Peg Herring is the author of the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth Mysteries, the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries, the intriguing Loser Mysteries, and several stand-alone mysteries. When they’re not exploring the world, Peg and her husband of many years live in northern Lower Michigan, where they garden for the benefit of local rabbits, deer, and elk.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve been a mystery reader all my life, and I love trying to figure out the puzzles authors create. When I realized I wanted to write, I naturally began creating my own puzzles for readers to solve. These days, as I’ve heard other authors say, I can’t NOT write. It’s an obsession.
Tell us about your writing process.
I compose on my clunky old PC, starting early in the morning and working until noon. After that I’m less likely to write new material, but I either print off paper copies or edit on my laptop. Most important for me (and I suspect for everyone) is a period of time between finishing a book and sending it off to my editor. After a week or six, I see huge, honking errors that make me think, “How did I think this book was finished???”
I write by the seat of my sweatpants, knowing where a story’s going to end up but not sure how it’s going to get there. I’ve tried outlining, white-boarding, and sticky notes. None of them helped me much, so I blunder along, making mistakes and starting new files with today’s date to separate them from the files with yesterday’s date and the day before that.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I find it useful to “round out” my characters before I begin writing, so they’re people, not plot devices. To do that I sometimes “interview” them, asking questions (Which classes did you like best in high school? What’s in your purse/pockets right now?) that help me get to know them. The info doesn’t go into the book, but it prepares me to put them into the story realistically.
What advice would you give other writers?
Persist. Publishing is full of stories of people who were rejected many, many times (as I was). That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.
On the other hand, it takes a lot of work to become a good writer, so persist at writing, too. Write every day. When your friends and family tell you how good you are, ask them to give you twenty dollars for the privilege of reading your next bit. That’s what publishing is–asking people to pay money to see what you have to say.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I got sucked in by my students. We were having trouble finding a play to perform at the high school where I taught, and the students suggested I write one. I did, and when we put it on people said, “You should publish that.” I sent it in, and it was accepted right away.
Sadly, this led me to the misguided conclusion so many share: Publishing is easy.
It took me four years to sell another play, and six years to sell my first novel.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
More and more authors are moving to self-publishing, at least partially, since traditional publishing is hard to break into, slow at getting books out, and not financially rewarding in most cases.
I have nothing against self-publishing if authors get professional editing, formatting, and cover art and understand that fabulous wealth isn’t going to start rolling in tomorrow–probably never.
I spoke with someone yesterday who’d tried traditional publishers, got frustrated, and self-pubbed her book. She said she planned to “plow the profits from the first book into getting time to write the second one.”
Yeah, good luck with that…and don’t quit your day job.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print