Kathryn Casey
Mystery and True Crime Author

THE BOOKS! TAKE YOUR PICK!

Excerpts
Click here to read the prologue to Possessed
Click here to read the first chapter of Deliver Us!
Click here to read the first chapter of Deadly Little Secrets!
Click here to read the first chapter of my latest Sarah Armstrong mystery!
True Crime
The infamous Texas stiletto murder
True Tales of Jealousy, Betrayal, and Revenge
Three decades of murder and redemption in the infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields
A minister, his mistress, and a heartless Texas murder
A mother's love, a husband's betrayal, and a cold-blooded Texas murder
An Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder.
Murder, Revenge and Two Texas Sisters.
Sex, Murder, and a Texas Millionaire
Obsession, Lies, and a Killer Cop
Seen on Oprah! A courageous woman married to a dangerous psychopath.
Fiction
The third Sarah Armstrong mystery, named a best book of the year by Library Journal!
The second Sarah Armstrong mystery "a strong sequel," says BOOKLIST, now available in stores and on the Web!
The first in the Sarah Armstrong mystery series, BOOKLIST MAGAZINE picked SINGULARITY as one of the Best Crime Novel Debuts of 2009!
Want discussion questions for your book club? Click the titles below:

My Life Writing

October 8, 2010

Tags: Texas Rangers, true crime, Sarah Armstrong mysteries, Crime writing, true crime, writing, mysteries, true crime, Kathryn Casey

by Kathryn Casey

The truth is that there's always one. Whenever I have a new book out, as I do right now with Shattered, I emerge from the confines of my office, momentarily unlatched from my computer, eyes blurred from months of staring at the screen, ready to meet the world and do book signings. Now let's be honest, what I'm there for is to connect with people who enjoy reading and, I hope, sell some books. Meanwhile, what those who attend are there for varies. Some folks like to drop in just to say hi and tell me that they enjoy my books. Others come to ask questions, bringing up different aspects of the cases in my books or inquiring about the inspiration for my fictional characters.

While that's why most have come, at nearly every book signing at least one person in the audience is an aspiring author, someone who dreams of being published. They come for two reasons. First, they inquire about what it's really like to write books. Second, they're hoping for pointers on how to get started, how to make their own dreams come true.

Before we go any further, I'd like to stress that I don't have all the answers. While I'm delighted with the success I have had, I'm still waiting to find my name on the NY Times list. (Fingers crossed. God, are you listening?) If I knew how to make that happen, I'd be Stephen King (hmm, maybe not?), Patricia Cornwell (a bit dark?), or my friend Ann Rule. That said, my guess is that if you ask them, they'd admit that they don't know all the answers either. I'm convinced that a healthy percentage of success in any endeavor is luck, that old being-at-the-right-place-at-the-right-time combo. In the writing world, that translates to picking the right topic, doing a bang-up job on the manuscript, getting it in the hands of the best agent, who sells it to the perfect editor, and then having magic happen, the cosmic coming together of worlds that propels a book to the top of the lists.

Still, most of the people I meet aren't necessarily dreaming of hitting the big time, at least not initially. They're more concerned with seeing their work in print. What I'd like to do is talk now to those of you out there who want to do what I've done, build a career as a writer.

First off, and this is important, you have to need to do it. The successful authors I know didn't have any other choices. Something in them told them that they have to write, often from a young age. There's so much rejection in writing, so many projects that fall through, hopes that are dashed, that to do it you have to love it, or it'll drive you near crazy.

So, that's concern number one: Are you truly cut out to write for a living? How do you know? Well, in addition to feeling the need to write, are you willing to take rejection, because it'll be there, be assured. Are you focused enough to pound away at your typewriter even when a blue-sky day beckons you to the garden or the guy next door suggests a Saturday morning golf game? Are you dedicated enough to stay up half the night pounding out that manuscript while the rest of the world sleeps, and strong enough to still make it to your day job?

You have to truly need to write, want to write, because there are always easier, more enjoyable and probably more profitable distractions. (Mine? Scrabble on the Net. Geez, I need to figure out how to delete that game.) The desire to write has to be a part of you, like hankering for pasta and a good glass of red wine, like the instant warmth you feel gazing at a beloved child. It has to be as much a part of you as your eyes, for it will shape how you see the world.

If you've said yes to those questions, your first task as a would-be writer is to read, not just anything but good books in your chosen genre. And read about writing. My favorite book on writing and life is one I've mentioned on the blog before, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Some of the chapters still make me laugh, like the one entitled "Shitty First Drafts."

So what's it like being a writer? The scene I opened this post with is the one most folks have of the writing life, authors holed in their offices, feverishly working on a project. It's actually kind of like that when you write fiction. You have to be willing to segregate yourself from the world for months at a time, letting your imagination take over and propelling you through a fantasy land populated by your fictional characters. In truth, I actually enjoy this part. When the writing is going well, it's as if the characters take over, moving the book along. I've had some pop up when I didn't expect them. The first time it happened, I was shocked. Now I welcome them in, often suggesting they take over the project and tell my story for me.

