Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am pleased to bring you Marissa Shrock. As the mother of a middle schooler, I have to say that I’m impressed by Melissa’s ability to participate in NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month) during the school year, because I know how hard middle school teachers have to work! Melissa is giving away an ebook copy of her book Deadly Harvest. Read on to see how you can enter to win!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’ve survived sixteen years of teaching middle school language arts, and I spend my vacations writing novels. When I’m not teaching or writing, I enjoy baking, building elaborate LEGO creations, playing golf, and traveling. I live in Indiana where I’m surrounded by corn and soybean fields.
Tell us about your current release. My latest project is the Georgia Rae Winston Mystery Series, which consists of Deadly Harvest, Deadly Holiday, and the soon-to-be-released Deadly Heritage.
Georgia Rae Winston is a farmer who is looking for love but has never met the right guy. When she finds a body near her field during harvest, she meets the handsome Detective Cal Perkins, and he’s an intriguing possibility. Georgia solves mysteries with the help of her friends and navigates her love life in the small farming community of Wildcat Springs, Indiana.
How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? My debut novel, The First Principle, was a traditionally published young adult dystopian novel. At the time, I knew very little about indie publishing and never considered that route. All of my training had been to achieve traditional publishing status, so when I found an agent and publisher very quickly, I thought my path was set. However, when the publisher opted not to buy the sequels to my first novel, I wanted to tell the rest of the story, so I indie published two more books and a companion novella. When I changed genres to cozy mysteries, I decided to indie publish them because I like the freedom and flexibility that choice offers.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? My plots and characters develop as I write. This means I have to do a great deal of rewriting, and for each book I have a file of about 10,000 to 20,000 words that I’ve cut before I reach the final draft. For my next book, I’m going to try planning a bit more to see if I can become more efficient.
Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? Yes, I aim for about 55,000 to 60,000 words in each of my mysteries. My first drafts always run short, but by the time I’m done editing, the stories are consistent in length.
Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you started this story? I’m not sure about most of my novels, but I started Deadly Heritage as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2017. Every November, writers challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel in a month, and that year I decided to try.
It was 3:00 on November 1, and I was sitting alone in my classroom after school because I was waiting to take students to a spelling competition at 4:30. I wanted to achieve my word count for the day, which, in order for me to write a novel in 30 days, was about 1,700 words. I managed to meet my goal, but I did end up cutting that opening scene during the revision stage.
Do you talk out plot lines with others, and if so, who? I do talk out plot lines, but not until I’m finished with a presentable draft. At that point, my mom reads the story, and we talk about parts of the story that were unclear. Then, I fix those spots before I pass it on to another reader or my editor.
How hard is it to come up with names for your characters? What are some of the sources you use? I don’t find naming characters difficult, but sometimes it takes a few tries to get a name right. Thank goodness for the find and replace feature in Microsoft Word! For names that I want to ring true for a certain time period, I use the Social Security website and look at the list of popular names by decade. This source was helpful when I wrote my mystery series set in modern-day Indiana. When I wrote my dystopian series, I found BabyNames.com helpful because that website has a lot of unusual names that seem as if they might belong in a futuristic society.
How old were you when you wrote your first book? Recently, my friend shared a picture of a book that we collaborated on in sixth grade. She wrote the story, and I drew the pictures, so apparently, I started my career as an illustrator! The first book I remember writing was for my children’s literature class in college when I wrote the picture book, Chloe Loves to Read.
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