- J. Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and Outré, a science fiction-suspense YA. She is the editor of Le Coeur de l’Artiste, a newsletter which reviews authors and their work. She also teaches writing and literature at Los Angeles colleges. And to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she is the Membership Director of the Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, Vice President of Central Coast Sisters in Crime and an active member of the Southern California Mystery Writers. Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon.
To find her, her blog L’Artiste, or newsletter go to http://www.djadamson.com.
First, thanks Barbara for giving me the chance to answer these questions. And thank you for the opportunity to reach out to the readers of Mysterical-E.
BMH: What is something you wish someone would have told you before you became an author?
DJA: Becoming an author has always been the focus of my life’s plan. Although, the journey hasn’t always been direct. Yet, I’ve worked in a part of the publishing industry most of my career life, traditional, entertainment, and commercial, using my writing skills. I am now at that point where my authorship takes the priority.
BMH: Why crime fiction?
DJA: Crime fiction/suspense is my focused genre. Like others, it comes from my early love of Poe, Dickins, Christie. However, I am not only interested in developing my craft in mystery or suspense. I also write and have published literary short story. Outré, the beginning of a trilogy, is science fiction/suspense.
BMH: What two words best describes your writing style?
DJA: Minimalistic and credible. I hold to Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s advice to only say what is needed in order to tell the story. He also advised to start as close to the ending of the story as possible. Credibility is the key to any good storytelling. The characters need to become real to the reader. I do extensive profiles on my characters before I begin writing.
BMH: How do you create your characters? How much of you are in your characters?
DJA: I hold no conscious ability to create. When a story idea comes to me, the characters immediately form. I guess, unconsciously, many originate from my life—even the antagonists. Especially with my Lillian Dove Mystery series, Admit to Mayhem and Suppose. Set in Iowa, I know these characters very well. My family roots were laid down in the Iowa City area in 1865. A great many of my relatives still live there.
As for me….sarcasm is probably how I am most reflected in a character-type. I’ve been told I have a sarcastic wit.
BMH: Which is more fun to write, protagonist or antagonist?
DJA: Most of my antagonists are somewhat crazy. I find their psyche the most interesting. But fun? I write my protagonists in the most adventurous, fun way possible. Beware, my work is not cozy.
BMH: Outliner or seat-of-your-pants writer?
DJA: Both. I first create character outlines, themes, know the beginning, middle and end, then begin. After I have about six chapters, or a hundred pages, I go back and outline.
BMH: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
DJA: I don’t remember purposefully saying writing is what I wanted to do. My second-grade teacher said, after a great classroom show and tell, that I was the most talented liar she’d met. She said I was a writer. We kept in communication with each other until her death. I didn’t take her advice. She said, I already knew.
BMH: What is something you’ve never written about, but hope to some day?
DJA: (Laugh.) It’s taken me years to become crafted in the work I write now. However, I will probably continue to write non-fiction in-between creative work. It gives my mind a break to exercise its logical side. I also hope to continue teaching, reminding myself as I instruct students on what needs to happen in a written work.
BMH: How big a part did your upbringing have on your writing?
DJA: My mother wanted to be an artist. In her time, however, young women were directed, if they wished to continue schooling, to become nurses or school teachers. She wasn’t interested in either. So instead, she took the third career choice for women, she married my father. She never pushed me in the direction of my writing stories, but I couldn’t buy candy or toys…she would always let me buy a book. When I published my first poem at the age of twelve, she framed it and hung it in my room. I heard her once say, “She came into the world holding a pencil and a piece of paper. I think she planned to record the moment.”
BMH: Do you have a daily writing routine?
DJA: I get up and spend the first two hours writing. I then allow myself the ability to outline, do emails, create to-do lists, and schedule my day. Any other marketing comes at the end of my day. The other two writing hours come as I find the time, each hour an exclusive full, scheduled, hour. Four hours of actual daily writing is what I set for myself. If I am close to finishing a work, Sundays are not a day of rest.
BMH: Why do you write?
DJA: Because I can. My family understands it is an intellectual need. I am very grateful that there has always been time in my life to explore this part of my identity. It was only when I got older and looked back that I saw its significant play in my life. Writing, in many ways, has always been a part of my career. For an example, I was a VP of Sales and Marketing before retiring back into the academic world.
BMH: Who do you write for?
DJA: I always write for me. But, the audience I am writing to sits in front of my computer. It’s to them I am writing the story. A writer should always be able to visually (in their mind’s eye) perceive their audience.
BMH: How do you handle research?
DJA: Most research I do comes after I think of the initial idea. I verify as many aspects to the story I can, including setting and language. However, I have loads of research on stories not yet completed. If I see an interesting idea, I log it in a journal. I may research it a bit, then.
BMH: How much editing do you do as you write your first draft?
DJA: I continue the same process I have had for years. I must admit, I mirrored it from Hemingway. I read the last two chapters, edit, before moving to the new. In that way, I get back into the conscious or unconscious motives of my characters.
First drafts are set aside, sometimes for months. The book I am working on now, At the Edge of No Return, was first drafted six years ago. It was sitting along with other first drafts in my closet waiting for its rewrite.
BMH: How do you use social media to promote yourself?
DJA: I began making my social imprint two or three years before publishing my first novel. I created a blog…which transformed into a newsletter…which is now sent to a list of two thousand readers. Instead of promoting myself—I’m a firm believer that what I give comes back to me three-fold—I promote others. It all began by promoting the craft of writing to my students. I still teach writing at Los Angeles area colleges. The blog developed into a website, creating something my students could use to highlight their creativity. Now, Le Coeur de l’Artiste reviews books, its byproduct, L’Artiste, showcases authors as well as artists. Both are found on my website: www.djadamson.com.
BMH: What comes first for you, characters or plot?
DJA: Most generally a “what if” question is the germ of the plot. However, with the newest novel I am working on, it was someone I saw on a continual basis that generated the idea. He came and went, like a ghost.
BMH: You can go back in time, meet and chat with anyone, who would it be? What would you talk about?
DJA: Wow, so many!
First one coming to mind, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I try to read some of his work every year as a reminder of how the psychological makeup of the character’s motives facilitates the effect for the plot. A living author? I would enjoy having dinner with Jose Saramago. He is brilliant at creating and establishing theme.
BMH: How about some hard-earned advice.
DJA: Most who want to write have heard it all. Don’t stop. Write what you enjoy. Write what sells. Write the best book you can. Take classes. Writing is 10% talent and 90% work. Read A LOT!
Mine: My work has always been and is now my legacy. As women, we grew up reading mostly what men thought about life and how they saw us. It is my job as a writer, to write stories not from the male or the female perspective but to work to continue figuring out what it means to be human.