Host Patricia McLinn talks with Laura Resnick about creating worlds, developing characters, and how Casablanca should have ended. Patricia and Laura discuss Laura’s diverse writing career — from nonfiction to urban fantasy to short stories and memoir — and the way that she thinks about her characters and books.
Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Laura Resnick
Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.
Laura Resnick [00:23] I’m Laura Resnick, and I’m an author who loves readers.
Patricia McLinn [00:33] Now let’s start the show. Hi, welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers. And our guest is Laura Resnick. Laura and I have known each other for quite a while. Kind of just in the writing world, the way you kind of are aware of other people. And then back in 06 or was, well, 07, I guess, um, I was president of Novelists, Inc. And Laura was elected as the president-elect who, um, is kind of in training to take over the presidency the next year. And I will admit I had some trepidations because neither Laura, uh, nor I is, um, wishy-washy. How’s that for subtle, Laura?
Laura Resnick [01:24] I was going to say we met when you were young. I still am, of course.
Patricia McLinn [01:31] Yeah. You’re following just as fast as I am, girl.
Laura Resnick [01:37] Oh, that’s a good description.
Patricia McLinn [01:40] Yeah, so, but we did great. I thought we were a terrific team.
Laura Resnick [01:44] We were. We worked very well together.
Patricia McLinn [01:47] Yeah. And we, we hit some crises as often do, and we—
Laura Resnick [01:53] But I had bail money. So it all went well.
Patricia McLinn [01:57] That was to bail her out. I told her she could not go to jail until after I was done being president. That was the deal.
Laura Resnick [02:08] That was actually.
Patricia McLinn [02:09] Then she was on her own. So, Laura is the author of, um, a diverse, uh, kind of you’ve had a diverse career and now as publishing a great urban fantasy series. And we’ll come back and talk about that some more, but first let’s talk about, let’s do some quick corky questions just to kind of get to know you. What’s your favorite taste?
Laura Resnick [02:35] I like really, really salty foods. Stuff like, um, feta cheese, capers, Greek olives, uh caperberries. I like things often so salty that normal people don’t like them. Even thinking about it makes my mouth water.
No mystery how Nancy Drew addicted Laura to reading
Patricia McLinn [02:51] Okay. We’ll get off that. So we don’t make, you want to end, to end the discussion right away. Um, do you have a childhood book that addicted you to story?
Laura Resnick [03:02] I do. It’s basically the first book I ever got all the way through by myself. I was seven years old, and I read a Nancy Drew mystery called The Witch Tree Symbol. I was very intrigued by the title and I don’t remember the story much now. But I remember even as hard as it was for me to read the book, it was beyond my reading level, I was just so absorbed by the story, I really stuck with it, got all the way through the book, improved my reading level a lot, and that was when I became a voracious reader. And I read like the next 50 Nancy Drew books and lots and lots of other stuff. And that book is really kind of a turning point for me.
Patricia McLinn [03:41] Have you ever gone back to it?
Laura Resnick [03:44] You know, I have not. Something, uh, actually what I was trying to remember the title of it, I was like, I ought to do that. I have never gone back and reread it.
Patricia McLinn [03:52] I think it can be hard though, as, especially once you’re a writer to go back and reread books, um, that you loved when you were younger, because you, you see the mechanisms.
Laura Resnick [04:05] That’s a kid’s book, you know, not, I don’t know, not necessarily because it’s not really something I, I do or have read in years, but I have definitely noticed that with books I really enjoyed or writers I really enjoyed when I was say around twenty, that now often I, if I pick them up, I think, what did I like about this?
The rewriting of Casablanca and desert islands
Patricia McLinn [04:24] Do you have any stories or did you have a story before you were an author that you thought, Oh, this just doesn’t end right. I don’t like this. And then you at least mentally rewrote it.
Laura Resnick [04:35] For me, it was probably the same one it was for millions of people. I was a huge fan of the movie Casablanca. I still am. It’s probably my all-time favorite movie. And for years, as a girl, a teenager, a young woman, I thought that at the end of the movie, and here’s a spoiler people, but the movie is like 80 years old, so get over it, I thought that Ilsa should’ve gone off with Rick. Um, and so I would rewrite it in my head that way and you know, what would happen next and so on.
Um, now that I’m an older woman, I realized no, no, no, Victor Laszlo was much the better choice. Rick shouldn’t have even had to tell her that she should have known that. You want to go off with the man who like has a commitment and a stable job and is very understanding when he finds out about your adultery. You don’t want to spend your life with the, um, alcoholic who has raging fits of jealousy. But at the time, I didn’t really realize that I was young.
Patricia McLinn [05:30] Now I always thought that they should, she should go off with Victor. They should win World War II. And then she goes to Rick, once you get the serious, save the world stuff done, then you can have the great romance.
Laura Resnick [05:44] I don’t know. I mean, I love that movie, but the older I get, the more, I just find Rick really tiresome—
Patricia McLinn [05:49] Oh, you’re mean. How can you do that?
Laura Resnick [05:52] —I am, I mean, he’s a great character, but if you think of living with him, very tiresome.
Patricia McLinn [05:57] Far too practical. Okay. Do you have any things from earlier in your life that you fretted over? That you now, I actually am having a hard time imagining you fret over something, but okay. That you’ve read it over that now you don’t give a darn about?
Laura Resnick [06:14] This one will really surprise you. It will surprise anyone who knows me well now. When I was young, say in my twenties, I fretted over whether people thought I was nice. Yeah, who would think, but I did. I know now I’m like, Oh, who cares? Like in fact, I I’m very comfortable with not being thought of as nice, but no, it really, in my early twenties, I really, I fretted over that. I, you know, what can I say? I was young and dumb.
Patricia McLinn [06:39] How did you get past that?
Laura Resnick [06:42] You know, it just became too much effort. And when I, I stopped having the energy as life got more and more complicated to make the effort to try to be thought of as nice, I found out I was really much more comfortable. And people whose opinions actually mattered to me, they didn’t always think I was nice, but they liked me. They cared about me anyhow. So I think that was really good.
Patricia McLinn [07:05] Well, it’s very sane. Which you probably also don’t hear very often. Okay, so you have your reservations about Casablanca. What three movies would you take with you to a desert Island? Yes, this desert Island has the ability to play movies.
Laura Resnick [07:25] Oh, who cares. The issue is I’m stranded on a desert Island, I’m not going to be watching movies. I’m going to be trying to be rescued.
Patricia McLinn [07:34] What do you do at night when you’re tired? You have to decide between—
Laura Resnick [07:37] I build bonfires in the hope of being rescued.
Patricia McLinn [07:41] Three movies, Laura.
Laura Resnick [07:43] Well, Casablanca, obviously.
Patricia McLinn [07:46] So you can gripe about it, huh?
Laura Resnick [07:50] No, no. I actually love that movie. I just, uh, no longer think it should have ended differently. No, I love that movie. Um, I would also, I would bring Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe because that is a comedy, and I will need cheering up. And it’s full of all of these fabulous, wonderful meals, and I’ll probably be missing good food. And I would bring, um, a Bollywood movie called Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which was a popular movie about 15 years ago that I enjoyed, and I would bring it because it’s like four and a half hours long, and I will have a lot of empty time to fill.
Patricia McLinn [08:28] In between bonfires.
Laura Resnick [08:30] Yes. So those would be my choices, I guess. Not necessarily the three best films I’ve ever seen, but, they would serve their purpose.
Patricia McLinn [08:37] Very practical. Um, okay, what’s a saying of your mother or your father that you hear yourself saying now?
Laura Resnick [08:46] Oh, it’s one of my favorites of my mom’s it’s um, that person you’re speaking of someone specific, that person is a silly millimeter deep.
Patricia McLinn [08:56] And which of your parents says that?
Laura Resnick [08:59] My mom.
