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Janice Gallen p2

Mystery author Janice Gallen mentions some favorite books on how to write...

Ms Gallen’s favorite books included Don Maas’s Writing the Breakout Novel, and his follow-up book, the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-on Help for Making your novel stand out and succeed. This gives advice like how writers should pause a scene: writing how your characters think and feel about a situation, to give it more depth.
Maeve Binchy was a favorite author, of novels like The Glass Lake. Her writing was about ordinary people and families, Ms Gallen said, sometimes with romance. Sometimes characters returned in other books, going from major to minor roles.
Thriller writers Michael Connolly and Harlan Coban were other favorite authors.
As well as her “cosy mysteries”, Ms Gallen has written romances and other works. Her best-selling book on the internet was a romance: Eve’s Christmas.
Other romances include A Passionate Judgement and The Spaniard’s Suspicion.
All Naked and Bare is a somewhat feminist story about life for Polly Carpenter, a mother in a coal mining town, Merthyr Vale, in the Hunter Valley in 1956. The title has since been changed to A Woman’s Place because some readers had the wrong idea about the content of the book.

RV: Is the real story in mysteries that of the killer, a sort of tragedy, rather than that of the investigator? How much do you write about the killer before you start writing your novels?

JG: My first thoughts are weaving a story around the protagonists, Meg and Clyde. With Dark Visions, I envisioned those two and then started writing. I didn’t know who was going to be murdered or who would do it until about chapter five. With Scent of Evil, I had more of a plan but didn’t decide who was going to be the murderer again until later in the story. I think about who the reader might suspect, hopefully throw in red herrings, and then choose a character that I hope readers won’t guess.

RV: In Scent of Evil, you start telling the killer’s story with Meg smelling cigar smoke, then the murder at the bowls club, then Kade Williams, the victim’s grandson, mentioning the victim had had a lottery win. I was wondering how you decide when and which pieces of the killer’s story, and other clues or false clues, to drip feed into the investigator’s story?

JG: I read the chapters over and over before deciding where to put the clues. Again, I do it by reading aloud and wondering whether I’ve put in too much or not enough. Some of the killer’s POV in Scent of Evil I didn’t add till i was nearly finished the story. I read a how-to book that said to add bits showing the killer had good points and wasn’t thoroughly evil, so I did that.

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– copyright Simon Sandall.