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Q&A With Patricia Briggs

March 12, 2012 - Amy Phelps
I'd like to welcome New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs!

1. What made you decide to do a spin-off of the Mercy Thompson series?

BRIGGS: The idea for the first spin off came in three pieces. The first piece, the one that I just had to find a place for was Charles. Charles walked into Moon Called the way very few characters do, like Venus, he was fully formed from the moment I decided that Samuel should have a younger brother. But Moon Called already had too many main characters, so I promised Charles his own story down the road (you can do that when writing a series) and he did his walk-on part and stepped politely out of the book. When my editor asked if I could write a novella based on Mercy’s world, I played with a few things (one of those became the Graphic Novel Homecoming) but kept coming back to Charles.

The second part was Anna. She had her roots in the Mercy series, too. When Mercy was trying to find a safe place for the teenage girl werewolf (in Blood Bound), I thought – what about someone who got into a pack that Bran wouldn’t have trusted a young girl to?

Finally, there was a loose end in Moon Called that bugged me. Bran sent Charles to Chicago to deal with a problem – and that part of the story just didn’t fit in nicely with the pacing of the book. So I decided that the event in Chicago would do nicely as plot/setting for the novella. That was how “Alpha and Omega” came to be written. It was intended as a stand-alone story, but my editor loved it – and so did lots of readers. When the Mercy books started to sell really well, my editor asked if I thought I could write a series using Anna and Charles. I jumped at the chance.

2. What's in store next for Charles and Anna?

BRIGGS: I don’t know. I am a “seat of my pants” writer rather than a planner. Charles and Anna are in a particularly nifty spot for living interesting lives (not a happy thing in real life, generally, but awesome for book-writing opportunities). I don’t have a contract specifically for another A&O book, but that is my choice as I don’t like to get too far ahead of myself and currently am under contract for three more Mercy books and another one set in Mercy’s world. That could be another A&O, but I might just grab one of the other people who have been pushing for a book of their own.

3. Which character in all of your series are you most like and why?

BRIGGS: My first impulse is to say none of them – isn’t that the point of writing fiction? I get to step into someone else’s shoes and walk around with their motivations and talents. My second impulse is equally useless, which is to say all of them. All of my characters come from me, either internally (yes, multiple personality disorder patients have nothing on most writers I know) or from my interpretations of other people.

If I had to pick someone, maybe it would be Aren from The Hob’s Bargain. She tried her best to fit into what she thought she should be, but when the playing field changed, she pulled on her big girl . . . er shoes . . . and became herself. For her, that sea change was caused by catastrophe. For me it was my husband, who cared more about what we could do, than what we should do. He gives me (both now and then) the permission to be impractical – the courage to fly.

4. What advice would you give aspiring young writers?

BRIGGS: I used to say, make sure you have a day job. But Dan Dos Santos (the terrific artist who has done the covers for both the Alpha & Omega and the Mercy books) tells me that shows I am a mother. He says if you don’t have the courage to through yourself at your dreams, then you won’t ever attain them. I still say it is easier to write if you have your rent paid and food on the table.

So. Read. Educate yourself so that you can write with good grammar – remember that grammar is the art of communicating exactly what you want to say to another person. If you cannot use grammar, how can you tell a story? Read good books and figure out why you like them. Read bad books – and figure out what you don’t like about them. Figure out what genre you like to read – and that’s probably where you ought to be writing.

And – really, make sure that you have something you can do to put food on your table.

5. Who or what inspires you when you have a case of writer's block?

BRIGGS: Ah, writer’s block! Generally, I look for causes. With eighteen books under my belt, I’m pretty good with finding the causes. The middle doldrums (where you have the beginning and ending, but have no idea what to do with the middle of the book) no longer are an issue for me. Sometimes writer’s block happens when something is wrong with the book – like a character acting without motivation. Sometimes it happens when I am so focused on working – I forget that writing is playing. When I am working the internal editor is turned on – and for the first draft of the story, the editor is not useful. The creative part of everyone’s brain is that part that plays. So I give myself permission to be bad.

My ultimate cure for writer’s block is watching Lord of the Rings. There is such a sense of wonder woven throughout that movie that it is infectious and after twenty minutes or so, I’m good to go again.


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