Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stephanie Bond: A Day in the Life of a Mystery Novelist

Mystery Books News is thrilled to welcome mystery author Stephanie Bond as a guest blogger.

Stephanie Bond, Author
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Bond

Atlanta novelist Stephanie Bond has written over 40 romance and mystery novels. She currently writes a humorous mystery series for Mira Books called Body Movers. The first three books in the series are available now. Look for 4 Bodies and a Funeral, 5 Bodies to Die For, and 6 Killer Bodies to be released, respectively, in April, May, and June 2009.

Prospective mystery writers may want to pay close attention as Stephanie gives us a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a mystery novelist.

7:00 a.m.: My husband’s alarm goes off and he gets out of bed. I roll around or turn on the TV and watch Headline News until my alarm goes off at 7:30. My alarm is actually the sound of the ocean surf; I let it go off for 20 minutes or so while I watch the news. It’s a soothing juxtaposition to the economy crashing and people murdering each other. Reality, I think, is scarier than fiction these days. I write about people killing each other, but it’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of someone actually taking another person’s life for no good reason. In contrast, the people in my books who get killed usually deserve it.

8:00 a.m.: I turn on my computer and crack open a diet soda crammed with as much caffeine as possible. (FYI, Pepsi Max has the most caffeine of any diet soda on the market. If you try it, please use your newfound super powers for good.) I’m not a coffee drinker—love the smell, hate the taste. I wolf down a banana or if I’m feeling energetic, will make a bowl of oatmeal.

8:00 – 8:10 a.m.: Three wrong numbers in a row, all for the Georgia Telco Credit Union whose number is one digit off my home number. (I ask you, how can so many people who work for the telecommunications industry not know how to dial the ding dang phone?) The first two people take the news that they’ve dialed the wrong number with surprise, then apologize. The last guy argues with me that he did SO dial the correct number and assumes I’m a customer service rep trying to punk him. So I do what every honest person would do—I assure him that absolutely, his funds will be transferred to his new account in time for his vacation. Enjoy!

The Body Movers Trilogy by Stephanie Bond

8:15 – 9:30 a.m.: I return email and, if I feel inspired, add an entry to my own blog at Open Book on www.stephaniebond.com. I’ve maintained an open journal on my website for almost five years, a one-way conversation about writing and books and the writing life. Visitors were invited to email me with comments and questions, but I never had a “comments” section where guests could interact…until recently. Now Open Book is a bona fide blog and I get to hear what my guests are thinking, too. I see blogging as a serious responsibility—I don’t want to distribute bad advice to my guests, or say something off the cuff that I’ll regret later. Because once you put it out there, it’s carved in limestone. I don’t Twitter. I don’t have a FaceBook or MySpace page yet. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that it takes so much time away from my writing. And okay, I don’t really want to, but I’m sure I’ll succumb to the masses someday soon.

9:30 a.m.: I pull up my work-in-progress and start writing where I left off the previous day. I can usually pick up easily because I follow a detailed synopsis and chapter outline. If you’re a writer and you don’t believe in writing a synopsis, God and The Force be with you because you’re going to need something akin to divine intervention to finish that manuscript . Do yourself and everyone who has to live with you a big favor and take the time to write a good synopsis. It will be worth its weight in gold. I’m just saying.

10:00 - 11:00 a.m.: The writing is going pretty well. If I get stuck, I always fall back on dialogue, which never fails to save me. If I’m working on a Body Movers book, I look to the characters to find interesting ways for scenes to unfold. My main character, Carlotta Wren, works for Neiman Marcus during the day, and helps her brother move bodies from crime scenes by night. With lots of overlapping relationships between the characters, there’s always an interesting combination to choose from. I maintain a cumulative “bible” for the Body Movers series to keep everything and everyone straight. The most difficult thing? Because everyone is keeping secrets from each other, it’s hard for me to keep up with who knows what!

11:00 a.m.: I stop to talk to a friend on the phone. There are about 3 writer friends with whom I talk at least a couple of times a week. But we limit ourselves to 10-minute conversations about what we’re working on and what’s going on in our careers. I multi-task while I’m on the phone, so I’m either doing laundry or leg lifts at the same time.

