Your education as a writer started in Journalism then went on to graduate work at the Minnesota State University, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and The LoftWriting Center. How have those different experiences helped you forge your voice?
Before studying creative writing, I already had a degree in journalism and had excelled in legal writing in getting my law degree. But I had to retrain myself when I endeavored to write creatively. Those other forms of writing focused on being direct, declarative and brief. Legal writing, especially, focused on tapping the intellectual and analytical centers of the brain. Creative writing, on the other hand, is all about emotion. I had to create a place in my head where I could let my creative side flourish. For example, as a legal writer I never used contractions. As a creative writer, I had to retrain myself that contractions were not only allowed, but essential. In retraining my brain, I found myself drawn to narrative voices that were as far from the formalistic writing of my past as I could find. Those voices inspired me to try to create an equally distinct narrative voice in my own work.
How has your career as an attorney impacted you as a writer?
As a writer of mysteries, my background as a criminal defense attorney is very important. I spend my days dissecting police investigations. I have to be as knowledgeable in investigative techniques as the police in order to do my job well. This dovetails well with my writing. I believe that readers are very sophisticated in ways police procedures and writers need to stay ahead of that curve.
Your first novel, The Life We Bury, has been wildly successful, both in critical acclaim and commercial popularity. How did that early success impact you writing your second book?
I had my second novel, The Guise of Another, already written before The Life We Bury hit the bookstore shelves. All of my books have a slightly different feel to them because I want each story to stand on its own. That’s one of the reasons I have characters that cross from one novel to another, as opposed to a series. With that said, one of the lessons that I learned from the success of The Life We Bury is the importance of depth. I see the mystery aspect of the story as pulling the reader forward and the personal journey of the characters as pulling the reader deeper into the story. Readers enjoy the twists and turns of the mystery, but the part of the story that stays with them is the depth of the characters and their relationships.
Check back April 15th for Part II