Patricia McLinn [09:00] That’s great. That’s great. Okay. I don’t know why this fascinates me, but it does, your dominant hand, and you’re right-handed, aren’t you?
Laura Resnick [09:09] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [09:10] Yeah. Okay. Is your ring finger or your index finger longer?
Laura Resnick [09:16] My ring finger. And I have never noticed that before. Nor do I have any idea what it’s supposed to mean? I have lived with this hand for over half a century without ever noticing that.
Patricia McLinn [09:28] It’s my job to open your eyes to these new things in the world, right? Okay. I, see I’ve got to ask you this question. Do you have any strong fears? Have you ever used them in a book?
Laura Resnick [09:41] Yeah, I’m very frightened of snakes. And I’ve used that a couple of times in books. I’ve never actually made a character as frightened of snakes as I am, because I think readers would find it really over the top. But I, I’ve written— Yeah. Somebody I share that with actually is, um, I don’t think I’m giving anything away, Tammy Hoag. And she’s used that a number of times in her books.
Patricia McLinn [10:05] It’s strictly, literally as afraid of snakes, or do you think that’s also accessing that fear to explain other things?
Laura Resnick [10:12] I think it’s strictly snakes. I think it’s the real-life thing. Certainly when I was, you know, uh, very young, I was fascinated with the Freudian interpretation of that, but that doesn’t really apply. I don’t think, I think it’s really just snakes.
Patricia McLinn [10:28] The, the movement or the perceived—
Laura Resnick [10:32] I don’t even like talking about it in all honesty. Like I am that phobic. Yeah. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [10:40] Ah, darn. I was really going to delve into this. Oh, this is a question I haven’t asked anybody else, and I got to ask you because I think it’ll drive you crazy. If your writing were a color, what color would it be?
Laura Resnick [10:53] Uh, I think it would be a really fiery color, like a bright gold-orange sort of thing.
Patricia McLinn [10:59] Oh, that’s good. I like the, I like the gold with that. I have this reaction to some authors like it, to me, Agatha Christie is always orange, but it’s a more muted orange. It’s kind of a rusty orange, maybe old blood, huh?
Laura Resnick [11:17] Hmm. I never thought of it in terms of color, but. You know, I think of something like really bright like that, because what I like as a writer, also enjoy as a reader, but what I think I gravitate to as a writer is, um, larger than life characters and a lot of action, a lot of dialogue, a lot of pace. I don’t, uh, I don’t think I will ever write a, a gentle introspective novel about a woman, uh, you know, discovering who she really is. It’s, it’s just not something that attracts me. I like, you know, uh, let’s get like half a dozen zany characters together and send them on a chase, sort of thing is what I like to write. So I, I think about a high energy color.
Where writers’ ideas come from
Patricia McLinn [11:59] Okay, and this leads to a question from one of the readers who says, where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?
Laura Resnick [12:15] You know, it’s funny, you should ask, cause I was complaining recently, like just three, four years ago, to one of my closest oldest dearest friends. Like God, why do people always ask where writers’ ideas come from? How boring, how, why does anyone even ask? We all know. And she looked at me, she’s like, People ask, you idiot, because they don’t know, Laura!
And it was an eye-opener to me to realize not everybody thinks like writers. I, because, uh, I’ve always thought this way. And as you know, I was raised by a writer. My father’s a writer and, uh, we had a lot of writers around the house growing up when I was growing up, and so on. I thought this was normal.
Patricia McLinn [12:59] Explain who your dad is.
Laura Resnick [13:01] Uh, my father is Mike Resnick. He’s a science fiction writer. He’s quite well known in his field. And he’s been writing since about the time I was born. So I’ve always lived with this kind of a lifestyle in this kind of thinking. And to me, stories come from absolutely everywhere. Every situation and every sight, every sound suggests a potential story idea, and that seems completely normal to me.
And it was only quite recently I realized, no, not everybody sees the world that way. I just assumed, uh, the only difference between writers and non-writers was writers are the people who then put their butt in the chair and crafted a full beginning middle and end type of story out of that. And everybody else was busy doing other things. So my book start from, or my stories start from all different sorts of places. And it’s a very natural, organic process that I, is so natural to me, I genuinely didn’t know everyone, doesn’t have it. Until quite recently.
Patricia McLinn [14:05] So that sort of answers, another question that I like to ask is whether you think, uh, writers observe the world and people differently, or, um, approach things differently. And you’re saying you didn’t realize that until just recently.
Laura Resnick [14:23] Yeah. I mean, I think clearly we do. I just wasn’t aware of it because the way, I know so many writers, I was raised around writers, the way we approach things, was what I believed was normal. And it turns out I’m mistaken, that rarely happens, you know.
Patricia McLinn [14:38] And, and even more rarely that you acknowledge it. So, okay. So you have this story idea, however, it comes to you, how do you start converting that from, uh, an idea or an impression or a character into a book?
Laura Resnick [15:01] Um, for me typically I’m very much of, um, I’m very methodical I’m, and I think the way people write is reflective of the way, in most cases, we also live. I’m very methodical about how I do most things. I’m, what do you say, a plotter, not a panster. Um, I, I’m the sort who, um, before I go anywhere new, I’ve got all of the directions printed out, and I’ve read them. That sort of thing. And I write that way too.
You know, there are writers who just like say, No, no, make it fun, sit down and have a creative rush. Uh, we had a mutual friend, um, since passed away, Jo Beverley. Who used to say, Fly into the mist and see where that takes you. I’d be like what mist? There is no mist. Um—
Patricia McLinn [15:48] There’s lots of mist.
Laura Resnick [15:50] Well, yes, but I’m not flying into it. Uh, I typically sit down, um, still the old fashioned way with a notebook and a pen. Um, cause there’s all this software you can use now. I’m like, Nah, now I have to think, technically that’s not really good for me when I’m working on a story idea. So I just sit down with a notebook and a pen and I’ll do this a lot for a while and I’ll just make a lot of notes and I’ll write down a lot of questions as I start to think of the story idea, you know.
Uh, I often start with a character, um, well, you know. Why would this person do this, or what do they want or who would they encounter? Um, or if there’s a story idea without a character yet, what sort of person would do this or would want this and who would they, uh, come into confrontation with? And I’ll, I’ll write a lot of questions like that to myself, and I’ll make all sorts of notes and arrows and diagrams, and I’ll fill a notebook with what I assume is indecipherable to anyone, but me. And I don’t really refer back to it that much, I think that this is just the process that starts helping me work out the cement, the cement paces of the story. What, now that I have, you know, a few ideas, um, an idea is different from a story it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a spark for a story.
Patricia McLinn [17:08] Mmmhmmm.
Laura Resnick [17:09] I don’t even know if it’s a starting place. It’s the spark. Now I have a starting place and I’m going beyond that to get some of the steps in the journey. And that’s where I start.
Researching your setting
Patricia McLinn [17:17] And how do you integrate that? How do you integrate that with, um, like you have world-building in your Esther Diamond series, wouldn’t you say?
Laura Resnick [17:29] Yeah, I do. I also did really elaborate world-building and, um, I have a traditional, uh, traditional fantasy trilogy. Um, the Silerian Trilogy I did, which was set in a make-believe world, as sword and sorcery fantasy often is. So there are, you’re starting absolutely from scratch with your world building. It’s not even a version of our world, it’s something else entirely. Um, I tend to think in my genre fantasy, and this is not how most people think. I think world-building gets really overemphasized.
