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Prolific Mystery Author Emily Brightwell Reveals Her Writing Process

October 2, 2021 by in category Writing tagged as , , , ,

Emily Brightwell was born in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Her family moved to Southern California in 1959 and she grew up in Pasadena. After graduating from California State University at Fullerton, she decided to work her way around the world and took off for England. She didn’t get any further than that because she met the man who would become her husband in Leeds, Yorkshire, married in 1976 in California, and later had two children.

While working in international shipping in Long Beach, she decided to pursue her dream and become a writer—which, of course, is the best job ever. To date, Emily has written over fifty novels in three genres—romance, young Adult and of course, mystery.

Emily lives in Carson City, Nevada and is currently working on “Mrs. Jeffries Aims to Win” the 41st book in the series.

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!! Mrs. Jeffries and the Midwinter Murders has Mrs. Jeffries and Inspector Gerald Witherspoon hot on the path to solve their latest murder case.

Jann: As a multi-published author, is it hard to keep the books fresh and engaging?

Emily: Keeping a long-running series fresh isn’t easy, but it’s loads of fun. I’ve written forty “Mrs. Jeffries” books and I’m currently working on number forty-one. Where does my inspiration come from? It comes from everywhere, from newspapers, books, social media, magazines, and most of all real life. I’m a news junkie and lest you think that the news of today couldn’t possibly provide any insight into how the Victorians lived, loved and murdered, you’d be dead wrong. People haven’t changed.

Whether we live in Victorian England or modern America, we’re driven by the same emotions today as we’ve always been; love, hate, envy, greed, fear, jealousy, obsession. Every emotion they had, we have. When I sit down to write, I pinpoint the underlying emotion that drives my killer and work from there. For example, take the idea of ‘greed’ as a motive for murder. There are hundreds of ways that ‘greed’ can be used in any time period—from a Victorian wife who murders her husband for his money to a tech company billionaire who wronged his original partners so he could have it all.

Jann: What is your writing process and has it changed with all the new writing programs?

Emily: My process hasn’t really changed and I don’t use any of the ‘new writing programs’.  Here’s how I do it. Once I have my motive, I then branch out to other aspects of the manuscript; characters, milieu, sub plots, red herrings, identifying internal as well as external conflicts for everyone, including the killer! As I said, it’s loads of fun and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

I believe effective writing requires conflict in every scene…you’ll notice I said ‘conflict’ not confrontation. Constant arguing is just tiresome, but conflict, done properly, carries the reader through the scene and leaves them wanting more. Conflict can be argumentative, but the most effective use is to give your characters goals in opposition to one another. For example, Phyllis, Inspector Witherspoon’s housemaid, is saving her wages to open her own detective agency. When she learns that another character, Wiggins, is planning the same thing, there is immediate conflict between them. Phyllis feels someone she trusted has stolen her idea. A typical alpha male’s behavior! She now has a goal in opposition to him—mainly beating him at every turn in the search for information. Wiggins, on the other hand, feels that wanting the same thing would bring them close—as partners. When he realizes it hasn’t and that she’s working extra hard ‘best’ him, he develops his own way of dealing with the situation. It’s a double ‘goals in opposition’ as Wiggins is just a bit in love with Phyllis. Man versus woman—a cliche but it works!

Jann: Do you have any writing rituals? Schedule?

Emily: I often get asked what is the first thing I do before starting work on a new Mrs. Jeffries manuscript? I indulge in the one ritual I’ve had since the beginning. I call it “The Ritual Cleaning of the Office.” Yup, by the time one Mrs. Jeffries book is finished and I’m on to the next one, my desk is covered with notebooks, stacks of paper, piles of research books, sticky notes on every surface and usually cat hair on my chair. But once my office is cleansed, I get to work.

Jann: Do you find yourself returning to certain themes in your stories? Why?

