The Tension Interview with Steven Wedel, He Who Writes Erotic Werewolf Novels and So Much More.

I interviewed author Steven Wedel, and my cowriter for a couple of books, about where all his writing tension comes from. At first he said his daughter cell phone bills, but then he got all charming and agreed to the interview.

What Steve’s website says about him is : 

I was born in Stillwater, Okla., in 1966 and we moved to Enid, Okla. about a year later. Some of my earliest memories are of watching The Foreman Scotty Show on a black-and-white TV and winning a call-in contest on the show; the prize was a T.G.&Y. gift certificate. I played in the dirt a lot and had a fire engine peddle car I rode like hell on our back patio.

Somewhere back then, I recall my mom and aunt letting me watch Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” That scared me a lot.

Steve is the author of  a bunch of scary books, mostly about werewolves and people.

So, Steve, what do you do to build tension in a scene?

I always come at my writing from a character-first perspective. So, for me, tension comes from creating a character readers really care about. My stories typically start kind of slow because I’m developing the lead character(s). I also write from the POV of the antagonist (keeping in mind that he’s the hero of his own story). This way, the reader sees the goals of both the antagonist and protagonist and can watch as they come closer and closer to confrontation.

Is it a big bang shock sort of technique for you or you more fond of the taking the reader down the dark and sinister hallway?**

Always go down the dark and sinister hallway! Hopefully there’s a big bang shock at the end of it. When I teach my Writing Horror class at the local vo-tech we spend a lot of time comparing Friday the 13th to The Exorcist. In the Friday movies, all you get is the big bang shock. One after another, characters you don’t care about are killed in creative and gruesome ways. In The Exorcist, you see Regan, her mom, and Father Karras in their normal lives. You come to like them before the evil invades their lives. When it does, it starts slowly, with noises in the attic, a quiet conversation about the loss of faith, etc. By the time of the final showdown, you really know these people and are deeply emotionally invested in their well-being.

Do you think that it’s easier to build tension in first or third person? And either way, as a reader (not as a writer), which do you prefer?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. In many regards, I think it’s easier to build tension in third person simply because if it’s told in first person the reader assumes the character telling the story lives. Also, because you can jump heads and show the motivation of the antagonist. That’s something you can’t do so well in first person because the reader can only see what that one character sees, only know what that one character knows. As a reader, I love the intimacy of the first person narrative, though.

If you think of suspense coming in different sizes (small, medium, super-ultra large), do you think it’s best to alternate these or are you into the steady diet of massive (or tiny) suspenses in your book?

I think of it as dating. Let’s say the goal is, umm … the honeymoon night activity. There are stages you go through in getting there.

“If I try to hold her hand, will she pull away and tell me how gross I am and how she’ll kill me if I ever touch her again?”

He thinks about that, stews about it, starts to do it, but she suddenly has an itch and her hand is gone.

He waits, waits, waits, then tries again. Success! She looks at him and smiles. Later, he wants to kiss her. The stakes are higher, so he’ll have to think about that one longer. After all, his breath probably stinks, he’s never kissed anyone before, doesn’t know how to form his lips, when to use his tongue, how long to hold the kiss, all that. But then it simply happens and it’s fantastic and you release a little of that tension. There are smaller goals, medium goals and that super-ultra large goal waiting at the end of the story.

When you write do you think the nature of  your suspense comes from your characters or from the plot?

What? Are you my wife? You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, have you? Well, I have that affect on women.* Ya’ll just tune me out. I’m like the checkbook trying to say, “Do you really need another pair of shoes?” when you’re already at Shoe Carnival.

Plot is important, of course. You have to have something going on. This is why I don’t get into much “mainstream” literature. Too often, nothing really happens. Interesting people become boring if all they do is veg in front of the TV. Something has to be going on in their lives, and they have to react, anticipate, and act to shape the course of those events.

Last night I finished this new book where nobody was killed, the foundation of the planet wasn’t threatened, and no ship capsized to kill hundreds, but a lot happened to this one fascinating young girl who was writing letters to John Wayne. In the grand scheme of things, what was going on with her was pretty small potatoes, but in her world the events were huge. That’s what’s important. It was completely believable that Lily became a “girl hero” in the context of her story, but she wasn’t going to be defusing atomic bombs in that story. The plot will grow out of the characters.****

I’ve tried developing stories where the plot is more important and I end up with cardboard cutout characters that are just moved across the board like the little plastic pegs in the little plastic cars in the Life game.

Steve, you are awesome! Thank you so much!

*Reader, he does NOT have this affect on women. It is the opposite. I swear to you.
** Reader, we talk about these techniques in an earlier post.
*** Reader, does it annoy you to be called reader? If I sent you strudel would it make it better

**** This is my book he’s referring to. Steve is nice like that.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is coming out October 1 and if you pre-order it now, you can get the Ebook for .99 before the price goes up to $2,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER? JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

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How Weird Are You and Does Your Family Appreciate That?

When my first books went under contract, another debut writer interviewed me and asked me:

Now that you’re under contract, does your family better appreciate your writing?