It’s just setting and the differences rather than researching your setting, you know, rather than researching, um, 12th century Italy or 18th century France or 21st century New York, instead of researching it, you’re inventing most of it. But you want, in either case, um, the same level of detail, uh, not more, not less. And you want it to be kind of the same level of textured background to your story, so, I’ve pretty, you know, if I start with world-building, I kind of start with a concept like, um, uh, this is a society that’s been at war for so long, that war has become very profitable to everybody and almost nobody wants peace. And I could start there, but then I think of the characters and their conflicts next. And all of the little details of world-building like in fantasy, you have magic systems and ethnic groups and religions and weapons, all of that comes later, um, and it’s not separate it’s, it’s sort of an accessory to the core of the story for me. And it’s the same way with the urban fantasy.
Patricia McLinn [19:15] Are you doing that though separately from creating the action of the story and the characters of the story, do those, do those world-building details arise out of, um—
Laura Resnick [19:27] They arise out of the story.
Patricia McLinn [19:29] —what the characters are doing?
Laura Resnick [19:30] Yeah. They never come out separately. I never sort of have a story and then think, you know, Oh, let me go create a magic system. It always comes directly out of the characters and the conflict and the setting, um, um.
Patricia McLinn [19:42] But then as you establish those rules in your world that you’ve built, do they ever back you into a corner? In the writing?
Laura Resnick [19:51] Um, only in the sense that if you are setting something saying, you know, 15th century Spain, the reality of your research might back you into a corner, into a corner at some point that you’ve got to replot your way out of, only in that sense.
Patricia McLinn [20:05] Yeah, but then history did that to you. You didn’t do it to yourself.
Laura Resnick [20:10] Well—
Patricia McLinn [20:11] If you’re making up the world.
The Lithuanian Thing
Laura Resnick [20:12] If you’re making up the world, you have more flexibility, but, um, uh, here’s an example. I had, in the urban fantasy series, I, uh, created just this, this casual joke that found its way into the first manuscript where, um, the, the, sort of the gatekeeper of the fantasy world, a character named Max, who’s a 350-year-old wizard who runs, uh, an occult bookstore in New York City, 21st century, New York City. And he engages with a contemporary actress, Esther Diamond, the protagonist of the series. And he just sort of casually asked her in passing, Oh, by the way, you’re not Lithuanian, are you? And it just kind of worked its way into the, into the text. And I thought it was funny, so I left it in. And in all my revisions, I, I kind of thought it was funny and I left it in.
And, um, so it worked its way into the next book. And by the time it worked its way to the third book, readers were saying, So what’s the Lithuanian thing? And my editor said, what’s the Lithuanian thing? I had only dropped it in there, cause I thought it was funny. And now I’m like, Oh crap. I have to come up with—
Patricia McLinn [21:15] It has to pay off.
Laura Resnick [21:16] —has to pay off, or it’s just dumb. So the entire fourth book was based on explaining what the Lithuanian thing is.
Patricia McLinn [21:25] And did you tell your editor it’s a secret? I don’t want to tell you yet.
Laura Resnick [21:31] Sometimes, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [21:33] You’re desperately in the background going, Oh my God, what’s the Lithuanian thing?
Laura Resnick [21:37] Yeah, pretty much. That was how the third book, I’m like, Oh crap. What is the Lithuanian thing? And there are several ways in which I, I did that to my, I’ve done that to myself in that series, and you know, you come up with something and then it’s kind of like Chekhov thing. One of my favorite, um, guidelines for writing is, uh, it’s attributed to the playwright Chekhov when he’s said, If there’s a rifle over the fireplace on the first act, you’ve got to use it by the third act. And if you use a rifle in the third act, it has to have been over the fireplace since the first act. And I think that is just a great tidy summary for how plot and story and structure, and indeed world-building need to work.
And the good thing about writing is a much like sausage, no one sees the process. So in the context of one book, it can be a terrible mess when you start, by the time you deliver it to your editor, it can be very tidy as if you knew all along the rifle was there. Um, in a series you just kind of cover your tracks a little bit better and lie when you were in front of people. Oh yeah, I know what the Lithuanian thing is. I’m just, you know, building the suspense.
Patricia McLinn [22:48] So what’s your favorite part and what’s the worst part of the process for you?
Laura Resnick [22:55] Uh, liftoff is definitely the worst part of the process for me. Every book I’ve ever written, the first 150 pages, almost exactly the first 150 pages, are just torture. They’re just, they’re horrible. It’s slow. It’s sluggish. It’s not very good. I don’t enjoy it. Um, the part I really like is, uh, I like writing toward the end of a book. Well, I love having written, who doesn’t.
Patricia McLinn [23:20] Yeah.
Laura Resnick [23:21 I love it when it’s done.
Patricia McLinn [23:22] Yeah.
Laura Resnick [23:23] But in terms of process, um, I don’t do multiple drafts or rough drafts or anything. I write and then I fix what I’ve written, and I go forward and then I go back, and I fix and I go forward and I go back. I just keep fixing as I go along because I don’t know what comes next until everything that’s before it is pretty much the way it needs to be for this next thing to happen. So by the time I’m writing the last, say three chapters of a book, the whole rest of the book is really tight, it’s really set in stone, and I’m really focused and know what I need to do. And that’s the first time usually, those final chapters, where I really feel like I know what I need to do. And it goes pretty fast. Prior to that, it’s really, really a struggle.
Patricia McLinn [24:08] So do you have stories that maybe hit that 150 pages mark that never went beyond that that are half—
Laura Resnick [24:20] I do.
Patricia McLinn [24:21] —well, that would be less than half finished, cause you tend to write long.
Laura Resnick [24:23] I do mostly they’re from earlier in my career. I, um, I had my den and there were several times I wrote, uh, anywhere from 75 to 150 pages and kind of ran out of steam and realized, I, I don’t really have more than this. I don’t know where this is going. If you have a contract that tends to really motivate you to figure out where it’s going, if you do not have a contract, um, you tend to think I, yeah, I, I feel ready to put this aside for something, um, more likely to cover my mortgage payment and do it that way. So, but yeah, it hasn’t happened in a long time, but it did happen a few times.
Patricia McLinn [25:04] So do you still hold on to those? Do you go back and look at them? Do you hold that any hope that they will revive at some point?
Laura Resnick [25:10] Um, no, I did for a while. I have a folder where I keep all my ideas, whether they’re just like, you know, a couple of notes on one piece of paper or in some of those cases, chapters written, I keep a file there, and every year or two, I go through everything to see what am I still interested in and really want to do. And a lot of it will stay. The Esther Diamond series actually is one that I wanted to do for years. And back when you had to have a publisher to retreaters, nobody would buy it. And every year I looked at it and I still loved it and I would keep it there. And now I’m on the eighth book of the series, a with a publisher, but there are other things—
Patricia McLinn [25:47] Well, and a publisher did buy it.
Laura Resnick [25:50] Yeah. But there are other things that I go through the folder and after three or four or six years or five months, I look, I’m like, yeah, I’m not the same writer I was when I came up with this, I’m not that interested anymore. There are other things I’d rather do. And I delete it at that point. I don’t save it. And those projects I mentioned were all things I ultimately said, I don’t even, I’m not even interested in this anymore. And I moved on.
Patricia McLinn [26:11] But you haven’t thrown—
Laura Resnick [26:12] I did. I threw them out. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [26:14] Oh, you did throw them out.
Laura Resnick [26:16] Yeah, Yeah, I did throw them out. I’m not a saver. I throw out anything I’m not really engaging with. I always have, I’ve actually thrown, I threw out a completed manuscript that was one of the early things I wrote. I sold two books. I had a third completed manuscript that nobody would buy. I kept it for a few years. And then one day I read it and went, okay, I see why nobody would buy this. It’s really flawed. And I threw it out at that point. I’m not a saver.
Patricia McLinn [26:37] I still have one that, a completed manuscript that, um, actually I have two, but I haven’t thrown them out. I keep thinking there could be something I could do with it.
Laura Resnick [26:50] And who knows, maybe there is. I mean, I think that when I feel like I’m not interested in this and that’s when it’s time.
