Humorous mystery writer W. S. Gager graciously agreed to be our first author interview for our reading and writing blog. I had fun coming up with questions to ask, but welcome any and all suggestions for future interviews.
1. What can you tell us about yourself?
I’ve always been a writer. My first writing memory was eighth grade when I was named editor of the English class paper. That was the first time I was ever recognized for my writing and that was enough. I was hooked. I’ve been writing ever since and starting novels and putting them aside. My jobs also have been writing related including a journalist, speech writer, and public relations writer. Five years ago I told myself I was chained to my desk until I finished a book. I was hooked and always have at least one novel in progress at all times. To help pay the bills I teach developmental English classes in reading and writing at Baker College. I’ve lived in Michigan most of my life and love the Midwestern work ethic and friendliness.
2. What can you tell us about your book(s)?
I write mysteries but my first novel was a romance. I’ve read thousands of romance novels and thought I could write one. Turns out I wasn’t so hot on romantic entanglements but excelled at planting clues. My first mystery book called A Case of Infatuation won the Dark Oak Mystery Contest and then published. Go figure it was a mystery with a touch of romance, sort of.
Three books are out in the Mitch Malone Mystery Series featuring crime-beat reporter Mitch Malone as the amateur sleuth. The books are a throwback to the noir feel of the trench-coat-wearing private eye mixed with a bit of Pink Panther wit. The second book called A Case of Accidental Intersection won the Public Safety Writers Association award for unpublished fiction prior to print. A Case of Hometown Blues was released in July.
3. It seems that some writers have always known they were writers because they always had stories in their heads, and some writers started writing because they were frustrated with the lack of quality in published books. Have you always known you were a writer? Or was this a newly acquired inspiration? And if so, what made you start writing?
Both of them hold true for me. I have always been a writer but for many years I wrote nonfiction articles in newspapers and magazines. I always thought I would write a book someday. Every so often I would get an itch to start a book. I even entered a short story contest once. But I didn’t do it seriously. Then I had surgery and was laid up for eight weeks. I told myself that I was going to finish a book or I was going to quit trying to write them. I’d never gotten beyond halfway before. I did finish my first book. It was awful but I’ve been hooked ever since. My third one was published. As for the voices in my head. They are there. I’ve always looked at ordinary things and create fantastic stories in my head. Now I just put them down on paper.
4. Is there anything you can tell us about the source of your stories? Are the characters or events based on real-life events? Or as fictional as possible?
Many people that know me, can’t see me in the books I write. They only similarity between me and Mitch Malone who is the crime-beat-reporter sleuth is our occupation. I couldn’t figure that out for the longest time and I finally understand it. Mitch is the guilt-free, say-anything-I-want person I could never be. He is brash, smart, obnoxious with a dogged determination to get the story at any cost. As for the crimes in each book, the ideas come from something real but then are distorted so much they can’t be recognized.
5. I think a lot of beginning writers, and some readers, are interested in your particular method for writing novels. Do you work with an outline? Do you thoroughly define your characters before you write, or do you let interesting characters create themselves along the way? Do you start writing at the beginning and let the story unfold? Or do you write scenes out of order, then piece it back together?
I am a very seat-of-the-pants writer. I have an idea of where the story is going and where it starts. Then I just jump in and start writing. In A Case of Accidental Intersection Elsie Dobson had a small role as a witness in the opening scene. Elsie wasn’t happy about that. She kept coming up either by baking cookies for Mitch, hauling him across the coals for not pursuing the case or needing to be rescued. Every couple of chapters she came up. I finished the book and Elsie’s voice still wouldn’t leave me alone. I wrote a short story with her and Mitch and she finally started to be quiet.
6. Do you use any organizational software for writing?
No. Is there such a thing? I’m not very organized in my writing so I’m not sure it would help. The best I do for an organization system is I use sticky notes to help me complete all the plot lines.
7. Do you set specific daily hours or word count goals for yourself?
I do at times but then I take time off to recharge. When I’m working on a first draft, I usually work every day and try and write at least 1,000 words a day. When I’m working on a second draft or editing, I set goals specific to where I’m at. I can’t edit for hours at a time like I can when I write. After about an hour of editing, my eyes cloud over and I need a break.
8. In this day of print-on-demand publishing and ePubs, how do you promote your books?
I just try and get the word out anyway I can through guest blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and other Internet areas. I wish there was some secret formula but I haven’t found it yet.
9. What do you like to read? Were you a reader before you turned to writing?
Reading books was my life for many years. From middle school through college I read at least four books during a weekend and depending on what was going on, another few books during the week. I loved books and would read anything I could get my hands on. As I became older I had less time and became pickier because I could drive myself to the library or bookstore. I enjoy mysteries and thrillers but only read them when I’m not writing my first draft. I’m afraid I will grab ideas from them. When I’m writing I read romances, they are my ultimate escapism form.
Author of Humorous Whodunits
A Case of Infatuation and A Case of Accidental Intersection - Now Available
A Case of Hometown Blues – Coming this summer!