Today we have Jamie Sheffield, author of the Tyler Cunningham Adirondack Mystery Series, featuring one of the most interesting protagonist I’ve ever read. Let’s hear about Jamie’s writing process.
1. Tell us about yourself. May include links to Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, Amazon author page)
I live in the Adirondack Park in Northern New York with my wife and son and dogs, in a small house in a big forest. Although I dream of writing full-time, my current “day-job” is as a Special Education teacher in Lake Placid, NY. I love camping and canoeing and reading and cooking and travel.
2. How do you choose names for your characters?
I build my characters based on combinations of people that I know or read about, and generally crunch their names around enough to make them not instantly recognizable, but still close enough that I can hold onto the feeling of the people I used.
3. Do you talk about your book/characters as though they are real?
I do, because by the time I get to/through the writing stage, they are real to me, and I know how the will act and react in a given situation.
4. Do you listen to music when you write or edit? What kind?
I listen to classical music when I write … generally one of three playlists: The Goldberg Variations, a mellow Mozart mix, or classical guitar with Segovia and King. I like the music to occupy some parts of my brain and drown out distracting ambient noise, but not to grab my full attention (which is why I don’t write to music with lyrics).
5. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been serious about my writing since the summer of 2012; before that, I always did some writing, but could never commit to longer writing projects.
6. Tell us about when you realized you were ‘meant to be’ a writer.
I’ve always felt that I was meant to be a writer, but never felt that I had the time or ability or staying power to start and finish a novel. I remember writing stories when I was in primary school, and loving the narrative process.
7. Do you have a muse?
It will embarrass her to read this, but my wife is my muse. Stories come to me (from wherever they come) and I shape and craft and polish them with her in mind. She’s my target audience, and every story I tell is written for her to read and enjoy; knowing this pushes me to write the best stories I can.
8. How do you improve as a writer? (Workshops, conferences, reading)
It sounds boring to type, but I think the two things that I do that most improve my writing are reading and writing. I read for hours every day … books and articles and poetry, fiction and non-fiction and writing instruction. I also try to write a few times every week … stories and poems
9. Writing quirks or superstitions?
I don’t know if it’s superstition, but I’m a big believer in NaNoWriMo. The month-long writing sprint helped/allowed me to write my first novel, and I’ve gone back to use it every summer since to write the subsequent novels. I can’t imagine writing my books in any other way now, although I write all sorts of shorter fiction and poetry during the rest of the year.
10. Tell us about your current work-in-progress.
I’m working on a number of things right now: a lengthy piece (pieces) of serial fiction, a young adult fantasy story (I don’t know yet if it will be a novella or a novel), and I’m in the early stages of planning my next novel for this summer.
11. What book are you reading now?
I tend to read a bunch of books at once, switching around based on my mood. I’m also an unrepentant re-reader, circling back to books I’ve enjoyed in the past; I’m always pleased to find that I can find new things to love in almost any book.
■ Mira Grant’s “Deadline” trilogy (re-read)
■ A variety of Ernest Hemingway stories (re-read)
■ Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
■ The Brass Cupcake, by John D. MacDonald
■ The Peripheral, by William Gibson
■ The Blessing Way, by Tony Hillerman
■ Any Other Name, by Craig Johnson
12. What genre do you write in? What about POV?
I generally write in the mystery or crime or thriller neighborhoods. To date, just about everything I’ve written is first person; which makes me want to try writing from another point of view.
13. Tell us about writing preparation. Character Profiles? Outlines?
I write my novels during a summer month of NaNoWriMo, but tend to start getting ready months ahead of time. I like to map/outline the whole story in a general sense, and to get to know the characters pretty well before I get anywhere near the first day of writing. Once I start writing, the work I’ve done ahead of time serves as a “suggested route”, but I often find the characters and story wandering off my projected track to explore something I hadn’t conceived during the pre-planning
14. Do you know how your stories will end?
I tend to know, in broad strokes, how my stories will end, but the specifics and details often end up surprising me as I write them in the first draft … they also sometimes get altered after my beta-reader takes a look at the rough work.
15. Do you books have a message or theme? Or are they purely for entertainment?
Although I write my books for entertainment (both mine and my readers’), when they’re done, I generally find that they reflect/impart some moral (or immoral, or amoral) message/lesson that I have worked through in the process of exploring the landscapes of the book with my protagonist.
16. Do you have any favorite snacks or drinks that you eat/drink while writing?
I drink lots of coffee (black and sweet and large and strong, like my dogs, Miles and Puck) and Coke while I’m writing; I try to find and maintain a sweet-spot on the caffeination curve, somewhere between wired and vibrating (I find that some of my best writing comes when I’m amped enough to disconnect just slightly and my unconscious takes the reins just a bit).
I like neat and easy snacks while I’m writing … bite-sized and not requiring a napkin or keyboard clean-ups. cut up fruit and cheese and meat is my favorite, and I tend to break to make a plate every couple of hours.
17. Tell us about your other passions.
I love nerdy electronics (GPSrs and ereaders and watches). I enjoy exploring new and interesting places … foreign travel, abandoned buildings/towns, unique modes of travel, etc.. I’m very interested in advances in science and technology and the environment. I have lots of fun trying out new foods and recipes. I care deeply about animals in general, and shelter dogs most particularly, and spend lots of time walking dogs at our local shelter.
18. What’s something interesting about you?
There was a period right around when I turned forty that I went camping every single month for more than three years (I still go camping a number of times every year, in all seasons, in a camping hammock).
19. Share a small sample(limit to one paragraph, please) of your writing… can be a WIP or already published.
There was a gentle glow coming on in the sky to my right as I drove north through the cold and empty beauty of the Adirondack Park. I would have pointed the impending dawn out to the girl in the back of my Element if she wasn’t unconscious and bleeding on the easy-to-clean floor. I crossed the northern border of the Park at the same time that the sun crept over the white pines on the side of road. I don’t know if that first ray of morning caught her eye, but my passenger groaned, cleared her throat a bit to try and speak, then clacked her teeth hard together again to hold back whatever she was starting to say. I consulted the map in my head, determined that I wouldn’t make it to the house before she started acting up, thought about Murphy’s Law and the prevalence of state troopers on backcountry roads for only a moment, and then pulled over to deal with Sadie Hostetler.
20. Anything you’d like to say to your current and future readers?
I’m excited about the recent release of my third, and latest, novel, “Between the Carries”. It dovetails nicely with the previous books, and also with the novellas. I have a great time writing these books, and as much fun talking with people who’ve enjoyed them. I am working on a bunch of other writing projects currently, but am on track to write the next Tyler Cunningham adventure this summer, and can’t wait to share it with everyone early in 2016!
Thanks Jamie!! We enjoyed reading about your approach to writing. Good luck with Between the Carries.