Saturday, September 1, 2012

Interview with Esther Schrader

Today I'm interviewing author Esther Schrader whom I've known since elementary school.  We're the two authors in our high school class of nearly 500 students, each of us in a different genre.  After running into Esther at a recent reunion, I ordered one of her books, Death Walks Among Us, the story of an escaped serial killer and the desperate attempts to find and capture him. 

Q Have you always written or wanted to write?

A I have written and been published since I was 10.  First in school newspapers, then local newspapers and company house organs and finally by national publishing houses.  My motto says it all:  "I must write or die.  And no, you don't get to choose."

Q What got you started?

A I have always been a voracious reader.  When I was a child, we drove to the library every Satuday morning and I checked out the maximum 6 books allowed.  I almost finished the first one before we arrived home.  My home was filled with books then as it is today.

Q Why were you drawn to the mystery genre?

A Experts tell us to "write what you know."  I would add, "Write what you love to read."  Early on my heroes were Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  As I drfited away from horror, my reading turned to James Patterson, Agatha Christie, and a host of others too numerous to name.  I love legal thrillers, but I don't have the background to write them.  I also love police procedurals, and one of my novels currently underway is in that genre.

Q Tell us about your road to publication.

A When I retired as an insurance professional in early 2000, I set my sights on becoming a professional writer.  I joined writing organizations, attended writers' conferences, participated in in critique groups, soaked up seminars, and accumulated a massive library of reference books.  My goal was to be a novelist, but I soon discovered I would have better luck breaking into professional publication by perfecting the art of short story writing.  My stories appeared in 10 or so anthologies and online venues before my first novel was published.  I met my primary publisher online through the daily genre newsletter, Flashshot, which I was editing at the time.

Q I think writers are always interested in the process other writers use.  Do you have any special routines?

A I usually have several projects underway.  I'll write on the one that floats to the top at any given time.  Sometimes I hit a wall, and then I lay that one aside and work on another.  I'm always writing, either on my computer on in my head.  I'm alert to real dialogue, unusual names of places and plots twists.  When an idea comes to me, I write it down.  I always carry a notebook and pen in my purse, and keep them all over my home as well.

Q Do you write from beginning to end or skip around?

A From beginning to end, but I might go back and insert a chapter or throw one out if the story line takes a different direction.  Sometimes my characters compel me to shift direction.

Q Outline first?

A I tried that once, and it bored me to death.  I do organize my story arcs, but that is while I'm writing.

Q Do you start with character or plot?

A My books and stories are character-driven.  The plot comes from the characters as they come to life and tell me the story.  This is a result of my having started out by writing and producing 10 mystery dinner shows before I retired from insurance.  I've been told I have an ear for dialogue.  While I was writing my fanstasy thriller, Wrath of Thoth, I was working on my computer when suddenly one of the characters did something I didn't expect.  "You can't do that," I actually said aloud.  The action totally changed not only the scene but the rest of the novel.  And she was right!  I guess that taught me tp never second-guess your characters, if you have created them accurately.

Q Have you taken any writing courses?

A Just seminars and writers' workshops and conferences.

Q Joined any writing groups?

A Going on the recommendation of a highly respected handbook for beginning writers, I first joined Horror Writers of America.  I picked that one because the first book I wrote was a horror novel titled Death WAlks Among Us, which ended up being my third one published, after several rewirtes.  Later I joined the Oregon Writers Colony and the Northwest Writers Association and dropped out of HWA.

Q How have you publicized your books?

A My best publicity is word of mouth from my readers.  Fans of my Ginger Akana Adventure series are always asking me, "When will your next Ginger book copme out?"  I have a web site  I try to keep it up to date, but it usually lags behind my activity.  I also have a brochure that I use liberally to acquaint people with all my books and how to get them.  I arrange readings/signings whenever possible and donate copies of my novels to fundraisers.  I participate in book fairs and other functions sponsored by the Oregon Writers Colony.  And going on the thesis of, "If you can't beat them, join them," I have transcribed two of my novels into Kindle format and plan to add the others as time permits.

Q Any writing tips?

A I accumulate reference material to have available for future work.  Sometimes I find relevant material while I'm actually writing a particular novel. I wouldn't dream of starting a novel without proper research and in-depth character bios.  One pice of advice:  read as much as you can in the genre you wish to write.  Spread your net behond best sellers.  I've found some unique writers to have become favorites and, in some cases, good friends.
 Look for Esther Schraders' books on Amazon or check out her website


Rossandra said... [Reply to comment]

I so very impressed you read all those books. And a great interview.


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