We like writers here, and we’re keen to learn from them. Crime Thriller Fella reviewed Anne Zouroudi‘s new Hermes Diaktoros mystery The Feast Of Artemis on Friday, and Anne kindly agreed to answer some questions about the critical business of getting words on a page.
What’s your writing process? What comes first, plot or character?
Usually I have a year to write a book, and I tend to spend the first three months of that time mulling it over – making a few notes, gathering ideas, playing with plot-lines. By the time I sit down to write, I’ll have the germ of an idea I think will work, and a couple of characters will already be in my head. Other players in the drama will introduce themselves as the book progresses, and hopefully by the time I’m about two-thirds of the way through and eight months in, I’ll know whodunit. It’s always a great moment when I finish the first draft – by which I mean a great relief. Then I go back to the beginning, and do my next draft, and then the next one, polishing and polishing until it’s of a standard to go to my editor.
Take us through a typical writing day for you?
I would so like to claim to be an organised, sit-down-at-nine-on-the-dot kind of a writer, but I’m not. I usually start work very early – as early as 5am. But sometimes I’ll wake at 2am bursting with words, write for three or four hours and then sleep late. So the hours of my writing day are not cast in stone, but I do write every day, otherwise I can’t live with the feelings of guilt.
Who are the authors you love, and why?
I love Denis Lehane and Don Winslow and Michael Connelly – those guys know how to tell a story, and for me it’s all about story. I recently discovered Neil Gaiman – strange it took me so long, since he and I seem to share the same world view. I love how he combines the real world with fantasy, creating urban fairy stories for adults. But I’ll read just about anything, if the writing’s of decent quality, though I don’t read stuff with cutting and slashing in it. Gore makes me feel ill.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever had to learn about writing?
That the market, on the whole, is conservative, and if you want to be published, you have to write commercial fiction. It’s OK to write quirky stuff, but you have to write it for yourself.
How do you deal with feedback?
Depends who it’s from, but broadly speaking, in the fiction game there’s no room for ego. If it’s feedback from my agent or editor, I pay close attention, and act on it. If it’s from my readers, face to face, I act on it. If it’s a review on Amazon, I don’t read it. Reading your own reviews on Amazon – that way madness lies…
How have your own experiences shaped your writing?
I set my books in Greece because I lived there for a number of years, otherwise I would never have thought of the islands as settings for novels. I think I’m old enough now and have enough of life’s experiences under my belt – happiness and heartbreak – to write convincing fiction, and I’ve always believed it’s important to put myself into what I write, heart and soul. For example, I wrote The Whispers of Nemesis as my mother was dying, and it shows: the book’s all cemeteries and funerals. But readers have commented how moving that is, so using that experience within the book really connects people with the story.
Give me some advice about writing…
Writing is a craft, a skill to be worked at like carpentry, or playing the guitar, so don’t expect your first efforts to be greeted with cheers and accolades from the publishing industry. Keep writing until the rewards come. When you’re good enough, you’ll know, because people will want to talk to you.
And what’s your best advice for an author looking to get into the marketplace…
If you’re doing it for money, forget it, spend your time on something where the odds are better you’ll make a living. If you’re doing it for love, be aware it may break your heart, but do it anyway.
Good question. I’m working on some short stories, and I have an idea for a TV drama. But it won’t be long before I bring back with Hermes. His fans are already demanding the next installment…