‘A is for..Alibi’ ‘B is for…’C is for’… An Interview with Sue Grafton (part 2)

      Part II ** Interview with Sue Grafton     In Loving Memory

          Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing and for how long?

SG. On occasion, but not nearly often enough.  I love that feeling but most of the time it’s just struggle, hair-tearing, whining, and complaints.  I’m easily distracted.  If the work is going well…call it twice a week…then I’m happy.  Most of the time I’m sitting here because that’s what it takes.  Comfortable or uncomfortable doesn’t make any difference.  I suffer because I feel stupid and clumsy and blocked most of the time, but so what?  That is all part of the process.  If you’re not willing to sweat it out, you’re in the wrong business.  No short cuts.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

SG.  When I was eighteen.  I wrote seven full-length novels from the ages of twenty-two to thirty-eight.  Novels four and five were published.  The others have never seen the light of day.  The eighth novel I wrote was ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI and that was after a long stint in Hollywood where I wrote pilots, movies for television, and the occasional film script.

Q. How long after that were you published?

SG. My first novel was published five years after I began teaching myself how to write long form.  ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI took me five years to write.  I’d say ‘five’ is the magic number.  It takes fifteen years of being published before you can support yourself with the writing.  This is not a career for sissies or cowards.  You better get used to hard work.  And rejection and frustration.  That’s what teaches you.  You can’t side-step the anguish.

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

SG. As I’ve often described, I keep a series of journals or notebooks on my computer for every novel I write.  The journal is where I keep plot possibilities, ideas, research notes, character sketches, dialogue when it occurs to me.  The collective journals for ‘V’ IS FOR VENGEANCE came to 967 single-spaced pages.  The journals for ‘W’ came to 1298 single-spaced pages on the day I finished the book, which was February 21, 2013.  It took me a year to settle on the storyline .  I work by trial and error which is why it takes me so long.  After a mere thirty years at this, I know what doesn’t work but I don’t always know it in advance.  I write and then I think, no.  I write some more and think, don’t think so. I write some more and think, are you kidding me?  I write some more and I think, well that stinks.  And on it goes.

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

SG. I am Kinsey Millhone so that was easy enough.  Other characters I discover as I go along.  Character and plot can never be separated.  Both have to be developed at the same time, in tandem, or a story won’t come to life.

Q. What inspired your story/stories ?

SG. Sometimes a germ of an idea will come to me.  In fact many times I have the germ of an idea.  That’s the easy part.  What’s difficult is figuring out what you can do with an idea, figuring out how you can develop it to the point where it will carry 660 manuscript pages.  You need heft and complexity and major muscle.  Not every idea will yield a novel.  One of my big lessons, always, is learning when to let it go.  I’m ruthless when it comes to that.  I might work on an idea for six months.  Once I realize it isn’t working and that I don’t know how to make it work, I dump it. 

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


SG.  I’ve written in other forms and formats; movie scripts, television scripts, short stories and novels.  I’ve never written science fiction or erotica or romance or horror or westerns.  I don’t know those forms and I wouldn’t do a good job of it.  I love the hard-boiled private eye novel and I love crime fiction, which is…as it turns out…where I belong.

Biography:  I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky where I graduated from the University of Louisville in 1961 with a degree in English.  I worked in a variety of jobs in the medical field, writing after the family was down for the night. Sold a ‘mainstream’ novel, KEZIAH DANE, that was published when I was 27 and then a second novel, THE LOLLY-MADONNA WAR, that was published when I was 29.  Altogether, before the alphabet novels, I wrote 7 books .  The eighth novel I wrote was ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI. Guess what I’ve been doing every since?’   


MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    December: British writer, J.G. Dow.  January: In Memory, Sue Grafton.
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PI, Kinsey Millhone is Hot on the Trail, Again! an Interview with Sue Grafton

                                                    An Interview with Mystery Writer, Sue Grafton  (Part 1)

best selling author, Sue Grafton, fiction for women                      Author,  John D. McDonald died suddenly back in 1986 and took Travis McGee with him.  I owned and had read every book of McDonald’s…..Now what was I suppose to do??  I didn’t read many mysteries (back then) but I was especially fond of Travis and his bear-of-a-man friend, Meyer.   So back in the eighties, (when you shopped at a real book store), I looked through the aisles for someone worthy of replacing John McDonald.   There I found “A is for Alibi” with the formidable and quirky, Kinsey writers, best selling authors, best sellers, fiction for womenMillhone.  I’ve been reading Sue Grafton ever since.  TS

this entry from Sue’s journals;

