Saturday, September 02, 2017

How Long Before the Next Novel? Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker on Creativity, Bad Breakups, and the Restorative Power of Writing


Jess Lourey at a recent book signing.
A conversation with Jess and Shannon:

She was your everything. You woke up with her on your brain, scribbled notes to her throughout the day, fell asleep wondering how to make her happy. And now, after she consumed your life for an entire year, drove you crazy, and fulfilled you on levels you hadn’t known were possible, she’s left you. Just like that, she’s moved on to someone else.

Actually, if you’re lucky, she’s moved on to thousands of someone else's.

I’m talking books and readers, of course, and that day when your sweat and tears moves from your brain and computer to to bookshelves and e-readers all over the country. So, how long until you move on, too? When is it okay to start writing that next novel?

Today, the lovely Shannon Baker and I would like to share our experience on that front. Shannon and I have written over 20 books between us, and we’re on our second national blog tour, Double-booked Round Two. Shannon is promoting Dark Signal, the second in the fabulous Kate Fox series, and I’m shilling for March of Crime, the 11th (gasp!) in my Murder-by-Month mysteries. Pull up a chair, dip into your favorite ice cream flavor, and relax while Shannon and I share our book break-up, moving on stories.

Shannon Baker, you amazing soul, how are you?

Shannon Baker
Shannon: I’m stoked (does that term make me sound old?... or fat?) because I’m plotting a new series. To pick up on your analogy, it’s like the first blush of a romance. We’re flirting and kissing, I can barely think about anything else, and I’m waking up at night with a flutter in my heart.

Jessie: That’s fabulous. Also, “stoked” makes you sound “stoned,” so I’m cool with it. So, I’ve been churning out two books a year since May Day released in 2006. How about you?

Shannon: Slut. And I mean that in the best way possible! I mean, look at all the fun you’ve been having, while I stayed true to a novel that I should have left years earlier. I worked on that one book for over 10 years, finally had it published in 2010 with a nano-press, and then—only then—moved on. Since 2013, I’ve published one book a year, though I’ve had affairs with short stories and experimented with other unmentionable genres.

Jessie: Sweet naughtiness, that’s a lot of book break-ups. How long do you wait after sending one book off to your publisher before you start writing your second book or short story? Or do they overlap?

Shannon: I am at a writer’s retreat right now with a friend who is working on three books simultaneously. Unfathomably, she seems pretty normal. I don’t work on more than one book at a time. So it’s unusual for me to have an idea for a new series while I’m working on line edits from my editor for an ongoing series, AND, last week finished revisions on another book. 

I’m afraid of waiting too long to jump into another book because for me, writing is like exercise. If I let it go too long, it’s painful to get back into shape. It’s a habit and I don’t want to disrupt the routine I’ve established.

Jess's latest Murder-by-the-Month novel
Jessie: Makes sense. When I finished May Day back in 2003, I immediately began to shop it around. It hadn’t occurred to me to start another book until about rejection 376 (I received a total of 423), when an agent told me she liked what I was doing but couldn’t sell it unless it was a series. I began writing June Bug. That agent didn’t sign me, but someone else did. In a perfect world, I’d still have that kind of time (and blissful ignorance about the industry), enough so that I could dedicate complete brain time to one project. 

Now, with multiple series plus my author marketing commitments, I usually give myself 7 days after finishing one book to celebrate, make poor food choices, and relax before I start writing a new novel. Any less than that and I don’t feel like I’m honoring the work and energy I put into the manuscript. Any more than that and I start to go a little crazy. I need creative writing.

Shannon, do you carry around a notebook or something else to keep track of those random, buzzing story ideas for a future project that pop into your brain when you’re working on a current project?

Shannon: Gaa! I hate that I don’t a) carry around a notebook for ideas, and b) have so many ideas I need to. Maybe if carried a notebook I’d have ideas to write in it. But, maybe I’m turning over a new leaf, because as I write this, I remember being at a fun event last weekend and suddenly thinking how great it would be for a mystery series. *runs off to get that cool journal someone gave me*

Jessie: Yes! Write it down. I text myself notes and then transcribe them all at the end of the week. I also try to keep track of any writing hacks that I learn as I go, so I can remember to use them in the future but also so I can share them with others. A lot of those made it into my how-to book, Rewrite Your Life. (Yes, that was a shameless plug.) (Editor: View Jess's whole TED-x talk below).

Since today we’re talking about book break-ups, and specifically that moment when you move from writing one book to the next, it’s only fitting that we end by sharing our real-life break-up remedies. Back in the day when I was dumped by or did the dumping of boyfriends, my go-to was Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream and red wine out of a box. Those huge shards of dark chocolate from the ice cream would get stuck in my back teeth, and when the red wine would rush over them, it’d create an explosion of rich, bitter deliciousness. Who needs boys when you can make that sort of fun yourself? Shannon, what was your break-up go-to?

Shannon: It took me over a decade, but I got the best break-up remedy possible. My husband of 20 years had a long-lasting affair in our town of 300 people and I left him to start a new life. Took me a while to get my sense of humor back about the whole thing and my appreciation of the place, but when I did, I got a whole mystery series out of it, starting with Stripped Bare and now Dark Signal. They say living well is the best revenge, but I have to say, writing is pretty sweet, too!

Please join Shannon and Jessie as they continue their blog tour. They will each be giving away three books this tour, and every comment you leave at a blog stop gets you once chance to win.

Jess Lourey (rhymes with "dowry") is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk (below) and a leader of transformative writer's retreats.

Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, the series has earned great reviews. Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimaraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com



27 comments:

Shannon Baker said...

Good morning! This is our first stop on the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Blog Tour and I'm all wiggly with excitement. I want to tell you two things: I'm releasing a .99 short story (if 69 pages can be called short) on Sept 26th and you can preorder it here: https://tinyurl.com/y9c73bcp

And... Goodreads is doing a giveaway of Dark Signal until Sept 7, so you can try your luck here: https://tinyurl.com/y9lgu5l9

Jessica Lourey said...

Yes! Wiggly!

Aimee Hix said...

As per usual, you two are hilarious. No counterpoint of chocolate in the back teeth and red wine just being on a Laughter Roller Coaster which ends all too soon.

I'm loving that you two are touring together again - if it ain't broke, don't fix it but for book marketing.

It doesn't hurt that I love both of you personally and professionally. You're both inspirations. *mwah*

dru said...

You guys crack me up. Looking forward to reading both books. Sometimes I wish I drank, would love to try that chocolate with red wine.

Ann Mason said...

Am waiting impatiently for the next books from you both. So please move me to the top of the fan girl list. See you in Toronto!

Alice Munoz said...

So excited for the new books!

melissa said...

I'm really looking forward to reading March of Crimes and I'm really, really hoping this series will continue for just a bit longer. I haven't read any of Shannon Baker's books, but I'm going to add her to my list.

Cindy Solvie said...

So excited. -I have been waiting!

Shannon Baker said...

*blowing kisses to Aimee and Dru Anne* Ann... you've been with me from the beginning and I'm grateful for your support! Thanks for your enthusiasm, Alice. I can tell you without reservation, Jess's series is laugh-out-loud funny (to use that old cliche, but it's true). And Melissa... welcome to the circus!

Sandi M... said...

I want to pick up more of your books and would love to win a free one !!

Tiffany Van Cleef said...

You ladies are awesome! Love the hilarious dialogue!! Made my morning!!

Susan said...

I would love a signed copy! I really don't like the thought of the series ending.

Jets said...

I'd love to win this! I'm hoping to retire soon, and then be able to devote more time to following "rewrite your life". I signed up for the online class, and bought the book, too.

Jim Cangany said...

Great info, ladies. I first met Jess at Midwest Writers Workshop this past July and am so thankful for all of the great information you share. I recently landed my first cozy mystery contract and often find myself turning to Jess' materials for direction. Have fun on the rest of the tour!

La Prof said...

I am so grateful to Laura Hansen, of Bookin' It in Little Falls for introducing me to Jess Lourey's books! What a treat! Can't wait to read the latest one!

Shannon Baker said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sandi. I just realized we haven't filled you in on the tour itinerary. For each comment along the road, you're entered again to win our giveaways. So hang with us. Here's where we'll be:
September 5            Janice Hardy

September 7            The Creative Penn

September 9            Write to Done

September 12          Wicked Cozy Writers

September 20          Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog

September 21         
There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room

September 23          Femmes Fatales

September 24          Writer Unboxed

September 25          Dru’s Book Musings

September 27          Do Some Damage

October 3             Terry Ambrose

October 12            Jungle Red Writers

Shannon Baker said...

Tiffany, thank you very much we'll be on the tour all month, and then some!

Susan, Jets, Jim and La Prof... isn't Jess great? I love everything she's ever written, including her YA Toad House trilogy, the Murder-By-The-Month, the Salem's Cipher series, and loved, loved, Rewrite Your Life (that one helped me with my current work in progress) But, I have to tell you, my absolute favorite so far is the Catalian Sisters works.

Shannon Baker said...

I get to chatter on about my admiration for Jess because she's out on the road today and won't be able to tell me to knock it off!

Risa said...

I agree with Aimee about knowing you both. And chocolate and red wine is amazing together. I love knowing how a book comes together.

Julia Buckley said...

Welcome, Jess and Shannon!! Help yourself to anything in the buffet. :)

Shannon Baker said...

My gosh, Julia, these cream puffs are to die for! (Virtual treats are all I can have these days since I'm on a stupid, crummy, no-fun low-carb diet--hopefully just temporarily) Thanks so much for having us over.

*waving* Hi, Risa!

Marla Bradeen said...

Someone out there is working on three books simultaneously? I can't even fathom. But I'm so glad you both are touring together again! And I love your breakup remedies, although if I had a choice I'd go for Jess's. Shannon, yours sounds a little too public for me.

Shannon Baker said...

Since I'll only divorce once in my life, using it for book fodder seems fair! Happy to have you join us again this year, Marla!

Julia Buckley said...

Shannon, I'm on a diet, too, and while it's generally empowering to lose weight, it's also sad to not eat some of my favorite foods. So yes, the virtual buffet is a Godsend. :)

Theresa Owens said...

You are delightful and funny as hell!

Jessica Lourey said...

There is so much sunshine here!!!! Thanks all for visiting, and Shannon Baker, you can say all the nice dang things about me you want.

To all of you beautiful people above who commented, you have been automatically entered to win a copy of March of Crime or Dark Signal, signed and mailed to you! We'll post to Facebook plus contact you via your comment info if you win. For another chance to win, please stop by Janice Hardy's Fiction University tomorrow and leave a comment: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2017/09/choose-your-genre-change-your-world.html.

Jessica Lourey said...

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by and commented! All who have commented above will be entered to win one of six free books to be given away. Every comment on the blog tour is a chance to win: http://jessicalourey.com/events/lourey-baker-double-booked-blog-tour-ii, and comments can be left at any of those stops through October 12.