As a Canadian neighbour, I'm proud to present one of America's favourite authors, Earl Staggs. He has a surprising piece of "bad advice" for writers. And he's totally correct.
Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
Which of your books makes you the proudest? Why?
I’m extremely proud of my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. It was my first attempt at a book length piece of work, and a lot of time and effort went into it. When it was published, all the reviews were Five Star, as high as a review can get. I still receive comments from readers telling me how much they liked it.
I must say, however, I may be a tad more proud of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection containing sixteen of my best published stories from all the years I’ve been writing. The ones I included represent the variety of stories I like to write. Some are hardboiled with tough bad guys doing hard crimes and tougher good guys making sure they do hard time. Some are softer mystery tales with touches of humor, but still a lot of justice being served. In some, there is a mystery to be solved, but there’s more emphasis on humor. Each story presented a different challenge and a different approach to writing it. The characters, setting and tone needed to make each story work resulted in a wide diversity in my voice as an author. For those reasons, I’m proud of each story in the collection and feel as a whole, it could be my best work to date.
I’m glad you didn’t ask me to name the best work of my entire writing career. I still have a few good years left, and I hope I haven’t written my best yet.
What is the best AND/ OR worst piece of advice you've been given about writing?
The worst advice is “Write what you know.” If that advice were taken literally, only cops and criminals would be writing mystery and crime stories. It’s okay to write about what you don’t know. Just be sure to do your research first.
The best advice I received was to learn the “Rules of Writing” and keep them near an open window. That way, it’s easy to toss them out when you need to. Writers should learn the so-called “Rules” out there so they know what they’re doing when it’s best for their story to break the rules. The only rule worth keeping is “Whatever Works.” If you can write it and make it work, it’s the right thing to do.
Name three necessary personal qualities a writer needs to succeed.
Perspicacity. Persistency. Patience.
Can you give us an excerpt from your current project?
I’m putting the finishing touches on a Mystery/Thriller called TALL CHAMBERS: JUSTIFIED ACTION. In this scene, Tall and a colleague, Steven Winslow, two former Special Services operatives, have just intercepted and killed a group of terrorist suicide bombers who were on their way to sacrifice themselves by blowing up a mall filled with shoppers. Tall reflects on what he has done.
* * * * *
He continued staring at the carnage below. He’d seen explosions before, but that was war. That was Kuwait, Kosabo, and Afghanistan. This was Dallas, Texas. This was American soil. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen here. It wasn’t right. He insisted Steven take him to the mall they’d saved from destruction. He wanted to see the people who did not die that day.
Inside the building, hundreds of people of all ages, shapes and sizes moved in all directions in the wide concourse. Some hurried as if on a mission. Others moved at browse speed past the long line of windows and kiosks.
Ordinary people doing ordinary things on an ordinary day.
Tall knew who these people were. They were the same people who were in the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001. They were the same people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, l995. They were the people in dozens of other locations whose lives ended in a sudden flash without warning and without mercy because of men like the ones who came to Texas in two black vans.
But these people were alive and would finish their shopping and go home. They’d have dinner, watch TV, and go to bed. Tomorrow, they’d wake up and begin another day just like this one and go on with their lives.
And only because of what he and Stephen had done three miles away.
No, it wasn’t right, Tall decided, but it was necessary, and it was just.
* * * * *
A big THANK YOU to Lou for letting me visit here today and another big THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by. Please leave a comment while you’re here and you may win a free book. On April 29, I’ll put the names in a hat and draw two of them. The first one drawn will receive a signed print copy of my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. The second name drawn will have a choice of a print version or ebook of my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.
You’re also invited to visit my website at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com You’ll find Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER there. You’ll also find a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s also one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.
Best wishes and good reading to you.