Friday, March 15, 2013

How She Does It With Zoe Dawson

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I have two different processes for developing books.

1. Story germ. I start with a bare bones idea. For example: I want to blend Sex and the City with pets. That led me to the concept of Sex and the City meets the Dog Whisperer, which then led me to my characters. Something like four women meet in a dog park and become fast friends. Each of them will live in New York City. Each of them will in some way be connected to the dog business. And, of course, each of them has a furry friend. I also needed to decide the genre. For these books I decided to try something new—comedy. I wanted to stretch myself as a writer, but to give myself a genre that is familiar to me as well, I decided to add in light mystery. That led me to create a dog-centric mystery for each book and worked well with the comedy aspect. From that set up, I decide on each plot for the books. I already have a jumping off point because each heroine is involved in the dog business. I wanted to highlight that for each plot, so they revolve around that concept. That’s how Going to the Dogs was born, my current in progress series. Leashed, Book #1 and Groomed for Murder, Book #2 (both are already written and for sale), Hounded, Book #3, and Collared, Book #4 (out in Summer and Fall 2013).

2. Character germ. For this concept I usually have a specific character in mind. For example: I start with a witch who wakes up one day after a cataclysmic change in the world and doesn’t know who she is. At this point, I don’t know how she lost her memory, or what cataclysmic event caused the shift in the world. All that world building stuff still needs to be done. So the plot and the story are built around the character. I also have to decide on the genre. I knew I wanted to write an Urban Fantasy, so with the genre locked down, I’m set to work out the details of the book. This is exactly how my series The Starbuck Chronicles was born. My main character Lily Starbuck woke up to a world where reality has been broken and supernatural creatures now inhabit it. I knew I wanted this character to be a really good cook and to be a witch, so I made her a caterer and the signature food is a to-die-for cream puff with an ingredient in it that Lily might have to die for. The Starbuck Chronicles will be a fourteen book series with the first book Afterlife tentatively releasing in Spring 2014 and the second book, Aftermath tentatively releasing in Fall 2014 (titles and dates subject to change.)

3. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

As you can see from the above explanation of how I construct my story ideas, characters can come before plot or after the plot. I write a very detailed synopsis and follow it as a guide pretty closely as I write. Just recently, I outlined each chapter of a police procedural that I was struggling with. Each scene had a character goal and a disaster. I discovered I loved the process. It made the writing go so fast and I wrote 30,000 words in five days. I was amazed at how productive I was with that detailed chapter outline. I plan on doing that in the future for all my complex plot ideas. Working out all the details of the murder and the romance made for a more cohesive book overall. Now that I’m in the revision stage, I think they will also go really fast because all the bones are there and just need to be fleshed out.

4. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

Yes, I usually know how the story will end very specifically, but it’s still organic, in that, if I decide I don’t like it or something else works better, I’ll change it. For endings, I love to have the characters come full circle and I often refer back to what happens during the story, especially when a character grows and changes. This ties everything up for the reader. I think it makes for a very satisfying and happily ever after.

5. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I adore research, so I like setting my books in places I’ve never been and give my characters jobs, skills and abilities that I may not either understand or know about. In one of my upcoming To Protect and Serve series books writing as Karen Anders, I have a scientist who is a genius and working on a top secret project for the Navy that involves data fusion. When I conceived the story, I knew nothing about data fusion, but after doing the research, it has been interesting exploring that area of expertise.

6. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Both. I find that the internet is a wealth of information. I’ve had great success in contacting experts in fields I’m researching and writing about who are more than willing to help me. I’ve gotten consultation from a forensic expert, military lawyer, and just recently, a retired LAPD homicide detective. I also use books and will get them from the library or buy them on line for the information.

7. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I would say that I’m primarily a reviser. Most of the time I write intuitively and I usually have a pretty strong chapter once I’m finished writing it. I will confess that I have turned in books that I’ve written in two weeks and had no time to revise and have had very few revisions.

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