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What Does It Look Like?…..From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

write, create, writing, authors, blogRecently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  

My first novel, Women Outside the Walls began as a full length play.  I used my play script my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well.

It took me a year and four months to write it, format it and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper. I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering ‘D’ is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations).   I had 8 pages of a new play, about Winston Churchill, written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

WRITE WITHOUT FEAR
EDIT WITHOUT MERCY

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.   This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me.   

(Originally published January, 2013.)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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The Listening Path ~~ Book Review

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reviews, authors, writing

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 5 out of 5 quills 

Back in 2006, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron was published.  I had just begun my journey as a dabbler in watercolors and( since 1998), had been writing stage plays. In that same year, I still considered myself a dabbler in watercolors and a junior level playwright….learning as you go.  I certainly would never have called myself an ‘artist‘ in those early days. This was a workbook that I treasure to this day. 

Now Ms. Cameron has written another lovely, insightful, encouraging book, The Listening Path. A successful communicator’s first skill is LISTENING.  A successful artist and human being should be listening; not just to other people but listening to their surroundings, and even listening to silence. Much can be learned.

This book is not only instructional but filled with tasks to practice your listening and become a better communicator. 
I highly recommend this book to my readers who are interested in furthering their self-awareness and their world around them. 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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Book Review~~Picnic in Someday Valley

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing                                        
4 out of 5 quills   

Author, Jodi Thomas, never lets her readers down. This sequel to the Honey Creek series is a satisfying read, re-visiting Someday Valley and the strong characters that Jodi Thomas has drawn. Pecos and Brand being my favorites in this new one.  

The readers get to return to Honey Creek and Someday Valley, two small towns in Texas. While set in current times, there’s still a flavor of the old west and small town closeness and politics that you cannot escape from to this day.  The story is rich in twists and turns with vibrant, quirky characters.

I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Did you miss the wonderful interview we did with this author? 

Coming Soon! (Oct. 2021, Book 3 Honey Creek series)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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How to be Certain a Director will NOT choose your Play

Recently I was invited to read and review a new collection of three plays. There was so much WRONG with the formatting and the lack of knowledge by the playwright that I couldn’t review it without tearing it all down and asking the playwright to begin anew. But there evolved a constructive critique that might help other new writers. 

Example back cover

Back cover should not be blank with a graphic design. Don’t waste this space.
1. Use this space as an opportunity to grab the buyer/director. List titles and short synopses of your plays. Count gender and following synopsis type this: 1m. 4f. (indicating one male and four females.
2. One line tags
3. A short bio of you

Pg1. First page: Title of play/s
Pg.2: Copyright notice
Pg 3:  list of play titles and Pg # they start on.

In the first few pages you should have a Contents (list) with the tile of each play and the page number it begins. Make it as easy as you can for the director to find the play and the list of characters Because this dictates whether the director can use your play or not depending on age of character and gender. Always keep in mind that men are harder to cast.

On whatever page a new play starts it should begin with the title and the list of characters.

Be certain, you as the playwright, understand what constitutes a full length play. a One Act play, and a Ten Minute Play.  If your plays are preachy and  esoteric it will be a hard sell to a director.

The end of a play is indicated with one word, centered: CURTAIN

Black out‘ and ‘End of Scene‘ are no longer used. The director will understand when a new scene begins. The next page demonstrates to the reader that a new scene is beginning. ‘Act’ and ‘Scene’ should be centered.

CHARACTERS names and blocking should be centered on page; NO underline.

If you find yourself writing a soliloquy or a monologue in a scene, break it up by having other characters insert dialogue in your speech. It then becomes less preachy and more dynamic.

Be certain YOU know the difference between a Ten Minute Play, a Full Length play (with two acts) and a One Act Play. The first act in a full length play is longer than the second act. Full length plays are about 100 pages/minutes. And no one ever uses an Act III unless your plays is over two hours or closer to 3 hours long. Also, a no-no. Remember the rule of thumb is one minute per page. This varies based on how ‘busy’ the blocking is as that takes time too. It is permissible that a 10 minute play might go over but never more than 18 to 20 minutes.

