the afternoon until evening Monday through Friday. If my husband is watching football or going bowling, I’ll write then as well. If I don’t write I get cranky so I write to keep happy.
3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?
So many that I feel I have memorized the book. Maybe three to four drafts until I think it’s good, I print out the manuscript, let it rest for a while, and read it out loud. After that I go back and make changes and rewrite again. I’ll also make extra passes on the lookout for what I call lazy words, for phrases I’ve repeated, and to charge up the story with active verbs. Then I go through again. I get to a point where I say this is the best I can get it. Sometimes I’ll go back after a few months and see if I need to make changes.
4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?
The best thing is getting published and having people love your work enough to want to put it out into the world and pay you. The worst? When people don’t get what I’m trying to do with a particular book or story. Then I think I have failed at getting them to share my vision. Rejections are a bummer, too.
5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?
I just love coming up with stories and it doesn’t matter what the genre. I’ve had a children’s book, a drama courtroom novel, and now a mystery published. I also write screenplays and plays. So I consider myself a storyteller rather than a genre writer. I’d love to tackle a sci-fi, fantasy, or magical realism novel. Maybe that’s a weakness not to stay in one genre. I don’t know. What I dislike? It’s a hell of a lot of work and I don’t think people appreciate how much of your heart, soul, liver, and spleen you put into those pages.
6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?
I don’t read nonfiction at all unless I’m doing research for a book. I have very eclectic tastes. I love to read sci-fi, fantasy, drama, women’s fiction, mysteries. Favorite authors are Kate Atkinson, Alice Hoffman, Taylor Sheridan, Neil Gaiman, Dennis Lehane, Margaret Atwood, Joseph Heller, and Charlotte Bronte, to name a very few. When I’m writing I do read but not in the genre I’m writing. So if I’m writing a mystery, I’ll read a fantasy. It’s a nice break.
7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?
The best advice was to keep writing and know your theme because that’s the heartstring of your story. My own advice to myself is to keep learning about writing so I will read articles and go to conferences to hear speakers. I don’t know everything and I’m also striving to get better. The worst advice? I can’t remember and that’s probably good.
8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?
By reading other writers I admire and hearing their voices and figuring out how the hell they did that. I’ve also noticed my writing voice does change with the type of book I’m writing.
9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?
No but I’m open to one.
10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I got accepted to law school but didn’t go. I think I would be a lawyer if I wasn’t a writer. Lawyers tend to make more money than writers.
11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?
Sit in that damn chair and write. Do it because you love it.
12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?
Another mystery and horror screenplay, plus I’m rewriting a middle grade book. I like to mix it up.
13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?
Go to film school and make movies.
14) What advice would you give beginning writers?
Read good writing, keep telling stories, and don’t expect to get rich. Writing is part of what I am. If you don’t feel that strongly about writing, maybe find something else to do. I say that because it is tough and demands a lot of time and energy and love.
15) Something we don’t know about you?
I love Star Trek.
And: what would you like us to know about your latest release?
Amidst the heraldry of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, a string of brutal murders rocks Britain’s upper crust―and could threaten the realm itself.
The mystery features a brilliant resourceful young woman finding her place in the world. She’s a fun character set in the middle of Victorian England.
To learn more about Patricia visit her at https://patriciasantosmarcantonio.com
There’s a picture of a little girl looking out to sea by Kiana Llanos floating around Facebook. The picture caption reads: Don’t forget to love her. The little girl you used to be. Perhaps she lies within you. Untucked. Sleeping peacefully.
The picture brings back memories of my writing partner Dixie Thomas Reale who passed away a year ago from cancer. Dixie was a fighter, and at first blush she had a chip on her shoulder bigger than Mount Rushmore. Feisty, she refused to let anyone boss her around. I can barely remember the last time she laughed, but I remember the last time I saw her cry.
The first time I saw tears in Dixie’s eyes was when she described how she rescued a kitten in her rock shop in King Hill. The kitten had been abandoned by its mother and would have died if Dixie hadn’t stuffed that kitten into her shirt to keep it warm. Fostering the kitten, which she named Ice Cube because it was so cold, Dixie wrote a story about her “Christmas” kitten and planned to include it in a future issue of our Snake River Plain books. The second time I saw Dixie cry was one day at lunch when we were critiquing her memoir. Dixie had a keen sense of humor and had been working on a novel about a corrupt minister. She stated that she couldn’t finish the novel until she wrote her memoir, so she put the novel away and started pounding out the pages. That day at lunch we read about a little girl who was shoved in a corner while her family struggled to raise Dixie’s mentally-challenged brother. Since he was younger than Dixie a lot of responsibly fell on Dixie’s shoulders. In those pages she described the details of some of the escapades, but she rarely described the emotion. She’d been taught to swallow her feelings. When I said, “My heart breaks for that little girl,” tears spilled down Dixie’s 68-year old cheeks. She was still a child inside seeking validation. The last time I saw Dixie cry was when I visited her in a nursing home and bragged to a fellow writer about Dixie’s memoir. Dixie cried knowing she’d never get to finish it.
