Escape With A Writer Interview: CULTURED Jake Longly #6
How many hours a day do you write?
I don't have a set time or a number of hours each day that I devote to writing. Basically I write when I feel like it and I don't when I don't. That said, I'm usually up around four or five in the morning, and after I've had my coffee and answered a few emails and other things, I write. That may last an hour or several hours. Along the same line, I don't have a specific word count goal. I know many writers have set times and word counts, but I don’t. When I began writing 25 years ago, I promised myself it would never become a job. I had a job with my medical practice. I didn’t want another one. Writing was fun time. Not that I don’t take my writing and my career seriously, but I look at it as my time to play with my imaginary friends.
How do you choose which stories you will write?
I always have several story ideas in play at any time for my two current thriller series—the Jake Longly comedic thrillers and the Cain/Harper darker and more traditional thrillers. I try to write a book in each series each year. As for which story to choose, it's the one that wakes you up in the middle of the night and the one that you're thinking about when you're "daydreaming." It's the one that intrudes into your thoughts the most and if you don't address that one first, it will keep bugging you and interfering with the story you’re working on. That’s the one you choose for the front burner.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I don't particularly care for first drafts. That's the heavy lifting. Since I don't outline, that's also when I develop the story’s the plot. This means that the first draft is a lot of work, but it's also an adventure. I start with a couple of scenes in mind, begin writing, and see where it takes me. By the time I get to around 40,000 words, I have the story well hammered out and I know where it’s going and how it's going to end. I don't know any of that when I start the story. Once the first draft is done, the fun begins. I love rewriting. That's when you really make a story a story.
Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
I hope to still be turning out two novels a year, doing a lot of teaching, and continuing to work on my blog and my podcast series—Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction. I don't see any reason to change because what I'm doing right now is a lot of fun. And fun is what it's all about.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I've been fortunate in that every novel and short story I've written has been published. In May, I released my 23rd book, CULTURED, the 6th in the Jake Longly series. I’ve also completed and edited the next in the series, and it will be available next summer. Right now I'm working on my 4th Cain/Harper book and I am at that magic 40,000 words, so the story is really rolling. To answer your question, I have 23 books in print, another one completed, and another one in the works.
Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
I grew up in the south where everyone can tell a story, so storytelling has always been part of my life. My family, my friends, and virtually everyone I knew could tell a story. It's part of the culture down there. I’ve been an avid reader since I was very young and always wanted to write. I could spin a good yarn, but could I write one? They are, of course, two entirely different animals. I assumed that I’d try writing the stories in my head once I retired, but I realized I was nowhere near retirement—-and indeed still haven’t. Approximately 25 years ago, I told myself, if not now, when? I took some classes at the University of California Irvine in their extension program, joined a couple of writing groups, and began writing. I guess you would say the rest is history. As for writers that have influenced me, James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard are at the forefront. There is much to learn from each of them, and I certainly have.