Brittany Hughes graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing, and subsequently earned a Masters in Teaching. She recently spent two years living in the Midwest, a landscape that inspired the setting of her novel, "Breaking Clay." ... [more]
As a kid, A.L. Torres fell in love with fantastic stories of worlds beyond our own such as "Animal Farm," "On the Beach" and "Metamorphosis." More recently, he's added "The Giver," "The Road" and "Hunger Games" as some of his favorites, ... [more]
Robert Steedman is a proud native New Yorker, receiving his B.A. in Art History from State University of New York at Geneseo and an M.S. Ed. in Art Education from Nazareth College. His first YA manuscript, FALLING, took First Place ... [more]
Janet Zupan earned her M.F.A. from the University of Montana in 1996. Her work appears in the collection, MONTANA WOMEN WRITERS: A GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART (Far Country) ... [more]
A Talk With Ken Plumb About His Writing Life and Novel
TITLE: LENEXA THIRTEEN GENRE: General Suspense Fiction COMPS: DON'T SAY A WORD by Barbara Freethy and THE HEART HAS REASONS by Martine March WORDS: 92,000+
Raised in the trailer park of a small Colorado town, my baby boomer life revolved around the fundamental Baptist church where my carpenter father was the pastor and my mother played the piano. An English teacher, she introduced me to the joys of reading. I escaped into Shakespeare, Dickens, Thoreau, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Twain, Fitzgerald, and others. I memorized 3000 bible verses and 300 poems. I became a pastor, read psychology books, and earned a PhD. I have sold thousands of copies of a pop psychology book, as well as a novel about clinical depression. One of my short stories was a national finalist in the Writer's Digest short fiction contest.
I have written short stories and spun therapeutic tales for years with moderate success. My skill has fallen short with the longer work. I have needed to learn to build complex characters with deeper points of view, richer description of setting with sensory texture, and plot organization that is driven by character goals and electrified by motivated responses.
- Ken Plumb AS: Please tell us about your writing life and inspirations?
I am a creature of habit: boring, plodding, steady. An office-warming gift from my wife, with alabaster end plates and brass spindles, an hourglass guards a corner of my maple desk staring east for twenty years, a wall of books on the right and a wall of windows on my left. Two mismatched recliners face me. Three thousand hypnotherapy clients have sat there and confided secrets that are often predictable and sometimes alien. When I write, my imaginary friends sit there and whisper the secrets that make them complicated characters. In June of 2012 I became angry at my white-bread writing. I resolved to study craft and to learn how to bake a book, and so gave myself an assignment to braid a novel about a hypnotist creating mystery for a local cop. What if everybody in the book is a liar? That was my sour-dough premise. By December I had cooked up several multi-grain messes. Then I discovered Author Salon and joined the courses. Now I'm playing with new recipes, and at the moment I have no predictable white bread.
AS: What authors and novels that have inspired you?
A PAINTED HOUSE by John Grisham. He presents character fabric in a textured setting with a knobbly plot. NOTORIOUS NINETEEN: STEPHANIE PLUM by Janet Evanovich. Cute, fast, sexy. What I learn from the masters is that I am trying too hard to follow the rules. Beautiful writing pales before the holy grail of emotional experience. Also DON'T SAY A WORD by Barbara Freethy, PARADISE VALLEY MYSTERIES by Debra Burroughs (but with deeper characters in a less predictable plot), and THE HEART HAS REASONS by Martine Marchand.
AS: Can you tell us about the novel?
In 2013, a self-styled wizard preaches death with dignity in Lenexa, Kansas, manipulating twelve terminally-ill people into assisted suicide. He hypnotizes a cop, whose flaw is that she can't pull the trigger, to become his surviving assistant, his thirteenth disciple. At his Green Door show he helps people choose life or death. As she recovers, the cop decides to prove wizard a fraud and avoid becoming number thirteen. Suicides continue. Wizard motivates cop's old boyfriend to create trouble. He breaks into her house, grabs daughter, announcing he's number twelve. So she's forced to pull the trigger at last.
AS: Why this story?
I have the authority and the passion to write this novel because this is the first time I have been brave enough to write exclusively from my own platform. I am a professional hypnotherapist with years of experience. My novel's antagonist is a rogue hypnotist on a mission I could envision taking myself. My protagonist is a female cop here in my town where I know most of the police department. My theme is "death with dignity," the Jack Kevorkian debate, which has troubled me more in recent years because people I care about have struggled with the question of when it is permissible for human beings to take their own lives, or to help others accomplish a more pleasant exit strategy.
AS: Challenges so far?
My biggest challenge to writing a commercially successful novel has been a lack of education in the craft of building a logical framework for an emotionally powerful story. I have written short stories and spun therapeutic tales for years with moderate success. My skill has fallen short with the longer work. I have needed to learn to build complex characters with deeper points of view, richer description of setting with sensory texture, and plot organization that is driven by character goals and electrified by motivated responses. Most of all, I am learning to use just enough logical structure to provide readers with a conduit for a powerful emotional experience so they can laugh a little and cry a lot.
AS: How has the Author Salon novel writing program helped you?
Every lesson has pulled my story out of the ditch and focused it. Four lessons are so far most valuable, IMO. (1) The Six-Act, Two-Goal plot structure keeps me on track. It deletes irrelevant material. I have a bad habit of showing off by narrating details that don't advance the plot. (2) Emphasis on the Antagonist creates escalating conflict that forces the Protagonist to leave safety and rise to the challenge. (3) The March to Climax made me create an inciting incident strong enough to motivate my Protagonist to take a new risk. (4) Four Levels of Third Person POV helped me create degrees of distance that produce varying levels of intimacy by which the reader can inhabit the character.
AS: What advice can you give aspiring writers?
Writing is thinking, so it is a difficult process that discourages lazy souls. Mark Twain said, "It's easy to write a book but it's hard to write a good book." My advice to aspiring authors is to follow this simple plan: Read the books that are selling well in your genre, get high-quality training such as the Author Salon Novel Writing Program, draw energy from the fellowship of other writers, study the craft, establish a regular routine of writing, write fast without criticism, and finally, enjoy the dancing daydreams of your invented world.