Guest Post: Ashley Lynch-Harris
I am pleased to welcome, Ashley Lynch-Harris to my blog today. I met Ashley a couple of years ago at the Oxford Exchange, a way-cool bookstore and eatery in downtown Tampa. I think you'll find her take on the writing process to be informative and uplifting. Please share a comment and link to her books below. All formatting wonkiness is on my end, my apologies. --Liz
A Writer’s Creative Process
By: Ashley Lynch-Harris
I recently started pursuing my Master of Fine Arts in Writing, and one of my favorite aspects of the program is connecting with other writers. Although we write in various genres, we still inevitably find certain facets of the writing process in which we all can relate. Sometimes it’s swapping stories of how a scene just flowed from our fingertips onto the page and then the next day we share (often through a blended mix of sobs and laughter) how we spent the evening revising that same scene until it was unrecognizable. Sometimes it’s a shared understanding as a peer describes their excitement over a fresh idea for a story, while other times it’s the feelings of doubt and fear that often accompany the release of his or her precious work to the world.
As writers, we understand each other—we understand the mix of emotions and the challenge of striking a balance between the technical aspects of the craft and our individual creativity. And yet, even with all the ways that we so easily relate to each other, the way in which we undertake the actual process of writing is wonderfully unique!
As a mystery writer, my process for writing stories is partly affected by the genre itself. Mysteries are often plot-driven, and that’s typically where I begin. With a notebook and pen in hand, I often start by posing a series of “what if” questions to myself and then scribble down the answers. I invent interesting characters (or suspects) and make a list of facts about each. Sometimes the name comes first, sometimes last. If I haven’t come up with a name for them yet, I give them a vague title like “suspect, sister of the doctor” and continue to brainstorm. I let my imagination have fun, and page after page I begin to see a story take shape.
However, I’ve found that brainstorming is only part of my process—inspiration is the other. I am often inspired by my surroundings, especially unique settings or locations. For instance, in my newest book, A Deadly Referral and Other Mystery Stories, I wrote a story entitled, “The Mystery at Bovey Castle”. My mother and I took a trip to England recently and stayed at Bovey Castle. I fell in love with the hotel and the beautiful countryside, and it became a perfect backdrop for one of my mysteries. Although the setting was real and the characters and plot were all fictitious, it was a wonderful way to revisit a place of which I was particularly fond.
Similarly, characters have often been inspired by real people. In my story “Tamarind Lodge”, the lively character of Jo Jo Durant was actually based on a real person my father knew during his time as a young boy in Lucea, Jamaica, where he attended boarding school. “Jo Jo” was wonderfully mischievous, and my brother and I grew up hearing all about his misadventures. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist writing him into the story as well.
Ultimately, writing is a process that is delightfully unique for each author, and although we are often eager to see the finished book, I think we’ll find that the journey to get there is just as captivating as the stories themselves.
So, what about you? What is your writing process like? Have you ever tried another writer’s method and found it worked for you too?
Books by Ashley:
Can Private Investigator Hugo Flynn solve the peculiar case of one man and both of his deaths, or uncover the deadly meaning behind a series of numbers whispered by a doctor in his dying breath?
Does the English countryside lose its appeal for the Emerald Historical Society when their exciting search for a rare Egyptian jewel is marred by murder?
And why, after ten years, has Dr. Finch’s return to the small town of Lucea, Jamaica, incited poisonings and unearthed past crimes? The locals blame Obeah—witchcraft—but Dr. Finch suspects something far worse.
Murder, theft, coded messages…
All these questions and more are answered in this collection of intriguing whodunits.
Available Formats: Kindle: 9780996521093, Paperback: 9780996521086, Hardcover: 9780996521079
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-deadly-referral-and-other-mystery-stories-ashley-lynch-harris/1133496136?ean=9780996521086
Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780996521086
Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996521079
When the timid yet curious Elsie Maitland stumbles upon a small, seaside town, she takes a room in the lone hotel on top of the cliffs—but something’s amiss. A curious group of guests has been assembled by an unknown host, but what’s even more puzzling is that not even the guests seem to know why. What they do know, however, is that they were all suspects in an unsolved murder twenty years earlier, a murder that took place at this very hotel. History soon repeats itself when an unassuming reverend is bludgeoned to death and the hotel’s maid is poisoned, leaving the guests to wonder, who’s next?
Available Formats: Amazon Kindle: 9780996521024, eBook: 9780996521031, Paperback: 9780996521017, Hardcover: 9780996521000
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hotel-westend-ashley-lynch-harris/1123539689?ean=9780996521017
Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Hotel-Westend/Ashley-Lynch-Harris/9780996521000?id=7683146020006
Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996521017
Ashley Lynch-Harris, author of The Hotel Westend and A Deadly Referral and Other Mystery Stories, writes present-day mysteries that are reminiscent of the Golden Age of detective fiction. Publishers Weekly has described her work as “a charming homage to the classic mystery…” Her short stories have been published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and Black Cat Mystery Magazine. When she’s not writing, Ashley enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching I Love Lucy, and studying God’s Word. Ashley is a member of the International Association of Crime Writers (North American branch) and an honors graduate of the University of South Florida. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and lives in Tampa with her husband, Alex, and dog, Jo Jo. For more information, please visit www.AshleyLynchHarris.com.
Ashley I so enjoyed reading your post. I use the "what-if" and also the "yes, and" prompts to generate plot. I look forward to reading your books.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Liz! Those techniques are definitely helpful. A few writers I've met prefer to just start writing without any plotting at all. I imagine that method could present some challenges when writing a mystery though, particularly the further along one gets into the story. :)Delete