Patricia McLinn [26:55] I’m a big packrat, but I think you have a really great point about how we change as writers and that what, what we wrote and could write early, earlier in our career, changes as you go along. Both I, I think you become better, but in some ways I also think you become, um, more tied to a certain way of viewing the world. Uh, and the, cause it’s not so much technical as I think is worldview.
Laura Resnick [27:28] Yeah. I think it is, um, absolutely worldview. I’m sure when I was a younger writer, I tackled stuff I maybe didn’t have the craft skills or experience to do well, but I was ready to tackle it, that didn’t stop me. It’s more, when I look back, I don’t throw out something cause I think, Oh, it was a great idea, but I didn’t execute well. I think I’m not interested in that concept anymore in those characters, that story, that tone. I’ve, I’ve moved on, I’m just not interested. It’s not that the skill isn’t there, but sometimes it’s not.
Patricia McLinn [28:00] You also write short stories.
Laura Resnick [28:03] Yes, I do.
Patricia McLinn [28:04] Can you tell at the beginning whether it is going to be a novel or a short story?
Laura Resnick [28:08] Yeah, I can, for me, I’m uh, it’s ironic cause people I’ve, I’ve published like, I think it’s about 70 short stories now, a lot. So I was surprised to find out that a few of my friends thought I was, um, think of me as, you know, someone who is a natural, short story writer. I’m not at all. I don’t think in short story terms, I don’t read short stories. Um, short stories are hard for me to come up with and sort of the evolution of how I wound up with all of these short stories is, uh, it’s a very popular form in my genre, science fiction fantasy. So there’s lots and lots of opportunity.
And, um, lots of people are putting together, and have always been putting together, books and anthologies and collections where they’ll invite a bunch of writers in based on a theme. So I, I think out of 70 short stories, I think 68 of them, I was invited by somebody to write based on a theme. And what I have found is if somebody kind of gives me some sort of guideline or parameter or premise that’s, you know, unifying the, the theme of the anthology that helps me. Awful lot. Come up with a short story.
If it’s just a, Laura, this editor, this magazine likes your writing, send them a short story. It can take me two years to think of something because I’m not a natural short story writer. And the reason being, uh, short stories, I mean, I am, I’m a character writer. That’s what interests me in a novel. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what my strengths are. It’s what I tend to focus on character development and relationships and how characters change through conflict and their relationships and over time and so on. And that’s a novel format. Short stories are much too short to show a long evolution of a character or a relationship. Uh, you can do it, but because of the form, it would be kind of gimmicky. Short stories are really idea fiction, and I’m not an idea writer.
Laura Resnick [30:08] So, for me, one reason I know something’s a short story is I have been asked to write a short story that’s almost always how I do it. And I’ve been asked on the basis of a theme and the difference to me is very clear between a short story, it’s, it’s, idea-based, it’s a gimmick, it’s a concept. It’s something pretty brief, and a novel is something about the journeys that characters take.
Patricia McLinn [30:33] Do, do, have you ever had short stories or ideas for short stories that have become part of novels? I could see where they weren’t necessarily the germ for a novel, but they could be a tangent almost.
Laura Resnick [30:49] No, but I have gone the other way. Um, again, when I was trying to sell the Esther Diamond series. Um, I just had this concept for the second book that I loved. Doppelgangster, um, and the title alone attracts people and it kind of sells it. And the idea being that mobsters are being bumped off in mysterious ways shortly after seeing their own perfect double. And I’m not normally a concept writer, but it was just this really tight concept.
Well, I couldn’t sell the series, and I couldn’t sell the series. And, um, I came to believe after like five or six years of this, I would never get to write that book back when you could only get things out there if you had a traditional publisher. So I took that concept and I used it in a short story called Doppelgangster. So I went the other way with that. And I did that a few times over the years when I had some sort of concept that was kind of going to be the MacGuffin for a novel and for one reason or another, I thought, you know, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to write that book. So I would take that concept and pluck it out and use it for a short story. So I went the other direction, but the short stories were not, you know, remotely, like what I had pictured for the novel, with that concept because the novels were really character-driven and short stories generally, are not.
Patricia McLinn [32:10] Explain what a MacGuffin is for any listeners who aren’t familiar with it.
Laura Resnick [32:14] That’s the, sort of the kickoff concept of a book like, um, you know, the MacGuffin of Gone with the Wind is, uh, at the start of the Civil War, this spoiled Southern Belle is torn between two men and will spend the rest of the book, uh, bouncing between her attraction for them, and her changing role, uh, in this changing world that she lives in. And for Doppelgangster, the MacGuffin is this thing about mobsters seeing their perfect doubles before they die.
Patricia McLinn [32:44] At which of your stories, novel or short story, has surprised you the most. And how did it surprise you?
Laura Resnick [32:53] It was definitely In Legend Born. Um, that book was a huge journey for me. It’s the first book of the Silerian Trilogy. It’s traditional fantasy novel sword and sorcery epic fantasy. When I started it, uh, I pictured it as, you know, this 90,000-word book. It’s a fairly short book, a book you could read in a couple of evenings, probably. Fairly short book, a coming of age story about a teenager written in the first person point of view. The actual book is, um, about 250,000 words, it’s almost three times the length of what I imagined. And, uh, it has ten point of view characters. It’s written in the third person, ten point of view characters and this enormous epic sweep. And it was not something I even thought I could do. In fact, I remember saying at the start, I can’t do this. This is not what I do. I can’t do this, not capable of this. And so that book in many ways just kept surprising me.
Patricia McLinn [34:01] Did you try to write it in first person at, at the beginning? How did it, how did it evolve from you thinking first person to third person? I can see how a book could keep growing.
Laura Resnick [34:12] It was really the only time ever in all of my dealings with literary agents. It’s the one time a literary agent, um, gave me good advice and did something that helped me rather than, um, hurt me. Um, and I don’t deal with literary agents anymore cause I had just so many really bad experiences with them that held me back. But this is the opposite of my normal experience. I showed this, um, the first chapter or two of this book with the outline to my literary agent, and me just having said, you know, world-building’s not really the thing. He liked the world-building a lot.
What he said is, you know, having looked at it, Well, I like this, but you know, if I take this to an editor, we’re going to get like a little $5,000 deal. And the book’s going to be released straight to paperback and forgotten very quickly. But if you kind of take this, this concept you’re working with, cause it was going to be the first of three books or something. So you take this concept. And if you could expand it to an epic canvas, something really big, that would, that would really get us a good deal. We get a good, hardcover deal. You’d be launched really well. It would really do a lot for your career.
And I didn’t think I could do this. I didn’t think it would work, but I went back to the drawing board and I took back a much bigger idea to him. It was still in first person, and he said, You know, this has really shown so much improvement, but I think first person’s going to limit the story. Could you try it in third person? And I thought, Oh, I really can’t do that. That’s not a good idea. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll do it and show them it’s not going to work. And once they started doing it, he went, Oh, actually this is better. So he, I have to say for all that, I have a lot of negative stories about that agent, he made a tremendous difference for me in that instance, and I’ve always acknowledged that.
Uh, and that was really sort of the launch pad. And even at that point, having come up with, I had like this 25-page outline of this incredibly big sweeping and complicated plot and all of these larger than life characters. And I had about 70 pages of, uh, text chapters that really launched it, I still didn’t think I could do it. And I was at least halfway through that book before I was like, Oh, look, I’m doing it. Getting to, you know, roughly a quarter of a million words with this thing. So that book—
Patricia McLinn [36:32] But you were going to show him. You were going to show him.
Laura Resnick [36:36] No.
Patricia McLinn [36:36] You were going to show him.
