We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!
After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?
Research everything. I’m a nonfiction writer so after conceiving a chapter, I like to have every pertinent date and quote at hand so that there is no distraction—no source material to obtain— from staying in the flow.
Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?
Many of my favorite authors were alcoholics, but I’ve always thrived on healthier forms of prewriting stimulation—bike riding, running, yoga. Having a clear head and listening to music puts me in the writing mood as does being just a little tired. Maybe it was because I was writing about ghosts and magic, but I always felt most imaginative at night. And I usually do my best work at home.
Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?
I attended Graduate Film School at NYU and anticipated a career in film production. Later I did have a book idea and queried a literary agent, Tina Bennett, on a proposal related to astrology, which I was practicing professionally while trying to get my film projects off the ground. In the course of our communication, I also mentioned a screenplay I was developing about Houdini’s rivalry with a controversial Jazz age medium. She was thrilled with that story, which became the basis for The Witch of Lime Street, my first book.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
“Every word should mean something.”
What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?
Any serious writer should read everything, particularly by those authors with whom you identify, but William Faulkner once said of Shelby Foote that he only became a successful writer when he stopped trying to be Faulkner and started being Foote.
Read more about The Witch of Lime Street here.