Please welcome author Alison Bruce to the blog today! Her work crosses many different genres, as do her skills, which range from copywriter, editor, and graphic designer in addition to writing.
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Tell us your name, and a link to where we can find you (blog, Facebook, etc).
Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, suspense and historical romance novels.
How many books have you written? This can include both published and unpublished works. Describe each of them in 1-2 sentences apiece (if published, feel free to include the links as well).
My first book published also happens to be my first novel-length work written… and rewritten… and rewritten. UNDER A TEXAS STAR is a western historical romance and cozy mystery. Marly Landers disguises herself as a boy to track down the man who robbed her friends and ruined her reputation.
DEADLY LEGACY is a near-future speculative fiction mystery. Rookie detective Kate Garrett inherits her father’s detective agency and a partner who brings out the worst in her. I’m working on the sequel for Imajin Books and hope to see it out next year.
HAZARDOUS UNIONS, Two Tales of a Civil War Christmas is actually two novellas by two authors connected by the twin sister who are the protagonists. In my story, Maggie is a northern woman working for a southern family. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.
Coming soon from Lachesis Publishing, I have MEN IN UNIFORM. When Pru Hartley finds a body in her living room, she finds herself surrounded by spies, assassins, and an assortment of very protective men in uniform.
Tell me a little bit about your current WIP.
I’m currently working on the sequel to DEADLY LEGACY for Imajin Books. Now that they are business partners, Kate Garrett and Jake Carmedy have to learn to work together and deal with their mutual love-hate relationship.
I had a lot of fun creating the alternate near-future world they live in—which is inspired by the sf elements of so-called contemporary forensic shows and the predictions of real-world futurists. The first book set the scene and introduces the characters while they solve intertwining mysteries. In this book, I want to develop their relationship as they try to work on one case together. It won’t be easy, because the one person who connects them, and comes between them, is dead.
What does writing preparation look like for you? Do you do full outlines and character profiles, or do you just start with a general idea and write?
All of the above.
It depends on what inspired me to write the story in the first place. UNDER A TEXAS STAR grew out of a short story I wrote while recovering from surgery. The basic plot was there but it had to be fleshed out.
The characters of Kate Garrett and Jake Carmedy came to me in a dream. I knew who they were and what their relationship was but it took me years to find them a plot. Eventually it came to me after my mother died and I learned some things about her from my aunt that mum never talked about to her children. HAZARDOUS UNIONS developed in a similar way except I collaborated with my co-author, Kat Flannery for the character profiles and research into the period inspired the plot.
On the other end of the spectrum, I wrote MEN IN UNIFORM by the seat of my pants. I started it during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and didn’t start profiling the characters until I wrote my first 50,000 words.
No matter when I start them, all my books have extensive notes with character profiles, research clips and sometimes maps and illustrations.
Editing is a challenge for many writers. Give us some of your tips for editing efficiently and well.
I edit nonfiction professionally so I have a leg up. That is, I’m smart enough to know that I can’t edit my own work without outside input. In my experience, no one can. Before my book goes to the publisher, it goes to my beta readers. By the time they get back to me, I can look at my manuscript with fresh eyes and see things that need improving that they sometimes missed.
My sister was my first beta reader. Either she’d read aloud to me or I’d read aloud to her. It’s amazing what you catch that way. It can also be very entertaining in a way that is not good for the ego.
Research is another challenge that writers face, but is an important part of the writing process. What are some of your research tips?
I’m a research junkie. I also have an honours BA in History and Philosophy, so I feel I have a certain credibility that I have to live up to—for my own sake if no one else’s. In fiction we are allowed a certain amount of dramatic license, but the last thing I want is to jar someone from being in the story by something that is patently untrue. Of course, being a junkie, I usually collect more information than I could possibly need.
Tips? Check at least two sources for information. If possible, make at least one of them an academic or professional source. Wikipedia is useful but don’t use it without checking the sources quoted in the article. Use first hand sources of knowledge if you can. If you’re writing a police procedural, talk to a detective. If you’re writing a medical drama, talk to doctors and nurses. Ask them about personal experiences as well as technical points. Don’t write about their experiences directly; just use them to inform your writing.
If you have been published (self or traditionally), what type of marketing did you find worked the best for you? What was the least helpful?
I’m not sure I can answer that because it keeps changing. One thing I can advise is to not use social media solely as a marketing tool. It’s supposed to be social and people respond to you better if you share yourself, not just where to buy your book. I find that easier to do on Facebook than Twitter, but I maintain a presence in each.
It all comes down to one principal that’s been part of marketing before they gave it a name: Networking. Get to know other authors and readers. Make connections. When you are talking about books, don’t just talk about your own. If you meet someone who reads a genre outside your own, suggest a good book they’ll enjoy. They’ll remember you for it and maybe, when one of their friends wants a book in your genre, they’ll talk about the author they met and how helpful they were.
What genre do you write in? What are some of the challenges to writing this particular genre well?
I write mystery, romantic suspense, historical fiction, western historical romance, fantasy, paranormal suspense and soft science fiction. The challenge to all is to write a good story that people want to read. Part of the trick is writing true enough to the genre that your readers will know they’ll enjoy your book, yet to stay away from the clichés of the genre—unless you are planning a twist.
What advice would you give to a writer who is starting out?
Decide why you want to write. If it’s because you want to be rich and famous, become a plumber. You’ll make more money and everyone will see your name on your truck. If it’s because you love storytelling, and you don’t mind hard work: Write on!
What are your writing, editing, marketing, and research goals for 2014?
Praise for HAZARDOUS UNIONS…
“You’ll sigh with pleasure as you finish each story” ~ Caroline Clemmons, author of Bluebonnet Bride
“Stories that play on your senses like a sonata. A must read!” ~ Jacquie Rogers, award-winning author of Much Ado About Madams
“Wonderfully entertaining and well-written, with engaging characters…delightful!” ~ Charlene Raddon, author of To Have and To Hold
“Ms. Bruce is a master of character development…”~ Amazon Reviewer