I'd done a few interviews on Steve's shows and I had a book coming out in a few months, so by podcast I thought he meant as one of his guests. I said, "Sure, when do you want to record?"
He said, "Well, anytime is good, but what I mean is, do you want to do your own podcast, like a show, your own show? If you were going to start one, this would be a great time since you have a book on the way."
On my end there was a long moment of groaning silence. Steve is real patient with me like that. I said, "It's a great idea in theory, but this is me we're talking about. We both know that even if I say yes, if I have to figure this out I'll maybe get around to doing it in, oh, never."
"I've already got the technical stuff down," he said. "I'll even record you and help you put your episodes together and get them uploaded."
I thought about it. I'd done plenty of interviews and they'd always been fun because all I had to do was answer questions. I love answering questions. Answering questions means someone else has to do the hard work of thinking up the interesting stuff and I just show up and fill in the blanks. But me in front of a microphone talking to empty space and fighting against verbal writer's block? That would be as much fun as chewing rocks. Even with the technical help I'd still procrastinate the crap out it. I said, "Well, would you do the episodes with me? You know, interview style like if I was a guest? Question and answer back and forth, that type of thing?"
"If that’s what you wanted."
And that's how this podcast was born. We started with inside details about the research that went into THE MASK and how that book compared to the others in the Vanessa Michael Munroe series. We never really had a format, or even an official title, and everything we did was off the cuff and unscripted but it was a lot of fun. I hope that as you follow along its fun for you, too.
If you have an iTunes account, you can subscribe to the podcast here. (If you enjoy the show we’d really appreciate if you took the time to give us a rating and a few word review as that allows other potential listeners to find us).
For RSS feeds the link is http://crimefiction.fm/feed/taylor_stevens/ and Android users can subscribe to the feed via: http://subscribeonandroid.com/crimefiction.fm/feed/taylor_stevens/
New episodes usually go up on Tuesdays. For listeners that don't have podcast accounts, I upload the individual episode links to this page as time allows.
EPISODES 1-9 (Opens a separate page with individual episodes): Here, we find our footing for the show and discuss: why Japan became the setting for THE MASK, the location/research process, Vanessa Michael Munroe's ability to pick up languages,if it's realistic for a beautiful woman to pass as a man, why some locations can feel more authentic to some readers than others, how much of Munroe is based on me, the truth about book tours, meet the voice of Munroe in the audio books, and answer reader/ listener questions.
EPISODES 10-19 (Opens a separate page with individual episodes): With discussions on whether or not there's a formula for bestselling books, what it's like meeting with publishing bigwigs in NYC and getting punked by a fellow author, about Third Culture Kids (of which I am one) and the role they play in my books, about bad reviews and how they can sometimes be good, my unusual writing education, why sometimes success feels like failure, how I use music to engage the muse, and answer more reader/ listener questions.
EPISODE 20: Last week's discussion on juggling multiple projects leads directly into this week's topic of focus and goals. We start with a recap on different types of focus and what works best for me. We then move into goals and how powerful they can be when it comes to maintaining focus on what's important. And we wrap with a recap of daring to dream big and the power of knowing what you want.
EPISODE 21: In this episode, we discuss publishing truisms and the (sometimes) advantage of not knowing enough about a subject to acquire its misconceptions. Then we move on to the value of talking to the experts who have actually done the things you’re about to undertake and why you have a better chance of finding an agent than you might think. We finish with a discussion about Bouchercon 2015 and my Saturday panel titled, The Mechanics of Writing Violent Fiction. [The session is at 1:00pm Saturday at the Mariott Hotel in room State AB.]
EPISODE 22: True or false? "The only kind of writing is rewriting." Yes or no? "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." Steve reads a few quoted observations by Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Gore Vidal, Lawrence Block, and Harper Lee and asks Taylor to weigh in on them.
EPISODE 23: A discussion on how our unconscious beliefs can impact our writing and our lives, with an example from my own life where I found myself delaying the completion of a first draft, and how I realized beliefs were self-sabotaging the writing process. Also, a recommendation for a very small book called THE POWER OF PERCEPTION by Hyrum W. Smith.
EPISODE 24: Is there a Recipe for Creating Unforgettable Characters? In this episode Steve puts me on the spot, asking me to name five ingredients critical to the creation of memorable characters. In this we also get the phrase "vicarious kickassery" as well as a quote shared on Facebook some time ago, "It’s frustrating when you don’t know the recipe to your own secret sauce." Thanks to friend of the show Bruce Cantell for indirectly suggesting the topic of this episode.
EPISODE 25: In this episode Ms. Stevens (finally) Goes to College. We discuss the day I taught class for creative writing students and several faculty members. I've done a great deal of public speaking and have taught several writing classes, but since my formal education ended after the 6th grade, teaching a college class was something new.
