Three Questions for... Smoky Trudeau Zeidel

My Three Questions series with fellow Vanilla Heart Publishing authors continues with Smoky Trudeau Zeidel. Smoky is the author of numerous short stories, novels and nonfiction works, including the time-hopping mystery, The Cabin, and the forthcoming historical drama, The Storyteller's Bracelet.  Find out more about Smoky at her blog at this link.

Do you use an outline or just begin with an idea and write toward a conclusion?
I’ve done both. When I wrote On the Choptank Shores, I had an idea to write a romance based on love letters my beloved Aunt Flossie and Uncle Tottie had written each other before they married, way back in the 1920s. I created characters based on them: Grace, a young woman of 19, and Otto, a man of 40. Just like my aunt and uncle when they were wed. I made them a home on Windy Hill Orchard on Maryland’s Eastern Shore—the very place my aunt and uncle lived. That was as far as the similarities went. I wanted to tell their story, but Grace and Otto very quickly took over the story, refusing to be Aunt Flossie and Uncle Tottie. Sometimes, I’d look at the words appearing on my computer screen, seemingly faster than I could type them, and I’d think, “Who the heck is writing this story?” I finished On the Choptank Shores. It is not my aunt and uncle’s love story. It is better. When I wrote my second novel, The Cabin, I had a much better idea what I wanted to write. Still no outline, other than in my head, but at least this time the characters behaved a little better. Now, I’m finishing my third novel, The Storyteller’s Bracelet. I started out with an idea, but a little more than halfway through the novel, I realized it just wasn’t working. So I threw out half the book and two major characters and, basically, totally changed the story. This time, I had an outline, a synopsis, in my brain. And this time, the story worked. The book is due out sometime this summer.

What’s the worst advice you’ve been given as a writer?
 To “write what you know.” If writers wrote only what they knew, very few interesting books would get written. Half the fun of writing is exploring new worlds, new personality types, new ideas, new cultures. Yes, you have to learn about them in order to write about them, so in that sense, you do end up writing what you know. But if you start off thinking you have to be an expert to write about something, you’ll miss out on a lot of marvelous growth opportunities. My first two novels I did write what I knew. I had to do very little research as the locales, the people, were well-known to me. And I created two wonderful novels writing what I knew. But with The Storyteller’s Bracelet, I’m writing about American Indian creation myths and the god-awful Indian schools children and youth were forced into by the American Government in the late 1800s and well into the 1900s. I have no first-hand experience of either of these things, not being Indian myself. But I had been given a storyteller’s bracelet as a gift, and I knew I had to write a novel based on one. So this book took a tremendous amount of research so I could write accurately about things I knew nothing about. And I have to say, I believe this is the best writing I have ever done.  

What’s on your writing desk right now?
Interesting question, one I’ve never been asked before. Right now, besides my computer, there is a pile of books I bought at a recent book fair I attended, a stack of photos of my daughter taken at various modeling gigs she’s done to put in a photo album to give her grandmother for her 90th birthday next week, a bottle of Gorilla Glue, three lapis beads left over from an art project, a piece of beach glass, a bowl of cat food, two cats and a Chihuahua, all three of whom are making it very difficult to write as they step all over things. See what I mean? They think they are helping me write. And my desk isn’t particularly large. But then, no one ever said writing was easy!


marytattoo said…
Can't wait for Smoky's book!
Sun Singer said…
My cats share my desk chair (even while I'm in it), but I try to keep them off my desk because they make the computer do bad things. Otherwise, I see a cluttered desk as an asset.

Even when I'm writing stuff I think I know, the characters want to include stuff I don't know. The research is part of the journey.

Looking forward to "The Storyteller's Bracelet."

Anonymous said…
Love your answer to the worst writing advice you've been given. I hear that one all the time - write what you know. If followed, I'd write about kids, laundry, yard work...not very interesting. :-)
3 cats disconnect or loosen wires adding to computer woes. YIKES!

Funny Melinda and you've written
some remarkable books.

Write what you know. Bah humbug. Killed off some fictional characters and no arrests.

Thanks for another interesting confessional, Collin. And Smoky, it's always a pleasure reading your words.

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