Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Missouri, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Well, I’ve lived all over the place. I love to travel, which really inspires me to write. I’m an college graduate who made the mistake of majoring in the Arts (yes, with a capital A).
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first published book isn’t the one I consider my first. My first book is still sitting in a drawer awaiting editing when I’ve finally managed to scrub the horror of it from my brain. My first published book, The Grave Watchers was written in 2010 and published in 2011. Much to my surprise, I must add.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I never really started writing m/m romance per say. I think I really just happened to write books where there were men falling in love with other men. I never start out a book thinking, “Hm, how can I get gay romance in this?” I get an idea and I start writing, if my main character turns out to be male and gay, well, he just is.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
I’ve been trying to get published since I was thirteen. I was enamored with the fact that a girl my age had been published a few years prior to me and was convinced I could do it to. I made a lot of mistakes, and I learned a lot. I’ve written about a dozen “complete” manuscripts with dozens of half finished ones littering my computer hard drive. I have a terrible habit of attempting to work on five or six projects at once and only finishing one of them.
Do you write full time?
I do not currently write full time, but I hope to be able to make that leap soon.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
My mother read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to me while we were camping in England. I remember it was raining and we roasted marshmallows. There were peacocks on the campsite and I wanted to find their eggs.
That was the first time in my life I really considered what it was to tell a story. I think I’ve been trying to tell them every since. I have to say, this was a profession that chose me.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Well, I wake up around one in the afternoon (I’m a terrible night owl), make breakfast and get a cup of good English tea. Difficult to find in the States but I manage to hunt down a fairly comparable brand. After breakfast I settle in at my computer and re-read a few previous pages and then jump in.
I have to have noise, music or a TV program, going while I work. I take the occasional break for research (Which can get very off track. I love research). I break for lunch and mental health. Try to do some drawing or crafty stuff. If the weather’s nice I take a walk, get the mail.
After lunch it’s back to the computer and then way into the wee hours of the morning until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer and fall asleep. Probably not the most efficient way to write.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
I try to write through these days, I used to revise as I went along and found I agonized over every sentence, really slowing the pace. After doing my first Nanowrimo, I broke myself of that habit.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I write freely. Plot comes to me as I go along. If I get the plot really heavy, I’ll outline it. The outline is more like a guideline, however, it can and does change as things I didn’t expect to happen unfold.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
Extensive. If I’m working with any city I’m unfamiliar with I get right in there and start doing research on city history, landmarks, cuisine, colloquialisms, etc. I can get caught up in the research a bit. I tend to research as I go and occasionally will wait until the second draft until doing the research I need. I’ll put notes on various sections to remind myself and then add in things as I do revisions.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I know there’s a portion of myself in every character. That sarcasm is completely me, but I try to make every character different. Mostly though, they manage to do that on their own. I’m very organic when it comes to character creation in that manner. I try to leave the personality of friends out of it. I name characters after friends, but rarely do they show up in my work.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
Depends on the person. My beta reader gets it pretty raw. My editor gets it after that, and after three or four more edits the audience gets it. I’ve always been very comfortable letting people read my raw drafts. Criticism is something I have no problem with.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I don’t think of it so much as writer’s block, but as a lack of fuel. Sometimes the brain runs out of gas and we have to stop and refuel. Read a new book, watch a movie, tv, etc. That’s what gets me past it.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I just hope they get some good laughs out of it.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
1. It is a business.
2. You have to be open to change.
3. You have to work. Really work. This is a job and you have to treat it like one.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
All of the above. I sometimes get a title first, sometimes I go through a dozen titles, sometimes I’m at the end of the book, or one page in. I never really know when I’m going to get a title for a book.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Dark. Definitely. Though also light on occasion. I love sly humor. I love old black and white comedies, witty British crime movies and snarky cartoons.
What is the most frequently asked Missouri Dalton question?
Where’s the on screen sex?
Yeah. Sorry. I don’t write it.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on some YA stuff, as well as the follow up to The Grave Watchers, and book three in The Night Wars series.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
A novel is like a relationship. That first page is the first date, you don’t give everything away on the first date, so don’t give it all away on the first page either. You wouldn’t dump your life in someone’s lap right off the bat, would you?
I never show my hand in the first chapter. I keep a lot of things close to the chest now. Some things have to be presented right off the bat, but I’m big on keeping secrets in my books.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Well, I have Facebook and Twitter, working on a website, I have a blog, Goodreads, Shelfari… And at the end of April I’ll be attending a convention to do promotion.
I also donated a copy of The Hanged Man’s Ghost to a local library.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
I read, a lot. I also draw and paint and do crafty things. I am constantly looking at how other writers and artists present ideas. It’s important to see how your peers work.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Contemporary fantasy, high fantasy, urban fantasy, YA fantasy, Middle grade fantasy… I think there’s a theme here… Oh, I also enjoy reading research materials.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
I’m a certified art conservator and intermediate bookbinder and manuscript illuminator.
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
Everywhere. I’m always getting ideas for new stories, old stories. I have notebooks full of stuff.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I like all of the covers I have right now. The Grave Watchers is a little, “Oh my god, ROMANCE!” but that’s okay. The colors are great. I think the artists have done a great job.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love drawing, watercolor painting, restoring books, making doll clothes, knitting, crocheting, cross stitch…crafty stuff in general, reading and baking. I love baking.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
The Night Shift, which is the follow up to The Hanged Man’s Ghost is tentatively scheduled for May 2012.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Never stop writing. You have to write a whole lot of crap before you get noticed, and no matter what, you just have to keep writing. And don’t be afraid to let people read what you write. You will not get better until you take criticism. I know I didn’t.