Laura Resnick [36:37] I really didn’t show him. I was, um, I had a contract to fulfill at that point. He sold it really quickly. And now I had, well, if I want the, you know, if I actually don’t want to have to give back the money and be, you know, crawl away with my tail between my legs. Now I actually have to deliver this book I’ve described. And that was what got me there. And, um, the whole process to me on that book was just a big surprise. It was a huge leap forward in my craft, my storytelling, uh, my, my vision of, uh, how much more brave I should be when tackling projects, everything really.
Patricia McLinn [37:11] It’s echoed through your subsequent books.
Laura Resnick [37:13] Yeah. I mean, they aren’t all 250,000 words. Thank God. But yeah, it’s just taught me, you know, go for it. Just absolutely go for it.
Patricia McLinn [37:21] That’s a great lesson.
Laura Resnick [37:22] It is.
Patricia McLinn [37:23] Isn’t it. I have to keep learning it.
Laura Resnick [37:26] I do too. It’s not like they got it perfectly after that.
Patricia McLinn [37:30] Uh, you talked about when we were talking about world-building you talked about, um, that if you were doing, you know, historical research, you know, 15th century Spain, you would be restricted by the realities of it, that research. Do you find that you also need to do research for your books in addition to the world-building, and how do you feel that enjoy research?
Laura Resnick [37:52] I enjoy researching, and, yeah, I do quite a lot of research. Um, for, uh, epic fantasy, um, where you’re, you’re kind of coming up with a make-believe world, the research you do depends on, um, how you’re structuring your world. Basically, I did for the Silerian Trilogy. Lots of research about weapons and, um, hand-to-hand combat. And combat with bladed weapons because, uh, it’s a very violent trilogy. And one of the main characters is an expert swordsman. So I want it to be able to convey that in some credible way. I didn’t want to write something that, you know, the very first person who’s ever taken a fencing class would read it and go, Oh, this is garbage. She didn’t know what she was talking about. And that’s one example of the kind of research that goes in there.
With my urban fantasy series, um, yeah, I do quite a lot of, a lot of research there because I am introducing a magical fantasy concept to the real-world setting of New York City. And I do a whole lot of research about—
Patricia McLinn [39:00] So you have to have reality first.
Laura Resnick [39:02] So I do a lot of research about New York, and part of the conceit of the series is each book uses a different specific, um, setting or background in New York. So one book would be entirely, um, set in, well, almost entirely set in, uh, say a theater in the West Village. So you want to make sure, uh, you know, what goes on in a theater and what the different rooms are called and, um, what kind of equipment is back there and what it smells like, and, uh, so on and so forth. You want to have some reality there.
But in a much more complicated, um, background research I did in that series, one book is set, uh, The Misfortune Cookie, it’s set entirely in Chinatown. And, um, a lot of the characters are Chinese or Chinese Americans. And I did tons of research on that because, uh, you want to get the veracity and the texture. I also did a lot of onsite research, which I do for that series, which I really enjoy, like when I have kind of picked, uh, the settings for the next couple of books, I like to go to New York and spend a lot of time on site getting as much, uh, hands-on background as I can. And I feel that’s helped the books a lot. Um, somebody said to me, you know, New York is like another character in these books and that’s what I want. So I think it’s well worth doing that level of research.
Patricia McLinn [40:31] Do you find that as you’re doing the research, it can change a story because of something you’ve found, either closing off the door or opening other doors?
Laura Resnick [40:42] Yeah, both of those. I typically, you know, I don’t plot a book and then go do my research. It’s when I’m thinking, right, I want to set the next book in Chinatown or, um, I want to set the next book on Wall Street, and I go there and I start doing the research and that will start shaping some of the details or, um, markers of the story in my mind.
And there may be things I thought before I, I did my research or go on my trip that once I get there, I realized, well, that won’t work, but it’s not a huge change because I don’t really have a storyline yet. For the most part.
Patricia McLinn [41:17] Do you tell people what you’re doing while you’re researching? Do you, and do you talk to people?
Laura Resnick [41:24] People always ask the same questions when they, when you say you’re a writer, Oh, have you ever written anything? Yes. That’s why I say I’m a writer. Have you read anything published? Yes, that’s why I say I’m a writer. Oh, have I read anything you’ve written? How the f*** do I know what you read?
Patricia McLinn [41:42] I don’t know.
Laura Resnick [41:43] Sometimes it depends on the circumstance, but very often I do not say. Though, when people see me taking lots of notes and asking very detailed questions, if they start to look suspicious, then I say, what I do, it depends.
Patricia McLinn [41:57] I recently was on a cruise is, um, as you know, and I have this idea for a murder mystery. And so I, um, arranged with some persistence to talk to one of the officials on the, uh, ship and ask about what they do if they find a body who, that does not appear to have died from natural causes.
Laura Resnick [42:21] Oh, they must’ve enjoyed that.
Patricia McLinn [42:23] He was very nervous initially, very wary of me. Eventually, I won him over, though with my charm and innocence.
Laura Resnick [42:37] Now, if I wanted to kill someone using this pliers, exactly how would you recommend I do that?
Growing up in a writer’s house
Patricia McLinn [42:46] Research is fun. So with, with your background, did you ever think that you would do a different job from writing? Were you always thinking you were going to be a writer?
Laura Resnick [42:58] No, growing up in a writer’s house, I never wanted to be a writer. Uh, I saw what kind of lifestyle it was. I remember as a child, seeing my father walking to the mailbox every day, wondering if he’d been paid yet. And, you know, and I saw that he spent, uh, all of his working life just alone in a room, in a grubby sweater, unshaven, um, type, type, type typing away madly. Uh, all of his friends were weird as writers are. I just didn’t, you know, it wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.
Uh, I actually really wanted to go on the stage. I wanted to go into theater, on, I trained very seriously as an actress, but I really didn’t have the temperament for it. I, um, I think a huge difference between acting and writing is when you get rejected as a writer, you’re at home alone in your comfortable space, reading a letter or email telling you why you’re being rejected. As an actress, you’re kind of standing up there in front of a table of people who are staring at you as they reject you and other people are watching this, and then you have to go home alone, and I didn’t have the temperament for any of that. I found it excruciating.
Um, whereas getting a rejection as a writer doesn’t seem to bother me that much. So, and I, I really prefer kind of, it turns out being alone in the room with the characters in my head compared to, um, doing eight shows a week, or, you know, doing a lot of, um, as an actor, you’re often doing material that’s not that good. And as a writer, you mostly get to do the best work you’re capable of. Um, so there were just a lot of ways in which I was always much better suited to this life and I did wind up writing early on. I think I sold my first book at a 25. So I started pretty young comparatively speaking.
Patricia McLinn [44:52] I would have thought that one of the things that, that would appeal to you about writing over, um, being an actor, would be control?
Laura Resnick [45:01] Yeah. Yeah.
Patricia McLinn [45:03] I was right on that.
Laura Resnick [45:05] As an actor, it was among other things, you know, it’s very hard to actually to act if you haven’t been hired. You know, cause you need other actors, you need a space, you need production, you need time. As a writer, uh, all your, all I needed to get started was a notebook and a pen and a few hours to myself. And I could do whatever I wanted as a writer, whether or not you get published as another matter, but you, you don’t need anything outside of yourself to write a book. And I liked that about it. I still do.
Patricia McLinn [45:32] Yeah, that’s, that’s interesting. And I, I suppose you do in, in, um, in acting to you, but you, you definitely need yourself and you need to be able to go inside yourself, I think, to write. Um, which can scare some people off.
Laura Resnick [45:50] Well, it’s very solitary, um, extremely solitary. And I, I think there are people who don’t like that about it. I think there even writers who don’t like that about writing. Um, it’s, you know, writers are frequently people who actually enjoy being alone in a room, a lot of their lives. I’m one of them.
Patricia McLinn [46:10] Yeah. There, there will be discussions online where somebody will say, Oh, my gosh, I had take a shower and go out and meet people. And all these other authors are going, Oh, you poor soul. And civilians are going, What? Huh?
