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Join Fiction Factor as we talk to Patricia Briggs, the bestselling author of the Mercy Thomspon series.
Fiction Factor: What are you working on now?
Patricia Briggs: I just finished copyedits for "Seeing Eye", a short story that will appear in St. Martin's, an anthology about witches. I'm currently writing the next Alpha and Omega book, . And as soon as I finish that, it's back to Mercy in Silver Borne, which will be Samuel's book -- at last. Also in the book, Mercy finds that returning a book she borrowed won't be as easy as it should.
Patricia Briggs: No. There is a story that does
some of that -- "Alpha and Omega" in the Ace anthology,
FF: Do you write your stories according to a pre-organized plotline?
Patricia Briggs: Sometimes <grin>. Sometimes not.
I usually have an idea about the story when I start, some issues I want
to cover, some scenes I think I'll put in -- but nothing too concrete.
I prefer to draw up characters, give them a problem or two-- and throw
them all together and see what they do. Of course, sometimes that means
I throw away a lot of pages, but it makes the story more fun for me to
work on -- and I hope less predictable.
FF: What was the best piece of advice you've received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
Patricia Briggs: I've been given a lot of good
advice over the years. One that I found very useful was from
FF: Have you ever suffered from writer's block and if so, how do you overcome it?
There are a lot of variants of
writer's block. Infamous is the "middle doldrums" where all the
characters have been introduced, the plot has been implemented -- and
you have two hundred pages to get to the end. Getting over that one is
largely a matter of experience and it seldom bothers me anymore. The
most useful thing for dealing with it is to send the protagonist out to
deal with the problem (Plot!) and fail or make the situation worse.
There are other tricks, but a lot of them are personal -- or dependent
on the book you're writing.
Patricia Briggs: People fascinate me. Why they do
what they do. I like telling stories and building characters -- and I
guess I'd do it if I never was published. The real drive behind
writing, for me, is that I want to see how the story ends, too. And
that hasn't changed.
FF: Many new writers feel that their publisher should do most of the promotional work for their books, but the hard truth is, that only happens for best selling authors. How has your publisher changed/increased promotion of your books since you hit the NYTimes bestseller list?
Patricia Briggs: Mostly, publishers exist on a very small profit margin. They can't afford to promote a book that isn't going to sell like gangbusters -- and writers shouldn't want them to either. You want your publisher to make a profit on your book so they buy the next book. Too much publicity can hurt your career, too. I know that sounds stupid, but it is true. Writing is something you get better at. There are the few writers whose first book is awesome by any standards -- but most of us are learning and our first books are . . . well, they are the best we can write with the skills that we have. If Ace had, for instance, taken my first book and put a big ad in the NYTimes, Publisher's Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly-- everyone who picked up Masques would shake their head and say -- what was Ace smoking? Masques might have sold a lot more copies than it did (it could hardly have sold fewer) -- but no one would have picked up the second book. It wasn't a bad book, I'm not embarrassed by it by any means -- but it wasn't Tolkien either.
I know a few authors who have had their careers damaged by the wrong kind of publicity. Remember, readers are kinder to new authors whose book they "happen" to pick up because something caught their eye or because they spent a few minutes gleaning through the stacks than they are to "new stars" who are being promoted hard. It is a good thing, for the most part, that big publicity waits until you have a few books under your belt.
It can be frustrating, but publishers really want to sell as many copies of your book as you do. Authors, editors and publishers are all on the same side -- and you have to trust your allies to know their jobs.
Ace started promoting my books more heavily with
Patricia Briggs: Yes :) I tend to write about
things I know and then broaden my horizons a bit. The silver bullets
were an exceptionally detailed research project because I was actually
trying to make up for the fact that my research had been inadequate on
just how tough casting silver bullets would be <grin> and I got caught
out. So I now know that Mercy can cast her silver bullets -- but it
isn't the smartest/easiest way to do it. Machining, for instance, would
have been an easier way to go. And silver shot is a much better weapon,
and much, much easier to manufacture than a
FF: What was the best piece of advice you've received in regard to your writing career?
Patricia Briggs: Never criticize another author's book in public. But better than that was something my old horseback riding teacher had up on her wall: Be careful of the words you say, keep them soft and sweet. You never know from day to day, which ones you have to eat.
Patricia, thank you so much for speaking to us.