I’m very excited to have Sally Wright (Edgar Allen Poe Award Finalist) on the blog with us today. She’s agreed to answer some questions about her writing process.
- The best way to publish these days?
It depends on your circumstances and what you write. Are you healthy? Do you have unlimited time, as far as you know? Are your opinions and perspectives compatible with today’s media managed world views? Then perhaps a traditional NY publisher, if they’re committed enough to put money behind you. If the above doesn’t apply, then maybe self-publish on the net. Your royalties are good, though you won’t have the opportunity for established media reviews (which, of course, are disappearing).
- Favorite genres to read, and why?
I read biographies, history, mysteries, thrillers, historical novels and whatever else I stumble upon that appeals. I’m interested in people, and other times, and how they’re both different and similar, to what I am, and we are today. I like reading writers who really use language well. That pulls me into all sorts of books.
- Do your characters talk to you?
Yes. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes when I should be doing something else, like thinking about driving the car. Fortunately, usually, when I’ve got my fingers on the keyboard.
- How do you approach starting a new book?
Some of my books have started with a setting – Pride And Predator with Holy Island off the East Coast of England, where I stood in the early morning mist in the ruins of a Benedictine Priory and asked myself, “How could I have someone here all alone and manage to actually murder him?” Out Of The Ruins started on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia with a fight between the Thomas Carnegie family and the Federal Government that was trying to take their island by right of eminent domain. Pursuit And Persuasion, an Edgar Finalist, started with a tombstone in Burford, England that talked about the “murder of John Pryor, gent, who was murdered and found hidden in the priory garden” late in the 1600s.
Of course, all those Ben Reese books started with a real life university archivist who’d been an Army Ranger in Europe in WWII, who worked with me on all the books based on his experiences. Watches of the Night came out of reading about the US tech teams that were sent behind the German lines to look for Nazi science, partly to use ourselves. Code of Silence started with reading about the Soviet Venona Code that came to light when US historians worked in the KGB archives before they were closed again.
The Jo Grant books – Breeding Ground and the new Behind The Bonehouse – take place in the horse world around Lexington Kentucky and are “written” by a woman architect who looks back 30 years later to come to grips with the loss and the vicissitudes of her own experiences and those of others in three family owned horse related businesses – Jo’s family’s broodmare care farm, an equine pharmaceutical company, and a horse van manufacturer (while some characters were WWII OSS agents who are having to readjust to a post-war world).
So starting with the major characters in the series, I start doing the research that always seems to drive my plots whether I like it or not!
- What is your writing process?
I develop the initial ideas through a lot of research, partly because both series take place in the early 1960s, but also because there’s always a lot of specialized information that plays into my plots – archival stuff in the Ben Reese books – rare books, ancient documents, painting restoration, etc., as well as microbiology and even research done by hunting with hawks up in central Scotland.
The Jo Grant books have taken plenty of research too studying equine vet techniques and equine pharmaceuticals, and interviews with all kinds of horse people down around Lexington. I’ve read countless books about the OSS and the French Resistance. “Had” might not be the right word. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop.
In terms of a daily process, I write five days a week, just like a regular day job.
- What are the best writing books you’ve ever read?
I remember learning a lot from a book on writing characters called Fiction Is Folks by someone I think was named Scott Peck. I don’t read a whole lot about how to write at this stage in my life.
- What are your non-writing hobbies, or what do you do to relax?
I rode horses for thirty years. I never competed, but tried to learn dressage for my own pleasure and improvement. I saved my first horse from the killers even though the chances of him being lame a lot were obvious. My favorite horse, Max (see Watches of the Night) had to have his eye removed after I bought him, and we rode together and took care of each other till he was 32, when I had to put him down because he developed cancer. I can’t ride anymore, but we’ve got a great boxer dog named Jake, who keeps me amused, the most recent in long line of boxers and boxer-mutts my family’s loved for years. I like taking walk in the countryside, and being with our very young grandkids. And reading, of course, obsessively, plus cooking, and an ongoing interest in architecture and interior design. I paint too, though I haven’t for quite awhile.