11:15 a.m.: I have to answer more email. My editor needs for me to go online and fill out Art Fact Sheets. Those are the forms the Art Department uses to come up with a cover. I do what I’m told with my tongue in my cheek—the Art Department NEVER uses my ideas. I have to say, though, that the “charm bracelet” covers for the Body Movers spring trilogy are fantastic. (Books 4, 5, and 6 are coming out back to back and all feature The Charmed Killer, who leaves a charm in the mouth of each of his victims.) I love the covers so much I acknowledged the art director in the front of one of the books. With good reason—a great cover will make or break a book.

11:45 a.m.: I’m on the Neiman Marcus website. Since my main character in the Body Movers series works there, I have to keep up with the things they sell. For the record, I can’t afford to shop at Neiman’s, but they have a great website. Btw, drool is not good for a keyboard.

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.: I go to the gym to “wrilk,” meaning I write on my AlphaSmart machine while walking on the treadmill. I can comfortably type while walking at 3 mph at a 1.5 incline. In one hour I can write 3-4 pages. (Please do not try this unless you’re a touch typist.) I wrilk during the day because if I do it at the gym in the evening, my husband pretends he doesn’t know me.

2:00 – 5:00 p.m.: After a shower, I’m back to work, transferring my AlphaSmart pages into my word processor. Today I’m looking into poisons to incorporate into a storyline, so I pull out my reference books and look for something interesting. (The reference books on my shelf will curl your toes: When You Die. Deadly Weapons. Natural Poisons.) Then I go online and research poisons there, too, and see how someone could purchase or make it. I’m sure that Homeland Security has me flagged as someone who spends WAY too much time online researching ways to kill people. My husband once said, “Honey, if something ever happened to me, you would be in so much trouble.” To which I responded, “If something ever happened to you, sweetie, they’d never find your body.”

5:00 p.m.: I realize that the post office closes in 30 minutes and I really need to get some packages of promotional material in the mail today, so I shoot out the door and jog the 3 blocks to my post office. The line snakes out the door. I pull out the book I keep in my bag—I do most of my reading in the line at the post office.

6:00 – 7:30 p.m.: Dinner with my husband and general clean up. We talk about our day and I might ask him to help me talk/walk through a scene I’m working on. He’s a good sport that way. The only thing he’s ever refused to do is close me up in a sofa bed to see if anyone could tell a body was inside. He refused, saying the people in the office building across from our living room window would flood the 9-1-1 lines. But he gets big points for going along with the “How to Make Your Own Dildo” at-home kit.

8:00 – 10:00 p.m.: I move to my desk, which is laden with paperwork. I fill out foreign tax forms for my agency, I put together prizes for the winners of my monthly website contest. I register for an upcoming conference. I put together a handout for the workshop I’m presenting at said conference. I make a list of to-do items for the next day and check my calendar. I sneak a piece of Dove dark chocolate from the bag I keep in my desk drawer.

10:00 p.m. – midnight: I work on my laptop in the living room with the TV on as background noise. I read back over what I’ve written that day and edit to clean it up and add new thoughts as they occur to me. My goal is to write 8 pages a day, which is challenging for me, but doable. I like to leave off in the middle of a scene to keep things interesting for me. (Writers play games to trick ourselves into writing.) Tonight I leave off with, She’d thought it was hard to get chocolate out from under her fingernails after an icing binge, but that was nothing compared to blood. I think I can build on that tomorrow.

Our thanks to Stephanie for sharing her day with us today! For more information about Stephanie and her books, visit StephanieBond.com.

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5 comments:

  1. I really admire your stamina and organization Stephanie. If I'm not in bed by nine or so, I'm not worth shooting the next day.

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  2. I'm like a little kid when it comes to going to bed--I feel like I'm missing out on something! Would love to have 36-hour days a couple of times a week, say, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or, like a friend of mine once said, "Today I wanted to put the rest of the world on "pause" and after I'd caught up on everything, hit "resume." "

    But it's wonderful having a full life and being tired at night, isn't it?

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  3. Absolutely entertaining blog. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read one of your books - but if they're anything like your blog, I can't wait to get started!

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  4. Very fun blog. I might regret admitting this, but closing someone up in a sofa bed works! Can't wait to read your next book.

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  5. Thanks for the kind words, itsamystery--would love to count you as a reader of the series!

    And Anonymous...how is it that you know about being closed up in a sofa bed?!

    Hope you enjoy the books as much as I enjoy writing them!

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