Mystery We Write Tour: Earl Staggs

Two time Derringer Award winner Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel, Memory of Murder, earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He’s a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences. For more about Earl and his writing visit his blog at this link.

Do you have a "day job?" What is it and how do you write around it?
A few years ago, I retired from the insurance business and, after a while, discovered I didn’t like retirement. If you don’t have to get up in the morning, go somewhere and do something, you can get old. I wasn’t ready to get old. There was too much I still wanted to do. The solution? A part time job. Finding a part time job, however, wasn’t easy. I wasn’t ready to put on a Walmart vest, stand by the entrance, smile and say, “Welcome to Walmart. Want a cart?” After a few weeks of looking, I found a sheet of paper in my front yard. It turned out to be a flyer from the local school district saying they had job openings for school bus drivers. “Hmmmmm,” I said. “Might as well check it out.” In my first year of driving, I clipped the side view mirror off a parked car. Not just any car, mind you. A brand new Cadillac. I love the job, though, and think it’s the best part time job in the world for a writer. I work two hours in the morning getting the kids to school and another two hours in the afternoon taking them home. In between are about six hours free for my writing.

Do you have a writing routine or ritual?
My writing routine involves quiet solitude and a cup of coffee. Music distracts me, and I’m sure a flickering candle would also. Wine makes me sleepy. In fact, even the radio in my car is never turned on. I write while I drive. Not literally, but in my mind. A lot of plot details have been ironed out while commuting to and from work in complete silence and with a cup of coffee beside me.

Do you use an outline or just begin with an idea and write toward a conclusion?
Some writers I know prepare a complete outline before they begin and follow it from beginning to end. I tried it once. It lasted about ten minutes. I start writing with an idea. Actually, many ideas. I have an idea how the story will begin, ideas for what will happen during the story, and an idea how it will end. All of those, however, are subject to change during the writing process. I love it when I’m working from one idea to another and a new idea occurs that is better. I also love it when my characters take over and their ideas about what they will do and say in a situation are better than mine. I find that if I’ve created characters that are distinct and solidly formed, they’ll do that. All I have to do is type fast and try to keep up.

Leave a comment to win a copy of Memory of Murder. Be sure to visit S.R. Claridge's blog to read her interview with me about favorite writers, favorite food and personal adventures. 


M.M. Gornell said…
Yes, Earl, I can so identify with "writing" in my mind. The problem I have is getting those thoughts to paper(especially when I'm driving) I tried a hand held tape recorder and lost it--sigh. So glad you know how to drive our bus! Great answers!

WS Gager said…
Earl: It is great you get "paid" for driving the bus and plotting at the same time. I have done some of my best writing with my husband at the wheel, my kids strapped into their seats and me on my laptop. Couldn't be better.
W.S. Gager on Writing
Jean Henry Mead said…
Great post, Earl! I do some of my best writing in the pickup or car while my husband drives. Cell phone tethering is a great way to write while traveling.
Good post! I know how you feel, Earl. I can't write from outline either. I write linearly anyway, so one event seems to follow another, which happens organically when I write but won't if I sit down to outline. I wish I could outline though.
Jake said…
Gives new meaning to driving while under the influence. Your characters sitting in back seat coaching is how I envision your creative driving. Now that was good for some laughter. Thanks.
Madison Johns said…
Thanks for the laugh Earl, I can just see the kids saying, "shit Earl is our driver today!"
Hi, Earl, I finally made it. Glad the bus didn't take off without me. Loved your post. We all have our own writing styles, don't we? But our voice is unique.
Earl Staggs said…
Thanks to everyone who came by and for the great comments. We all have to experiment and find out what works best for us individually.

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