I’m thrilled to have bestselling author Allison Brennan back to visit! She just released the 7th book in her Lucy Kincaid series and is introducing a new series and new character, investigative reporter Maxine Revere with NOTORIOUS, out March 25th.
Want to know more about Maxine before NOTORIOUS releases? Then check out MAXIMUM EXPOSURE, a digital-only novella that is a prequel to the series — sort of a snapshot of the life of Max Revere, and why she does what she does. Out February 4th.
But for now, dive into how Allison knocks off her characters and keeps it fresh in writing a series. And don’t miss Allison’s other guest post here with more ways to knock off your characters.
DONNA: You’ve just released the seventh novel in the bestselling Lucy Kincaid series. How do you keep the same characters fresh in writing a series?
ALLISON: Characters need to grow over the course of each book, so they’re in different place than when they started. In a series, these changes can be incremental, but it’s just as important to show character growth from book to book. I also like to keep Sean and Lucy on their toes by introducing new characters and external conflicts that test and challenge them. I love the “what if” game – what if I put them in a situation they’ve never faced? How are they going to react? I have their individual and collective backstory to direct me, but I want to up the stakes whenever I can.
DONNA: How do you add research into your writing without “showing” your research?
ALLISON: Research should be as integral to the story as description—blended in so that it’s part of the story itself, not something in addition to the story. I state facts. I avoid over-explanation. Things simply are. I don’t have to explain why a DNA test might take three weeks or ten weeks, or why the Allison is backlogged, or the history of the FBI Academy at Quantico. Just tell the reader what they need to know for the story, and move on. Unless it’s relevant, I leave it out.
DONNA: What are your favorite books, or resources, in your research library?
ALLISON: I have over 60 books on crime, forensics and criminal psychology. I refer to all of them at one point or another and they’re all important. The books I consistently refer to are PRACTICAL HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION (a textbook), DSM-IV MADE EASY (a clinic psychology book), the Writer’s Digest BOOK OF POISONS, and all of Dr. D.P. Lyle’s forensics books. I also use firstname.lastname@example.org to ask specific questions where I can set up the scenario. Many experts are generous with their time and knowledge in answering writer questions.
DONNA: You’ve been quoted as saying you love to research how to kill off characters. How do you put a new spin on traditional methods of murder?
ALLISON: Usually, I stick to the basics—there’s a reason why guns, poison and strangulation are popular with bad guys. I’m far more interested in motive than I am in method. However … I’ll admit, I really enjoy researching poisons! Must be the girl in me (women are more likely to kill with poison than men.)
DONNA: How do you stay focused on your story without getting bogged down in research?
ALLISON: Since I love research—particularly hands on research like SWAT role playing and field trips to the morgue or FBI Academy – I can get distracted by cool facts and true stories. However, when I’m writing, I’m writing. Meaning, unless a research point is plot critical, I skip it and come back to the detail later. It’s too easy to walk away from the WIP to chase after answers and then find yourself three hours later with a wealth of information irrelevant to the story.
DONNA: As a writer of crime fiction how do you keep abreast of what’s going on in the crime world? Have you been inspired by any current crime events?
ALLISON: I read a lot of true crime books (both classics and current) and follow crime news feeds on Twitter. I used to read more news websites, but that’s time consuming (and distracting!) Having a feed helps narrow the information. I can’t think of specific inspiration, but there have been real-life cases that have intrigued me and I’ve used elements of the truth in many books. One of my books was loosely inspired by the true story of a college freshman who had an anonymous, sexually explicit blog and was killed by her much older boyfriend. Another inspired by an average man who killed his family and his neighbors were shocked.
DONNA: Finally, how do you manage to write three novels a year?
ALLISON: One word at a time 🙂 … seriously, writing time is sacred; use it wisely.
Allison Brennan is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 22 thrillers and numerous short stories. She lives in northern California with her husband and five children. Learn more about her Lucy Kincaid series and her upcoming Maxine Revere series at her website.