The first few pages of the book should be simple and convey the correct information. Keep it simple.  The title of your book  should be on the 1st page of your book. The next page [on the left] should be your copyright page. On the right should be your table of contents (centered)
Title with page numbers. (justified left)

On the page number of the play, the title should be on the 1st page. (odd numbered page, right side) the next page (odd numbered) should be the list of characters. The blocking and description of how the play should be produced does not need to be too detailed. Remember this is the job of the director to interpret the playwright’s Play.

Examples:
Link, How to Format a play: https://www.writeratplay.com/2018/01/15/how-to-format-your-self-published-stage-play/

When the formatting is not industry-standard, I have seen more than one director throw the book/script into the ’round file’.
Look at other scripts on line for guidance.  
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica  March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Book Review ~~ Band of Sisters

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                                5 out of 5 quills                         BOOK REVIEW

This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villages during World War I.  What is extraordinary is, if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life. Based on old documents and letters, the new Smith College Relief Unit, composed of women from all walks of life, signed up for six months to try and assist villagers who were devastated by the war raging across Europe. They were later to be affectionately known as ‘the Smithies’. 

Their careers in social work, medicine, teaching couldn’t prepare them for the conditions they found when they disembarked from a train from Paris onto the muddy track leading to the village, Gricourt. The village existed hand in glove with an always changing ‘front line’ of battle between the Allied Forces and the German juggernaut.

Each woman’s life is showcased with beautiful writing from this author, Lauren Willig.  Sometimes novels that are based heavily on actual historical events slip into being dry and dusty reading.  It never happened in this novel, I am happy to report.
A real page turner to the end. A beautiful book of prose and an exciting, action-filled, story.  

Released March 21st
Did you miss my INTERVIEW with Lauren Willig?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica  March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, Sci-fi author (part 3)

Q. What makes a writer great?

LMG. Talent, obviously, but dedication is really important too. And always striving to get better and build your craft. Be your harshest critic and learn from your rejections. There will be a ton of rejection, but it’s all there to make you better.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

LMG. It’s all over the place, depending on the book. Some books have taken me a decade to finish, some two months. Orange City, for example, took many years of putting it down and picking it back up. It was originally a short s

Las Vegas with friends

tory I wrote in college, then a screenplay, then a different short story, and finally a novel. Science fiction is the hardest to write, at least for me, because you are creating an entirely new world. It took that many years to build up that world.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. Always. You bring reality into your work, but I tend to write really out there things, so a lot is fiction. I try not to put people I know into my work, but sometimes it happens. I’m influenced a lot from other books and films, art and music, so the amount of influences that go into each novel are hard to pinpoint.

Morocco

Q. What’s your down time look like?

LMG. Like I said, I travel, go out to eat, movies, concerts, museums, sports.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

LMG. Yup. I’m a thriller writer first, but have a Sci-Fi and a YA series out this year so I’m always pushing myself to try something different. But all of my books have some type of thriller elements to them because thrillers are all about moving the plot forward and that’s important in all genres.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

A. Rejection is necessary and only makes you a better writer. Learn to take in, shrug it off, and not let it get you down. Every great writer has been rejected plenty, it’s par for the course.

Did you miss the first part of this exciting interview? 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

Interview with Sci-fi Author, Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in many other publications.  He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

LMG. When the weather is nice, I normally write at a tree in Central Park. I’ve written all my books there. It helps me to be in fresh air and around nature, especially living in NYC. So, usually I’m there from April through November. My dream work space would be having my own backyard or even a terrace to write. If we’re already fantasizing, a terrace overlooking Central Park would be pretty great. I’ll have to sell a lot more books to get that, though.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

LMG. Not really. I try to put away my phone so I won’t be distracted. And I write best when I’m in nature. All I need is my laptop. Sometimes I listen to music, but not as much as I used to. Living in New York, the energy of the city really inspires me, but I also need the quiet of nature. I’ll sit on the grass, take off my socks and shoes, and usually spend most afternoons writing that way.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

LMG. I love to travel. It helps inspire me. This past year has been difficult without traveling, so I’ve had to find inspiration in other ways. Oftentimes, I work travel into my writing. A book I was working on took place in the jungles of the Amazon so I traveled there once for research. It helped immensely because it would’ve been very hard to write about the jungle without experiencing it firsthand: the sounds, the smells, the feel. It would’ve come off phony to me. Part of another one of my books took place in Morocco, so I went there as well.