Emily: Over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of different writing processes and I’ve finally hit upon one that works well for my personality. That’s a process I think every writer has to endure before finding what works for them. Maybe some have the gift of plotting an entire book in their head before page one but I don’t. Anyway, I digress so back to my process, which begins with me coming up with a theme. It isn’t one that you had to write in high school English. It’s something real and personal to you, the author. It can be something simple: the truth always comes to light or old sins have long memories. But it has to be something meaningful to you—a topic that illustrates what you want to tell the world. Before you say ‘but isn’t it just a story?’ Of course, it is. The main function of genre fiction is to entertain your readers, but stories also need to have a point of view about the world you’re creating. A POV that you genuinely believe in and that has some universal validity. But I’m digressing again, let’s get back to my process. After the theme, I do a character list with age, social class, physical description and a motive for wanting the victim dead. This list isn’t written in stone and frequently changes as I work through the manuscript. Then I do my favorite part; the crime-line. This is single spaced, often many pages long and follows the killer from the moment he/she decides to commit murder to the steps he/she takes to do the actual deed. It is an important part of my process and like the character list, can change as I write the book. Once those bits are completed, I dive onto page one, cross my fingers and hope readers will like it.

Jann: Have you ever suffered writer’s block?

Emily: Once I’m in the book, I try to write at least five pages a day—sometimes more, but occasionally, if I’m stuck, less. Yes, I do get stuck sometimes…I don’t know any writer that doesn’t. But I’ve never had a full-blown case of writer’s block (and hopefully never will), so I’m very grateful to be spared that misery. I know writers that have endured the dreaded block and sometimes it takes weeks, months or even years to get back to work. Writing is the best job in the world but there are some days when your characters simply won’t do what you they’re told! That’s when I go for a walk. I love being a writer and I can’t think of any other job that would give me so much joy…except maybe being a zookeeper for penguins. That looks like a great job too.

I love my characters and how they have grown and changed, how they have surprised and astounded me but one day, I want to expand a bit and do some other projects. Okay, I’ll admit to another guilty secret. I have a ‘fun book’. It’s a thriller, a romance, a science fiction saga and totally non-commercial as it doesn’t fit into any marketing or publishing niche. But I write in it every day and it helps me to keep the “Mrs. Jeffries Series” fresh. It lets me stretch as a writer and that’s a good thing (to paraphrase Martha Stewart). I’ve done romance, mystery and teen angst but there are always great ideas and stories out there waiting to be told. I’m hoping to be able to tell some of these tales for a long, long time.

Jann: Emily, thank you for spending time with us here on A Slice of Orange. Congratulations with your 40th book!! What an amazing achievement. Wishing you many more.


MRS. JEFFRIES AND THE MIDWINTER MURDERS
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Author E.J. Williams–Marriage, Mystery and Other Stuff!!

September 2, 2021 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as ,

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?

Will:

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.

Janet:

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.

Will:

Yes. We share both the editing and publication processes for all our books, including cover design and back cover blurbs.

Janet:

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?

Will:

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.

Janet:

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?

Will:

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.

Janet:

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?

Will:

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!

Janet:

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?

Will:

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.

Janet:

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?

Will:

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.

Janet:

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?

Will:

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.

Janet:

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?

Will:

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!

Janet:

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?

Will:

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

Janet:

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!!


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Linda O. Johnston Featured Author

April 28, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , , ,
What Did I Miss? | Linda O. Johnston | A Slice of Orange

Linda O. Johnston enjoys writing, romance, puzzles, and dogs.

A former lawyer, Linda  is now a full-time writer and has published 52 books so far, including mysteries and romantic novels. More than twenty-five of them are romances for Harlequin, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne. Her latest release is Colton First Responder for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

She has also written several mystery series including. The Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, which was a spin-off of the Pet Rescue Mysteries and  The Superstition Mysteries. Pets, especially dogs, frequently show up in Linda’s novels

She is currently writing a lot of books for Harlequin. Three new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books will soon be released. The first up is Her Undercover Refuge in July 2021.

In addition to blogging for A Slice of Orange on the 6th of every month, Linda blogs at Killer Hobbies, Killer Characters, the Midnight Ink authors blog, and Writerspace.

Linda enjoys hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.LindaOJohnston.com or friend her on Facebook.