8.What was your best date ever?
The afternoon in Seattle, Washington when my husband of 46 years (after having danced around me for 7 years after we’d met at 16) finally asked me to marry him.
Aw, love this!
- Navy SEAL or Cowboy?
Cowboy, hands down, because of the horse connection.
- Chocolate or chips?
- If you could have a superpower what would it be?
It’d be interesting to travel back in time, as long as I could come home to today, to my real everyday life.
- Fancy restaurant or picnic?
I like both. It’d depend on the circumstances, and probably the weather.
- Beer or wine?
Wine. Pinot noir in particular. Maybe a beer with Indian food.
- Favorite author?
That’s hard. I can’t pick just one. C.S.Lewis, in terms of what I’ve learned from him, and the depth and breadth of his mind and imagination. Novelists? Austen, Tolstoy, Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D.James in mysteries, Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. I could go on for a long time . . .
- Smooth or hairy?
Dogs? Hairy, but shorthaired.
Men? I’m more interested in the man underneath the skin, though I don’t like hairy backs.
Behind the Bonehouse
by Sally Wright
It wasn’t until thirty years after the attacks, and the lies, and the intricately orchestrated death, that Jo Grant Munro could bring herself to describe it all in Behind The Bonehouse. Her work as an architect, and the broodmare farm she ran with her uncle, and her husband Alan’s entire future – all hung by a thread in 1964 in the complex Thoroughbred culture of bluegrass Kentucky, where rumor and gossip and the nightly news can destroy a person overnight, just like anywhere else. It was hatred in a self-obsessed soul, fermenting in an equine lab, boiling over and burning what it touched, that drove Jo and Alan to the edge of desperation while they fought through what they faced.
Wednesday, July 3rd, 1963
It was five in the morning, and Alan Munro was alone, again, in the lab at Equine Pharmaceuticals. He’d just looked at the notes in the formulation notebook Carl Seeger, Equine’s lab director, had entered the day before, and he tossed a red lab crayon on his desk with a look of deep disgust. He rubbed his eyes with both hands, and leaned back in his chair—then pushed himself up and limped, slightly, less the longer he walked, to the research corner in the back of the plant.
He’d converted a fifty-four gallon drum into a mixing tank they could use to develop the proper methods for converting a beaker-size experimental batch of his new horse de-wormer paste into an intermediate batch, before they moved to a commercial size tank.
This latest mixture was way too thin, and the solids hadn’t properly dispersed in the methylcellulose, and as Alan read the batch sheet he muttered words he’d almost never used since he’d come home from World War II. At 8:35 Alan walked into the main lab and asked Carl Seeger if he could speak to him for a minute.
Carl was weighing white powder on a double pan balance, and he didn’t look up before he’d slid the powder off one pan into a large glass beaker and replaced the brass weights from the other in their wooden rack. “I’m busy right now, Alan. I should be free in an hour or so.” He spoke calmly and quietly, his thin mouth tucked under a wispy mustache, his pale brown eyebrows pulled down in concentration, half-hiding his small hazel eyes.
“It’s important, Carl.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Edgar Alan Poe Award Finalist Sally Wright has studied rare books, falconry, early explorers, painting restoration, WWII Tech-Teams, the Venona Code, and much more, to write her university-archivist-ex-WWII-Ranger books about Ben Reese, who’s based on a real person.
Breeding Ground, Wright’s most recent novel, is the first in her new Jo Grant mystery series, which has to do with the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky. Wright is now finishing the second Jo Grant novel.
Sally and her husband have two children, three young grandchildren, and a highly entertaining boxer dog, and live in the country in northwestern Ohio.
Sally Wright will be awarding copies of several of Sally Wright’s books to a randomly drawn U.S. (only) winner via rafflecopter during the tour.