Laura Resnick [46:29] Exactly. Yes.
A natural baker
Patricia McLinn [46:32] So this is a, this is an out of the blue question. Um, what is something or several somethings that you are really good at that people don’t know about?
Laura Resnick [46:41] Well, um, my friends know, but otherwise I suppose not, uh, I’m a very good cook. Um, and I love cooking because it’s the opposite of writing, you know, writing you do, it’s so much in your head. Or just at a keyboard on a screen or a piece of paper that only you see, it’s very intellectual. It’s very, uh, private. When you’re done with it, uh, you send it off to an editor who just tells you everything that’s wrong with it. And then it’s like a year before it’s published and you share it with other people.
Writing by contrast, I mean, cooking by contrast, you go into your kitchen and it’s very sensory oriented. You’re smelling and tasting, uh, you’re cutting and chopping and kneading and wrapping and wrestling stuff. It takes about an hour to make a nice meal and you immediately share it with people who appreciate it and compliment you. So, yeah, so that’s a lot of what I enjoy about it. I enjoy experimenting. I have an enormous cabinet chock full of spices and herbs and some things in there I don’t even know how to use, and it’s fun to pull them out and say, Well, you know, let me try this, and if it doesn’t work, I wasted an hour and I’ll have one bad meal, rather than if you try something in a novel that doesn’t work, you might be wasting months and losing a lot of income. So there’s a whole lot about cooking. I really enjoy, and doing it a lot makes me good at it.
Patricia McLinn [48:07] Do you follow r— Do you follow recipes or do you make things up?
Laura Resnick [48:12] I do both ways. I, I tend to really enjoy following recipes, like the first time I make something, and then I start tweaking it to make it more my own.
Patricia McLinn [48:20] What’s the best thing you’ve made lately?
Laura Resnick [48:22] My new thing is I’m learning to make British meat pies. I lived in England for three years and I really love meat pies, things like Cornish pasty, and steak and kidney pie and things like that. And we really don’t do that over here. And it finally occurred to me years after coming back, you know, instead of just pining for that stuff, what if I just learned to make it?
And so I got a British cookbook on making savory pies and I’ve been making some of those and, uh, I’m not very good at the pastry yet. I’m not a natural baker. I’m improving on that, but I have made, uh, I made, uh, a roasted vegetable pie two weeks ago that came out really pretty well and was very pretty. And I’ve made a few things like that. So that’s kind of my new, um, project and I’m quite proud of my efforts so far.
Patricia McLinn [49:13] What do you think makes somebody a natural baker?
Laura Resnick [49:16] Um, I don’t know because I’m not one, but you have to be good at it, and I think you have to—
Patricia McLinn [49:22] Okay, what’s the difference between a baker and a cooker in skills or temperament or—
Laura Resnick [49:27] Well, one reason I’m not a natural baker, I don’t enjoy the ingredients. Like, you know, I’ve described how much I enjoy working with the ingredients of cooking, even really gross ingredients, like raw chicken, which is disgusting. I enjoy that, but I don’t really enjoy working with flour, sugar, baking soda. Um, I don’t particularly enjoy mixing batters.
Um, I hate kneading bread. So one thing is I think a natural baker enjoys those processes, whereas I don’t. And I think baking everyone always says, and I think it’s true. You have to be very exact in baking. And I’m not really that exact.
Patricia McLinn [50:05] Oh, that’s interesting.
Laura Resnick [50:06] I’m more organic, like the way, you know, like the recipes handed down from my mother say things like, um, you know, add half a palmful of rosemary, and I know how big my mom’s palms are, so roughly what would half of her palm be? And I toss that in there and if I don’t have rosemary, I’m like, well, let’s see how it tastes with sage since I’m out of rosemary. And I liked that process, and in baking that’s disastrous, but in cooking, it tends to work just fine.
Patricia McLinn [50:35] I am, I tend to bake more than—
Laura Resnick [50:36] That figures.
Patricia McLinn [50:37] —or I think my focus is more on baking, but I’m not exact. Um, but I tend to do recipes that I know really well and, uh, I will eyeball them.
Laura Resnick [50:50] Well, the other thing too is you do so you get better at it because I don’t really enjoy baking. I’ve never done it enough to get good at it. If you enjoy it and you’re doing it, you’re doing it enough to get good at it, and you can eyeball it.
Urban fantasy or epic fantasy
Patricia McLinn [51:00] On your, you were talking about not joining the ingredients, and I think, But you didn’t mention butter. And you, you mix flour and sugar with butter, and you don’t need anything else. Okay. Well, we really got off on a fun tangent there. Um, but, and this is something I wanted to ask you earlier, and then we, we got off oddly, Laura, I don’t know how this happened. We got off on another tangent. Um, so let’s go back to talking about your genre. Um, and this could go either for either both urban fantasy or the epic fantasy. What, what are the big things that people think they know about those genres that they get wrong?
Laura Resnick [51:47] Well, one that slaps me in the face immediately, um, in urban fantasy, there’s a very common, I think at this point we could call it a common cliché that people think is a requirement, and no, it’s just a cliché. They think that your protagonist in an urban fantasy novel has to have magical powers. And I know people think this because it’s often common Esther Diamond, the protagonist of the Esther Diamond series, does not have magical powers. She is an ordinary person who gets mixed up in magical misadventures. The series is comedic. Um, and I have seen people, um, like—
Patricia McLinn [52:28] Oh, uh, before we, before you go any farther, tell some of the titles.
Laura Resnick [51:47] Um, Disappearing Nightly, uh, you’ve heard Doppelgangster. There’s, um, Vamparazzi, uh, Abracadaver, Polterheist, um, and so on.
Patricia McLinn [52:47] Yes, I like them.
Laura Resnick [52:48] So, um, and the titles are really—
Patricia McLinn [52:50] Great titles.
Laura Resnick [52:48] The titles are killer to come up with cause they have to be, each one has to be a self-evident supernatural pun that my editor thinks is funny. That is a pretty big list to fill. So the titles absolutely kill me. But, um, anyways, Esther doesn’t have magical powers. Um, Esther knows a few people who do, but she doesn’t. And from the start I saw people saying anything from, Oh my God, that’s so different, an urban fantasy heroine who doesn’t have magical powers, to quite a few people saying, Well, this author doesn’t know anything about the genre because she doesn’t realize her heroine is supposed to have this.
But, no, you know, there was, I think, uh, definitely more or less a requirement in fantasy that there has to be some sort of fantastical, magical, mystical, supernatural, non-realistic element. Um, in that phrase, I would include say, um, literary magic realism, because there is something in magic realism, which is not realistic as we understand it in our culture, but no, there’s absolutely no requirement that any specific character or indeed any characters have to have magical powers. I think that’s a very common misconception.
I think these days I haven’t run into it that much myself, but just, it seems all too predictable that if you are writing epic fantasy, big sword and sorcery fiction, people will think that George Martin’s work is the baseline for it, and you need to do things the way he does it because people tend to cleave onto something that is that influential and believe that defines the genre. Uh, in much the way that I’m sure many people would say, you know, Agatha Christie defines what a mystery novel or cozy has to be. I think that that’s probably fairly common, at a guess, with George Martin these days.
Patricia McLinn [54:45] And you’re, you’re writing the Esther Diamond series, are you, um, open to thinking about wanting to continue to, um, write epic fantasy also?
Laura Resnick [54:58] I am. Absolutely. I, um, got burned out on it for a while and moved away from it. I really, really wanted to do this urban fantasy series. Um, and now I’m definitely feeling an interest in, um, I want to keep doing the Esther Diamond novels, which I thoroughly enjoy. But yeah, I also want to kind of mix it up a little now, before I get burned out on urban fantasy, maybe, you know, alternate and, um, I have an epic fantasy project I’m starting to make my notes about. That, uh, I would very much like to get to work on. Part of it is just, I’m not that fast. And so, uh, I’m moving slowly. But yes, definitely.
