Thursday, June 7, 2018

Guest blogger: Nancy Wood

Please tell us about your latest book.
My latest book, The Stork, was published by Solstice in February 2018. It's the second book in a mystery series, and continues the story of Shelby McDougall, once a surrogate mom, and now an aspiring PI.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Book 3 in the Shelby McDougall trilogy!

How do we find out about you and your books?
Check out my website:

Why did you decide to write a mystery?
I went to a commercial fiction workshop 11 years ago now, and brought an idea for a literary novel, which turned out to be a dud. I was in a small group brainstorm session, and came up with the idea of using the themes in that novel in a mystery. At the time, the mystery/thriller/suspense genre was not on my radar at all. Now, I love it, and have become a certified addict.

Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
Too long! When I published the first book in the Shelby McDougall series, Due Date, in 2012, I thought that book 2 would take a year, tops. It took six! Because of the long time between books, I knew that no one would remember the story and the characters, so I had to insert a lot of backstory as I was writing it. I'm starting in on book 3 now; looking forward to finishing it a bit more quickly. Maybe in three years instead of six?!

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
Before retirement, I pretty much had a set schedule. One hour of writing every morning before work. Now, I go with the flow and fit writing in during the day.

What is your writing routine once you start a book?
I try to write every day. I also try to stop in the middle of a chapter or a scene to keep the momentum going, so when I pick it up the following day, I'm not trying to figure out where to start. I also try to have a few scenes going at a time, so if I get stuck on one, I can jump over to another.

Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre?
After I finish this trilogy, I'd like to try short stories. I wrote one this winter, called "The Great Santa Cruz Treasure Hunt," which will be published in the Santa Cruz Weird anthology, due out in June from Good Read Publishers. It was so much fun to hunker down and write about just a small slice of life. It was very challenging, though. In a novel, there's room for expansion. In a story, not so much.

Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
I am retired from a career as a technical writer, turning engineer-speak into instructions that people could follow. It was a lot of fun, a lot of challenge! Prepared me well for mystery-writing. I've been married for almost 30 years and have two grown-up children. My husband and I spend a lot of time travelling. Other hobbies: photography, cycling, hiking. In addition to my book website (, I also have a photography blog:

Fill in the blank favorites –
Dessert: Chocolate
City: San Francisco
Season: Spring
Type of hero: Detective
Type of heroine: Amateur sleuth

Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?
That's a hard question. I have a few favorite mystery/thriller/suspense authors that I return to again and again to read or re-read. Nevada Barr, C.J. Box, Sue Grafton, to name a few. A favorite author outside of this genre is Donna Tartt. I also love science and nature writing, including the series, The Best American Science and Nature Writing. Wow, some of those essays are amazing.

Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
Dennis Lehane for suspense; Laura Lippman for love of Baltimore (where I grew up) as well as her great character Tess Monaghan; Jodie Picoult for everything; Chris Bohjalian for the inevitable startling and crazy twists; Jocye Carol Oates if I'm looking for something very, very dark; and David Sedaris if I'm looking for laugh-out-loud funny.

Which comes first, the story, the characters, or the setting?
The story has to come first. A great piece of advice I got early on was 'before you begin, figure out what you're going to write about.' I've read some books where the writing is lovely, but the story doesn't hold together. There has to be a story there. I also like stories with a strong sense of place. For example, Nevada Barr and the national parks. What a great idea that was! C.J. Box and Wyoming. Sue Grafton and Santa Teresa. But, of course, the characters have to be compelling as well – strong, easily identifiable characters, with quirks are the best.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Keep plugging away! And don't let that inner critic wear you down. It's there, it's persistent, and it's deadly. Best ignored!

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