Now, on with the look into the mind of an author and my writing process. Or a peak behind the curtain.
What am I working on?
I’m currently working on my first novella in a series I’ve spun off of my first book, THE NINTH DISTRICT. The novella series will follow FBI Special Agent Ross Fruen on his adventures with the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). The first in the series is SUPERCELL. Ross Fruen, newly assigned to the Hostage Rescue team is on his first assignment on the plains of Nebraska pursuing a couple of escapees from a maximum security prison after it is hit by a massive tornado.
This series will be a number (at least 3) of short, quick action stories following the Hostage Rescue Team as they go from assignment to assignment. I’d like to write a full novel focusing on Ross Fruen and maybe I’ll try and convince Eva Hudson to collaborate on a story with Ross and Ingrid with Ross on assignment in London.
Some interesting background on Ross Fruen, he originally had a different name, but I auctioned off the naming of a character at a fundraiser for my kids’ school and a man won the right to name a character and picked Ross Fruen as a birthday present for his friend of the same name.
I’m also working on the second novel following The Ninth District and Special Agent Jack Miller as he moves on with his family and all he wants is a vacation at one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. but he finds himself pulled into a small town xxx.
I’m trying to keep the other ideas at bay so I can focus on finishing Supercell and the second novel. That’s my problem, too many ideas.
The first and second novels in the FBI series involve Jack and his family. Many books in my genre have the hero, but no family. Jack Miller is an FBI agent, married with two young kids and struggles with the priorities between the family and the job.
These first two novels are also set in Minnesota, the fly over country of the US Midwest. They say write what you know. I’m not an FBI agent, but I was born in North Dakota, have lived in Nebraska, Missouri and spent the last 25 years in Minnesota. So, I think I can bring a taste of what this mysterious Midwest is like to readers, like many of the other great writers (William Kent Krueger, John Sandford, Brian Freeman) from Minnesota do, making the place another character in the story.
My third novel is going to be set in the middle of winter and starts at the North Dakota / Canada border. Another thing I “know” – Winter (when Midwest writers write).
Why do I write what I write?
I’ve thought about that, and I think it’s an influence from my dad. When I was young, he let me stay up and watch television with him. Many of the shows he liked to watch were Mission Impossible, The FBI, Private investigator shows like Mannix, Cannon, The Rockford Files. He liked to watch mystery and action adventure shows to relax. I’ve also always liked to read and found myself drawn to reading thrillers. Again, it’s write what you know, and I’ve read enough thrillers and watched enough TV thrillers to know them, feel them, get the beat of the story.
How does my writing process work?
Reading Eva Hudson’s post, I can see we have similar processes.
First, is the Idea. For The Ninth District it started when I read an article about urban explorers and how they were a little skittish to explore caves across the Mississippi River from the Ninth District Federal Reserve on the edge of downtown Minneapolis after the 9/11 terrorist attack and the heightened security that followed. For SuperCell it started when I read a story about a jail getting hit by a tornado and inmates escaped. I upped the ante with a SuperMax prison getting hit by a giant SuperCell tornado and the FBI’s HRT being called in. The idea for my second FBI novel with Jack Miller started when my wife’s wedding ring slipped from her finger into the water at a public beach at the state park across the lake from our lake cabin. Unable to find it, we returned a week later with a metal detector and found the ring along with a dog license tag from 1941. Wondering how that dog license got into the lake started the idea for that book.
After the idea I move on to planning the story. I figure out the location, the main characters (the good guys and bad guys) and try to do a high level outline. The outline includes the timeline from scene to scene and whose point of view each scene is told from and the major points of the story. I’ve become a Scrivener user and use the cork-board feature to plan scenes out on the cards. Then it’s time to write. Once I start writing, new ideas come in, changes to scenes, new characters may appear.
I write like some people paint, in layers, adding detail until the picture is complete. One summer I was on vacation with my family at South Dakota’s Custer State Park. We wandered into one of the park buildings where there was an artist in residence for the summer and she had a current painting she was working on displayed. It was a picture of a mountain lion resting on the branch of a large pine tree. She talked about how she started with a sketch, added the outline to the painting and then continued adding detail to the painting making it more realistic until it was complete.
I write much the same way. I start with characters and plot and sketch out the story. I usually begin with dialog and some scene details and description and then go back and layer in additional character and scene details until the story is complete. I’m the kind of writer that doesn’t cut a lot, instead I add until the story is done.
As I write, I share scenes with my writing critique group. I’ve been meeting with a group of writers every two or three weeks for fifteen years and I’ve learned a lot by reading and critiquing their work as well as getting their feedback on my writing. The main thing I get from them is feedback on details that may be missing; they’re in my head, but I’ve failed to get them onto the page. They’re my beta readers.
When the story writing comes to an end, it is then on to the editor, I make the changes and publish the ebook and paper book. Somewhere along the way, as the story comes together and a title for the story becomes apparent, I hire a designer to create a cover. Seeing the cover is the final piece that helps make the book real for me and gives me the push to finish it.
Shawn Hopkins is an author friend of mine who has written a number of books. He’s next up on the tour at http://www.shawnhopkinsauthor.com/the-blog Check out his website and his books. He has a few different types of books, so I’m sure you can find something you’ll like.