A Few of Linda’s Many Books

BAD TO THE BONE

Buy now!
BAD TO THE BONE
COLTON 911: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE
COLTON FIRST RESPONDER (The Coltons of Mustang Valley)

COVERT ALLIANCE

Buy now!
COVERT ALLIANCE

FOR A GOOD PAWS

Buy now!
FOR A GOOD PAWS

HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE

Buy now!
HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE

PICK AND CHEWS

Buy now!
PICK AND CHEWS

PROTECTOR WOLF

Buy now!
PROTECTOR WOLF

SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER

Buy now!
SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER

TO CATCH A TREAT

Buy now!
TO CATCH A TREAT

TRAINED TO PROTECT

Buy now!
TRAINED TO PROTECT

UNLUCKY CHARMS

Buy now!
UNLUCKY CHARMS

VISIONARY WOLF (Alpha Force)

Buy now!
VISIONARY WOLF (Alpha Force)

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Linda O. Johnston Featured Author

April 21, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , , ,
What Did I Miss? | Linda O. Johnston | A Slice of Orange

Linda O. Johnston enjoys writing, romance, puzzles, and dogs.

A former lawyer, Linda  is now a full-time writer and has published 52 books so far, including mysteries and romantic novels. More than twenty-five of them are romances for Harlequin, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne. Her latest release is Colton First Responder for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

She has also written several mystery series including. The Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, which was a spin-off of the Pet Rescue Mysteries and  The Superstition Mysteries. Pets, especially dogs, frequently show up in Linda’s novels

She is currently writing a lot of books for Harlequin. Three new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books will soon be released. The first up is Her Undercover Refuge in July 2021.

In addition to blogging for A Slice of Orange on the 6th of every month, Linda blogs at Killer Hobbies, Killer Characters, the Midnight Ink authors blog, and Writerspace.

Linda enjoys hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.LindaOJohnston.com or friend her on Facebook.


A Few of Linda’s Many Books

BAD TO THE BONE

Buy now!
BAD TO THE BONE
COLTON 911: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE
COLTON FIRST RESPONDER (The Coltons of Mustang Valley)

COVERT ALLIANCE

Buy now!
COVERT ALLIANCE

FOR A GOOD PAWS

Buy now!
FOR A GOOD PAWS

HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE

Buy now!
HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE

PICK AND CHEWS

Buy now!
PICK AND CHEWS

PROTECTOR WOLF

Buy now!
PROTECTOR WOLF

SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER

Buy now!
SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER

TO CATCH A TREAT

Buy now!
TO CATCH A TREAT

TRAINED TO PROTECT

Buy now!
TRAINED TO PROTECT

UNLUCKY CHARMS

Buy now!
UNLUCKY CHARMS

VISIONARY WOLF (Alpha Force)

Buy now!
VISIONARY WOLF (Alpha Force)

0 0 Read more

Linda O. Johnston Featured Author

April 14, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , , ,
What Did I Miss? | Linda O. Johnston | A Slice of Orange

Linda O. Johnston enjoys writing, romance, puzzles, and dogs.

A former lawyer, Linda  is now a full-time writer and has published 52 books so far, including mysteries and romantic novels. More than twenty-five of them are romances for Harlequin, including Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne. Her latest release is Colton First Responder for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

She has also written several mystery series including. The Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, which was a spin-off of the Pet Rescue Mysteries and  The Superstition Mysteries. Pets, especially dogs, frequently show up in Linda’s novels

She is currently writing a lot of books for Harlequin. Three new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books will soon be released. The first up is Her Undercover Refuge in July 2021.

In addition to blogging for A Slice of Orange on the 6th of every month, Linda blogs at Killer Hobbies, Killer Characters, the Midnight Ink authors blog, and Writerspace.

Linda enjoys hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.LindaOJohnston.com or friend her on Facebook.


A Few of Linda’s Many Books

BAD TO THE BONE

Buy now!
BAD TO THE BONE
COLTON 911: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE
COLTON FIRST RESPONDER (The Coltons of Mustang Valley)

COVERT ALLIANCE

Buy now!
COVERT ALLIANCE

FOR A GOOD PAWS

Buy now!
FOR A GOOD PAWS

HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE

Buy now!
HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE

PICK AND CHEWS

Buy now!
PICK AND CHEWS

PROTECTOR WOLF

Buy now!
PROTECTOR WOLF

SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER

Buy now!
SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER

TO CATCH A TREAT

Buy now!
TO CATCH A TREAT

TRAINED TO PROTECT

Buy now!
TRAINED TO PROTECT

UNLUCKY CHARMS

Buy now!
UNLUCKY CHARMS

VISIONARY WOLF (Alpha Force)

Buy now!
VISIONARY WOLF (Alpha Force)

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