introducing readers to writers since 1995

June 24, 2005

Author2Author: Colleen Curran & Martha O'Connor, pt. 4

by Ron Hogan

Look for a final round of questions between Colleen and Martha over the weekend, and then be sure to come back next week, when Author2Author will present a conversation between novelists Joy Nicholson and Bruce Bauman!

curran.jpgColleen Curran: Your plot really moved. I read The Bitch Posse cover to cover in two days and I almost never do that. Did you consciously plot it, or did it all come out at once? Do you outline? How did you make those pages turn? What do you think makes for a good, pageturning novel?

oconnor.jpgMartha O'Connor: Writing this book was like driving on a mountainous road with lots of blind turns, hairpin twists, and stark cliffs. I could only "see" about one chapter ahead. Although I knew the girls' anger was spiraling into a dark event, I didn't know exactly what the event would be and I didn't work out the specifics in my head in advance. (However, later on, I revised the hell out of those last chapters!)

While the mystery I wrote before this was never published, writing it taught me a lot about plotting and building suspense. I did consciously leave my characters in trouble at the end of every chapter, a technique often used by mystery and thriller writers. It kept me interested, too, and made it easier to pick up the story thread when it was time for that girl or woman to narrate again.

Although neither a mystery nor a thriller, The Bitch Posse shares some things in common with both, more so with the thriller genre than with the traditional mystery. A mystery would have a crime at the beginning and a detective trying to solve it, where in a thriller the crime usually comes at the end and the suspense is in the reader's quest to find out what the crime is going to be, how it's going to happen, and its details. True, a pageturner has to have a fast-moving plot, but the most important thing it needs to have is compelling characters. I have to care.

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