Interviewer person

This was a hard question because I was always the weird, youngest child by fourteen years, the one who didn’t fit in, the self-righteous weirdo with Snoopy shoes. My brain didn’t think like the rest of my family and it was always, really obvious.

“Aliens dropped her off,” one of my siblings would say as I wrote 274-page long Star Trek fan fiction in my notebooks or hunted for Big Foot in our woods or re-enacted all of the movie E.T. with myself playing every single role or when I started donating money to the New Hampshire-Central American Network and tried to start an Amnesty International chapter with my fifth-grade friend.

Does your family appreciate you? Do they Better Appreciate you now?

And it would be a hard question now because my immediate family of two daughters and husband? They love my writing always. It doesn’t matter to them if I get published or not. What matters to them is that I get to write and create stories.

Which is so cool, honestly.

Also, they prefer it when I’m not cranky and writing makes me not cranky.

If there was no such thing as “make money to pay for health care and shelter and food” I would never have any worries about writing at all.

But, thirteen years ago when I first got published, my parents were still alive and this is how I answered that question:


Now that you’re under contract, does your family better appreciate your writing?

This is what my dad said.

“Someone bought your book? That’s great. What’s it called?”

Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend.

My dad began laughing, “Ho boy. Ho … boy. Wait till I tell your Aunt Athelee that one. Tell me that again…. Gay what?”

Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend.

My father then laughed some more. “Let me write that down. That’s really the title? Ho … boy.”

Then today, about six months later, I was talking to my dad on the phone while simultaneously trying to make vegan shepard’s pie and he said, “How many books have you sold?”

I told him that I had three books under contract.

“Three? Three! In less than a year?”

“Yep,” I said, dicing onions, which always makes me cry.

He was really quiet and then he said, “Your grandfather was a really literate man. He was a great reader, you know. And my mother … she loved poems.”

“I know that, Dad,” I said, wiping my eyes with a paper towel that smelled like onions and only made things worse.

Then he swallowed so loudly I could hear it and he said, “I’m dyslexic you know. I don’t read very well.”

“I know, Dad. You’re super smart though,” I said this because sometimes my dad forgets that he is super smart.

The silence settled in and he finally said, “I’m just really proud of you. You know that, right? I’m really, really proud of you.”

So, even if no lovely people ever buy my books, at least I know that I did something that made my dad proud.


When I sold my first book, my mother said, the way my mother always says, “Oh, sweetie. That’s so wonderful. I knew you could do it. I am so proud of you. My daughter, the writer.”

To be fair to my sweet mother and to be honest, this is what my mother says about everything I do. Like the first time I made an angel food cake she said, “Oh, sweetie. That’s so wonderful. I knew you could do it. I am so proud of you. My daughter, the angel food cake maker.”


The rest of my family, I think, are appreciative of the fact that I sold a couple of books. It makes me more legit to them somehow. Which is strange but typical I guess. In our culture it often seems that the process of learning and creating is often only considered worthy if a tangible product comes from it and if that tangible product has market value.

But to me … the big value is that I made my dad think about his parents and think about books and think about me and made him proud.

Here’s the thing. We have to embrace our differences, our weirdness, even when other people scoff or demean us. This isn’t easy when the dynamics of oppression are built in, but it’s worth it. Trust me, it’s so worth it.


Dogs are Smarter Than People

This week’s podcast is up and excited to be there! Join 154,000 downloads and see how weird yet helpful we are.

Big News!

I’m about to publish a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can preorder it here. Please, please, preorder it. 

So, um, please go buy it. I am being brave, but that means that despite all my reasons for doing this, I’m still terrified that nobody will buy it and I really, really love this book. A lot.


LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Writers, These Words That Should Be Dead To You

Some words are overused.

And no, I’m not talking about bae or bro or even awesome.

I’m talking about the words that just aren’t doing anything for writers and that writers are being lazy about using. I think of these words as placeholders, they hold a place for us when we’re drafting so that when we revise we can go back and make things better.

Top Five Dead Words

Good

Ex: She looked good, man.

Seriously? What does that mean? What kind of word is this? Good is a placeholder. To what degree is she looking good? How good is she looking?

Bad

Ex: He was a bad man.

Um, aren’t we all bad man, deep inside? What is it that makes him bad? What kind of bad is he? Creepy? Nasty? Wicked?

Stuff

You, know man, stuff was happening.

What? No, I don’t know! What kind of stuff? Don’t be a lazy writer.

Got

In dialogue this word works, but in your narrative? Not so much.

Ex: I got up and got the dog.

Do you mean you woke up? And then you picked up the dog? Or something? WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WRITER?

Very

I swear, my high school English teacher would scream if any of us students wrote ‘very’ in a story. He would circle it 8,000 times in red pen and would say, “If you get nothing else from this class, understand this. VERY should not exist. Excommunicate it from your writing.”

Why did he despise the word so much?

It’s an intensifier meant to make the word following behind it even more powerful, but he believed that if the word needed ‘very,’ then it wasn’t a powerful enough word on its own.

Or as Florence King said, “‘Very’ is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.”

WRITING NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

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HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

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WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. Image

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HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

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You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.