His and Her Q & A with Robert W. Walker and Miranda Phillips Walker
or When Mystery Writers Unite in Matrimony how much Acrimony?
Format – Toss a question out: Rob’s answer followed by Miranda’s answer.
Q: What is it like having two mystery writers working under the same roof?
R’s A: So far the roof has not caved in. Kidding aside, there are great advantages to having a partner in crime as in everything—someone to walk off dinner with, someone to support your resolutions, someone to act as a sounding board and visa-versa—or is that vice-a-versa in the case of crime writers? Truth be told our work stations are right beside one another, so there is a bunch of quiet time togetherness…silent running, but we also share one another’s scenes and as I said act as support and sounding board to one another. And it goes a long way in life when your significant other is proud of what you do and what you have accomplished, no matter the profession.
M’s A: So far we’re only killing people in our novels, I agree with Rob there are definite advantages to literally working side by side, like not having to run to another room to clarify a point. There are times, however when you’re trying to get the others attention and get no response because he’s so buried in his bleepin’ story. Not that this never happens to me…We have come to realize that and not take any silence as directed personally at the other. Another couple might think the spouse is ignoring and rude and obnoxious, which was how our previous spouses felt about us when we were writing. Rob says his ex thought he was having an affair and he was—with his characters. But see I am so aware of this aberration on account of having it muself!
Q: So you don’t get into one another’s way? What happens when you disagree, say on a line of dialogue or a scene or a given adverb?
R’s A: We never disagree. No, no…not true. However, we do listen to one another, and since we are writing separate books and separate characters—not co-authoring collaborative work, then it all goes back to “Hey, it’s my book!” So in the end, no matter, the author makes the decision. On the other hand, if Miranda says a certain line falls flat, or suggests another direction, or tells me a woman would never say that or a teen twenty years ago might use that slang but not today, I listen to her and will make an adjustment (after a bit of a defense, of course). In the end, neither of us have such huge egos that we can’t take good, solid advice, and we trust one another’s advice. Kinda like having a built in book critic at one’s shoulder but one without the acid tongue say of a PW reviewer.
M’s A: He’s going to get a big head if I keep agreeing with him like this. But he’s right the bottom line for both of us is our novels or work in progress. I am glad we both are humble enough to listen to each other and also other private readers we have for our books. We have a reader in Canada that picked out some important issues that so needed to be changed in TWMK. Her viewpoint was fresh since she was looking at it from my POV. It’s always critical to have the novel reviewed by fresh eyes so to speak. Spell check is great but Bertha—my computer—she misfires at times and so spellings and grammatical issues slip in. You want to know the real tough thing in living with Rob? He’s an English teacher. ‘Say no more, eh?’
Q: Obviously, as Miranda is a newly published author, her first title being The Well Meaning Killer, and as Rob has over forty novels and e-books on the market, his latest being Dead On, it would seem Miranda’s getting more out of the “sounding board” than is Rob. Is that the case?”
R’s A: Not at all. Miranda’s experiences in the ER are real life “horror” and “suspense” shows, and besides any time I give her advice, well it reinforces my own faith in how I work up a story, and one of these is research and using real life terror for authentic scenes. I help Miranda and she helps me fifty-fifty. She’ll read my book, and I’ll read hers, so we act as first readers for one another these past three years. We have four children in the home as well, so we also run interference for one another. Frankly, I don’t know how a single mom with kids can find time to write, but this is one of the lessons Miranda has learned from me—at times you have to stiff-arm your loved ones for them to understand that writing is not a game for you but a serious endeavor. You have to make people believe that if you expect them to leave you alone. Only bother me if there is blood. Finally, to answer your question, we teach one another each day, and frankly it beats “group” support as in a writing group—not that there’s anything wrong with that but you can get too many voices telling you in no uncertain terms to go in twelve different directions if you’re not careful.
M’s A: One of my biggest fears is that people will think, Oh, Rob must have written that, and is just throwing her a bone so to speak. From going to conferences and listening to other authors, the one theme I get is they are jaded. They have been in this industry so long and beaten down so hard they have no faith. Coming into this as a newbie, I certainly have a lot to learn, but I think I help Rob see things in a new light. For instance I share with him different ways to have an internet presence, unconventional local marketing, keeping a positive attitude in face of this crazy industry. We keep each other on track and focused, that’s what partners should do. I suspect if we were baking pies and selling pies out the door, we’d need one another’s emotional support for that as well. Matrimony not acrimony and mutual respect. I had been carrying The Well Meaning Killer notes around with me for years before I ever laid eyes on Rob.
Q: So how do you deal with the awesome job of organizing a mystery or suspense novel, and how has your partnership helped along those lines?
