Friday, September 10, 2010
Interview with M & M Author, Liz Lipperman
Cassy asked me to post this today, so here goes. When she asked the M & M bunch if we'd like to do this, we all agreed it was a great idea. A lot of you follow us religiously and know a little bit about our personal lives. This will just reinforce some of our habits, good and bad. Please don't blackmail us with them. Here are her questions to me:
- Liz, tell us about your career path. What jobs have you had?
First off, let me say I am excited to do this interview. Thanks, Cassy, for asking. Now on to the question. I went to nursing school right out of high school and had been a practicing RN until 2002. At that time, I retired, promising I would give my writing a fair chance. Up until then, I merely dabbled. I had what I now know is a women's fiction manuscript that I had been working on for years. So many, in fact that I had to totally research another country when the one I had been using (El Salvador) went and ended their civil war. Do you believe they could be that inconsiderate??? LOL
- What then led you to being an author?
I was just at my HS reunion last week and someone asked me the very same question. I'll tell you what I told them. As far back as HS (Hubby and I were HS sweethearts.) I knew I wrote better than I spoke. So, any time we'd fight, I'd write a letter expressing my feelings. To this day, I need oxygen when I stand in front of a group to speak. In the early 90s, I took a Creative Writing class at a college in Maine, and the professor was very complimentary of my writing. It got me thinking..what if....
-How did you "find" your genre? Do you write in more than one?
Funny you should ask. I truly thought I was a romance writer, having joined RWA as early as the 90s, then dropping out, only to rejoin in 2002. I always got dinged when I entered contests because I never followed the rules. My H/H never played nice, and my Colombia story even had two strong male POVs. About that time, I started noticing how many dead bodies began showing up in all my stories. But even after I wrote my first true mystery, or mystery with romance as I call them, I never labeled myself as a mystery author. I had a long discussion with my agent about what genre she thought I wrote, and she's the one who pointed me down mystery road.
Now to the truth... I have a completed YA, the WF, a mystery, a paranormal mystery, a proposal for a RS (100 pages plus synopsis) and a cozy series. How do you spell fickled? Coincidentally, every single one of them has at least one dead body.
- You have a great sense of humor (Folks, there are stories that might never be told). Do you find you can easily incorporate that into your writing?
When my friends read my manuscripts, they say the fun part is that it's like I was right there talking to them. I have always been able to poke fun at myself, and if I like you, at you, too. I never tease anyone I don't like. I think you have to write to your personality. I could never pull off a serious heroine because that isn't me. I love to laugh and to make you laugh. I do have to say this, though. Last month I spent a week with my three sisters in Florida. I took along my latest manuscript, DUCKS IN A ROW, and let them read it. My oldest sister, who is a voracious reader, said that halfway through the book, she forgot it was me writing and just enjoyed the great story. I loved hearing that.
- What are the settings you use for your books?
I always use small towns in Texas. Although I was born and raised in Ohio, (O H I O) I have been in Texas for thirty years. I love this place and all the diversity that goes with it. I also always use authentic names as opposed to fictitious towns. In my latest series, I use Denison, Texas, population around 24 K. When one of my beta readers thought my cops weren't using big enough guns even for a small town, I picked up the phone and spoke directly to the sheriff who was extremely helpful. I forgot to mention to him I called two of my cops Dumb and Dumber!! I hope he has a sense of humor because I fully intend to play up the small town factor with a book signing right at the mall there.
- Do you have a particular writing method? (Go ahead and fess up about being a plotter and a long hand writer!! That's special)
You've outed me! The reason I write longhand is because my typing skills suck. I only took a 6 weeks course in HS and still have to look at my fingers when I type. I'm not a pecker, but I am pathetic. Usually my brain is way faster than my fingers, so I always have transposed letters in words. Drives me crazy. I have tried writing on a computer and find myself staring at the blank page for hours - then Facebook, then more staring, then email ..you get the picture. I type after every scene, or I wouldn't be able to read my own handwriting. As for plotting, I am a die-hard plotter. It blows my mind to think of people doing it without that. Before I even put one word on the page, I pretty much know what's gonna happen and who my bad guy is. It doesn't always work out that way, in fact usually never, but at least I have a visual. Another quirk of mine is that I ALWAYS use a blue pilot point pen when I write and a notepad with the wire thing at the top. I know..sounds OCD-ish.
- Do you keep to a particular writing schedule?