EPISODE 26: Here we discuss the differences and the similarities between writing high-octane character focused thrillers and a young adult novel. Among the many challenges facing an author writing in a different genre is finding a publisher. Success in one genre does not necessarily help an author quickly find a publisher for a second.
EPISODE 27: In this episode, we attempt to answer the question of completion for authors. More specifically, when is a book finished? As you might expect the answer varies, but we have a valiant effort to respond both as an author writing under contract and as an author writing a speculative novel. Along the way to finding our answer we delve into the value of rejection, the pain of paper cuts and hear me try to keep a response going while the doorbell is ringing and the dog is barking.
EPISODE 28: Here, we discuss the critical nature of the inciting incident in fiction, "a single thing without which none of the characters in the story would have come together." We use examples from THE CATCH and a story that Steve is working on to illustrate how the inciting incident drives the story forward. We also discuss the reasons to avoid episodic elements in your writing, my "special" (ha-ha) talent as a chef, and Thanksgiving cooking plans.
EPISODE 29: In this episode, we discuss ways to fix stories that aren't working, including revamping characters or strengthening their motivation, shifting material to different places within your story, and how asking yourself how and why can make it possible to find simple changes to enhance your plot.
EPISODE 30: In this episode, we go Hollywood, as in what it really means when your book is optioned for film. We discuss the different types of options and what the odds of a book that’s been optioned are of making it to the big screen, as well as thoughts on meeting James Cameron in California last year and why he’s the perfect person to bring Vanessa Michael Munore to film audiences.
EPISODE 31: Here we discuss the hazy nature of book sales reporting for traditionally published authors, and some of the tricks and tools I use to try to intuit where and how my books are sold, then we get into some thoughts on price promotion for books and how it's different depending on how an author is published.
EPISODE 32: In this episode, we discuss several questions about literary agents. What's the value of an agent? Should you have one if you're planning to publish your own work? Can a good attorney replace an agent for you? Then we discuss some tools and best practices you can use to identify the perfect agent for your book. Tools include the websites for Preditors and Editors and Publishers Marketplace.
EPISODE 33: After taking a break, we are baaaaack. In this episode, we unveil (drumroll please) the new tagline for the show and discuss how occasionally taking a break from your creative work opens up space for other activities that can be used to recharge the creative batteries.
EPISODE 34: How to Stop Googling and Start Writing: Here, we talk about how to kick writing in the butt one word at a time and answer listener questions including using digital tools to help with the writing process, how to stay out of the research black hole, and how it's possible to enlist the aid of experts while doing research. We finish up with a short discussion on the value of asking for help.
EPISODE 35: Plots, Subplots, and Themes in Fiction: In this episode we wade into the thorny issue of plots, subplots, and themes in fiction, in which we end up simplifying the entire concept by referring to them as “the different layers in a story.” Then we narrowly avoid the first instance of singing during the show and discuss how the "moral conflict" often drives the novel's theme.
EPISODE 36: How to Sell Your Work, Not Your Kidney: In which we discuss the importance of understanding standard and the not so standard clauses of an agent agreement, what to expect and what to avoid, standard rates for print, film, and foreign rights, the danger of the “perpetual agency clause” and how to avoid the “rights grab” that can be a part of some agency agreement.
EPISODE 37: Controlling the Chaos – The Importance of Time Management: An episode devoted to controlling the chaos that can infringe on our writing time. We discuss the significance of knowing what matters most to you when setting your priorities, the value of saying no (even when it’s uncomfortable to do so), and the importance of protecting your mental energy. Also included: a book recommendation on the topic, 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management
EPISODE 38: Tips and Tricks for Improving Dialogue in Your Writing: In response to listener questions we have some specific advice on what to do and what to avoid when writing dialogue, including how to deal with accents and foreign languages, how to avoid info dumping with your dialogue, and why reading our own dialogue aloud isn’t as valuable as having someone else read it to you.
EPISODE 39: Inspiration or Desperation--Getting the Writing Done: In this episode, we discuss the way each can be used to keep the writing engine moving forward. Everything from using music to jump start creativity to the desperation of deadlines. We consider a variety of activities that can trigger creative progress. Of course, there’s nothing quite like the inspiration of just sitting down and getting to work.
EPISODE 40: Character Arcs and Names and Numbers: This episode is all about characters. Everything from character arcs for supporting characters to the number of point of view characters in a story. Then we get into character names, the value of common names for characters and we discuss the value of limiting the number of named characters in our work.
EPISODE 41: Which Idea Should I Develop for My Book?: How do we decide what to write next? It’s a large question and one that we’ll spend the next three episodes discussing. In part one we discuss several factors worth considering when deciding on your writing project. At the top of that list are your goals as a writer: Are you writing for fun, writing to indie publish, or are you writing to sell a project to a publisher? Do you have an established fan base? If so, is your next project big enough to meet their expectations? We share thoughts on the subject and deliver specific examples from my current project list.
