Nancy Adams loves fairy tales, mysteries and fantasy, but as she approaches the HOT SEAT she soon realises there’s nothing fantastic about it. Nay, it’s an absolute mystery why she volunteered to sit in the flaming seat!
(Yes, I’m being very lame tonight! )
Let’s get started. What genre(s) do you write, Nancy?
I mostly write mystery, though lately I’ve begun experimenting with fantasy elements as well. My first serious efforts were historical mysteries and my current WIP is an urban fantasy/suspense set in Paris. “Saint Nick and the Fir Tree” is primarily a little fantasy/fairy tale, but there is also a little hint of a murder mystery twist at the end.
[CJ: Ooh, I like the sound of the urban fantasy set in Paris!]
Tell us about your latest short story, Saint Nick and the Fir Tree, in 25 words or less.
Saint Nick is a short story for the holidays that I’ve just published. It’s available in both ebook and paperback formats. The paperback includes a couple of cute color illustrations by two very talented artist friends.
[CJ: Sounds like fun. Tell us more.]
It’s the day after Christmas, and Saint Nick’s on vacation. His first stop is the little town of Greenwood, where he sees what looks like a fir tree. The fir tree is really a yew that’s pruned in the shape of a Christmas tree, and it’s based on a real yew bush in our own backyard. In the story, the Christmas-tree shaped yew prefers to think of itself as a fir tree. Yews mean sadness, death, and funeral wreaths; fir trees mean Christmas. No contest!
Saint Nick invites the Tree on a little adventure that takes them from the local movie house (showing Miracle on 34th Street—what else?) to a diner, a tavern, and finally a long walk where they get lost in the snow-covered woods and Saint Nick literally stumbles on a big surprise.
Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
I work full time, and when I’m not writing I love to read to relax. I do some occasional gardening, but not as much as I would like.
[CJ: My husband is the gardener in our family. I like to sit back and admire his handiwork. ]
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I began writing seriously about twelve years ago, and attended a mystery convention where I had an interview with an agent. I was very excited by her interest in the story and sent her the full manuscript, only to be told some months later that it very much needed an editor. That was the start of a long apprenticeship that got a great boost when I joined Sisters in Crime, an organization for mystery writers, and became part of their “Guppy” (i.e., “Great UnPublished”) chapter. Guppy friends, critique partners, and information was enormously helpful for my formation as a writer.
[CJ: I love the sound of Guppy. Sounds like an awesome group.]
The process has changed some over the years, but I always start a new manuscript as what’s called a “pantser,” as in “by-the-seat-of-your-pants.” In practice that means that I start with a scene or idea, but have no idea where it’s going to go. I discover the story’s path by sitting down to write the beginning. Typically that takes me only so far and then I have to stop and do some more organized kinds of brainstorming.
[CJ: My last four HOT SEAT
victims interviewees have all been pantsers. Who knew there were so many out there! ]
Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?
Oddly enough none of my major inspirations are mystery writers, though that is the genre I read the most. The Canadian author Robertson Davies is probably my biggest inspiration. His works aren’t fantasy in the strict sense of the word, but nonetheless they are magical. The novels are quick, compelling reads, but they also harbor depths. He was interested in Jungian psychology and also in religion, but there is nothing “heavy” about his stories. They are light as air, yet full of substance. Comedies in the sense that Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a comedy. If you don’t know him, start with either “The Rebel Angels” or “Fifth Business,” both wonderful, absolutely magical works. I bet you’ll become a fan!
[CJ: I haven't read any of Robertson Davies, so thanks for the recommendations!]
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
Working full-time, without a doubt. It’s hard for me to switch in and out of writing mode. I try to write new scenes on weekends—I’m only fresh and able to do this first thing in the morning, as a rule—and then revise during the weekend. It’s frustrating to lose that momentum every Monday.
[CJ: Trying to write around full time work is definitely tough. Does your work involve writing at all or does it use a completely different skill set?]
I’m a catalog librarian, which means I’m responsible for the book records library patrons see in the catalog. It’s helped me develop a sharp eye for proofreading.
Right. Enough of the niceties. Time for the HOT SEAT questions!
If you could no longer write, would you channel your creativity into a different artform? If so, what?
<shudders> A truly horrible prospect! I love to sing. Of course that’s not the same as creating something, but I definitely couldn’t compose music. And singing gives you a wonderful feeling of vitality. But please, let’s not dwell on such a ghastly thought!
Finish this sentence from your character’s perspective: Something most people don’t know about me is…
By “most people,” I assume you’re referring to humans? Some of my best friends are human, but most of them don’t realize how much trees and other plants think and feel. Take me, for instance. I can quote all kinds of stories and poetry. I’m thankful that Aunt Nancy and my previous caretaker, Jack, always appreciated me and took the time to read me stories and poems they know I’ll like.
[CJ: Awww. How lovely!]
Now finish the same sentence from your perspective. I used to be a radio DJ. Back in college I majored in music and at the time our little campus radio station was the only place on the dial where you could listen to classical music and jazz. It was fun deciding which LPs I would take for a spin on any given day.
[CJ: Oh the power. That's so much cooler than the jobs I had when I was at uni! ]
If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT in 2012, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning.