James Kirchick on reading and writing22 May 2017
Chris Dickon on his interest in Alan Seeger2 June 2017
An Interview with Cara Connelly
What’s your favorite writing trick to get the ideas flowing?
I used to panic when I reached a point in a manuscript where I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next. I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, if I’d ever be able to finish the story, or if I was even a “real” writer at all. I’m over that. These days, I step away from the computer and do something routine, like taking a walk with my dog. For some reason, when I stop reaching for the next idea, it moseys up alongside me on its own. Which is why I never set out on that walk without paper and pen in my pocket.
Even better than a walk is taking a shower. I have the best ideas in the shower! They used to disappear down the drain along with the water until I discovered Aqua Notes—a pad of waterproof paper that comes with a pencil inscribed with the words: No More Great Ideas Down the Drain. I’ve told so many people about them that I should get a commission!
Do you have a mood board? If so, what kinds of images or words inspire you?
Lots of writers that I know have Pinterest boards or computer files filled with pictures they use to inspire their characters or settings. I rely more on my memory for settings; places that I’ve lived or traveled to. I love to imagine my characters living their lives—which are much more dramatic and exciting than mine—in those cities and towns.
The characters themselves are completely imaginary, both physically and personality-wise. Or more precisely I should say that they’re composites of people I’ve met, or glimpsed on the street or a bus, or admired on a movie screen. I’m sure they contain unconscious elements too, borrowed from book characters that I love, and maybe even from friends.
One kind of board that I do have is an old-fashioned corkboard with some writing-related inspirational sayings tacked onto it. This one by Elmore Leonard is a favorite: “Skip to the Good Stuff.” By which he means to leave out the parts that, though interesting to me as the writer, tend to bore the reader. Excellent advice that I’m sometimes actually able to follow.
Where else do you find/get your inspiration?
Everywhere! A snippet of conversation overheard at a café or on a bus can prompt a fascinating “what if” question in my mind. A news story can do the same. Or a glimpse of a couple walking together, their body language communicating all sorts of interesting possibilities…are they in love, did they just have a fight, is one of them more interested in a relationship than the other? I’ll jot down a few words to remind me of what I saw and how it made me feel. These little vignettes will often come to mind as I’m writing and find their way into the story as an effective means of expressing the emotion I’m striving to convey.
What books are you enjoying right now?
As usual, I have three books going, all of them very different. I’m rereading Patrick O’Brien’s series of historical novels, the seagoing adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin set during the Napoleonic wars. I come back to it every few years for the wonderful characterization and thrilling battles. I’m also reading the latest book in Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series of paranormal romance. Who knew shape-shifters could be so sexy? And at the airport I picked up Stephen King’s Finders Keepers. I haven’t read him in ages, so I’m bracing to be scared out of my wits.