Darn it, Cassie, you're playing to all my weaknesses!! I am so undisciplined, I wonder how I ever get anything done. I am on a loop with a bunch of writers who share their goals. Today I discovered a trick they've been doing for a while. They meet in a chat room and set the timer, then write, then share their accomplishments. I wrote over 1200 words this morning. My goal when I am on deadline is twenty pages a week. My agent once asked me if I could write two books a year, and I said yes. In order to do that, I have to keep that twenty-page pace. The good news is that I have a psycho internal editor who won't let me go to the next chapter until I polish the previous one. (My CPs and I line edit each other's chapters one by one, too.) By the time I finish a novel, it is pretty clean. Then I have several beta readers who do a cold read.
- What are your favorite hobbies and activities, outside of writing of course.
I love my family. I have two grown children, two wonderful in laws, two adorable grandsons, a beautiful granddaughter, and one on the way. Any time I can spend time with them, the writing goes out the window.
I also have a extraordinary set of friends I have been playing Bunko with for over 25 years. They are the funniest group of women on this planet, and they supply me with tons of funny stuff for my stories. In fact, I am getting ready to leave for a trip to Arizona in two weeks to spend a week with them. We are so funny. The house we rent has to have a play pool so we can play water volleyball. Isn't that a visual? Ten grannies in a pool, sipping margaritas and cussing like sailors!
Oh, and I am a rabid football fan, especially the NFL. I even run my own fantasy football league, overseeing mostly guys. That's another reason I have to be diligent with my twenty pages a day. The NFL 2010 season starts this Thursday. Go Cowboys!
-What is your favorite "ah ha!" moment with your work?
I think it's when I realized I was not a romance writer. I still keep my membership in RWA and my local chapter current because I have made so many incredible friends there, plus, the RWA conferences are awesome. Besides, my stories still have lots of romance in them. I am going to my first mystery conference this year - the Crime Bake. I hope to meet a lot of mystery writers and add them to my list of friends. Anybody else going?
-Any good stories to tell about when Christine (our agent) called you and asked to represent you?
She actually didn't call me. I signed with her partner (no longer there) and just slid to Christine when Kelly left the agency to spend time traveling with her Olympic hopeful skating daughter. When C called to tell me about my three book deal, she said I wasn't very excited. I think, like all writers, I had been beaten down so much, I no longer allowed myself to hope. When she called, it didn't seem real. Even now, I can't believe how lucky I was to have been in the right place at the right time with the right agent. And trust me when I say, it takes luck along with good writing. There are many great writers out there who will never be published because of this.
-You have a fantastic book deal launching any moment. That's something we all aspire to having. But, has it made a difference in your writing? Or, in your work style?
Except for the fact, I can't cuss, write hot sex, or use bad language, the mystery writing is the same. Have I mentioned I love writing villian sex? You know the rauchy kind that makes you laugh...not happening in my cozies.
-What thoughts have you to offer to those who are looking to first find the dream agent and then to sign on the dotted line for a sale?
Never-never-never quit writing. Only then can you give up your claim to being an author. In today's publishing world, we now have choices. Several good friends have recently signed with an e-publisher, and one even self-pubbed on both Smashwords and Kindle. As far as your dream agent goes, don't always listen to well-meaning friends. I remember when I was first offered representation by Book Cents Literary, a brand new agency with two agents who had never had publishing experience. I would be rich if I had a nickle for every time someone warned me to run away fast from the offer. I don't know. It just felt right. I hear authors (some experienced ones) saying their agent is their employer, and I cringe every time. Christine is my partner, totally invested in my career, Without me making money, she doesn't make any. She is also my friend, another no no to some folks, but it works for me.
My wish for anyone out there reading this is that you come away with the hope that my Cinderella story can happen to you, too. Just be patient, never give up, and above all, keep writing new stuff. Don't make the mistake some people do beating that proverbial dead horse with ninety-nine edits of the same manuscript. Put that sucker under the bed and write something new. I had four completed manuscripts when I sold. I still have four unsold completed manuscripts, having sold on three chapters and a synopsis. Someday, all of them will sell, I'm sure..just not right now.
Research the market. Find out what's out there and what NY is buying. If you're fortunate enough to get a great agent like both Casssy and I did, don't try to micromanage her. It's a trust thing or it doesn't work. And above all, get rid of any toxic writers around you. They can pull you down faster than a hungry shark. Surround yourself with positive people who can tell you the scene doesn't work without detroying your self confidence.
Thank you, Cassy, for this opportunity. Good luck to all of you. Now hit me with the questions. I'm ready.