New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson is touring the blogosphere this month to promote the release of her latest thriller, Lost Souls. In this fascinating interview, Lisa reveals how she started writing and also shares with us what inspired her to write this book. She also talks about her writing environment and writer's block.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?
Believe me, writing is my full-time job and it has been for twenty-six years. I started when my sister read an article in Time Magazine in 1981 about young mothers who were making a living as romance writers. In the article it said that after the last bottle was fed and diaper washed (yes, back in the day, we did it this way!) mothers would pull out their typewriters (again, it was the EARLY eighties!) and create stories of romance, then submit them and then, the best part, they got paid! I pointed out this wasn't possible as we'd never read romance novels; we were mystery buffs. But my sister, fellow author Nancy Bush, is nothing if not stubborn and the next day I went to my day job, which just happened to be babysitting. It wasn't exactly my intended career path, but with two children under two, a necessity. I thought, "Hey, maybe Nan's onto something."
At that moment I started to write and when Nancy came to pick up her daughter I handed her the first seven pages of Stormy Surrender which was eventually written and rejected all over New York, but Nancy and I were hooked. We started writing individual stories and she sold first, me second and now, twenty-seven years later we're both writing. Our first joint effort since that original book is currently being written. Wicked Game by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush will be available in February 2009.
Oh, I read anything I could get my hands on. Mysteries mainly, or a little horror. I loved all those Black Stallion books and cut my reading teeth on Nancy Drew mysteries. Now, I still love a great mystery, a little horror or anything that catches my eye.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
I decided to write a story about America's fascination with vampires. They're everywhere in books, television, and movies. I wanted to write a book that had a touch of the paranormal and cults within the pages. I already had a lead-in to that at the end of Absolute Fear where Kristi Bentz, after an accident, can suddenly "see" people turn black and white just before they die. Kristi is a popular character and deserved her own story, so Lost Souls, set in a college campus in Baton Rouge was born.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I always write a synopsis for the book. It's very detailed and usually is fifty to sixty pages. It's my road map and makes writing the actual story so much easier.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Oh, that's a tough one. It takes me about two months to come up with the detailed synopsis, I think, depending upon what else I'm doing and then another three to four to write the book in its entirety. I write year round and produce two or three books a year.
Describe your working environment.
Ha! Believe it or not I sit on a chaise lounge with a laptop. My back makes it impossible for me to sit at a desk for any length of time. I keep a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, my cell phone, and all my reference materials on the tables beside me. I have the Internet set up on the laptop for quick forays of research. When I'm deep into a book, under a deadline, I work alone, in a condo, where it's extremely quiet and where I can keep my own hours. I wear sweats so I can walk the halls for exercise and breaks.
Are you a disciplined writer?
Absolutely not. Unfortunately I write best under a deadline. Then I'm very focused. But no, I write under my own pressure, not the so-many-pages-a-day thing.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Yes. Usually, I'm writing a story and hit a wall. It's very temporary and it's usually a problem that I need to solve that's in earlier pages. Other than taking a walk, or a shower, or making a phone call and "getting out" of the book for a while, I always try to approach the offending scene from another character's point of view. But really, the problem, for me, is usually an earlier (sometimes MUCH earlier) scene that must be fixed. Often many scenes.
Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?
Technically speaking? When the Internet or my computer doesn't work. I'm very resourceful. I call my sons or webmaster.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. Or "It's like eating an elephant. Just one bite at a time."