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Zoë Sharp



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Participants:

Zoë Sharp
Gerald So


Zoë Sharp: Hi Gerald

Gerald So: Hi. I've been meaning to read your story "Served Cold". Haven't had a chance yet.

Zoë Sharp: That was a fun one to write. It's a great anthology.

Gerald So: Yes, Busted Flush is doing great so far.

Gerald So: I have read "Postcards from Another Country", which I liked a lot.

Zoë Sharp: Thank you. I'm planning on another short for the end of SECOND SHOT in paperback.

Gerald So: Oh, good. I'm definitely a Charlie fan.

Zoë Sharp: I was lucky enough to be asked to do something for Damn Near Dead by Busted Flush as well.

Gerald So: I think I read that one, too.

Zoë Sharp: This is like one of those old transatlantic calls with a long delay!

Gerald So: Yes, it is. :)

Zoë Sharp: The new story will fill in events between SECOND SHOT and the new book, THIRD STRIKE.

Gerald So: Do you find you've set more books in the US of late?

Zoë Sharp: It was something my US publisher asked for, so 3S is set in NYC, Boston, and TX, with only a short visit home for Charlie to Cheshire

Gerald So: I see.

Zoë Sharp: I think the tour we did for 2S last Sept was our 35th visit to the US, so we're over there quite a bit.

Gerald So: As I wrote in my review of FIRST DROP, it was interesting to really get a Brit's-eye view of US characters.

Zoë Sharp: NYC is probably my favourite city.

Gerald So: Yes, New York is so eclectic. Everyone can feel at home there.

Zoë Sharp: I've tried to keep Charlie very British, but she's a bit of an outsider.

Gerald So: I think all PIs/observer types have to be a bit detached, not in step with the system.

Gerald So: It helps all sorts of readers relate to them as well.

Zoë Sharp: Charlie's background and experiences keep her slightly out of step with conventional society.

Gerald So: That's one of my questions. How much of you is in Charlie?

Zoë Sharp: I used to deny everything, but now I just tell people it's entirely autobiographical ;-)

Gerald So: :)

Gerald So: either way keeps the mystery.

Zoë Sharp: Inevitably, when the character comes out of your head, and is delivered in first person, they have your speech patterns, something of your sense of humour, but there are limits.

Gerald So: right.

Zoë Sharp: She acts on her anger. Most people don't have that freedom.

Gerald So: Yes, also I think more happens in fiction than in reality as a matter of course. Something has to happen to make a story.

Zoë Sharp: Of course.

Zoë Sharp: And, of course, in reality most of us would go straight to the police when something bad happens. We have to bend the rules so our characters don't take the easy option.

Gerald So: yes, make it not an option.

Zoë Sharp: It's one of the reasons I like having Charlie working in close protection. Her first loyalty is to her client, not necessarily to the law.

Gerald So: Good point. In your In For Questioning interview you mentioned creating Charlie because you hadn't read a character like her before. What did you like to read before you decided to write?

Zoë Sharp: I loved thrillers but the women in those books were all a bit on the weak side - I couldn't find a strong female character so I decided I'd just have to write my own.

Zoë Sharp: Women who have the ability to kill are still generally portrayed as psychos or assassins, and there's very little in between.

Gerald So: Good point.

Gerald So: Would you allow a Charlie Fox movie/TV series to be made?

Zoë Sharp: I'd love it - just don't ask me who I see playing the part of Charlie!

Gerald So: very hard question for any author, yes.

Zoë Sharp: I think it's worse because it's first person. I see the world of the books looking out through Charlie's eyes, but I don't get to 'see' her from the outside.

Gerald So: I see.

Zoë Sharp: I'm writing something in third person at the moment, and I have a much clearer picture of the main female character - what she looks like.

Gerald So: yes, 3rd is more of a watching-a-movie type P.O.V.

Gerald So: I'm reading a book now that's a bit awkward because the first-person character is describing herself as if looking at herself in a home movie.

Zoë Sharp: Awkard! Some people have a very definite preference when it comes to 1st or 3rd person. Do you?

Gerald So: I used to prefer 1st, but I like 1st and 3rd about equally now.

Zoë Sharp: I'm not keen on the writer doing 1st for the majority of the book, but swapping into 3rd for certain scenes. Some people carry it off very successfully, but it always feels like cheating to me.

Gerald So: I know what you mean. It's jarring. To me, it's as if the writer is trying to give a book movie-like scope, and that's better achieved on film.

Gerald So: the first books I really enjoyed were first-person. It was just that much more identification with character.