R’s A: I have two words I keep before me at all times while writing—one is “compelling” reminding me that every page must be compelling and to make that happen, this single word reminds me too to involve all five senses and strive to incorporate that nebulous sixth sense when I can. The other watchword is—oops! I forgot it. Oh, yeah, “Who’s story is it anyway?” This single question keeps me focused on the character whose name is synonymous with the title of the book (sometimes that name is in the title or subtitle). When a Japanese publisher came out with my Instinct Series, they at first wanted to rename it: Jessica Coran, FBI Medical Examiner! I don’t do an outline or rigorous storyboard. I rather allow the story to unfold and come into being much as a sculptor chips away at a block of marble until he finds what he’s looking for in the stone. In other words, I don’t know what I think until I see what I say…so to speak. Since Miranda works in the same fashion with her Megan McKenna we again support one another in our working method, our Modus Operandi.
M’s A: My method is similar to Rob’s. I don’t use a strict outline, but I do have a loose one with the names and descriptions of my characters, and location. I just sit down and write, trying to keep heat on every page, build conflict as I go. I try to keep to short chapters, since that’s the thing most readers like now, and I try to watch my POV. Megan McKenna’s is my character and everything in the storyline whether it deals with her at the moment needs to come back to her. So I focus on all threads or roads lead to Megan and Megan’s story.
One of the best lessons Rob has shown me is how to effectively use dialog to move the story along and keep it interesting. A favorite line of his is that dialogue must either illuminate character or move the story along. It can’t be static. And never stop to describe a person, place or thing—do it while that person is in action.
Q: Do you two have any plans of ever collaborating on a novel?
R’s A: That could put a strain on the marriage as it puts a strain on any relationship; collaborative writing is however something I believe—given the right storyline—we could be successful at. I believe we both have the right temperament to work that close in on a novel. The failed collaborations in my experience have failed for different reasons. One, my co-author at the time could not take the least suggestion or change and went berserk and it was broken off before it got anywhere; a second was great fun and was rip-roaring until suddenly my co-author simply quit on the project due to my agent’s inability at the time to sell it; a third has been greatly successful and that project was completed and I am very proud of it because my co-author and I did indeed have some shouting matches and knock-down, drag-outs, and cursing—mostly me pulling out my hair, but in the end we got it together. It is now published as a Kindle original and is entitled Cuba Blue with Lyn Polkabla. Miranda saw what I went through with Lyn, and she’s not, I suspect, anxious to collaborate but maybe some day…again if the right story came along. Can’t rule it out.
M’s A: Wow, that’s a loaded gun. I have witnessed the Rob and Lynn saga, the frustration, the if looks could kill, the large phone bill… Yikes! I think it is just a matter of time though until we do, but we will have ground rules, like no collaborating in the kitchen! OK, Rob does make a terrific hot Reuben sandwich to die for.
Final Q: You guys seem like a great tag-team match with a one-two punch, both your books hitting the stands at once and you’re doing “his and her” book signings. What exactly happens at a his and her book signing?”
R’s A: She sells my book, I sell hers. It is a win-win situation and you don’t have to be married to sell one another’s books if you tag-team with another writer. We have the added advantage of both books being in the same genre, but that could as well work against us. Two writers with different kinds of books can still tag-team readers coming through the bookstore door. I have known authors whose loved one—a husband, a wife, even a child “hawk” the book on behalf of the author and do far better than the author would have done alone and on his or her own. Point of fact, my dog Pongo, pictured on the jacket of Dead On with me, I believe, has sold more books than I ever could (insert laugh track here).
M’s A: I have witnessed Rob’s book signings, and I will be adopting his methods. He doesn’t just sit behind the desk. He is at the front of the store near the table ready to greet the customers as they enter the store, or throw a book out into the mall. (no kidding but with teens only, not the infirm or elderly). He has tons of energy and approaches people in a nonthreatening manner (usually!). I think we are going to have fun selling each other’s books and enjoying each other’s company simultaneously during an event which can often be a rather lonely one for the “lone” writer who has no one to go out to dinner with after the event.
Robert W. Walker can be found at “the usual places” as can Miranda, that is Twitter, Face Book, Myspace, as well as http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/ and http://www.acmeauthorslink.com/ and at http://www.speakwithoutinterruption.com/
Miranda is also found at http://www.mirandapwalkerbooks.com/ and http://www.mirandapwalker.blogspot.com/ www.myspace.com/mirandawalkerthrillers, http://www.crimespace.ning.com/profile/mirandaphillipswalker, http://authorsden.com/mirandaphillipswalker