Strand Magazine Interview – Colleen Coble
Best-selling romantic suspense author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 4 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com.
1. When did you first decide to become a writer?
I wrote my first book in 1st or 2nd grade. It was about a horse that had twin colts. The teacher praised it, and I thought, wow, maybe I could have a book in the library someday. The seed was planted way back then. I would take that dream out and blow off the dust every now and then, but I didn’t do anything until my younger brother, Randy, was killed in a freak lightning accident when I was thirty-eight. It was a wakeup call for me that it was time to follow my dream.
2. Do you use outlines, or tend to make up more of the story as you go along?
I am mostly a seat-of-the-pants writer. I start off with an interesting premise, but I usually don’t know who the villain is, and I lay down several rabbit trails to see where they will take me. It makes it more fun for me! I’ve plotted out some books, but knowing what was going to happen took all the fun out of writing for me.
3. Tell us about your most recent book.
Two Reasons to Run continues the story of police chief, Jane Hardy, from One Little Lie. I usually have different protagonists in my series books (with the exception of the Rock Harbor series) but Jane’s character arc and story were too complex for one book. In Two Reasons to Run, Jane stumbles across a plot to sabotage an oil platform in the Gulf, and she has to ask Reid Dixon, the father of her son, for help. But ghosts from the past still threaten to sabotage their budding relationship.
4. Have you always been interested in mysteries featuring police officers as protagonists?
No, I usually have a strong woman who finds herself in extraordinary circumstances and becomes an amateur sleuth. But Jane was born nearly full grown in my head, and she has such a strong streak of justice she had to be a police officer.
5. What does your research process look like?
Setting is super important to me. Most of my plots take an important element from the setting in some way, so I have to visit the place in person. And I read tons of books and online articles about my protagonist’s career choice, background, and family connections.
6. Who are some of your favorite authors, and how do you feel they influence your writing?
Reading Stephen King taught me how to write deep POV. He is the master at putting you right into the character’s shoes. When Carrie came out, not many authors wrote that very deep POV, and I was hooked.
7. What are you currently reading?
I’m in the middle of The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate. Fabulous story! I just finished Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg, and I was so taken with the protagonist I preordered the next one, something I rarely do this far out.
8. What advice do you have for beginning authors?
Read, read, read! Immerse yourself in your favorite genre, and figure out why you care what happens in the book. And attend at least one good writing conference a year to network and meet agents and editors.
9. What do you use for idea and/or story inspiration?
I’m terrible at titles! Luckily, my team is great at them. I usually send them some setting words and phrases that evoke something about the story and let them land on the right one. Story ideas hit out of nowhere. I might be reading an article or watching a documentary, and the idea hits. The Pelican Harbor series came about while eating dinner in Gulf Shores with some friends. Isaac, a sixteen-year-old boy, was telling me about his experiences aboard a shrimp boat. He said, “You wouldn’t believe the things we pull up. Washing machines, refrigerators, all kinds of things.” I immediately saw a female police chief investigating a body dressed in a wedding dress and found in a cooler by a shrimp boat.
10. What part of the writing process is the most rewarding, and which is most difficult?
My very favorite part is that substantive editorial letter. For months I’m like an oxen slogging up a hill toward town. I know there’s a town there because I can just make out a church steeple and a school. But I get those suggestions back from my editors, and I can see so much more clearly! Another oxen drops into the traces beside me, and we’re heading faster and faster toward that town. I can see the flower boxes on the houses, and the kids playing basketball. I can hear the music and smell the flowers. The most difficult part is the first 15,000 words as I’m learning my characters and laying down some red herrings. I hit that point, and the words start to pour out.