Release date: March 16th

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

LMG. Sometimes I outline first, but usually on the computer too. Once I have a chapter outline set up, I begin. Although, the book has likely marinated in my head for a while by then. It could be in my head for years before I start writing. With very early ideas I used to jot them down in a notepad, or sometimes I would even call my voicemail if I was out and had a great idea. Now I use the Notepad app, which makes it so much easier to jot down ideas.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

LMG. I’m best in the afternoons, so 1pm – 5pm is my ideal writing time. I’ll edit what I wrote the day before in the mornings and sometimes at night. Again, since I work outside a lot it’s usually the best time to catch the light.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

LMG. Set a work schedule that works for you. Try to find inspiration. Don’t force it too much if it’s not there. Resist your phone and going online. Find a space that you can be the most productive. Also, it’s important to find people in your life that can give you honest feedback. Early on in my career before I was really published, it meant so much to have friends and other writers give notes. Sometimes people you know who are just good readers can give the best advice. My parents were always very supportive in my writing growing up so I had them read drafts of early works.

Join us for Part II of this insightful Interview
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

One of those Days…. When There’s nothing to Talk about…

Not me, just thought it was funny. I don’t own pearls.

After eight years of blogging, I find myself with a day (today) that I really don’t have anything to say. It’s too early for March’s author interview. It’s a good one! I’ve run dry on tips for writers ….  except  ….  “Writing isn’t a calling, it’s a doing.”  That hasn’t and will never change.  So get busy. 

Lee Goldberg

I spent my morning running errands on the internet; some book buying, some banking, some talking to authors. Next week we will start with my Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, a sci-fi writer.  And, literally, a tree hugger.   >>>>

I’m currently adapting my stage play, Emma and the Aardvarks into a children’s illustrated chapter book.  I have discovered a wonderful illustrator in Brazil and this is the first of his work for the book. Wonderful, huh? 

Jobson Chagas

I’ll sign off for now. If you’re wondering how I feel about this ‘dry spell’; it doesn’t bother me in the least. I see it as a much needed resting period and I know that March will fire up with lots of good things including our chat with Lee.

Bye for now….see you next week!

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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“I just always wanted to tell my stories.” Author, sports writer, Mike Lupica Interviews with this Blogger

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider’s knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News; at the same time a prolific author under his own name and writing for Robert B. Parker and James Patterson. 

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

ML. Just start writing. I do it all the time. Just get into it, even if the first few pages might not ever get into your book.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

ML.  In my imagination? Where else? I get them together and get them talking, and then all of a sudden one of them will say something I didn’t know they were going to say, or do something I had no idea they would do. In moments like that, I feel as if I have the best job in the world.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

ML. I always just wanted to tell my stories. When I was ten, I was writing mystery and adventure stories – longhand of course – with myself as a main character. Old-fashioned, Catholic School blue essay books. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Tell my stories. When I was traveling extensively to talk to kids in schools for my Middle Grade books, I’d always tell them that they had to buy my books, because I had no other skills.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

ML. Characters. Always.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

ML. All the time. At the home we once had in Connecticut, my wife Taylor transformed a shed about fifty yards from our back door into an amazing writing cottage. The first time I walked down the hill, my son Alex turned to his mother and said, “He may never come back.”

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

ML. Well into this September’s Jesse, called Stone’s Throw. And back with Mr. Patterson for a new one. Working with him has been one of the great experiences of my career. Like getting a master class in getting the reader to keep turning pages.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

ML. College. Three school papers. Working nights at the Boston Globe. Writing for the Globe and the old Boston Phoenix. Chasing my dreams as hard as I could. Now here I am, getting to write about characters that Robert B. created. Honor of a writing lifetime.

Q. How long after that were you published?

ML. I was in my early 30s when “Reggie” put me on the Times list for the first time. My first mystery, Dead Air, followed shortly thereafter.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

ML. Never.