Dear Shadow . . . Self . . . and Right Brain, Doing everything I can here to make life possible. I’ve abandoned the old story . . . cleaned out my computer . . . sorted and tossed and filed away old notes and articles. Now I need help in launching myself again. Please speak to me. Please let me know where the new book is coming from. I really need your assistance and I’m hoping you’ll spark something so I can get to work.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Love & kisses,


Response from Shadow Self:   How about an old-fashioned unsolved murder case?  Parents are angry because nothing’s been done.    Case is old & cold, with no new leads coming in.
Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?

best sellers, Sue Grafton,
Sue Grafton’s work space

A. I have an office in both my homes; Montecito, California and Louisville Kentucky.  The two are different in terms of size and style but I can’t tell you that I’m more productive in one than in the other.  I like lots of light.  I like tidiness.  I like space.  I like quiet.  When I’m working my desk is usually a mess, but I do make an effort from time to time to restore order. The creative process is messy enough. I don’t need to look at chaos as well.

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

A.  Often I do a short stint of self-hypnosis which helps quiet the chatter in my head and helps me focus and concentrate.  I learned the technique from a book on the subject that I got at a book store and it’s been a wonderful way to keep ‘centered’ if you’ll forgive the term.

Q. What is your mode of writing? (long hand? Pencil? Computer? Etc.)

A. A computer, of course. Which I claim has greatly improved my skills.  In the ‘olden’ days of white out and cutting and pasting, I got hung up on whether the page ‘looked right’. I hated adding anything that forced me to repaginate because I didn’t like all the extra work.  If I deleted 11 lines, I got so I could exactly replace the missing lines with something that would work as well so that I didn’t have to retype everything.  To my way of thinking, this is not the key to writing well. On a computer I can and do write every line over and over until it suits me.  The tinkering is infinite.  I when a line is right and when it’s not, I revise and refine and cut and amend until it sounds right to my inner ear.

Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

A. I’m usually at my desk at 8:00.  I check emails and make a brief visit to my Face Book page where I chat with readers.  I never feel truly creative.  I work until lunch time when I take a short break.  go back until mid-afternoon when I usually take a walk with one of a number of friends.  I work seven days a week because it’s easier to stay connected to the writing.  In completing “W” writing, best sellers, fiction for women, Sue GraftonI worked double-sessions, returning to my desk after dinner.  I cut out our social life.  I nixed all the walks which I found interrupted the work too often.  I didn’t run errands.  I didn’t stop to get my hair cut.





Part 2 of this Interview will be posted August 6th

And to read more in the fascinating Journals that Sue keeps for each book, go to:  www.suegrafton.com
DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS. INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS!      A SERIES, “The Writer’s Corner”

I have had a wonderful response from other authors and will feature an interview once a month . These authors have already responded and you can read their interviews by clicking on their name: Ann Purser, Susan Elia MacNeal,  Karen Robards, Mark Childress, Rhys Bowen, Dean Koontz, Sheryl Woods, Jo-Ann Mapson, Jeffrey Deaver, Elizabeth Gilbert, Raymond Benson, Amber Winckler, Heidi Jon Schmidt, Robert McCammon, Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, Nora Roberts, and many others.

So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!  July features Rhys Bowen.  Sue Grafton is August’s author with a bonus chat with Cathy Lamb later in the month.  September will feature Tasha Alexander. Jeffrey Deaver is November’s author and  slick mystery writer, Andrew Grant will join us this winter. Loretta Chase will be featured later this year. Raymond Benson is my January author. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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World Renowned Mystery Writer, Sue Grafton visits my Blog!

sue-grafton-3.2012a           DON’T MISS IT!  Starting tomorrow, my interview with Sue Grafton, most famous for her best selling alphabet series!

August 1st and 6th, Sue shares with me and her readers her process as she writes her best sellers.  Beginning back in the eighties she wrote “A IS FOR ALIBI”  and the rest is history. What happens when we get to “Z”??  Will that be the end to Kinsey Milhone, PI?  Oh, no!!!

best selling author, Sue Grafton, fiction for womenwriting, best sellers, fiction for women, Sue Grafton