Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three Authors, Three Questions: February 2012

This month I’m pleased to welcome Minnesota mystery author Michael Allan Mallory, Colorado author of YA novels Amy Kathleen Ryan, and Colorado mystery author and President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Mark Stevens to Three Authors, Three Questions.

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Michael Allan Mallory is the co-author, with Marilyn Victor, of two Five Star mysteries featuring zoologist Lavender “Snake” Jones. Death Roll, the first novel in the series, is now available as an e-book.

Michael works with assorted computer technologies for an architectural and engineering firm in Minneapolis. An avid animal lover, he has volunteered at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. Killer Instinct, the newest hardcover release in this series, involves a dispute between northern Minnesota ranchers and the federally protected gray wolf.

To learn more about Michael and Marilyn and their books, visit the Snake Jones Zoo Mysteries website. Michael is on Facebook, but I don’t think we’ve lured him onto Twitter (at least, not yet).


1. Michael, how do you keep track of the traits and background information for your series protagonist and secondary characters?

For now it’s mainly from memory. I do remember a lot of details. And for things I don’t recall, electronic searches on the final manuscripts save the day. But I definitely see that as a mystery series progresses one would need to keep a notebook to have this information in one handy location.

2. How did you choose the setting(s) for your novels?

The Snake Jones novels feature wildlife, and the settings reflect that. Death Roll had to be set in Snake’s home turf, as she’s a zookeeper at the fictional Minnesota Valley Zoo. For Killer Instinct she was taken out of her comfort zone and sent to the North Woods of Minnesota. Why? This is where the wolves are. The story involves Minnesota’s large population of gray wolves. It was also a nice change from the enclosed habitats of a zoo to roam the wild expanse of Superior National Forest.

3. Where have you been most active on the Internet for promotion purposes in the past, and what will you do differently in the future?

I find the DorothyL forum the most useful as its members are writers and readers, reviewers, librarians, bloggers, booksellers and other fans of crime fiction. By discussing the works of other authors you also help promote yourself. With luck, your comments may pique the interest of some DLers to check out your books. The same goes for posting thoughtful remarks on author blogs: it gets your name out there. On the other hand, I find Facebook a mixed bag. It doesn’t necessarily generate many new readers, but it can help, and is a ‘must-do’. I have many author friends who are still trying to figure out if Facebook has any appreciable effect on book sales. But promotion is all about getting your name out there and making connections with people. What would I do differently? Nothing really. You can only do so much with your time and energy.

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Amy Kathleen Ryan is a full-time writer living in Colorado. She has studied anthropology and Spanish language, has a Masters in English literature, and an MFA in creative writing.

Glow, Amy’s most recent YA novel, is the first book in the sci fi Sky Chasers series from St. Martin’s Griffin. It was chosen by School Library Journal as one of the best books of 2011!

Amy’s website contains more information about her books. She posts articles and information at Amy’s blog and can also be found on Facebook.

1. Amy, how do you keep track of the traits and background information for your series protagonist and secondary characters?

I created a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of my characters that I chose from the Internet. The photo doesn't have to be exactly like the picture I have in my head of the person, it just needs to be the same type, to remind me. Then I write a brief description of that character in the PowerPoint presentation. When that character comes up as I'm writing, if I need a refresher about what they look like, or any biographical info, the presentation is a quick reference, right on my computer.

2. How did you choose the setting(s) for your novels?

I suppose I let the action dictate the setting. If I need a character to fall off a cliff, I create a cliff for him/ her to fall off. The setting is so integral to the story and characters that it grows as a natural consequence of the writing process.

3. Where have you been most active on the Internet for promotion purposes in the past, and what will you do differently in the future?

I have a website and a blog that I try to write for about once a week. I hired a designer for the website, and that has been where I've put most of my money for promotion. I think it's worth having something professionally done online, as it represents who you are as a writer. I also have a Facebook presence that I use to feed into my blog. A status update about a new blog post can generate up to 30 hits for me, maybe more. As far as what I'll do differently, I don't have plans to revamp my online approach right now. I'm busy enough with writing!

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Coloradoan Mark Stevens is the author of Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan, mysteries featuring Allison Coil, hunting guide. Both books are now available in print and as e-books.

Mark has been a journalist, producer of field documentaries, bartender, and now works in public relations while he writes mysteries set in Colorado. Buried by the Roan focuses on fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a controversial technique for extracting oil or natural gas from certain types of rock.

You can get to know Mark better on Facebook and on Twitter as @writerstevens He also reviews books on his blog, Don’t Need a Diagram.

1. Mark, how do you keep track of the traits and background information for your series protagonist and secondary characters?

Rely on editors? Hope for the best? I wish this was an area of strength. I’ve heard of others who use spreadsheets but I can’t imagine the discipline required. For now, I go back and check. And then I go back and check again. (And repeat.) All tips welcome. It’s not just characters and their traits for me. It’s the landscape details, too. Making sure I’m not repetitive but also accurate when I return to the same location. You don’t want houses or rivers or barns to move around on their own. Not good.

2. How did you choose the setting(s) for your novels?

The Flat Tops Wilderness in western Colorado chose me. I was on a horseback ride and watching the scenery was like drinking the best champagne you’ve ever sipped. I felt like I’d been beamed to another planet. I find the Flat Tops calming, serene. We were led by a stellar guide (who inspired the Allison Coil character). In my mind, this stunning and smart female guide and the Flat Tops were inextricably linked. I was sure I had the basis for a character. Well, two. The guide and the Flat Tops. Lucky me, two main characters. And a killer setting.

3. Where have you been most active on the Internet for promotion purposes in the past, and what will you do differently in the future?

I believe in social media. It’s the Times Square of the 21st Century and I believe every writer can decide how often he or she wants to step outside and on what basis. The quality and quantity of those connections and conversations are your choice. I participate on Facebook (a personal page and one for my main character, Allison Coil ), Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads. I also maintain a book review site. Here’s my take: if this doesn’t come naturally, don’t do it. If you enjoy going to conferences and bumping into random people and striking up a conversation, social media is one endless cocktail hour, but you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing.

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Mini-interviews were conducted and compiled by Pat Stoltey. Chiseled in Rock thanks Michael Allan Mallory, Amy Kathleen Ryan, and Mark Stevens for graciously agreeing to participate in the Three Authors, Three Questions series.

8 comments:

irishoma said...

Hi Pat,
Great interview questions, and helpful answers from Amy, Mark, and Mchael.
I like Amy's idea of a PowerPoint presentation to keep track of her characters. It's more visual than a spreadsheet and more reliable than trusting one's memory.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Donna. I haven't even learned how to use PowerPoint yet, so I guess it's time. Amy's idea does sound like a good approach.

Kay Theodoratus said...

Nice idea, Pat. Interesting, helpful information.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Kay. I hope you'll visit us often.

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Thanks to Pat for inviting me yet again to her wonderful blog.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Michael,

And thanks to you for joining us -- I'd like to claim credit for everything Chiseled in Rock does here, but that would be a very tall tale. We're a whole family of contributors with different themes and favorite topics, all aimed to promote writing and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Beth Groundwater said...

Great set of 3 questions for these authors, Pat! I loved reading their answers.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Beth. This series is definitely showing there's no one "right" way to practice our craft.