Q. What makes a writer great?

ML. It’s like asking what makes oceans deep. It’s a wonderful mix of talent, imagination, work ethic, and writing stories that make you, the person writing them, keep going to find out what’s going to happen next. And never getting up from the desk until you’ve done your best work that day.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

ML. There is nothing more exciting than Chapter One for me. Nothing. It’s the beginning of the adventure. And for me, there is no end to the adventure, even with The End. Because my head goes right into the next one.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

ML. I have been blessed. My parents, in their 90s now, still living in their own home, have been a constant blessing. I’ve never met a smarter or better or kinder person than my wife. And we have these four amazing children. They make me smarter every day, by always reminding me that they think the good old days are now.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

ML. Down time? What’s that?

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

ML. I am thrilled to be back in the world of writing mysteries. I feel as if I’ve left my mark writing novels set in the world of sports for young readers. And I am so proud of the work Mr. Patterson and I did on “The Horsewoman,” a great big novel set in show jumping (spoiler alert: My daughter is a champion rider.) I never think genre. Just good stories.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)
It’s what I’ve constantly told my younger readers: Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.
And the only thing more powerful than a good idea is a random act of kindness.

Did you miss part 1 of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Interview with Author, Sports Columnist, Mike Lupica

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. (http://www.mlb.com) Besides being an author, in his own right, he is the voice of Robert B. Parker in the Jesse Stone series. I am thrilled that Mike has given us his time and insight to his writing processes.

Mike Lupica: I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, apart from books, for a long time. I started writing a column for the New York Daily News when I was 23. I made a couple of other stops along the way, and currently also write a couple of baseball columns every week for mlb.com But I am still in the Daily News. I have written more than 40 novels, including autobiographies for Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells. Two of my novels for young readers, Travel Team and Heat, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list for children’s chapter books. Now I am honored to be writing books about Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall, created by my friend, and one of my writing heroes, Robert B. Parker. I also have my first book with James Patterson, “The Horsewoman,” coming out in December of 2021.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

ML. All I need for my dream work space is unlined yellow tablets – my pal Elmore Leonard told me to get rid of yellow legal pads so I could stop worrying about staying between the lines – and rollerball pens and my MacBook. We go back and forth between eastern Long Island and Florida now. My wife, Taylor, has given me wonderful rooms in which to work in both of them. On Long Island, I have the same writing table I’ve had since the 1980s. It’s still got good words left in it.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

ML. Again: The ritual is sitting down to write. That’s the whole ballgame. The great Joe Ide, who writes the IQ books, once told me that writer’s block just means you got up from the desk.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Robert B. Parker’s head and write for him?

ML. Bob Parker, as I knew him, has been inside MY head since I bought “The Godwulf Manuscript” at a (now gone) Brentano’s on Boylston Street when I was at Boston College. I have read and re-read him ever since. Anybody who has read my newspaper columns knows that my voice has always echoed his. So did my early mysteries about a New York City investigative TV journalist named Peter Finley, who later ended up in a CBS Sunday Night movie I was lucky enough to write. When I sat down to write a sample chapter for Sunny Randall, about ten pages that got me into Robert B. Parker’s wonderful world, I just felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be. Sunny tells Spike that the UPS kid “m’am”-ed her. Spike asks if she shot him. And I was off.

Q. Do you find your ‘voice’ creeping in when writing for another author?

ML. Again, the voice to which you refer has been inside my head for such a long, wonderful time. It was across the table from me at dinners we had, it was on the bottom floor of his great home in Cambridge when I did a television piece about him one time. And in radio interviews where we sat next to each other. In my mind, I’m just continuing that conversation with Sunny and Jesse.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

ML. My friends know this. My family knows this. I have four children. I would give a bazillion dollars to get to go back and coach just one of them, one more time, in baseball or basketball or soccer.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

ML. Plain yellow pads that I buy from my friend Ann Nealon at PDQ, forty at a time. Old-fashioned Cross rollerball pens. I write longhand for 30 or 40 pages, then type. When I do, it’s like an instant second draft. But I still think best with a pen in my hand.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

ML. I do my best writing in the morning. Then revisit my morning pages in the late afternoon. When Elmore Leonard was alive, I’d call HIM in the late afternoon, even into his 80s, and always begin this way, “Are you writing or thinking about women?” He’d giggle and say, “What, you can’t do both?” But I knew he was at his desk. And would usually go back to mine.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

 

Join us for Part II of our Interview with Mike Lupica ~~ February 19th

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!