Non-fiction is quite a bit different. For months before I sit down to write a true crime book, I'm researching, attending trials, interviewing sources. Then there's the monumental task of organizing all my files, one I dread. Yet it's important. When I finally do sit down to write, it's all worth it; I have a wealth of information at my fingertips.

Since I work out of a home office, I wear blinders and walk past the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter, around the pile of clothes waiting to be washed on the laundry room floor, to get to my spare bedroom turned office. It's easy to get waylaid and find at the end of the day that I've accomplished nothing. One popular question involves my schedule. I write best in the afternoons. I have no idea why. Maybe there's some truth to that biorhythm theory? For other writers it's different. I know some who write through the night and others who get up early to work, before daybreak. But for me, my work flows better after lunch. Once started, if not interrupted, I'll work until ten or eleven at night with only the occasional stretch and bathroom break.

Next is that all important question: How to get published?

Well, that's tricky, it's true. I'd suggest starting smaller than a book. If you're interested in non-fiction, try writing for magazines or newspapers, a blog on the Internet, get some clips in your portfolio. This will give you the opportunity to do some networking, including meeting editors who can recommend you to agents, if they deem your work worthy. If you write fiction, why not enter a short story contest? If you win, you'll have a published piece to mention in cover letters to agents.

What about writers' groups? They're great, but they can also be a trap. Some writers I know end up working on the same short story or book for years, refining it over and over, never feeling as if it's completed because folks in their writers group are still nitpicking. My advice is to take criticism in context, make changes until you're happy with the piece, and then consider it finished.

As I mentioned above, there's that old bugaboo, rejection. Along with loving to write, to be published requires courage. At a certain point, a writer who wants to become an author needs to suck it up, slip the manuscript into an envelope, address and stamp it, and mail it to an editor or agent. That's scary, because once it's in the mail, it's out in the world, and the likelihood is that the return mail won't bring the preferred response, at least not with the first or second attempt. Maybe it'll even take longer. As in any field, those who succeed persevere. Perhaps the most important trait for any writer is die-hard determination. Hang in there and all things are possible.

(FYI: My next signing is at Murder by the Book in Houston at 3 p.m. on Saturday, November 13th. For anyone who reads this, takes the advice and makes the NY Times list, I'd like a blurb, please!)

Comments

  1. October 21, 2010 4:18 PM EDT
    Looking forward to your visit to ATS LIVE in the morning. :)
    - Shellie
  2. October 22, 2010 4:45 PM EDT
    I loved your writing advice. And I love your mysteries. Sarah Armstrong is the best!
    - Katie

Laura Smither

Jessica Cain

Tiffany Dobry Johnston

Kelli Cox

Bill Reece in 2012, a prison photo.


A version of the I-45 Mysteries chart, this one courtesy of the Galveston County Daily News

The shattered door and Belinda Temple's image inside, from SHATTERED.

50 Shades innocent fun? I hope so, but be careful whom you trust.

Bananas Foster ala Brennan's. It's so good. Such a great restaurant. Try the recipe in the blog, and visit their restaurants. Wonderful food!

Bouchercon 2011: Here I am on the left with the wonderful Sara Paretsky and my friend author Diane Fanning. We had a blast!

Crawfish etouffee, a Louisiana classic. Love this recipe!

Kari fell in love with Matt Baker, but was he the man she believed?

They appeared the perfect family, but was Matt Baker hiding Deadly Little Secrets?

Was Matt Baker really a loving husband? Here at his wife's grave with their two daughters, Grace and Kensi.




My niece Beth, Dad, my sister-in-law Linda, and yours truly!

Dad's birthday cake, what a grand day!

Nice smile? I am the Cheshire Cat.

Jamie Ford, yours truly, Kathy L. Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen!

Here I am with Fannie Flagg and Karen Harrington

On the day of my panel with Robert Leleux

Alice's Kingdom: Marsha Toy Engstrom, our leader, as the Red Queen.

My main character, Sarah Armstrong, is a Texas Ranger/Profiler.

My special reindeer ornament, the one that's always front and center on my Christmas tree

Don't miss me on All Things Southern talking about the third Sarah Armstrong mystery!

The cover for the upcoming German edition of Singularity

Here I am with the Investigation Discover TV crew. Left to right: Scott, Eric, yours truly, Linda and Kaia!

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Here I am with the legendary Kinky Friedman.

Introducing the rest of our panel: Ben Rehder (left) author of Holy Moly and other mysteries; Frances Ray, who writes women's fiction; that's me in the background, and on the right, Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter


It's up to us to mount a protest, to keep James Bergstrom locked up.

Meet our puppy, Ozzie Nelson. Don't let his sweet appearance fool you. Send help!

Here's proof that Ozzie Nelson is a handful!

This past January, 2010, the theme of the Pulpwood Queen's Girlfriend Weekend was Over the Rainbow. This is the head queen, Kathy Patrick, dressed as a tornado.

The southwest LA pulpwood queens as witches!

Years ago, before her diagnosis, here I am with my mom.

Here I am with Pulpwood Queen founder and author Kathy L. Patrick at the 2009 Girlfriend Weekend. I had a blast! (Notice the tiara? It's my first!)