On the interview list, today is Maria Crawford, an award-winning author of the Arrows & Anchors series.
She is a frozen coffee loving, cat adoring/rescuing, music obsessed, variety-appreciating professional writer. She received her degree in Journalism (with a Minor in Writing) from Syracuse University. Her poetry has been traditionally published in an academic magazine. She used to be a columnist and reporter for a few newspapers in central New York. She also blogged for the MDA.
Let’s get on with the interview, shall we?
1) When and why did you decide to write The Darkest Target?
My answer to this will be multifaceted.
I began planning for/writing The Darkest Target in 2015.
The Darkest Target is the second book in a series of three novels. In the most basic sense, I wrote The Darkest Target because I felt that the story wasn’t even close to being over yet. When I finished writing the first book in the series (Arrows & Anchors), I should’ve felt peace, but I only felt unease. That discomfort came from the fact that the journey of Julian and Brooke (the main protagonists) was not yet over.
I started getting tons of “what if” ideas late at night, and despite my inner protests, I couldn’t get away from the new story building within my head. When the idea for the climax came, I knew this new story had to be written.
I felt my own heart racing (and being pulled from my chest) to consider the ultimate outcome that I had in mind, so I knew this had to be done. It would’ve been an act of stealing a broad range of intense emotions from my readers to not write it. It would’ve been an act of disrespect to the characters that I love so much, to not tell their whole story.
I tested these characters because I love them. I tested them because they could withstand it. I tested them because the strength of true love only emerges during the darkest of times. This is a very dark mystery/thriller novel, but it’s also the most romantic story I’ve ever written, and will probably ever write.
This is the “when” and “why” in relation to the creation of The Darkest Target. In addition to this, I’ll answer the “how.”
I was at the absolute lowest point of my life while writing The Darkest Target. Some of the most traumatic experiences I’ve ever endured, occurred during its creation. I will always look back at that time as my “rock bottom” in life. To top off a truly horrible handful of years, toward the end of writing the story, I also lost a family member who was like a father to me. This period of absolute darkness in my real-life, transferred over effortlessly, into the story. The agony found its home in the chapters. Instead of running from it, or burying it, I attempted to face it head-on. I sought bravery and solace between the lines. Ever so thankfully, I was able to explore the darkness, the anguish, and ultimately begin to heal myself through writing.
2) From start until the end, what’s your favourite part of writing a book?
I’ll share a Dorothy Parker quotation that really sums up my feelings on writing a novel: “I hate writing. I love having written.”
Creating a story, for me at least, tends to get easier as you go along. It’s like pottery. In the beginning, you’re sitting there with a lump of formless, wet clay. You are worried about getting your hands and apron dirty. You aren’t sure you can really do this. You have ideas, but you’re still trying to figure out how to shape it. Despite your fears, you touch the clay anyway, and it feels nice on the fingers. It’s malleable and cool to the touch. You remember why you liked doing this before, it’s kind of fun. The deeper into the story you are, the more it takes shape. You’re filthy, totally involved and invested in this project, and best of all, you can finally see where you’re going with it. Toward the end, you’re just smoothing the edges and corners, perfecting the details, tying loose ends. And writing the final chapter is like placing the whole piece into the oven to dry and harden, finding (relative) permanence in the creation of art.
With all of this being said, my favourite part of writing a book is hitting the “Publish” button on the final chapter. It’s that sweeping sensation of accomplishment and depression and absolute joy and loss and pride, and every possible emotion you could ever imagine just flooding your senses at once.
3) What keeps you going after a slump?
Music. Always music.
Having support from readers/family is, of course, very beneficial. But I wrote my first novel completely alone, so the knowledge is there that I could do it again, without support, if need be. What I absolutely require, however, while facing a loss of motivation or direction, is music.
My best cure is simply to listen to great music that adequately fits my current mood/frame of mind.
Looking over my outlining notes, to remind myself of the story’s direction also tends to get my mind moving again.
If things don’t fix themselves immediately, try to have patience with yourself. It’s okay to take a break from writing, so long as you plan to return with a clearer mind.
4) What’s an ideal mystery book for you?
As a reader, I don’t consider myself to be very well-versed in the Mystery/Thriller genre, but I would recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
5) Some tips:
I’ll try my best not to recycle the same old advice that’s often given to new writers.
First and foremost, just write from your heart. Your whole, true heart. Write with all of your senses and all of your imagination. This is not the time to half-ass it. Write your passion project, not what you think will become a big hit. Readers can tell the difference.
You may envy the popularity of larger stories, but it’s important to remember that there’s no direct or implied correlation between reads and talent. Much of this comes down to luck, trends, and algorithms. There’s also no direct correlation between numbers and writer satisfaction. You, therefore, have to write to make *yourself* pleased and proud. In doing so, you’ll find more comfort in the readers who do appreciate your work. Readers may come slowly, but if your story is well-written, and you’re staying active on the platform, they will come.
If you receive some negative feedback, try to cool off for a few minutes before responding. As writers, we are often very sensitive beings. We place pieces of our lives and souls into our stories, and as such, understandably so, we often perceive certain comments as personal attacks. If it’s super rude, just delete and mute them, and complain to your friends about it in private.
If it’s hurtful, but might be helpful, just try to cool off and thank them for their input. Later on, you can contemplate whether the comment was a useful suggestion or not. It’s ultimately your story, and everything is up to you.
Whether you’re a Plotter or a Pantser, you may find it beneficial to at least know the climax and the ending of your story before beginning to write it. This way, you have a point of reference, if you fall into a dark slump (like Question #3.)
And, in closing, some rapid-fire tips: Utilize Canva for book covers (they have awesome templates ready to go). If you aren’t sure about something, research it to the best of your abilities. Participate in contests. As much as you may love them, give your characters major flaws (believable ones). Find content on YouTube that might benefit you with the development of your story/characters. Read the stories of other authors and share your genuine (still respectful and kind) feedback with them.
Thank people when they interact with you/your stories. Reply to comments. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are lots of people willing to help you write your best story.
Thanks so much for the opportunity, Alpha!
Interview by Boakye D. Alpha
ABOUT THE DARKEST TARGET
Get book here
[A WATTPAD FEATURED STORY]
[WINNER OF THE 2018 FICTION AWARDS FOR BEST MYSTERY/THRILLER, WITH OVER 93,000 VOTES TALLIED]
[Top Ranking: #13 in Mystery/Thriller.] [Book 2 in the Arrows & Anchors series.] [Can be read as a stand-alone novel.]
For the past six years, life has been especially kind to Brooke and Julian. A beautiful new home. Fulfilling new jobs. New, eternal promises to be made, at the altar. Life is good– so very good– and it seems as though every danger of the tumultuous past is behind them.
All of that changes, however, when Brooke receives a collect call from Wandsworth Prison. With that distressing phone call comes a warning, from an unlikely ally: a criminal has been released.
Not just any criminal- but one that holds a visceral hatred and bloodlust for the couple. Julian and Brooke tremble to learn that, while they’ve been happily settling into their new life together, a stalking enemy has been obsessing over ways to seek revenge. With retribution on the mind, their ruthless foe has no plans to allow Brooke and Julian the happiness that, he feels, was stolen from him. It’s up to Julian and Brooke to protect themselves, and the newest member of their family, from the threats and perilous torments of a deranged murderer.
From the brutal attacks, they must also learn that it isn’t always a weapon that saves you, but rather… memories.
Video trailers, Other special video content, Character voice-overs, Original pieces of music — created just for this story, Chapter playlists all inside!