1. Which comes first, the characters or the plot? Usually neither. I choose a setting and the time frame, because I use the setting as a major character in the plot. Once those factors are established, I develop the plot beginning, the ending, and a couple of incidents or plot points.
2. How do you create your characters? Once I have the setting and time, the characters sidle into the story, first by telling me a little about their astrological patterns. For instance, Autumn in Cranky Otter, the final book of my series featuring the love stories of four generations of mothers and daughters, began because I wanted to set a story in the beautiful, contemporary Arkansas Ozarks. I decided the heroine, Autumn, was saddened by the recent losses of her husband and her mother (heroine of the previous book), and looking for a new start in life. I also wanted her to be psychically gifted, though unaware of it in the beginning. So Autumn became a Scorpio, perhaps the "deepest" of the astrological signs. For love interests, I discovered two very different men wandering around in my head, one happy to take up the challenge of wooing and marrying Autumn, the other only lusting for her --
3 Do you make a plan or go with the flow? As I said, I need the security of knowing the beginning, the ending, and a couple of points in between. From there on I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. To my astonishment, a plot unfolds–albeit very slowly at times–in chronological order, usually giving me no more than a peep around the next corner. My subconscious knows that if it gve me the whole story in a gulp, I’d be too bored to write it. I only work when I know very little about where the story is going.
4. How much research do you do? It depends on the story, particularly the time frame. My first novel, Moon Night, is a time-travel romance set in the Ozarks in 1894. I was raised on a farm so many primitive rural aspects of the location and period are familiar, partially through my mother’s tales of her childhood. Other details required only light research. The sequel, A Star in the Earth, however, takes place in 1906 Boulder, Colorado, and required a good deal of research. In addition to books, a librarian in Denver was a tremendous help in establishing the setting. I don’t get trapped in research; once I locate the nugget of information I need, I move on.
5 How do you select the characters’ goals and the reasons they want to accomplish them? It’s an organic process, stemming from the skeletal plot and the characters’ astrological patterns. I began studying astrology in the '70s, so that understanding is part of my knowledge.
6 What are you working on right now? Do you work on more than one thing at a time? 60% of a romantic suspense novel. A lengthy short story about the Busybodies, characters from Deadknots, my new anthology of short paranormal mystery stories with Jennifer DiCamillo. I work on one thing at a time, though I may set a project aside for months or years and tackle another.
7 What's in the pipeline, contracted but no publication date?Princess and The Tanzanite Necklace, a short story contracted for the Jewels of the Quill anthology, Tales of the Treasure Trove, Vol. V.
8 What's on your back list? The generational series of love stories I mentioned above include Foredestined Summer (1920 upper Midwest), Fires of War and Winter (1943 Denver), A Dazzling Spring (1961/2 New York City and Colorado), and Autumn in Cranky Otter. Moon Night and its sequel, A Star in the Earth. Sleighride, time-travel romance (1811 Vermont). Right Man, Wrong Time, time travel romance (1859 Missouri). Mai’s Ties, contemporary romance, my only novel without a psychic twist. Show-Me Murder, cozy mystery trio. Deadknots. Other short stories: The Tanzanite Curse, The Tanzanite Return, and White Elephants, in Jewels of the Quill anthologies.
C.J. Winters--Paranormal, Romance & Mystery-- http://www.cjwinters.com/
Novels and New Deadknots anthology-- www.hardshell.com/