Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Big Read Mystery Panel, part 2: Claire Applewhite

At The Big Read in Clayton, MO on October 9, authors shared their inspirations, insights, and information about their writing process...

Claire Applewhite is the author of Crazy for Youa romantic suspense novel, and The Wrong Side of Memphis, a murder mystery. Her next novel, St. Louis Hustle, will be released later this year. Applewhite is a contributing editor to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She is active in local and national writers' groups, including Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime, Heartland Writers Guild and Mystery Writers of America, and is the president of the Missouri Writers Guild.

  • When asked about her inspiration to become a mystery writer, Applewhite mentioned Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell), an English author of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries.
  • Applewhite says that each of her plots revolves around a central question. The characters' job is to answer that question ... and to be entertaining.
  • When developing characters, Applewhite likes to list five or six people she finds intriguing. She then takes the most vivid trait of each and combines them to create an original character.
  • She seeks out new experiences in different areas of life, such as food and travel.
  • Applewhite keeps a box in which she tosses anything that captures her interest. From time to time, she dumps out the box and looks for things that, when combined, might inspire a plot or a character.
  • She writes her story out of sequence, and then connects the segments.
  • Though all the panelists agreed that characters are extremely important, Applewhite said someone recently told her how much they enjoyed figuring out the plot twists in a movie. For such a person, puzzling out the plot is more important than characters. If they were able to figure out "whodunnit" too easily, they might walk out of the theatre (or, presumably, put down the book)!
  • When asked what she likes to read, Applewhite again mentioned Barbara Vine as an influence, particularly in the area of psychological suspense. She also likes Ed McBain (a.k.a. Evan Hunter), whom she recommends as a master of sparkling dialogue, and Agatha Christie.
A funny anecdote--while the authors were speaking, a large dog ran through the tent with a man in hot pursuit. Apparently it got away from Dawn Sylvie-Stasiewicz, the Obamas' dog trainer and author of
The Love That Dog Training Program, who was presenting nearby.

Next time: mystery author Qiu Xiaolong


Jess said...

I like the box idea, and the anecdote about the runaway dog is too funny :)

Ruth Donnelly said...

I like the box idea, too Jess. I keep a file like that on my computer, but I should try a real-life one as well.