Welcome to author Tracy Brown, aka T.L. Brown, who comes to us from the best parts of New York, the delightful and scenic Finger Lakes.
What comes first for you, the plot or characters?
I’d say the characters almost always come first. I’ll imagine their personalities, but even more so, their reactions to situations they might stumble into. This grows into a scene. From there, I’ll have a flash of another possible scenario, and the process starts again: what reactions do they have, and how does that build the scene?
After that, I cook on how to connect these individual pieces. Sometimes the middle of my “plot” is developed first, and then I’ll brainstorm forward and backward connecting a series of events. I always know the ending when I sit down and start to write. I’m primarily a plotter versus a “pantser.”
How do you select the names of your character?
I don’t have a set rule of thumb. Sometimes I’m inspired by a character from a childhood book; other times, a name will come across my radar and I’ll earmark it for a later date. In my second book, a housemaid is named Patricia Pickelsimer. Her surname was inspired by a customer name I saw while working for a former employer. I thought it was awesome.
My protagonist, Emily Swift, was originally going to be called Emily Quick. I don’t remember the exact reason for the switch, but clearly I wanted to convey a fast-moving character with these names! And Emily does tend to rush – she hates to wait (as readers discover in my first two books).
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
This is a great question!
Earlier this year I started to write a novella called “Templeton’s Tale.” (Templeton is my main character’s nemesis, a popular “morally-grey” character with my readers.) I prefer to write in the first person, so that’s what I did with the novella. But it wasn’t working for me and one of my beta readers noticed.
Admittedly, Templeton is a complex character, but I think it’s more than that. At this point in my writing career, I think I write the opposite sex – or more specifically, any adult non-female character – better in the third person. The reader and I remain omniscient, but I must write those characters as if I’m watching them from the corner of the room while I read their thoughts.
Can you hear your characters talking?
They NEVER STOP talking. Templeton is particularly judgmental. If he ever escapes the pages of my books, I’m in trouble.
Interestingly, a character developed for book two – and who will feature prominently in book three – has been filling my thoughts and I can definitely hear his voice. Sebastian’s a particularly evil character. It makes me a little uncomfortable, but maybe that’s a good thing for readers.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
That’s a fun question! I’d like to say it’s something cool, like a crow or tiger, but truthfully, it’s probably a chickadee: curious and brave, but you can never quite keep it in the palm of your hand.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’d say it’s my need to pick the background music for key scenes or characters as I create them. I develop a “fantasy soundtrack” for my books as I work. Some songs I’ll play on repeat for hours as I write. For example, with my current work in progress, I’m listening to a song called “I Am The Highway” (by Audioslave) over and over. It’s definitely capturing the mood of some points in the book.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Be skeptical of free “expert writing advice” – especially what’s floating out there in social media. There are well-meaning people sharing opinions that can strip away your voice. Not everything you read is true, and you will read a lot of conflicting advice from reliable sources. Writing is art. Art can be stretched beyond another person’s rules. Adverbs are not the writing device of the devil.
For many years I shelved the manuscript of my first book because after listening to all the expert advice, I was paralyzed by a fear I’d done everything wrong. That pile of paper sat on the shelf for far too long. That’s on me, of course. But I wish I knew then what I know now. “Door to Door” would have been published a long time ago.
What is your favorite childhood book(s)?
I have many, but I always come back to E. L. Konigsburg’s great book: “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth”.
What’s coming up in your series next?
The Door to Door Paranormal Mystery series is a set of quirky cozies with the third book publishing this fall. (Hopefully by the end of October!) “Doors Wide Open” will be the last book in the trilogy. I’m excited with the direction it’s gone and cannot wait for readers to learn the answers to many of the secrets first whispered in “Door to Door.”
After this series is complete, one of my secondary characters is getting his / her own trilogy. Spoiler alert: it’s not Templeton, but he will continue to show up as an influential secondary character. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
T.L. Brown is the author of the Door to Door Paranormal Mystery Series. She was born in snowy Western New York where she developed a love of reading and writing – her mother never denied her request for a book. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh in History – Political Science.
After college she moved to Rochester and began to create a story about an average thirty-year-old who was caught between two worlds: the known one and a new, often dangerous place known as the Empire. That character became Emily Swift.
Tracy now lives in the beautiful Finger Lakes of New York State dreaming up new stories and quirky characters that make life all the more interesting. She believes magic still exists, you just need to look in the right places.
She’s married to one damn amazing man. Together they garden, cook, and raise chickens that lay the best “homemade” eggs in various shades of brown.