Patricia McLinn [55:37] So, which of your books would you say is the best place for a reader who’s entirely new to you to start.
Laura Resnick [55:46] Um, you know, a lot of people seem to start with Doppelgangster and really like that as a starting place. Uh, it’s—
Patricia McLinn [55:54] And it’s the first book—
Laura Resnick [55:55] No, it’s actually the second book.
Patricia McLinn [55:56] —in the Esther Diamond series.
Laura Resnick [55:59] It’s actually the second book in the Esther Diamond series, but because of the publishing history of that series, uh, I wrote Doppelgangster with the idea that it might be the first one people pick up. Because what happened with Esther Diamond was, um, after years of not being able to sell it, uh, I fired my agent and I immediately sold Esther Diamond to a publisher, Luna Books.
And they released the first book, and it all went very badly. It was the wrong publishing house for Esther. I think they liked the book, but they didn’t really know how to publish it very well, and I think there were problems with their program. And, um, so the first book disappeared overnight, Disappearing Nightly, and they canceled the rest of my contract. And I then fired my next agent, and I resold the series to Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books, which is where it’s been ever since.
Laura Resnick [56:52] But the, uh, I got all the rights back, but the first book, Disappearing Nightly, was still under contract at Luna. And it had just been published. We couldn’t start with that. So Betsy was willing to try and launch the series with book two, even though it would be book two. So I, and by then book one wasn’t even available in bookstores anymore, but the rights were still tied up. It couldn’t be reissued yet.
So I wrote book two, Doppelgangster, with the idea that it was going to be a while before we could actually publish a new edition of the first book in the series, which, uh, it was about two years before we can do that. So Doppelgangster is kind of a good place to start. Uh, I think I was a much better fit with DAW Books, so I think it’s a much better book, in fact, than Disappearing Nightly. But Disappearing Nightly’s fun. And, um, I think people really seem to enjoy the concept too, of these, you know, um, delving into the, the mafia and everything in this sort of ludicrous way. So I think that’s a good one to start with. And if you don’t like that, you probably aren’t going to like my writing.
Patricia McLinn [57:54] Do you have any books that even your dedicated readers might have overlooked as a sort of hidden gem?
Laura Resnick [58:04] Uhhh. Well, not everybody who reads the Esther Diamond books even knows about the Silerian Trilogy because I wrote the two series pretty far apart. Um, and I’m very proud of the trilogy. So I would encourage people to look at that. I also have a nonfiction book called Rejection, Romance and Royalties, and that is a collection of essays about, uh, being a working writer and what this life is like. And it’s pretty fun. Um, it’s actually based on a whole series of columns I did for Novelists, Inc., uh, some years ago. And because it was, you know, it was released by a small press and had a fairly short shelf life. That’s one that I think a lot of people don’t know about.
Patricia McLinn [58:48] That’s a great recommendation, especially for anybody who’s either interested in the real realities of the writer’s life. Um, especially in the traditional model, um, or as an aspiring writer. It’s also, um, one of those amusingly depressing books.
Laura Resnick [59:10] It’s a good way to put it.
Patricia McLinn [59:11] Because it is realistic about that traditional model.
Laura Resnick [59:14] Um, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [59:15] Okay. I have some, I have some questions from readers, additional we’ve, we’ve already asked a few. One is, When you finish a book, do you miss the characters?
Laura Resnick [59:27] I do. I miss them a lot. I’ve been living closely with them for months.
Patricia McLinn [59:33] Yeah.
Laura Resnick [59:34] And after I finished a book, I’m still very absorbed in them for a while. I think about them for several weeks afterwards. And I do miss them. Yes.
Patricia McLinn [59:41] And have other, uh, subsequent books ever arisen out of that period of missing them, you know, do you come up with new ideas for it.
Laura Resnick [59:50] Yeah, back when I was a romance writer, um, I started out years ago as a romance writer writing under a pseudonym. My work was very different than, but it did a few times then. I would have a character in a book I really liked, and it was just like, okay, let me make this the hero or heroine of my next book. And I did that a few times.
Um, more recently, I’ve been writing series anyhow, you know, and when you finish the end of a trilogy, uh, I’d put those characters in the Sil— through the Silerian Trilogy through so much. I felt they had a well-deserved rest. They, they, they should be left alone for a while now though, I miss them a lot. Um, and Esther Diamond, I’m still in the middle of. So some, there are characters though that I developed an Esther Diamond that I think they’re going to be in one book and I really liked them, so I make them kind of part of the regular cast. So yes, sometimes it does result in something new.
Patricia McLinn [100:39] Great. This next reader asks when the cover image doesn’t match the character description and she says a pet peeve of mine. How does it feel?
Laura Resnick [100:50] Well, I have so many stories about book covers, as do we all. I think the thing to keep in mind about that, uh, at least from a writer’s perspective and in hopes of maintaining one’s sanity, is that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the cover of a book is supposed to be an accurate advertisement for your book. And the thing I look at when looking at it, I asked myself when looking at a cover is, Does this cover accurately portray the tone and feel of the book? Does this cover convey the most important information?
For example, The most important information about an Esther Diamond novel is that it’s fantasy. It’s funny. It’s a series, a, it’s urban fantasy. It’s humor. It’s a series, the cover’s got a tray. Those three things. If it doesn’t, it completely fails, no matter how much the model might look like Esther Diamond. And in fact, when Luna Books, uh, which originally published Disappearing Nightly, the first book I mentioned earlier, when they published that book, the cover didn’t convey even one of those things. You couldn’t tell it was a fantasy novel.
Patricia McLinn [102:07] Oh, dear.
Laura Resnick [102:08] You couldn’t tell it was humor. You couldn’t tell it was part of a series. So it failed on all counts, which was one of the reasons I felt sure as soon as I saw that cover, that the book was going to fail because it didn’t add, the cover didn’t accurately in any way, it also didn’t advertise the tone correctly, nothing. Uh, the covers that DAW puts on there, correctly convey all of that and correctly convey the tone.
So I look at that a lot more than I look at, do the models look like the characters. I have had some covers though, that when I’ve looked at them, they were so bad that literally, I cried, I shed actual tears. I thought, in fact, I thought that with Disappearing Nightly. I thought this is going to kill this book, this cover is so bad. And I’ve had that happen a couple of times, and it is incredibly disappointing.
Patricia McLinn [103:00] I th— I think one of the aspects from the author’s point of view, you know so many of the nuances, and you know the ins and outs and the hearts of the book. And it’s, it’s sort of like when people want you to write a blurb and I’m, I come from a journalism background, I can be, write headlines, but if I could have told the whole story in 300 words, I wouldn’t have written 75,000, you know, and to boil it back down is brutal.
Laura Resnick [103:32] And once you’ve written 75,000 words, wouldn’t you be so pissed off to find out you could have told the story and just 300.
Patricia McLinn [103:40] Yes, God. So, so there’s sort of that element with the covers too, that the, the cover can never portray, or convey the, all the intricacies that are in the book. And as you say, the best they can do is give the reader, um, uh, an entree to the mood of the book, to what they’re going to get from that book.
Laura Resnick [104:10] Yeah. And that’s, I think what they should do, and that’s all that they’re intended for, it’s all there needed for it. It’s what they’ve absolutely got to do well. Um, I actually—
Patricia McLinn [104:20] But I really empathize with this reader too, because it drives me nuts.
