Allan Emerson is a Canadian writer who was born in Saskatchewan and brought up in small towns there and British Columbia. He lived in Australia and New Zealand before marrying and settling on the west coast of Canada. As his mother could tell you, he’s been making up stories since he was a little kid.
Have you done any projects that took you way out of your comfort zone?
I recently did a reading from Death of a Bride and Groom for a local TV station. Haven’t seen the result yet, but the thought of reading my work on television was pretty intimidating. The people doing the filming were great at keeping the atmosphere relaxed, but when they turned on the lights and camera …. I think it went okay, but I’m not sure because it was pretty much an out-of-body experience for me.
Who’s your favorite character you’ve written so far and why?
The character I enjoyed writing most was Hermione Hopkins, the ninety-five-year-old English actress in Death of a Bride and Groom. At her age, she just doesn’t care what people think, so I could be as outrageous as I liked when I was writing her. When we first meet her, she’s considering doing a nude scene in an off-the-wall film by a temperamental French film director.
What’s the craziest story idea you’ve ever had? And did you write it?
When I was a kid, I wrote a story called The Sniper. It was about a WWI Allied soldier who spared a German soldier’s life on the battlefield. Twenty years later, he finds out the German soldier was—wait for it—Adolph Hitler. Oh, the irony. Still makes me cringe when I think of it.
What about your most recently published/upcoming work?
Death of a Bride and Groom, the first in the Honeymoon Falls mystery series has just been released.
When the body of writer Iris Morland is discovered in full bridal array atop a giant wedding cake parade float, the little resort town of Honeymoon Falls is left reeling. Not only is its reputation as “the Romance Capital of the World” at risk, its very survival is threatened. Murder, it seems, has a chilling effect on those considering venues for potential nuptials.
Iris enjoyed betrayal, so half the people in town are potential suspects. Captain Will Halsey, head of Honeymoon Falls’ three-person police force, must find the killer among Iris’s host of enemies. And he’ll have to do it while coping with small-town politics, feuding among his subordinates, and the ferocious attentions of the media.
What project are you looking forward to next?
I’m starting to write Death of an Action Hero, the next in the Honeymoon Falls series. I’m really looking forward to seeing what some of the characters in the first book get up to in the second.
Who are your writing heroes and why?
Ian Rankin for his Rebus series; Carl Hiaasen for his off-kilter take on everything and his dry humor; Raymond Chandler for his descriptions, one of which I can’t resist quoting: “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.” (Farewell, My Lovely)
Have you ever done an interesting interview to get background information?
For the next book in the Honeymoon Falls series, I needed some information about whether DNA would survive in a specific circumstance. Fortunately, at a writers’ conference, one of the speakers was a retired forensic scientist who was able to tell me what I needed to know to make my plot work. His work was fascinating, and I learned a lot.
How much do you structure your stories before you write them?
When I start a story, I know how the body is found, who the killer is, and why the murder took place. From there, I start writing, exploring plot twists and character relationships as I go along. I’d love to be able to plan the entire story in advance—there’d be much less re-writing—but that approach just doesn’t work for me. I have a general idea of where the story’s going, but otherwise I don’t know what’s going to happen until I write it.
Do you find it more difficult to write your first draft or to revise?
The first draft is the killer for me. I actually like revising because by the time I get to that stage, I’ve worked out all the major plot and structural problems. I can concentrate on tightening and polishing the prose. The book is on its feet, so to speak, and I can see the world I’ve created starting to revolve.
Do you have any revision tips to share?
Let the draft sit for a while before you try to revise. You’ll come back to it with a fresh eye and you’ll spot problems and opportunities you missed while you were immersed in the writing.
What has been the hardest thing about publishing for you?
The hardest thing is getting the book written. Working for months or years on something you have no guarantee will ever see the light of day requires both commitment and a steely determination to make it to the finish line.
I divide the time after the writing is finished into two periods: Before publishing (BP) and after publishing (AP). During the BP period, the hardest thing is getting agents or publishers to look at your work. Once again, the determination to keep going is critical.
After the book is accepted, you enter the AP period, which begins with several rounds of edits. Before, during and after publication, you start promoting your book. Unless you’re a bestselling author, you won’t be doing any glamorous jet-setting to various cities. You will be expected to get a website, establish a presence
in social media, make connections with reviewers, local bookstores, libraries, media, and anything else you can think of to get attention for your book. This can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming.
What is the most memorable writing comment you’ve ever gotten?
Referring to the amorous adventures a few characters pursue in Death of a Bride and Groom, one reviewer said “…Emerson’s comic touch keeps everything as good-naturedly bawdy as a best man’s wedding-reception toast.” Love that description!