E. B. Davis
I’m going to assume that my readership knows your book (and if they aren’t, they should). Your setting is Deadwood, S.D., and at times throughout the setting seemed to be a character. Being from the East coast, is Deadwood a real place, and why did you set the book there?
Deadwood is definitely a real place and has been since the late 1800s. It’s the site where “Wild” Bill Hickok was murdered, Calamity Jane liked to spend her days and nights, and outlaws, miners, and cowboys hung out in droves. It’s located in the beautiful Black Hills and has been the setting for many true wild-west anecdotes.
I set the book in Deadwood because I spent summers there growing up. Over the decades, I frequented area museums, got to know the locals, and explored the area’s back roads and ghost towns. A few years ago, I was visiting my mom, who still lives there, the story idea for the book just kind of whopped me upside the head. I love Deadwood—the sites, the smells, the people. I couldn’t wait to fill the pages with it.
Part of the humor of the book is how your main character, Violet—an unwed mother of twins—deals with the turbulence of raising children. How much of that humor is perspective and how much is situational dilemma? Did you draw from your own experience?
When it comes to humor in my stories, I like to drop my characters into a scene that is ripe for comedy. Then, I sit back and let them react, chuckling as I type their thoughts, internal dialogue, and banter. For Violet, a lot of her wit and sarcasm comes from my own frustrations and experiences as a parent (and watching friends and family deal with their kids, too). Children can drive you to drink one moment, and then bring you to tears of laughter the next. It’s these extremes that lend to the kid-related humor in my story.
I think of your authorial voice as Deep Throat because Violet’s thoughts, attitudes and ideas are imbedded in your POV. We like her sarcasm and wit. How did you develop your voice?
Practice and experimentation.
I have been writing for publication for almost fifteen years now. It was in the midst of writing my third manuscript when I first stumbled onto my style (the genre mix of romance with mystery, adventure, and humor). But my voice wasn’t developed yet at that point. While I was writing my fifth manuscript, I read Dean Koontz’s book, Odd Thomas, and something clicked in my brain. I suddenly understood the purpose of setting and how to interlace action with plot. I also discovered how to unlock my voice and let it fill the pages. I had gained the confidence to stop writing what I thought I was supposed to and instead just let everything flow. It was incredibly freeing, and my critique partner was surprised at the change in my story telling. From there, it’s all been fine-tuning and experimenting, seeing what feels best and what sounds like crap.
One character we all love to hate is Violet’s co-worker Ray. I’ve had a Ray in my past, have you?
I’ve had a few Rays in my life. I come from small town America. Sexual harassment as a Human Resources violation was still kind of new outside of the city limits when I graduated from high school and entered the workforce. Many of the things that Ray says to Violet I’ve had said to me or I’ve heard said to someone else. With Ray, I wanted to experiment with a “villain” who wasn’t the story’s true villain. He’s fun to write, actually, because like most of my readers, I love to hate him, too.
I was interested in your format. The book is written somewhat as a journal. Was this due to Violet’s deadline? How did you decide on that format?
I’ve actually written in this format for years. As I write a story, I don’t keep a detailed outline of the story. Because of this, I need a way to keep track of the timeline, so I insert the date at the start of each story day. With Violet’s book, due to it being told in first-person POV, it comes across more like a journal than my third-person POV stories, which I liked when it was all said and done. Also, since Violet is on a deadline, I like how the date helps the reader keep track of the ticking clock.
There is a paranormal element in your first book, which I assume will unfold in sequels. But there is also an element of disbelief on Violet’s part. Will this doubt be a source of conflict?
Definitely. Violet is like me when it comes to paranormal abilities—we’re both “duds.” The paranormal element provides internal conflict for her. Imagine if many of the people you know and love claimed to hear and/or see ghosts, and yet you picked up absolutely nothing. You would wonder if they were crazy for claiming to see ghosts, or if you were crazy for not seeing them. This adds a level of uncertainty for her (and the reader, I’m hoping) as to which characters are legitimate in sensing up other beings, and which ones are full of it.
When you’re writing, how do you handle backstory? It almost seems as if you outlined your book, then sandwiched in specific lines of backstory that you needed to precede a plot point where it was necessary. Am I correct?
That would be very left-brained of me to write that way, and I’m very right-brained in my story-telling process. Here’s what I do in a nutshell: I come up with high-level plot details (for example, a midpoint note might be, “Someone dies here.”). Then I use scene and sequel to tell the story chapter by chapter, brainstorming continually along the way. It’s not uncommon for me to finish a chapter and, when one of my first draft critique partners asks what comes next, tell her, “I don’t know, I was hoping I could throw some ideas around with you and see what feels right.” I love the excitement of finding out the story’s twists and turns as I go, just like a reader. Many times, I’m as surprised by something that happens as my critique partners.
Can you give us the hook of the second book, Optical Delusions in Deadwood?
Someone is spreading rumors around Deadwood that Violet Parker likes to chat with dead folks.
With her reputation endangered, her bank account on the verge of extinction, and her career at risk of going up in flames, Violet is desperate. When the opportunity to sell another vintage home materializes, she grabs it, even though this “haunted” house was recently the stage for a two-act, murder-suicide tragedy.
Ghost or no ghost, Violet knows this can’t be as bad as the last house of horrors she tried to sell, but sexy Doc Nyce has serious doubts. Her only hope of hanging on to her job is to prove that the so-called, ghostly sightings are merely the eccentric owner’s optical delusions.
But someone—or something—in the house wants Violet stopped...dead.
Try this series if you like great writing, a mixed genre flavor and a fast moving plot. After reading her books, please write a review on Amazon and help spread the word about this fine author. Catch Ann at the following websites. http://www.anncharles.com/, www.anncharles.com/deadwood or http://www.1stturningpoint.com/, a site Ann co-owns with other authors to teach, share, and learn all about promotion.
Next week, I’ve asked Ann questions about her publishing experiences now that she has two books in the series in the market.