Laura Resnick [104:23] I actually write my own cover blurbs. I learned to take it over from editors because I found I was doing it better. And, um, and then they tweak them. They maybe put them more into, you know, sale kind of language. And here’s kind of a tip for aspiring writers. The way I learned to write a synopsis of a book. And also the way I learned to write cover blurbs. I started out by spending a year. Every time I read a novel by someone else, I would then write a synopsis of it. And I would write a cover blurb for it, because you have that separation from someone else’s work. And that’s how you teach yourself the techniques to do it well for your own work.
Patricia McLinn [105:00] Okay. Here’s my contrasting tip for aspiring writers. Become an independent, where you don’t, you never again have to write a synopsis. You do have to write blurbs now and then, but just you’re saying the idea of writing synopsis of other people’s books makes me want to bang my head against the table. I hate those so much. Oh my gosh.
Laura Resnick [105:22] Because I’m very methodical. I, well, I would never do other people’s now. I’m like, Oh no, that sounds like so much work. But back then it was valuable to me. I kind of like writing synopsis for my own book. I always write a synopsis before I start writing the book. It’s just kind of is like a roadmap for me because I’m very methodical, and it doesn’t mean I’m shackled to it or constrained by it, or must do what the synopsis says.
It, it means that just like if I were driving from here to Los Angeles, I’d like to have a map. Uh, even if I’m going to deviate from it for me, it’s the same. If I write a synopsis, now I have a map.
Patricia McLinn [106:00] In case, in case listeners can’t tell I’m a total pantster. So, um, okay. Another lovely reader asks, what is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view?
Laura Resnick [106:17] No. I live, I have a view of a—
Patricia McLinn [106:20] But it’s still your favorite place to write.
Laura Resnick [106:17] I live in the city, I have a view of a parking lot. Um, years and years ago, I lived in a crummy, crappy little place where I happened to have a wonderful view out the window. And I absolutely loved that view, and I still miss it. Since then, I have never again lived in a place with a view, which is why I still think about that particular view.
Generally, I like to write at home. Um, I write either in my home office or my bedroom, there’s, I write at my desk or in a chair or in bed. I like quiet. Uh, I like privacy. Uh, I like to have a certain setup of notebooks and reference books and things spread around me in a pretty organized way. So that’s what works for me.
I don’t like to write in cafés or in public. I’ve written in all sorts of places, when you have to do, what you have to. I mean, I have actually written an airport waiting lounges and things, but, uh, I’m generally not someone who takes my laptop on a trip so I can write while I’m away. I don’t like to write in other places. I, I tend to write at home.
Patricia McLinn [107:30] And this is, this is a question I am eager to hear your answer to.
Laura Resnick [107:33] Oh, dear.
Patricia McLinn [107:34] And this is from a reader. If you could write a book with any other author, alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?
Laura Resnick [107:45] It’s so easy. I think I would choose Sarah Caudwell, who is dead.
Patricia McLinn [107:51] Ohhh.
Laura Resnick [107:52] She was a British mystery writer. She died around the year 2000 or 2001, uh, at the age of 60, she had only written four books. They are some of my favorite books. Uh, they’re mystery novels. So charming and delightful and erudite and intricate and entertaining and engaging.
I met her once well before that at a conference, I met her. Probably in the late eighties, early nineties. And the reason I started reading her books was she was so charming and funny and interesting at this conference, I just thought I got to read her work.
Patricia McLinn [108:29] Very dry humor.
Laura Resnick [108:31] Very dry, very witty, very British. And I just think to do anything with her would be so much fun. So that’s who I would choose.
Patricia McLinn [108:39] Oh, that’s a surprising answer and a great one. Your most recent release was?
Laura Resnick [108:46] Oh, it’s been a couple of years, now. It was Abracadaver. The seventh Esther Diamond novel.
Patricia McLinn [108:51] So you have seven in that series that, so people—
Laura Resnick [108:54] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [108:52] —have some catching up to read with that.
Laura Resnick [108:56] Yes. Also that ser— I just wanted to say that series in the past this year, that series has been, all seven books have been produced as Full Cast Audio productions—
Patricia McLinn [109:09] Oh, what fun.
Laura Resnick [109:10] —by GraphicAudio. Which is the coolest thing. And I sent a sample of that to your podcast address, if you want to post that.
Patricia McLinn [109:17] Yes.
Laura Resnick [109:18] There’s like a two-minute sample.
Patricia McLinn [109:20] Absolutely.
Laura Resnick [109:21] Um, it’s really neat. Graphic Audio’s, um, promo or mark, their, their description of their format is a movie in your mind. So, they hire different actors for all the different characters in the book, they have sound effects. So if, uh, Esther Diamond’s narration says, there’s an explosion, you hear the explosion. If she said, um, you know, uh, the crowd panicked, you hear people stampeding and panicking.
Patricia McLinn [109:48] Oh, what fun.
Laura Resnick [109:49] Um, there’s background music. It’s a wonderful format for these books and they’ve done a terrific job. Um, I actually had some anxiety about adaptation, but I’m so pleased with the way they’ve done it and they’ve done a great job. So those were all released this year.
Patricia McLinn [01:10:04] That’s really great. Um, and I’m glad it’s been a good experience for you too.
Laura Resnick [01:10:10] It has been, yeah.
Patricia McLinn [01:10:11] That’s terrific. So for readers to find, um, where’s the one best place for them to go to find out more about you and about your books.
Laura Resnick [01:10:19] On my website, lauraresnick.com.
Patricia McLinn [01:10:22] Okay. I will also say Laura has a section there for aspiring writers and with information, uh, writerly information. I often send people there, uh, to, to find her links, they’re very useful. Um, okay, now we’re gonna, we’re gonna wrap up with some rapid-fire questions you have to say either, or, um, I’m going to start with an easy one. Appetizer or dessert?
Laura Resnick [01:10:49] Appetizer.
Patricia McLinn [01:10:50] Would you binge watch or would you make the watching last as long as possible?
Laura Resnick [01:10:55] Binge watch. We could all be dead tomorrow.
Patricia McLinn [01:10:58] Cake or ice cream?
Laura Resnick [01:11:00] Cake, but that’s a tough choice.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:04] It is a tough choice. Day or night?
Laura Resnick [01:11:07] Night.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:12] Toenail polish or bare toenails?
Laura Resnick [01:11:10] Bare.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:13] Mountains or beach?
Laura Resnick [01:11:15] Hmm. That’s a tough one too. I guess I’ll go with beach.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:21] Next one, dog or cat?
Laura Resnick [01:11:23] Ironically dog, but I have a lot of cats and no dogs, but it’s, I’m a dog person, but cats currently suit my lifestyle better. I like all animals, but I would say primarily I’m a dog person.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:41] Tea or coffee?
Laura Resnick [01:11:42] Coffee, but I like both.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:45] Garden. Gardening or house decorating?
Laura Resnick [01:11:47] Hmm. That’s another tough one. I’m learning both as a new homeowner. Um, house decorating, I guess.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:55] Paint or wallpaper?
Laura Resnick [01:11:57] Paint.
Patricia McLinn [01:11:59] Sailboat or motorboat?
Laura Resnick [01:12:00] I get seasick.
Patricia McLinn [01:12:03] Okay. Uh, save the best for last or grab the best first?
Laura Resnick [01:12:10] Grab the best first. We could all be dead tomorrow.
Patricia McLinn [01:12:13] There’s a theme here. Um, cowboy boots or hiking boots?
Laura Resnick [01:12:17] Hiking boots.
Patricia McLinn [01:12:18] Oh, I thought you were going to say neither one. Okay, I was wrong about that one. Well, this has been delightful, Laura. It’s been wonderful spending some time with you again, and we didn’t even have to run the world this time.
Laura Resnick [01:12:33] Well, thank you very much for inviting me and best of luck with your new podcast venture.
Patricia McLinn [01:12:38] Thank you so much. And I hope all of you listeners will come back next week for the next edition of Authors Love Readers.
That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes. And you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next week, wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.