Friday, December 23, 2011

A Visit with Ann Charles

Ann Charles is a technical software writer-editor by day and award-winning mystery novelist by night. Her books are filled with mayhem, fun, romance and humor. When not writing fiction she's busy working on articles about the craft of writing at  her blog site.

Ann, tell us about Dance of the Winnebagos that you wrote with C.S. Kunkle.

I’m actually the sole author of all of my fiction books. C.S. Kunkle is my illustrator (and my older brother). Dance of the Winnebagos is the story of Claire Morgan … When Claire's grandfather and his Army buddies converge in the Arizona desert to find new wives, it's her thankless job to keep them out of trouble with the opposite sex. But when she finds a human leg bone and partners with a reluctant geotechnician to dig up secrets from the past, trouble finds her. If she doesn't stop digging, she could end up dead. 
How did your Jackrabbit Mystery series come about?

Once upon a time, I was playing hangman at work with one of my coworkers. It was her turn to come up with a word, and she added a lot of spaces on the white board. After I landed two consonants and a vowel, the board looked like this:

T _ E    _ _ _ N _    _ _    T _ E    _ _ _ _ E _ _ _ _ _ E _

I was feeling pretty ambitious that day. I took one look at this puzzle and yelled, “The Dance of the Winnebagos!” (I know, the letters don’t match up—I’ve never done well in spelling bees.)
My coworker laughed and hung my poor stick man—the actual answer was The Hound of the Baskervilles. She then wondered what in the heck The Dance of the Winnebagos was.
I said, “I don’t know, but it would make a great book title, don’t you think?”

This game of hangman kick-started my brain. A weekend of plot storming with my critique group fleshed out the story even more. Before I knew it, I had a fun cast, an intriguing mystery, and a book that practically wrote itself. This book landed me my agent, who asked me when I’d have book 2 in the series finished. I hadn’t planned on a second book, but saw where I could tweak the story just a little and make it into a fun series, so I did. And that was all she wrote—well, not really, since I am still writing this series.
How has the ebook revolution affected your book sales?

I’ve sold over 17,000 ebooks this year, my first year of publication. In comparison, I’ve sold around 1,000 printed books. The ebook revolution has served me well, and I personally love reading ebooks on my e-reader. As the co-owner of Corvallis Press, I can also say that ebooks are much easier to publish, sell, and track.
Do you have a day job and what’s your writing schedule like? Also, do you outline?

I am a technical writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Both are full-time jobs and keep me hopping—but not as much as my two young kids. My schedule is crazy, and I carve out moments to write and promote whenever I can, which is mostly at night after my family goes to bed because I am soooo not a morning person.
I am more of a right-brained, write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants author (aka a “pantser”), so my outline is very high level. I rarely stick to it. I like to write a scene and learn what comes next as it fills the pages. It makes the story more fun to build and share.

What are the best and worst parts of writing for you?

Let’s start with the bad stuff. The worst part is just the constant struggle to find time to write, not to mention do all of the promotion and marketing needed to find new readers. It’s not a marathon—it’s more like a triathlon. Some days, I just want to hide under the covers.

As for the best part, it’s the peers, the friends, and the fans. I love meeting new people (even if it’s just online) and building new relationships.

Advice to fledgling mystery writers?

Treat everything as an experiment, which allows you to use failure as a learning device. Be patient and persevere. Remember, this is not a get-rich-quick business. The writing is just a piece of the whole endeavor—an important piece, mind you, but you will need to learn about all aspects of the business like any other entrepreneur.   

Who most influenced your own work?

The list is long, but to name a few of the authors: Stephen King, Rachel Gibson, Dean Koontz, Janet Evanovich, and Jane Austen. I also am greatly influenced by movies, which I use to learn more about elements like dialogue and pacing. 
In the event of a fire, which three inanimate objects would you save?

My husband has trained me to grab the hard drive that has all of our family pictures on it, so that’s the first thing. Next, I’d probably save the printed photos of old. Third, I’d take my laptop to save me a big headache later. 
Thanks, Ann.

You can learn more about Ann at her website: http://www.anncharles.com/
Her blog sites: www.1stturningpoint.com
and www.plotmammas.com

4 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Ann. It's great to have you join us here during the holidays.

katsrus said...

Hi Ann. I loved this book! Loved all the characters and humor. Cannot wait for book two! Will it be released soon. Merry Christmas.
Sue B

mercedes said...

Cool story Ann.....

Ann Charles said...

Thank you all for stopping in on Christmas Eve!

Jean, thank you for having me.

Mercedes, I appreciate the kudos.

Sue, I'm so glad you like the book. Book 3 of the Deadwood series will be out in March, book 2 of the Jackrabbit series will be out this next summer.

Have a wonderful holiday!
Ann