We are happy to introduce Book Country member Jean Marie Wiesen! Jean is currently workshopping CASE OF THE MISSING LOOK-ALIKES, which was a November Editor’s Pick. Jean shares how she discovered Book Country and tips for building suspense in novels. Connect with Jean on Book Country.
Janet Umenta: How did you discover Book Country?
Jean Marie Wiesen: There’s an interesting story behind how I discovered Book Country. The phrase, “There are no coincidences,” most assuredly comes into play. I have a mutual friend with one of your soon to be published members, Alex Rosa, whose book, TRYST, is being launched by Penguin in March 2015. Oh dear, is that a shameless plug by moi! It most definitely is because if it weren’t for Alex, I wouldn’t be here. Originally, I’d planned a trip to the San Diego area right around Labor Day, but due to a variety of reasons, it was postponed until mid-October. Had I gone in September, our mutual friend Randy more than likely would have been too busy to have chatted with me to discover that I’d written a book, and in turn, not introduced me to Alex. In October, things were far less active, and Alex had the time to spend with me and told me about Book Country and all of her positive experiences here.
Within a few days of my arriving home, my book was up for peer review on Book Country. Alex stayed in touch with me the entire time via email.
JU: In your Book Country profile, you list P.D. James as one of your favorite authors. How did her work influence your writing?
JMW: Oh my, P.D. James was my hero for so many reasons, and it is with incredible sadness that I write about her amazing influence on me both as a reader and a writer. I was stunned to hear of her passing on Thanksgiving Day. The world has lost an incredible talent who was able to write via an assistant well into her 90’s. What a gift! It was my Aunt who introduced me to P.D. James, something I’ll always be grateful for.
James’ wit is what I loved most. She brought you to the edge of a gruesome crime scene, and the British humor came in making her stories so readable. That’s what hooked me. Between her intriguing plots and viewing the dark side of humanity with humor, this combination cannot be beaten. Couple that influence with my all-time favorite writing instructor, another Brit, whose class was filled with non-stop laughter as well as being instructive, they’ve left an indelible mark on my writing.
JU: The ending of CASE OF THE MISSING LOOK-ALIKES was a surprise to me! What tips would you give to writers working on building suspense in their novels?
JMW: I’m thrilled the ending was a surprise to you! Thank you. That means I listened to my characters instead of myself. In other words, I stayed in the natural flow of the story, something my writing instructor told me about, which I didn’t get until it happened. I discovered that creating a mystery isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if I’m not listening to my characters. It’s the most magical experience I’ve ever had when they’re telling me the story. When I argue with them, then it goes awry. I take a lot of walks with my dogs through the woods in the late afternoon and listen to different sounds, thinking plots through. I’ll jot things down, plausible or not, and string them together, either long hand or on my laptop when I get home. As the story moves along and the chapters wind down, my beta readers become invaluable; they’re gold. If they say it works, I keep going. If they say it doesn’t, I change course. I listen to my beta readers and my characters equally.
JU: You have volunteered as an Emergency Medical technician for over 17 years. Has any of your experiences found itself in your stories?
JMW: All of our life experiences invariably find their way into our stories, so, there’s most definitely an influence from my being an EMT, especially this book.
Due to the law, I can’t use actual situations, but it’s where my realism comes from. I worked with a detective friend of mine, as well as several other cop friends who made sure my set-ups were accurate. I went to the shooting range so I’d know what it felt like to shoot. I spent days in two different courts listening to court proceedings, sentencing hearings, and interviewing judicial marshals, along with a few bailiffs and bail bondsmen. I’ve treated a few patients in a jail cell, so I know what it’s like to be in one. Not fun!
JU: If you could solve a crime with one detective from fiction, who would it be?
JMW: Without question-Sherlock Holmes!
About Jean Marie Wiesen
I’m a transplanted Californian living in CT, near the water with two pups, one of whom is a therapy guy. We roam around visiting hospitals, when I’m not writing, or we’re not hiking with Mr. Excitable Lab. I find inspiration for my writing while walking, or on the water, even when it’s freezing cold out. Reading is my other passion, has been ever since I was a kid. Connect with Jean on her blog, Twitter, and Book Country.