Zoë Sharp: I loved the Dick Francis thrillers, which were always first person, and I had no problem with the fact the protag was always a man.

Zoë Sharp: I can see a problem if you're a guy writing 1st person female, or vice versa.

Zoë Sharp: Still, I think all the rules can be broken if the writing is good enough to carry you into the story.

Gerald So: true.

Gerald So: I recently tried writing a first-person female protag. I haven't tried to market the story anywhere, but I wonder how well I've pulled it off.

Gerald So: Eventually, I'll shop it around.

Zoë Sharp: What's the story about?

Zoë Sharp: Er, if you want to say, of course!

Gerald So: It's about a girl who's sold to a horse rancher as a teen. I've written about the character before through other characters' eyes.

Gerald So: though she was a adult in the previous stories.

Zoë Sharp: I remember a female writer telling the story of how she'd tried to write something from the viewpoint of two male cops, going to a murder scene.

Zoë Sharp: Her editor read it and said, "I don't think the guys would be remarking on the drapes ..."

Gerald So: Hmm.

Zoë Sharp: I like the idea of the main character being seen through other people's eyes only. Everybody would have a different take on her.

Zoë Sharp: But this story is from her POV?

Gerald So: Good point. Yes, just an experiment.

Zoë Sharp: Good luck with that! What's the story called?

Gerald So: "Katie" after the character.

Gerald So: it only comes to two pages so far, but it might sell as flash fiction.

Zoë Sharp: Did the title come first, while you were writing, or afterwards? I'm always interested by titles. I can't start without the title.

Gerald So: After, but it's a working title.

Zoë Sharp: I've never tried any flash fiction. The shortest short story I've done was about 1800 words.

Gerald So: I prefer to write myself into a title, though I have started with a title in mind at times.

Gerald So: I don't like the typical surprise endings of flash fiction.

Zoë Sharp: I'm not a natural short story writer - I tend to wait until someone gives me a deadline rather than just play around with the medium.

Gerald So: I see. I would like to write a novel at some point, but there's something appealing about telling a full story in a short space.

Zoë Sharp: The first short story I ever wrote was a Charlie Fox tale called A Bridge Too Far for a CWA anthology. It was reprinted in Ellery Queen last year.

Zoë Sharp: You could always write a short novel :-)

Zoë Sharp: Some of Ken Bruen's stuff - which I love - is only around 40,000 words

Gerald So: I could, we'll see. Katie is definitely a character I don't think I want to subject to the flash treatment.

Zoë Sharp: Of course, they have to be 40,000 of the right words ...

Gerald So: Yes, Ken is amazing.

Zoë Sharp: How long have you been writing, Gerald?

Gerald So: Hmm. About twenty years now. writing seriously for about the last six.

Zoë Sharp: I'm in awe of your commitment.

Zoë Sharp: How do you define 'seriously'?

Gerald So: well, I knew at age thirteen I wanted to write.

Gerald So: Seriously as in submitting my work regularly for publication.

Gerald So: before that, it was just for friends and family, and I didn't really know if it was good.

Zoë Sharp: Sometimes these things just grab you at an early age and once they've got you, they don't let go. I've always described writing as a compulsion.

Gerald So: I agree.

Zoë Sharp: No writer ever really *knows* their stuff is good. I always hate a book when it's finished.

Gerald So: because it's time to show an editor? :)

Zoë Sharp: I call it the law of diminishing possibilities. When you open that first blank page, it has limitless potential.

Gerald So: Oh, I see. Right.

Zoë Sharp: The closer to the end you get, the more that potential narrows down until, by THE END, it is what it is.

Gerald So: well put.

Zoë Sharp: And it's also time to show it to an editor ...

Gerald So: I've always thought it would be exciting finding out where the story is going, but I guess just as often it can be anticlimactic.

Zoë Sharp: I usually know the ending well before I get there. Sometimes I've already written it.

Gerald So: I consider myself lucky in that I've had seven years experience now editing other people's fiction.

Zoë Sharp: That must give you brilliant insight into what works and what doesn't.

Gerald So: I know to some extent what editors are looking for.

Zoë Sharp: What do you consider the most common problem?

Gerald So: For me, it's authors who overindulge in their character's voice or backstory.

Gerald So: One reason I like Charlie is she doesn't brood about her past.

Zoë Sharp: Interesting point. I'm a lazy reader - I get bored quickly - so I try not to put in swathes of text that I know I'd skip over.

Gerald So: As I've mentioned on DetecToday, lengthy, detailed flashbacks really annoy me.

Gerald So: Memory is not like that.

Zoë Sharp: Ah, you might not like the start of SECOND SHOT, then ... :-)

Zoë Sharp: Not that it's really a flashback.

