C. E. LAWRENCE
- Guest Author -
Welcome to an interview with a multi-talented author who hails from the Greater New York City area. C.E. Lawrence is the byline of a New York-based suspense writer, performer, composer and prize-winning playwright and poet whose previous books have been praised as "lively. . ." (Publishers Weekly); "constantly absorbing. . ." (starred Kirkus Review); and "superbly crafted prose" (Boston Herald). Silent Screams, Silent Victim, Silent Kills, and recently released Silent Slaughter are the first four books in her Lee Campbell thriller series along with her short novella Silent Stalker available on Kindle.
Welcome, C.E. ...
1. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I was always making up stories. When I was a kid I wrote plays for my siblings and cousins to perform. We’d string up a flannel bed sheet over the clothes line and invite all the neighbors. We served “refreshments” during intermission – those little pillow shaped pastel mints. There always had to be mints in my productions. Even now, when I see the word “refreshments,” I think of them. I loved those mints. Come to think of it, I want one now.
2. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I’m big on research, which continues the whole time I’m writing. Thank. God. For. The. Internet. When I was working on “Miracle at Chimayo,” my first published story, I called my Peruvian friend Percy Gibson asking for advice on Spanish words. Now I just Google it. (Percy has other fish to fry, anyway – he’s married to Joan Collins. Seriously, look it up.)
I plan a lot, but now that I’m working on my 11th novel, I’m a little more comfortable not having every single twist and turn planned out. And I’ve had more than one Aha moment (or, as it’s known in the Midwest, Oprah Moment).
When I wrote my first thriller, Silent Screams, I struggled with the damn book for over a year. I thought it was finished, but my agent couldn’t sell it. Then one day I was jogging along a country road up in Woodstock, and it just came to me – the twist I’d been missing all alone. It seemed to fall out of the blue, but I realized I’d been setting it up all along; I just hadn’t seen it myself. So I hardly had to change a thing except the ending. It sold within weeks. So gotta be open to that old Happy Accident.
3. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Being able to hang out in cafes, drink coffee and call that work. No, seriously, I really like the act of writing. The thrill of discovering that elusive plot twist, the word smithery. Is that a word, “smithery?” It should be.
4. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Well, it’s the flip side of the best thing – the writing. But I’m not one to beat my head against a wall. If it’s not happening, I walk away. I don’t believe in self-punishment. That’s what critics are for.
5. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I was captain of New Jersey’s first women’s rugby team, and toured with a comedy improvisational troupe as well as doing other professional acting and singing jobs. And I play piano and sing in cocktail bars and restaurants. But I was always writing. I realized I would much rather write the plays than be in them, though I still do comedy improve on Sunday nights. It’s a blast, play time with my buddies.
6. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I guess I’m proudest of Strings, my play about physics, which was based on a real train ride and three actual physicists, the wonderful Paul Steinhardt, Burt Ovrut and Neil Turok. It was done in New York with Keir Dullea, Mia Dillon and Warren Kelley in the lead roles, and John Simon called it “the most absorbing play in New York.”
I was in Chinatown getting Malaysian food when our production manager called me to read me the review and I yelled across the street to my friend Tony, “John Simon likes us!” The residents of Chinatown must have thought I was nuts.
If it never gets any better than that in my career, I can live on the memory of that moment.
7. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I just finished Edinburgh Twilight, a historical thriller set in 19th century Scotland. I’m working on the sequel, Edinburgh Dawn.
8. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Everything. Nature, science, people, other writers, music, painting, television. Seriously, I think some of the best writers in the country are writing for television. Have you watched The Good Wife? Or Modern Family? I would be proud to have written those shows. Really smart, educated, funny people are writing those shows.
And I just love scientists. Love them. Architects. And engineers. Sometimes I just stare at the Brooklyn Bridge and think someone built that. Writing a novel is nothing compared to a bridge. Really. Or the Flatiron Building. Someone came up with those ideas and then a bunch of super brave people climbed up on scaffolds and built it with their hands. It’s awesome.
When I’m in Woodstock I wander around in a daze of appreciation of the countryside, hunting mushrooms and digging around in the woods for what I can find, and when I’m in New York I wander around in a daze staring at the incredible buildings of lower Broadway or Midtown or Murray Hill . . . what a place to live.
And of course crime. I’m fascinated by the bad people, by the long con. I don’t date them, but I do write about them. My dirty little secret: true crime shows. There’s enough material there for a lifetime of crime.
And Bach. He’s the Man. I don’t play him well, but even played badly, it’s still Bach.
9. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
In prose, mostly crime fiction – thrillers, cozies, Sherlock Holmes novels, but I’m also published in literary fiction magazines. I’m also lucky enough to be pretty widely published as a poet. In fact, I’m the Featured Poet in the next issue of the new literary quarterly, China Grove.
I’ve also written a few dozen reviews and articles, most recently a review of the BBC series Sherlock, for the next issue of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.
And my plays and musicals are about just about anything – physics, theatre, history. I wrote a musical about Benedict Arnold, and another which is an adaptation of House of the Seven Gables.
10. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Develop a routine that works for you. If you don’t want to write every day, fine – there is no one road to Mecca. But do write whenever and however you can. That’s the only thing that matters.
11. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Nope. Like I said, if it’s not happening, I walk away. The more you force yourself when it’s not happening, the more unpleasant associations you’ll have with writing.
12. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I prefer evenings and night, since I’m a natural night owl, but I’ll work any time of day, especially when I’m under a deadline.
Clancy's comment: Many thanks for making the time, C.E. Give my best wishes to Woodstock and New York.
Think about this!
Mm ... I'm very trying.
Ask those who know me.