In 2016, I plan to continue my bi-weekly “Interview with” Series (alternate weeks will feature posts on the writing life by yours truly), but this year I’m doing something a little bit different: I’m asking each guest to talk about a specific element of the writing process. That brings me to the introduction of my first guest: Cori Lynn Arnold, who is going to discuss the importance of setting in a story.
I first met Cori Lynn Arnold at Bloody Words 2014 in Toronto and we now connect through Sisters in Crime Guppies, where Cori volunteers as WebGuppy. This past summer, I won a copy of Cori’s most recent novel, NORTHERN DECEIT. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, especially the way Cori used the location of North Pole, Alaska, as a character that was every bit as important to the story as her protagonist. Here’s a brief synopsis:
Angry over being kicked off a case in Rochester, New York, Detective Louis Baker makes a rash decision to fly to Alaska when her partner, Detective Bert Hicks, calls from North Pole, Alaska. Not only is his mother missing, but he needs to be bailed out of jail. When his mother’s charred body is found down a desolate road, her secret life begins to unfold, and the harsh Alaskan wilderness becomes as formidable as finding the killer.
Cori: Write what you know, they say. I know North Pole since I lived there for almost fifteen years on and off throughout my life. I like the idea of my characters having secrets they hold back, and I couldn’t blame Hicks for not wanting to tell people he is from Alaska until it was necessary (like calling from jail for help from his partner). Though I’m more apt to tell people I’m from Connecticut (where I now live), I was pretty hesitant for a while due to the loaded questions involving a certain Tina Fey look-a-like. And no, I cannot see Russians from my front door.
Judy: What were the advantages and disadvantages of using a real place, vs. a fictional one?
Cori: What’s nice about using North Pole, specifically, is that I don’t just know about the locations, but the history of the locations. Everywhere has quirks, and North Pole’s spread out rural landscape, Santa Claus House, and kitschy street names make for realistic details you’d have a hard time making up.
Judy: What or who inspired you to become a writer?
Cori: I spent four months slowly being laid off from my tech job in late 2011. I’d had a dozen or so ideas for novels (including one in 4th grade) and always put them aside as I’d been too busy. But after a month I was ready to do something productive. I had an idea, some characters, and I just started writing. I had a brilliant time, met some new people, and felt like I was doing something productive.
Judy: What advice and/or resources would you recommend for aspiring writers?
Cori: I went to a workshop at Left Coast Crime last year where Robert Dugoni described his self-driven writing program instead of getting an MFA. He read a series of writing books, best-selling fiction and took extensive notes on both. I’ve approached my writing similarly. I read as much as I can, usually early in the morning, making notes of what I like in plot, description or pace. And I read writing methodology books like Lawrence Block’s Writing the Novel.
Judy: Do you have a favorite book of all time?
Cori: I will buy a copy of the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger every time I see it in the store. I’ve thrust that book in many people’s hands.
Judy: What are you currently reading?
Cori: My nightstand has John Grisham’s The Innocent Man and in the living room I’m reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I have novels started on my phone and iPad as well. My “hurry up and wait” life requires a lot of fiction.
Judy: What’s next for Cori Lynn Arnold?
Cori: I have three novels in various states of completion, mostly rough drafts. My plan for 2016 is to have one edited, critiqued, beta read and ready to pitch this fall, specifically for the Crime Bake conference.
Thank you, Cori, for taking the time to visit.
Find Cori Lynn Arnold on:
Upcoming: My Publishing Journey: Live Free or Tri