Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another writer; Beth Groundwater

A friend of mine.  Beth Groundwater.  Writer.  Engineer.  Smart.  Talented.  Athletic.

(Actually kinda intimidating for a fat, lazy old schmooze like myself.  I enjoy being around smart people.  I actually enjoy it more when smart people are writers.  But athletic?  Gosh . . . . !)

Beth writes mysteries.  I'd classify them as 'cozy.'  Nevertheless they're good mysteries featuring two very different types of female leads.  Of course she writes other things. But mysteries seem to be the main ticket in her writing.

Funny how  you can meet someone and just know from the get-go you're going to like'em.  And it doesn't matter in what venue you meet them in.  Beth and I met on Facebook and I felt as if I had met for the first time an old friend.  And of course, when I meet a writer, eventually I'll probably get curious enough to want to ask them some questions about writing. 

Today its Beth's turn. (keep an eye out on her technique on how she writes.  Her process blows me away . . . and proves I am a lazy ole' schmooze!)

Deadly Currents
Wicked Eddies
1. Beth, you're an accomplished author of two distinctively different mystery series. Tell me, when did the writing-bug begin stirring in your psyche? What was the straw that broke the camel's back and forced you to begin writing your first novel?

I've had the reading bug and its accompanying writing bug ever since I was a child who had learned to do both. I wrote stories in elementary school and continued to write stories, poems, etc. through high school. Even when I became a software engineer, I did a lot of writing, though it was technical writing. I starting writing short stories again about a year before I retired early from my software engineering career, then once I had the time on my hands, I thought why not try a novel? That was in 1999. That novel was my learning ground and has never been published, rightfully so, but my next one, A Real Basket Case, was!

2. Tell us about Mandy Tanner and Claire Hanover, the main characters for each of your series. How are they alike and how are the different from each other?

Mandy Tanner is a 27-year-old, single whitewater river ranger who lives in the small town of Salida, Colorado. She is an outdoors woman, loves adventure, has a boyfriend and a dog, and meets her friends for drinks and pool at the Victoria Tavern in town. Claire Hanover is a 47-year-old, married gift basket designer who lives in the large city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She's a indoor type of gal, has two grown children, and no pets. They are very different from each other, as you can see from the basics. However, they both have elements of my own personality, values, and life experience in them. Claire is more like my present-day older self, though I like to say she's braver than I am, but I'm smarter than she is in that I can figure out how to get her out of trouble when she sticks her nose where it doesn't belong. I was a "river rat" in my late twenties in the 1980s, running whitewater rivers back east in a canoe, so Mandy is similar to my younger self, when I was fiercely independent, like her, and feeling my way around relationships, like her. I still go whitewater rafting, though, which I don't think Claire would ever have an desire to do!

3. How do you write? Do you outline diligently? Research in depth? Or do you just go off in a tangent and start slinging words around?

As a former engineer, I have a very structured writing process. I conduct research, profile my characters and prepare a detailed scene outline before I start writing. For each scene, along with describing what the characters in the scene do, I describe what's happening “off-camera” to other important characters (particularly the killer) not in the scene. I also list the date, day of the week, and time of day of each scene. As I write the book, I add the scene's page numbers to the outline to help me find scenes later. Each book has a directory of its own on my computer with files for the scene outline, character profiles, interviews with experts, research notes, the current manuscript, discarded bits that I don’t want to throw away yet, backups of older versions, the acknowledgements page, change requests from the editor, etc., etc. Then there’s the cardboard magazine file holder stuffed full of paper research materials. I work toward strict deadlines, so I lay out a schedule for myself with weekly goals. That way I can turn in my manuscripts to my publisher, Midnight Ink, on time.

4. What's your take on the health of the Mystery/Detective genre? Healthy has ever? On the decline? Relevant or irrelevant by today's standards?

I think the Mystery/Detective genre is as healthy as ever. There has always been a sizable contingent of the reading public that enjoys trying to solve the puzzle of whodunit along with the sleuth and I think there always will be. Just look at the proliferation of
CSI and other mystery-related shows on TV!

5. While we are ascertaining the health of the industry, give us your thoughts on the apparent conflict going on between traditional publishing and the ever-expanding epublishing phenomenon. Think the two will ever find an equilibrium? Or will one destroy the other?

I don't think of traditional publishing and e-publishing as being on opposite sides. My books are published by a traditional publisher, and they are all available in multiple ebook formats. Ebooks are just another format, like paperback, hardcover, large print, audio, downloadable audio, etc. I think what's most important for an author is to get your books out in as many formats as possible, so readers can find them in whichever formats they prefer. However, there is some push-pull between traditional and self-publishing, or what folks are calling indie-publishing, where an author either does all the work himself to publish and distribute his book or pays someone else to do all or some of it for him. This is in contrast to traditional publishing, where the author doesn't pay anything for the work done to publish the book, and is instead paid by the publisher for his manuscript. Both types of publishing have been around for awhile, and I think both will continue. Authors will gravitate to the form that suits them the best.

6. What are your personal tastes in reading? Do you like Noir and Hardboiled genre novels? Romance novels? Science-fiction?

I have very diverse tastes in reading. I like mysteries, of course, but I veer away from what I call "the icky stuff" of excessive blood and gore, rape or abuse of women and children, torture, etc. I also read women's fiction, mainstream, literary, some science fiction, some sweet (not erotica0 romance, nonfiction, short stories, travelogues, etc.

7. Female protagonists in the modern detective novel seem to be today's norm. A strong female character seems to be the way many modern writers are going. Why? What happened to the classic Phillip Marlowe or Steve Carella male character of old?

Female protagonists predominate in the cozy and soft-boiled sub-genres of mystery fiction, because female readers predominate in those. Like me, they don't want to read about the icky stuff. My Claire Hanover gift basket designer series is in the cozy sub-genre and my RM Outdoor Adventures series starring Mandy Tanner is in the soft-boiled sub-genre. In the medium-boiled, hard-boiled, and noir sub genres, you'll find more male protagonists, including the rough-talking, hard-drinking PI. I think if a reader looks hard enough in the mystery section of their neighborhood bookstore, they can find whatever type of mystery book they want to read, even cross-over vampire or science-fiction mysteries!

8. What's on the horizon for Beth Groundwater? How far will each of your series go? Any nibbles from Hollywood concerning a possible movie or two? What should your fans expect next?

On the near horizon, Mandy Tanner's second mystery adventure, WICKED EDDIES, will be released in May, and I'm spinning up to promote that. To learn more about that book and where I'll be appearing, go to my website at http://bethgroundwater.com/ . Next, in November, 2011, Claire Hanover's second mystery, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET, will be re-released in trade paperback and ebook. Then, pretty much the same thing will happen in 2013. Mandy's third book, CATARACT CANYON, will be released in May, and Claire's third book, BASKETFUL OF TROUBLES, will be released in November. After that, we'll see what happens. I'd like for both series to continue. And no, no nibbles from Hollywood yet, but I'm open to offers!

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