By Laurel-Rain Snow
Join me in welcoming Colby Marshall to a chat today.
1. Colby, what can you tell us about your latest book, Chain of Command?
Chain of Command is a thriller about a reporter who discovers that the simultaneous assassinations of the president and vice president may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency.
2. Wow, that sounds exciting! Let’s segue into your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know:” How do you feel about that piece of advice?
Seeing as how I’ve written about everything from an assassination plot to a killer who sells babies to the black market, you could say I’m not the biggest subscriber to that theory. I’m more of the mind that you should write about things or stories that excite you or interest you. I love mystery and suspense, so those are the types of books and stories I tend to seek out. That’s why it only makes sense for me to write them. But while I don’t necessarily write about Navy SEAL operations or the mafia underground because it’s what I know, I do believe in doing my research to make sure that the details that go with what I’m writing sound like I’m writing about what I know.
3. Sounds like a lot goes into your creations. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
I have more preliminaries than I do process when I sit down. My preliminaries involve procrastinating, occasionally opening the story on my laptop to get my brain started on thinking about the story. Snacks are a must, as is the right white noise in the background, usually in the form of some TV show or movie. In fact, not being able to find a movie or show to play in the background that fits my current mood has stalled me when writing on more than one occasion. More than I’d like to admit, in fact!
4. I like to set the mood for my writing, too. Now let’s move on to the actual finished product and how changes in the industry have affected writers as well as readers. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I haven’t bought an e-reader, though I do have one downloaded onto my laptop for certain e-books. Overall, though, I read most everything I can in print format. I have a love/hate relationship with e-publishing. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunities it has given for more folks to publish their work and also for readers to have more convenience and choice when it comes to book purchasing. The other part of me worries that extremely low-priced or free e-books create a misperception about the value of books as a whole. That said, I’m willing to enjoy the phenomenon for what it is and watch it play out, always hoping that no matter what, people will always remember that a good book is worth as much out of pocket as a good meal, a good movie, or at least a good cup of joe.
5. One thing hasn’t changed in writing. The characters are still a big part of each story. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Generally my characters aren’t based on people I know, though occasionally I will name a character after a friend for fun. As far as the characters coming to me, that’s exactly it in some cases: certain characters just appear in my head fully formed as though they are old friends I’ve known all my life. Main characters in my stories tend to be that way. They just “are.” In the cases of characters that don’t show up like that but that I find the need to create during the course of the story, however, I tend to ask questions about them. What is this character’s purpose in the story? What kinds of traits can fill that need?
6. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
That’s an interesting question, since I actually don’t believe in writer’s block. Not in the sense in which most people think of it, anyway. I think there are always times when folks will be more creative than others, but for me, the trick is to sitting down and writing even when I’m not in one of those creative spurts. Inch out the writing sentence by sentence—heck, sometimes word by word. Inspiration may be how a story begins, but tenacity is how one ends. My theory is to write anything while you feel “blocked up,” then let editing take care of anything that might be a train wreck later. Usually, getting myself to start typing is half the battle. If I convince myself to sit down and write for just ten minutes, I typically end up looking up, finding out thirty minutes have passed, and am pleasantly surprised.
7. You’re definitely right about how important discipline is in this process. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
The Trade is the second book in the McKenzie McClendon thriller series, and it will be coming out this June. It’s about a brilliant and ruthless surgeon who is providing infants for the black market baby trade. When McKenzie’s ex informs her he thinks his wife and son may have been victims of the Cradle Robber, she launches a frantic search to find the killer and her ex’s son. I’m also working on a new series that follows Dr. Jenna Ramey, a forensic psychiatrist with grapheme-color synesthesia—a condition that causes her to associate letters, numbers, days of the week, people, and feelings with the experiences of colors. She uses this rare condition to solve crimes. The first of this series, Colorblind, is out on submission to editors with my agent, and I’m currently writing the sequel to Colorblind called Paint by Number.
8. Another exciting premise! Soon you’ll be promoting it, if not already; since promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer, can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I do a little bit of everything, from sending out personal e-mails to friends and family asking them to read and recommend the book to interviews like this one on blogs. I can say without a doubt though that one of the biggest things I do promotionally is to keep up with my presence on social media like Facebook and Twitter, and not just to shout, “Buy my book!” every ten seconds. I’ve found that folks that find an author on social media sites have usually already been introduced to the author, so they don’t need you constantly talking about your book. They come to your social media pages because they want to get to know you. That’s why it’s important to me to interact with readers on social media and get to know them, too. As an author, knowing your audience is so important for so many reasons, but one of those is the more you know your audience, the more you can learn what they enjoy and how to get your work out to more people like them.
9. I agree that we have to participate in the process of connecting with our readers. When we are at home, though, we also respond to our surroundings. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in the Deep South, where the tea is sweeter than a basket of Labrador puppies and in the summer you could bake bread in your garage. I live in a full house—I have so many cats that if I was a little older, I could legitimately claim the “crazy cat lady” title.
10. Ha-ha….I can definitely taste that tea just from your description. And speaking of the South, Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
Ha! I know so many of them, but funnily enough, having lived here my whole life, I tend to think I was meant to be born in the North, because I don’t use many of them. One of the few that brings up memories from my childhood with my grandmother though is, “Don’t have a conniption!” (For those of y’all who don’t live ‘round these parts, that is, “Do not have a fit of violent emotion such as anger or panic.” *wink*)
11. Even living in California, I’ve heard some of these expressions. My grandmother used to say the same thing! Our families do inspire and inform us, don’t they? Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I get ideas from lots of different places. Sometimes, an event in the news might sparks a “what if” thought in my brain, other times I might be deep in thought about some personal question I have about life or death and decide to explore it in a story.
12. Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)
To be honest, some of the way the classics formed who I am as a writer was in that I didn’t like them very much! I loved stories that were fast-paced and action-packed, tales that kept me on the edge of my chair flipping pages because I couldn’t stand to not know what happened next. Many of the books considered classic today that were required reading in school simply weren’t my cup of tea, because I’m not a very patient person. I like for things to happen on the page I’m reading, not twenty down the line. I believe in the value of the classics, but for me, that’s why different genres and styles exist: what “does it” for one person might not for the next.
Thank you for chatting with us today, Colby, and best wishes on your books! I hope you’ll stop in from time to time and visit with us.
Here are some links: