|Washington Island ferry|
on Lake Michigan
A Mystery/Crime-Fiction/Suspense series isn’t always easy to find. A first novel may hint at a series, but a second novel delivers the promise. Starting next week, I will present interviews with authors who have published their second novel of a planned series. I wouldn’t ask you to eat something I haven’t sampled, so it only seems right that I be the first to answer the questions.
What follows is the first “Fast Forward” interview, focusing on the second book in my Pepper Bibeau Mystery series, DEADLY AS NATURE.
FF: A story’s protagonist often reflects an author’s personality, or displays characteristics the author has chosen to explore. Without committing (or confessing) to either idea, can you please share with us some of the backstory that defines your protagonist but isn’t included in the published novels?
Gail Baugniet: My protagonist, Pepper Bibeau, is introduced in FOR EVERY ACTION, the first novel in my Pepper Bibeau Mystery series, as a 26-year old Hawaiian-born female. She has a son, though she and the boy’s father are not married.
Part of the backstory that defines Pepper is her experience in dealing with prejudiced, narrow-minded, and/or bigoted people. Also, from an early age, she was encouraged to make life choices based on her abilities rather than on the fears of others. That specific ideology has gotten her into trouble more than once.
|Out to Sea through|
Death's Door (Port des Morts)
What has proven particularly surprising to me as the author is how Pepper’s backstory has developed since Book #1. For instance, until recently I had no idea there was more to the story of her mother moving Pepper to Wisconsin after her father dies in a military plane crash, other than to have Pepper live with her father’s family. (The real reason comes out in Book #3.) The best part of a solid backstory is the diverse plotlines it offers for a continuing series.
FF: After writing the first
novel in a series, it seems that subsequent novels would flow out fully formed.
The author has the basics down: format for the storyline; a feel for the proper
number of plot lines and chapters; techniques for creating a charismatic protagonist; secrets to making the antagonist likeable; and
guidelines for adding conflict right up to and through the denouement. How has
writing become easier for you; and what remains as difficult now as when you wrote
the first novel? (Avoiding chocolate doesn’t count!)
|Restaurant on Washington Island|
where Pepper ate Breakfast
(owner a Packers fan)
Gail Baugniet: For me, avoiding chocolate isn’t difficult, it is impossible.
The first time around, getting the story out was the difficult part for me. Now that I have “discovered” NaNoWriMo, I know how to put the words on paper fast before they evaporate along with the plotline.
Listening to others, as well as not listening to others, has become much
easier for me also. I am comfortable with the story length and chapter layout I’ve
chosen, and the challenge of eliminating all unnecessary characters is always
|Cabin in the Woods|
Something that eludes me during the first draft is making the
antagonist likeable. That comes later, with the second draft, rewrites, and
editing. But the most difficult task for me is writing conflict into each
chapter, each character, and each scene. In his book, The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass stresses the need for conflict at
every turn. I envy any writer who can do this with ease.
|Gazebo where the wedding|
FF: To hold a reader’s attention, a series protagonist must continue to grow or change in each novel. In Sue Grafton’s ABC series, Kinsey Millhone does not age (much), or get married, or acquire children, but she expands her knowledge of the job, begins to carry a gun, and discovers family relatives who are woven into the storyline. Without revealing any spoilers, how has your protagonist developed or changed from Book #1?
Gail Baugniet: Pepper Bibeau has some dogmatic ideas about her
personal life that slowly evolve over time, sort of analogous to an American
president’s method of changing his mind. On the job, she often reminds herself
of “another lesson learned.” She slowly adjusts to a nervous-system disorder
brought on by a one-year deployment as a nurse in Vietnam. Changes in her
relationships, however, tend to occur at a rate equal to shifts in tectonic
|A Wisconsin Rose of Beauty|
FF: A series requires the
presence of a continuing main character. Often, however, there is another recurring
character. The almost infinite pairings of main characters with guy/girl
Fridays or wingmen could claim its own category on Jeopardy. Who could ever
forget Tom Hanks’ sidekick, Wilson? Two Mystery/Suspense series authors and
their interesting (equal or supporting) characters that come to mind are Tess
Gerritson’s Rizzoli & Isles; Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino. Is
there a recurring secondary character in your series? What is the purpose/role
of that character within the plot?
|Seagulls take over the Beach|
on Lake Michigan
|Seagulls flying over|
at Neshotah Park
Gail Baugniet: Pepper’s man Friday, sidekick, and pillar of strength is her mother’s younger brother, Uncle Fred. He isn’t around much, but when he’s needed, he is always available. Much of his personal life is “backstage” and even Pepper isn’t privy to most of his activities around the country as a real estate broker. Uncle Fred, on the other hand, knows everything there is to know about Pepper and has supported her in any decision she has made since birth. Ah, talk about a pipe dream!
FF: Researching a new novel takes the author on a journey to many new places, whether through books, movies, newspapers, or physical travel. What did you most enjoy about the research process of your second novel, and where did your research take you?
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Some of the highlights of my research trip to the eastern portion of the state included meandering drives around the countryside and along the shores of Lake Michigan; a ferry boat ride from the tip of Door County Peninsula to Washington Island; a tour of an ostrich farm; the sight of a beach made up of pebbles polished by millenniums of wave action; experiencing Packerland and cheese curds anew; and eating fresh perch.
My research also included visits to local Wisconsin libraries to view past newspapers, and an interview with a Police Sergeant. My eclectic reading material consisted of relevant topics such as medical procedure, hypothermia, special breeds of dogs, a 1970 Green Bay Packers/L.A. Rams football game, roofing, roses, and rose chafers. Is it any wonder I love doing the research!
FF: Where can fans of your novels find you and your second novel, DEADLY AS NATURE, on the Internet?
Amazon:DEADLY AS NATURE Envy Spawns Grief