Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Nancy G West. This is the first day of her Fit to Be Dead Blog tour with Great Escapes Book Tours - and, yes, I'm her first stop :)
Hi, Nancy!! Welcome to The Gal. Let's start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself.
For me, writing is a necessary bodily function ... like eating, sleeping, laughing, loving, consuming chocolate. Okay. It's better than chocolate.
What are five things most people don't know about you?
I'm laid back, except about writing. I do a lot of rewriting until I'm satisfied. It's a good thing and I enjoy it.
What is the first book you remember reading?
Nancy Drew's Secret of the Hidden Staircase. She was so self-sufficient and cool, and her father trusted her to make good decisions, like my parents did. Plus she drove a convertible. I never talked them into that one.
What are you reading now?
Bruce De Silva's Providence Rag. He's an excellent writer, but sociopathic killers like his character scare me because they don't feel normal human emotions, and nobody can reason with them.
What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
When I was seven, my mother and I wrote poems to each other on special occasions. They were simple poems, pretty silly, actually. But I think putting words on paper taught me people give more credence to what you write than to what you say. We have to consider before we write. When we speak, we often pop something out without much thought. (I can count the ways I've done that.)
Do you have a special place you like to write?
Anyplace that's quiet, without interruptions, where I can enter into the story, stay there with my characters and watch them develop. Writing with a river flowing in front of me is a good place.
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
The whole writing process is quirky: we learn how to dredge up the imaginative parts of our brains. Frequently, ideas or scenes pop up there, and I don't even know where they come from.
As for process, I sketch a rough outline of the story, decide what type of characters and locations will help me tell it, write an awful first draft and then change or add to almost everything.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
From people I observe. I'm fascinated by people and often wonder why they act as they do.
What books have most inspired you?
To Kill a Mockingbird: There are so many revelations about human nature underneath Harper Lee's fascinating story.
Shakespeare's tragedies: You have to be in a class to have help with the language and story, but once you begin to understand, you see what a genius he was at interpreting human psychology and crafting characters and language to portray it.
William Kent Kruger's Ordinary Grace is a mystery totally focused on character: how a mother, father, and sons react to one particular death in their small town. The mystery is a vehicle to show how these people view evil, kindness, and even God.
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
It's always a challenge to translate characters' feelings and their physical surroundings on to the page. You want so much to describe what's in your mind so it will affect the reader the same way it affects you.
What do you think makes a good story?
People who really care about who are faced with a threatening situation. These people have to dig deep to overcome their dilemma and survive without growing permanently bitter or cynical in the process.
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Aggie Mundeen, the heroine of my mystery series, is like me in that she's curious and determined. Single and pushing forty, she writes the column, "Stay Young with Aggie," and is always on the lookout for the fountain of youth. (Aren't we all?) She sees humor in most situations. She feels deeply, but most people don't see that side of her because she's intrusive when she finds somebody committing a wrong and decides to make it right. She's a lot braver than I am. Her friend, Meredith, is like me, too. Quiet. Serious. Sometimes.
Why did you pick your particular genre?
Mysteries depict what happens when the normal course of events become chaotic and threatens good people. The sleuth has to find the source of the chaos and use skill and courage to reestablish order. Wrongs are made right, and justice is served. Isn't that what we all want?
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
I use humor to define character. [Fit to Be Dead, West's first Aggie Mundeen Mystery, was Lefty Finalist for Best Humorous Mystery.] We take ourselves pretty seriously, but our human habits are - let's face it - funny. Amateur sleuth, Aggie, is in love with an idealistic, psychologically-wounded detective. She wants to impress and thrusts herself into weird situations. In her eagerness to solve crimes and make Sam care for her despite his frustrations with her meddling, Aggie does things that make us laugh.
What can we expect from you in the future?
After Dang Near Dead is released this month, there will be at least two more Aggie Mundeen mysteries. Smart, But Dead comes out in spring 2015, and they'll be another Aggie Mundeen mystery after that. Aggie and Sam grow closer with each story, so given her obstreperous behavior, this relationship is going to take a while.
Thanks so much for stopping by The Gal today, Nancy. Before you go, where can we find you?
Thanks to The Gal in the Blue Mask for the wonderful questions! And thanks to Great Escapes Dollycas Tours for getting us together!
I love to hear readers' opinions about the books and talk about characters, plots, and writing. We can do that through "Contact Me" on my website and on Goodreads. To see what I'm up to and what's happening with Aggie's books, follow me on Facebook.