What future projects do you have in the works?
The follow up to The Grave Watchers, a book called Sleeping on the Job, which will be a Night Wars book and follow the story of Simon Murphy, as well as a couple short stories in the world of the King’s Dog. One called Keeper, I’m working on now which is from the POV of Germaine and hopefully will shed some light on the events of The King’s Dog.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
The Hanged Man’s Ghost
The driving skills of Detective Jack Winchester have never been in contention. It is the manner in which he applies those skills I find disturbing. I also have my suspicions that he made a deal with the devil to always find a parking space when he needs one.
But I can’t prove it.
“So…it’s a yoga studio.” I stared at the glass and metal monstrosity that was Modern Gym. Part of it was weights and treadmills, at least, the first floor was, and the sign above the very tan receptionist’s desk had the second floor labeled for yoga and meditation.
My ex with the yoga thing hadn’t gone to a gym like this. His gym had been conveniently located one floor up from his apartment that was all part of a renovated cannery.
“It’s a monstrosity,” Jack confirmed. “These places aren’t gyms. My gym doesn’t have mirrors.”
“Your gym is in an old car garage and run by a guy called Spider.” I gave him a look. “I don’t know that you can talk.”
“You can’t say he’s a bad fitness coach though.” Jack flexed one arm. “I beat you in the ring, last I checked.”
He snorted. “You wish.”
The receptionist was talking on the phone in a voice that I was fairly certain was near the limits of the human ear.
“Miss?” Jack waved a hand in front of her face. “I’m looking for — ”
She held up a hand to silence him and continued to yammer away about her yorky’s delicate digestion.
“Miss, I’m with the police.”
I gave Jack a look and then reached over the counter and pressed down on the button, hanging up on whomever she’d been chatting with. She gave me a look that would have killed a lesser man.
“Hi.” I grinned. “I’m Fynn, this is Jack, and we’re detectives investigating a homicide. I need to talk to Jason Campbell. Where is he?” After which I showed her the star dangling around my neck.
“Uh…he’s upstairs in the Shangri-la room. But there’s a class going on right now.”
“That’s okay, I’m sure they’ll understand that murder comes before yoga,” Jack said. “Thanks so much for your help.”
We headed up the stairs, I took them two at a time just to prove to Jack I was still in shape and beat him to the top with a grin. “Ha.”
“That proves nothing. You get back in the ring and we’ll talk.”
“Maybe I will.”
He snorted. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
We headed down the hallway the stairs opened onto and found the Shangri-la room about halfway down. I put on my cop face and gestured for Jack to go first. He opened the door and I followed after him.
The room was occupied by about fifteen very limber young women currently engaged in bending their bodies to resemble pretzels, and a man at the front of the room. Behind him was a raised platform where sticks of incense burned, giving the place an odor of musky herb over warm bodies.
The man had a sheen of sweat over his tan skin. I noticed lean muscles, and the tight shorts he wore gave a clue to the reason for the amount of pretty faces in the room. He wasn’t bad looking, but there was something about him that rubbed me the wrong way.
I tugged at the collar of my shirt and suddenly wished I wasn’t wearing so many layers.
It was kind of hot in there.
The man gave us a look. “I’m sorry but we’re in the middle of a class…”
“Well, yes — ”
“Detectives Jack Winchester and Fynn Adder, we need to ask you a few questions about the murder of Jessica Yates.” Jack flipped open his wallet to flash his star. “Why don’t we talk in the hall?”
“Uh…okay. Ladies, take five; I’ll be right back.” He smiled reassuringly and followed Jack and me out into the hall, closing the door firmly behind him.
“You and Ms. Yates dated, correct?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, like four months ago. It’s old news.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that,” I said. If this was the guy…well, I wasn’t all that sure if he’d make it to the station in one piece. “What caused the breakup?”
“Jessica wasn’t willing to share me,” Jason said. “I told her I couldn’t be monogamous, and she freaked out. She threw a bottle at my head. I had to call the cops.”
“Where were you the night before last, around four a.m.?” Jack shouldered in front of me ever so slightly.
“I was giving a private lesson at my apartment,” he said smugly. “I have three witnesses.”
“I suppose that’s a cute little code for fucking your students?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Maybe. I can even give you their names. We were occupied until sunrise. Dawn greeting is very cathartic.”
“Right.” Jack pulled out his notepad and a pen. “Write down the names of your tryst partners and the best way to contact them.”
Jason wrote while Jack stared at him.
“Here.” He practically shoved the notepad back into Jack’s hands. “Can I go back to my class now?”
“Of course,” I said. “But don’t leave town.”
Jason sneered at me and then stormed back into the yoga class.
“Well, I think his chi is off balance.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “We can’t really hold him on anything you know.”
“I don’t like him.”
“That’s not a crime.”
“It should be. Who else are we talking to today?”
“Well, I think we’d better call his little playmates. Let’s make sure that alibi is legit. If it’s not, we can arrest him for interfering with a homicide investigation.” Jack’s grin was positively feral. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of it.
God damn it. Why does he have to be straight?
“I — I’m hungry. Let’s get lunch before we start making phone calls.”
“Sure. Chinese okay with you? There’s a place just around the corner from here with really good spring rolls.”
Jack tucked his notebook into his pocket and gave me a sharp look. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I just really don’t like that guy.”
“Okay.” He started to head down the hallway, and I stood frozen for a moment. Sometimes Jack made me feel like a high school kid with his first crush on the captain of the lacrosse team. Timmy Mullins…a lazy smile crept across my face. Just him and me in the locker room after the championship match.
I shook my head. Why was I thinking about that? I gave myself a mental slap and hurried after Jack.