Today's interview is with the Collins, writing partners and partners in life. They are fellow EPIC members and I've enjoyed their company as several conferences.
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
L&L: We started writing a nonfiction memoir, then moved on to mystery, romance anthology (Lorna) and fantasy (Lorna).
2. Did you choose your genres or did they choose you?
L&L: Our genres picked us, without a doubt! After living in the Osaka, Japan area and building the Universal Studios Japan theme park, friends convinced us we had to write about the adventure.
Lorna: I started the book, then asked Larry to add a chapter. What he came up with was a completely different book than the one I'd begun. So the project sat on a shelf for over a year until friends convinced us to join their writing group. At the first meeting, they solved the problem by suggesting we each write separate chapters.
Larry: By the time we'd finished three complete rewrites, however, Lorna's words made their way into my chapters, and there's a little of me in hers.
Lorna: Mostly the humor. The rewrite process is really how we learned to write together.
Larry: After our first book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was published in 2005, we attended the Maui Writers Conference. During one of the workshops, the presenter asked the question, "So, you've published your first book. What's your next?” Lorna had started a (still unfinished) romance novel, but I didn't have a next book. At the end of that same session, an announcement was made that one of the other presenters had fallen on the stairs and was hospitalized. I immediately thought, "What if the body of one of the presenters was mysteriously discovered on the stairs, and various authors at the conference all accused each other of the murder?"
Lorna: Larry told me his idea, and I really liked it. The next day, we met a fellow we'd seen around the conference as a volunteer checking IDs. We talked to him for no more than ten minutes. As we walked away, I said to Larry, "We have to write that guy." He became the inspiration for Agapé Jones, the protagonist in our mysteries, and Murder... they Wrote was born.
Larry: Neither one of us ever intended to write mystery, but now we're on our third, Murder on Maui, after the publication this year of Murder in Paradise.
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
Lorna: My latest work, Ghost Writer, (currently with the publisher) is a fantasy about a ghost. I really enjoyed writing that one. I have another called Sofia’s Garden to start as soon as I have time. Of course I’ll still write the anthologies and mysteries.
Larry: I enjoy science fiction, so maybe I’ll write that someday. I’m currently working on an anthology of genre fiction short stories called, Lakeview Park. They are about the people who visit a fictional park with that name.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
Larry: Science fiction, mysteries, biographies, and whatever books Lorna leaves out after she finishes. That means I’ve been reading a lot of romance. However, I must confess I’ve enjoyed several of the novellas in the anthologies she’s written with others.
Lorna: I like sweet romance and cozy mystery, plus occasional biographies.
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.
Larry: I began writing in high school and was published twice in our high school literary magazine. During my work life, I have written a great deal of technical material, including one paper on how refineries work that was used as the basis for the company’s design training course.
Lorna: I have also done a great deal of technical writing, including procedures, instructional manuals, and training courses during my career.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Larry: I enjoy Agapé Jones, particularly his relationship with his wife. Even though it’s fiction, it feels a lot like ours.
Lorna: I, too, love Agapé and Gerry, his wife. A current favorite is Max Murdoch, the title character in Ghost Writer. He’s pompous and opinionated, and was so much fun to write. I also have a very special place in my heart for Kimi McGuire and Jason Nakagiri, the principals in my novella Finding Live in Paradise from our award-winning anthology, Directions of Love. I drew a lot upon our lives in writing theirs, and I cried when I finished their story. I didn’t want to let them go.
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?
Lorna: We write cozy mysteries, and neither one of us really likes one-dimensional bad guys, our villains are multi-dimensional.
Larry: There is some good in all our characters, or at a least logical motive for why they do bad things. They are sometimes self-centered or oblivious to the feelings of others.
8. What are you working on now?
Larry: My short story anthology and the start of our next mystery, Murder on Maui. We plan a trip back to Maui in the fall to do current fact-checking and research. Hey, it’s necessary for authenticity.
Lorna: I’m currently working on my novella, A Shot at Love, as well as the prologue and epilogue, for our current anthology, The Art of Love with a deadline of early September. I’m also working on the beginning of Murder on Maui and planning the outline for Sofia’s Garden. Then we have at least one more anthology planned, Snowflake Secrets: The Magic Continues, which we plan to complete next year. It will be a sequel to our first, Snowflake Secrets.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?
Larry: Murder in Paradise was published in February of this year by Whiskey Creek Press. We couldn’t let Agapé Jones remain in retirement. He was just too much fun to write. Besides, we were going to Oahu, and that’s where the majority of the book takes place. Besides, it was another chance to do research.
Lorna: Murder in Paradise is currently number three on the publisher’s best-seller list.
10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.
Lorna: My latest, Ghost Writer, is with the publisher and I’m waiting for the final edits. Here’s a taste of the beginning:
“I don’t believe in ghosts.” I said it all my life to anyone who’d ask. I’m a ‘techie,’ a computer programmer. I deal with data and facts, not fiction and fantasy.
So how did I get mixed up with a temperamental, egotistical, rude, smart, funny, aggravating, self-centered, loveable… uh… spirit? Okay, if you insist, ghost.
It all started the day I moved into my house.
Well, it’s not really a house, more of a cottage on the sand south of Laguna Beach, California.
The place was the one blessing I received in a whole series of otherwise disastrous events, starting with losing my job.
I worked in the mortgage industry for three years following my college graduation. It was all I knew until I became another victim of the banking industry collapse. One day I went to work, and the company was gone. Pffft. Taken over by the government. The assets were sold, and I got two weeks’ severance.
Of course, at the end of the first week, not only was my job gone, but so was Jeff, my live-in boyfriend who hadn’t worked in over a year. I figured he’d found another female who was still gainfully employed. No great loss there. Still, it was nice coming home to a human being after work. Well, not always, but he was there most of the time waiting for dinner.
It was probably just as well because I couldn’t afford the apartment on unemployment insurance anyway, and I got the eviction notice the day after Jeff moved out, taking all the cash in my wallet with him. The building was in foreclosure.
So I packed my car and headed for my folks, thankful that I’d had a furnished apartment. I wouldn’t miss all the well-used and mismatched furniture or the odd dishes and silverware for three and a half.
I wasn’t expecting to stay with my parents, at least not for long. When I left for college, they turned my bedroom into Dad’s den, complete with leather recliner and big-screen TV. He wasn’t giving it up either. I’d sleep on the couch.
A block from their house, the car engine stopped, and I coasted to the curb. Dad took a look, but it was a goner.
So the news that I had inherited a house came at just the right time.