Published authors, Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger wrote individually until they teamed up and wrote the five book Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three in print, plus two short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder, crime and thriller stories. This creative couple has been married for 49 years.
For their new International Crime File series, they are writing as E.J. Williams. The first novel is titled STONE PUB: an Exercise in Deception.
We’re here today with the mystery writing dual who write under the name of E. J. Williams. We’ll be talking about picking it up fresh after a delay, writing as a couple and other stuff.
Janet and Will:
We are a married couple who have written the five book Skylar Drake Mystery Series together and yes…we are still married. After finishing the series, we planned another series of international mystery thrillers. Unfortunately, we’ve had several medical issues occur during 2020-21 for both of us. Hence there was an eighteen-month period where we couldn’t work on our new book. After this long absence in writing we’ve decided to try and “get back into the saddle again.”
Jann: What are the positive and negatives of writing as a couple?
Positives: collaboration. Having a sounding board for your ideas. Coming up with fresh new ideas (two heads are better than one).
Negatives: Difficult to take a new idea and run with it. You must always check in with co-writer first. A couple’s vision is going to be different than an individual’s vision.
I find it wonderful to share the ideas and brainstorming session with someone. Before starting our first book, Slivers of Glass together, we made a rule that we check our egos at the door before we do anything with the book we are writing. The most difficulty we have is trying to schedule meetings around two hectic and existing schedules. We manage but it can be a pain.
Jann: Do you share the editing and publication process for your books.
Yes. We share both the editing and publication processes for all our books, including cover design and back cover blurbs.
We split our “duties” according to our skills. I like to outline and he is a “panster”. So I outline the story, he adds to the outline then we start writing any of our Skylar Drake books. With editing we read the manuscript to each other 3-4 times before sending it to the editor. Regarding publishing, Will is the expert in formatting and publishing so he is in charge of that. I take care of Public Relations.
Jann: What if you hate what you wrote before?
Personally, I save everything. Even if I can’t stand what I wrote previously, there will always be something in it that can be used in the future. If you are talking about previous works, I don’t shine a spotlight on the ones I don’t like…but someone will like it. Writing is an art and art is subjective. Never apologize for your work. Writing is a creative process and everything will not be a masterpiece.
Someone once said, “You can’t edit a blank page”. And I have to admit my first drafts are embarrassing when I read through them. But they are not supposed to be pristine. All writers will tell you writing a book, short story, etc. is a process.
Jann: Do you ever chuck what you did and just start a new project?
No, but I have begun some short stories or outlines for a novel after a few lines that just did NOT work. Yes. In that case, I crumple up the paper and start over.
I have never thrown away anything I have written. If it doesn’t work after two tries, then I remove it from the manuscript and keep it. I can’t tell you how many times I needed scene and looked through my “dump” folder and found the perfect scene.
Jann: How do you keep the excitement alive for an old project?
As a visual artist, I’ve looked at works I made decades ago and thought…I’ve learned a lot since then. The same goes for writing. A fresh look at an old project can be exciting because NOW you know what to do to make it come alive. I look at old projects as a challenge and that is exciting!
It is hard to pick up a project again after an absence, but I look at it as a fresh piece longing to be touched again. I have to admit, I do have an old manuscript, my first, that has been under the bed for eleven years. I probably will not pick up again. I keep it around to remind me to stay on task and finish all project as I write them or as soon as possible.
Jann: Did the story run through your mind even though you were away from it?
Yes. The story will rattle around in my brain. Especially after all the research I’ve put into something. The story will run through my mind during the time I’m not actively writing it and has even reminded me of some stories I’ve put on hold.
The book was always on my mind in many different ways. Being on pain pills my thought meandered away from the outline and I came up with some amazing thoughts. So, I kept in depth notes when I came to. As outlandish some of them were, it helped me think outside the box.
Jann: What advice do you give to author who must take a break from their work or lose their mojo?
Your work will still be there when whatever caused you to stop has been resolved. Losing your “mojo” could mean writer’s block or a change of focus. Remember why you were writing the piece. Maybe your reasons have changed. Look at this time as a landing spot-–a place to rest your creative mind for a while. Recharge and take a deep breath.
Take a break from your writing. When you can’t take a break, join a writers’ group. We had severe writer’s block after eleven books (we write separately and together). For five months we couldn’t get anything down—nothing! Desperate, we joined a writers’ club. That forced us to write something every week. It took about three weeks but suddenly we broke out of it.
Jann: What advice do you have for new authors and returning published authors to the craft after being away for several years?
Remember that some of the most well-known authors have had to do something else for a while. If you love to write, then getting back in the chair will be like riding a bike. Your writing is your world. You have the opportunity to change anything you want. There is no right or wrong. It’s your creative piece. No one else controls it but you.
For new authors, join writers’ clubs, especially in your genre. If not, join several critic groups. After a few weeks of submitting and listening a to their advice. See which one is most helpful. There are critique group and there are critique groups. for seasoned authors once you start writing again, your “juices” will flow again, I promise. Someone once gave a formula for writing books: Butt + Chair = Books. This formula works!
Jann: What do you like the most about writing?
Having been trained and spending my career as a visual artist, I found writing fiction to be a creative art, as satisfying as any visual art. While it can be a solitary endeavor, I like to see a finished project that started out as a blank screen (or sheet of paper.) I get engulfed in my writing. When we decided to write the Skylar Drake mysteries together, I loved being able to go back in time and recreate places and environments. That was a complete hoot!
I enjoy the research that goes into each book. The Skylar Drake Mystery Series takes place in 1956, Los Angeles. All books take the reader from LA to another city. Our first book, SLIVERS OF GLASS. Starts in LA and goes to 1956 Santa Rosa. We happened to be in Santa Rosa for a wedding when we decided to have the book take place there. Since we didn’t know the area, I asked people “Where would you dump a dead body?” I was amazed how people were giving us directions and landmarks to good body dumps (we had 5 dead bodies to put some place). As two of the gentlemen were giving us directions, one wife turned to the other and said, “They seem so normal!”
Jann: What is E. J. William’s working on now?
Janet and I began our work on our long-awaited International Mystery series which takes place in 1962. The first book STONE PUB takes the reader to Ireland. We were finishing the last of the Skylar Drake Mystery series and had to wait to start STONE PUB. We finally got to it but we both faced health issues. We tried to pick it up and work on it periodically but just couldn’t focus. The book is coming along nicely with lots of changes we hadn’t thought of originally
We got the idea for an International Mystery series in 2014 after someone said to us, “You guys travel all over the place!” STONE PUB came about three years ago after a visit to Ireland. The country is truly “magical” and really spoke to us. Everywhere we went, ideas floated into our heads, and we found some great body dumps! Since we are now feeling better, and off pain meds we can think clearly. We’re both still in Physical Therapy and doing much better.
Thanks Janet and Will for spending time with us today and sharing your ideas for picking it up fresh after a delay. Can’t wait for Stone Pub to make its debut!!
I’m excited to have multi-published author Emily Brightwell here with us today. The 40th novel in her fabulous Mrs. Jeffries Victorian London Mystery Series will make its debut on November 16th!!
Madeline Ash is an Australian contemporary romance author and two-time RITA Award finalist. She has also won Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award (RUBY). She writes sexy-sweet novels with sensitivity and humor.
Psychotherapist Debra Holland, Ph.D is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of the Montana Sky Series, sweet, historical Western romance. She’s a three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and one-time winner.
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