It’s because of women like Dixie that I wrote Waiting, a novel about three generations of Foster women for wait for love, for attention, for life, for death. Women like Dixie helped me form my character Maxine, who waits all her life to be happy. Who, like so many of us, ignore the fact that we alone are masters of our own happiness. Too many of us wait until it’s too late.
Dixie offered valuable insight as I labored over Waiting. As I get ready to celebrate the release of my novel, part of me does so with sadness. I will never be able to place a signed copy in her hands and thank her for all of her suggestions.
Take time to tell the Dixie’s in your life how much you love and appreciate them, even when they gruff back at you, pretending they don’t care. There’s still a little girl inside each one of them that needs a hug before they fall asleep.
Rest peacefully, my friend.
I’m starting the new year out right. On January 30, I’ll be reading from “Voices from the Snake River Plain” in Boise at The Cabin. I’m excited to be part of the Idaho Writer’s Guild and participate in their first event for 2010. If you are in the Boise area on January 30, stop by The Cabin between 1 – 3 and join us while we talk about books, writing, and publishing. Hope to see you there!
Here is the Idaho Writer’s Guild news release.
The publishing world is changing daily, it seems, and there’s a lot of interest in the area of non-traditional forms of publishing. As “Writers Working for Writers,” the Idaho Writer’s Guild is proudly launching a new series called “Random Readings” on Saturday, January 30th from 1-3 pm at The Cabin, in Boise. Featured writers will share their experiences, from writing to publishing.
Here’s what you can look forward to: authors will read from their books, with commentary. Afterwards, there will be time for asking questions and sharing thoughts about the nuts and bolts of a variety of publishing processes. Not-to-be-missed refreshments will be served.
Southern Idaho residents Bonnie Dodge, Dixie Thomas Reale and Patricia Santos Marcantonio wrote and published “Voices from the Snake River Plain.” A collection of short stories, poems and essays, the book has been described as “a small treasure….we learn there is beauty in the landscape around us and people with stories to tell.” Some of the tales by these award-winning writers include a jackalope, an old Mexican ghost story, haunting landscapes and a road trip with Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.
Val Robertson was the former president of The Couer du Bois Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and the founding and current president of the Popular Fiction Association of Idaho, which produces the Murder in the Grove mystery conference. She is also the organizer of the Boise Speculative Fiction writer’s support group. Her debut novel is entitled “Blade’s Edge.”
Also from Boise, Ken McConnell is both traditionally published and self-published. A Software Test Technician, Ken wrote and published “Starstrikers” in 2008. His first novel is “a military space novel that takes place between two galactic civilizations.” He also wrote “Null Pointer,” a mystery novel about a programmer sleuth.
“Random Readings” will take place in the Jean Wilson Reading Room, on the basement level at The Cabin, 801 S. Capitol Blvd, Boise. Admission is free. For further information contact Diane Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Road out of Hell is not a book I would have normally picked to read. It is the story of Sanford Clark and the Wineville Murders that took place in California in the late 1920s. It is a hard book to read, and I read it reluctantly because it was the January selection for my local book club. To make matters worse, I was host for the January meeting, so I knew if I was going to contribute anything worthwhile to the discussion, I would have to read the book.
After a couple of failed starts, I dug in and did the work. I’m glad I did because the publisher of the book had arranged a Skype meeting between my book club and the author. For almost an hour we were able to ask Anthony Flacco questions about the story and the story process. It was like having Mr. Flacco in my living room talking about books and writing, and it was so much fun.
Being the mother of a son, it would have been easy for me to say, “I’m not going to read this book.” But something positive came out of the process. I hope more publishers and authors take advantage of connecting with readers through Skype or other cyberspace technology. It was truly one of the best book discussions we have had, and we’ve read a lot of books.
On November 6, Pat, Dixie and I enjoyed reading excerpts from Voices from the Snake River Plain to a standing-room-only crowd in Twin Falls, Idaho. A heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who helped celebrate the launch of our new book. If you missed the event, copies are still available at the Magic Valley Arts Council, 132 Main Avenue South, Twin Falls, Idaho. They are also available at the Log Cabin Literary Center, 801 S. Capitol Boulevard in Boise, Idaho.