EPISODE 42: Meeting Reader Expectations for the Genre: We discuss choosing projects that will achieve your goals as an author and help you meet reader expectations. Whether your idea is a small cozy mystery, or a big, globetrotting thriller, it's important to understand how genre factors into the equation. We answer a reader question on how to avoid adding fluff to meet genre based word count targets, suggest ways to add "heft" by utilizing multiple layers of conflict, and we share examples using a recent project of mine.
EPISODE 43: Maximizing The Value of Your Idea: Regardless of what your next project is, the time you're committing to the project is considerable. Before you invest that time, take a step back to be sure you're doing what you can to maximize the value of your investment. In part 3 of our 3 part series on choosing which ideas to develop, we explore the importance giving 100% to your current project, discuss the importance of versatility in your protagonist and consider different ways of dealing with character development over the life of a series.
EPISODE 44: Does My Novel Need a Synopsis and/or Outline?: In this episode, we consider the synopsis. For some, it’s a form of outlining, while for others, it’s a step in the process of getting your next contracted book approved by their publisher. I share the my own process and describes the proposal package that gets put together for my agent when it’s time to pitch her next book.
EPISODE 45: Ways to Make the Most of Your Next Writer’s Conference: Writers conferences are a little like shoes--there is no “one size fits all” strategy that works for everyone. In this episode, we've got a few thoughts on the biggest benefits of attending writers conferences and why my own experience will likely be different from yours. Also shared is how my experience as a conference attendee has influenced how I now present when attending events.
EPISODE 46: Breaking the Writing Rules: This week’s show focuses on “writing rules” and when authors should consider breaking them. We discuss how these rules have evolved to smooth out the reading process for those who consume our books and provide a few examples of breaking them, both in my books and in others'.
EPISODE 47: How to Survive your First Writers Conference: It’s Q & A week and we're tackling listener questions which include: Have I considered using any of the great cast of secondary characters I've developed in future books? How has feedback from gent, editor, publisher, and readers influenced the direction of the Munroe series? And, what do authors need to know (and bring) to survive their first writer’s conference?
EPISODE 48: How and Why to Keep Your Butt in the Chair: Our focus this week is on how writers can keep their butts in the chair and why it’s so important to do so. Of course, it’s not just the simple act of sitting down that we discuss, we also get into the motivation behind sitting down to write and the fears that can keep us from our writing chairs. We discuss ways to avoid kicking your own self in the butt and the value of holding yourself and your writer friends accountable.
EPISODE 49: Comparing Indie and Traditional: From Manuscript to Novel: This is the first of a two-part series comparing the publication processes for one traditionally published author (Taylor) with that of one indie published author (Steve.) Both processes start with the completion of a manuscript, but differences appear soon after the manuscript is finished. Our primary focus in part one of the series is the editing processes.
EPISODE 50: Comparing Indie and Traditional: After the Editing is Finished: This episode concludes our two-part series comparing the publication processes for one traditionally published author (Taylor) with that of one indie published author (Steve.) On this show, we discuss what happens after the manuscript has been finished and the editing process is complete. Everything from cover design and layout to writing back cover material, marketing blurbs, handling advance reader copies (ARCs), public relations, marketing, and launch strategies. We also announce a new way to get in touch with your questions – by leaving me a voicemail at our new Google Voice number, which is 469-587-9367. We’ll play your question and Taylor’s answer on a future podcast.
EPISODE 51: Writing a Richly Nuanced Antagonist: In this episode, we discuss dogs, cats and the importance of the well-developed antagonist in fiction. We pull from examples like the easy to hate Dollmaker in THE DOLL, to Nonomi Sato, the antagonist that many fans have pulled for in parts of THE MASK.
EPISODE 52: Going Beyond the First Draft: A new two-part series wherein we discuss different drafts of the manuscripts, why the initial 25% of the first draft takes me so long, and why the rest gets progressively quicker. Then we dig into the process for the second and third drafts which are where the texture and emotion are added.
EPISODE 53: Breathing Emotional Life into Your Characters: In this second of of a two-part series on going beyond the first draft, we dig deeply into the process for adding emotional life to characters. For me, this step can take place in a third pass, which I refer to as adding the “fine brush strokes” to the story. Have questions? Please call the show to leave them via voice mail so we can respond during a future episode. The google voice phone number is 469-587-9367.
EPISODE 54: What Should Your Novel’s Ending Include: Here we discuss endings--what they should include and what they should do for the reader--and we dive into what I considers the most important role of a novel’s ending, when to begin wrapping up the threads of your story, and the critical role reader fulfillment plays in driving book sales through word of mouth. We also discuss the big trip this week to Thrillerfest and the planned meet and greet with readers and fans.