Gerald So: we'll see.

Gerald So: as you said, it's all in the execution.

Zoë Sharp: It's more of a flash forward

Gerald So: hmm.

Gerald So: so charlie is imagining what her future will be?

Gerald So: or does it just skip ahead in story time?

Zoë Sharp: It just skips ahead in story time, but not right to the end.

Gerald So: Oh, that's okay by me. I like how Lee Child, for instance, jumps to different points in Reacher's life in separate books, to prolong the series.

Zoë Sharp: In fact, you could pick that first chapter up and put it down neatly between ch12 and 13, I think it is, and it would fit perfectly.

Zoë Sharp: I love Lee's stuff.

Zoë Sharp: I thought he handled the backstory in Persuader particularly well - one of my favourites.

Gerald So: Mine, too.

Zoë Sharp: So, was there anything you wanted to know about FIRST DROP?

Gerald So: speaking of cross-gender writing, one of my favorites at it is SJ Rozan in the Bill Smith POV books.

Zoë Sharp: SJ's stuff is wonderful. Absent Friends made me cry.

Gerald So: Hmm. Let me think a minute. I'd like to see more of Sean and Charlie's bond. It was a great part of the book. Makes you want to learn all about them.

Zoë Sharp: There's more of that coming up, both in THIRD STRIKE, which will be out this summer, and in the book I have planned as the follow-up.

Gerald So: oh, good.

Gerald So: I also really liked Oakley man. I am rarely so glad to see a villain die. :)

Zoë Sharp: He was a nasty piece of work, wasn't he?

Gerald So: sure was.

Zoë Sharp: I generally like villains who have some grey to them, though, not just black and white.

Gerald So: How would you rate Oakley man in terms of grayness?

Gerald So: I think it was best when you didn't know his loyalties, which was most of the book, I guess.

Zoë Sharp: He was definitely towards the dark end of the spectrum.

Gerald So: I agree, though, complex characters are the best.

Zoë Sharp: Often the apparent villains have more honour than the supposed good guys.

Gerald So: I just had one of my recurring good guys forced to shoot someone.

Gerald So: good point.

Gerald So: I like how your work seems to play with the reader's perspective.

Zoë Sharp: Thank you.

Zoë Sharp: I've tried to maintain that aspect.

Gerald So: again I go back to the Brit looking at American characters. I was very interested in what she thought of them.

Zoë Sharp: Mainly that Trey was a pain in the butt

Gerald So: :)

Zoë Sharp: When I wrote the book we were renting an apartment in a school, and the kids were mostly a pain.

Gerald So: :)

Zoë Sharp: Originally, all of them were going to escape unscathed, but then our car got damaged and I decided one of them was going to get shot. And it was going to hurt!

Gerald So: :)

Gerald So: that was a really nice touch.

Gerald So: Recovered teacher here.

Zoë Sharp: Respect. What did you teach?

Zoë Sharp: And don't say children - I mean't what subject?

Gerald So: I taught first-year college English composition.

Zoë Sharp: I've just been asked to deliver a plenary lecture on using location in creative writing to one of the big universities in England.

Gerald So: neat.

Zoë Sharp: I was very glad to discover that 'plenary' means unqualified.

Gerald So: :)

Zoë Sharp: I'm a failure of the educational system - dipped out when I was twelve, so I admire anyone who stayed the distance.

Gerald So: Thanks. I never considered myself an academic. I earned a Master's degree because I wanted to learn to write better.

Gerald So: That said, I would gladly attempt to teach creative writing.

Zoë Sharp: I'm fascinated by that - do you really think it's something you can teach people to do?

Zoë Sharp: Be creative, I mean.

Gerald So: well, it's more encouragement than teaching, I'd say.

Zoë Sharp: Well put.

Gerald So: Encourage people's curiosity and other talents.

Zoë Sharp: We all need a little encouragement!

Gerald So: I think you can teach someone strategies to unlock creativity.

Gerald So: like "write a story from the P.O.V. of an ant."

Zoë Sharp: Male or female?

Zoë Sharp: :-)

Gerald So: I haven't thought that far. :)

Gerald So: or describe a hamburger without using adjectives.

Zoë Sharp: Good exercise.

Gerald So: The hour is about up. This has been great. I'm sorry no one turned up.

Zoë Sharp: No problem. Been nice chatting to you.

Zoë Sharp: Best of luck with the writing. I hope you find a home for Katie.

Gerald So: Thanks. I will eventually.

Gerald So: Have a good night.

Zoë Sharp: You, too. :-)

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