Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today, I interview Lawrence and Suella Walsh about their new book, "The Last O'Neil," a break away adult novel from their usual Young Adult format.
If you're part of the writing scene in Kansas City, you know this couple as they've helped many newbie writers get their start. About 2 years into my career, I felt I needed a boost to help inspire me to break out of my writing rut. I took the their beginning writing course through the Kansas City Writers Group and as a result, I came up with my only published poem, "The Dead of Winter." They are good writers, teachers and good people. If you have someone on your holiday list who is a mystery fanatic, buy this book - or buy it for yourself!

Tell us about yourselves.
We are freelance writer, writing teachers, consulting editors and publishers. We are frequent contributors to Writers' Journal Magazine. Lawrence is a former chemist who wrote technical procedures for Bayer Corporation, and Suella is a former elementary school teacher. We are both full-time writers now. We have ten published books and more than 70 articles and short stories published in national magazines. We teach writing classes at Johnson County Community College, Maple Woods College, the New Writers Class for the Kansas City Writers Group, and writing workshops for Mid-Continent Libraries. This year we presented at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference (our 13th conference as presenters) in Oklahoma City, and we were nominated for the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in the Arts. We are the founding editors of Kansas City Voices Magazine. We are life-long Missourians. Suella's family has lived in Excelsior Springs since before it was a town—1819. Lawrence grew up in Kansas City. We raised our two daughters in Excelsior Springs, and now live with our two dogs, Molly and Cassie. We have four grandchildren.

Tell us about your new book, The Last O'Neil.
The Last O'Neil is the first in a series of mystery novels. Our amateur sleuth, Shannon O'Neil, at age twenty-three returns to Green Valley in wine country, Missouri, for the funeral of her Aunt Agatha. Shannon is Agatha's only heir, which makes her also the heir to the evil that surrounds the ancestral home. The roots of this evil are hidden in the family genealogy, but another mystery also lies within the family lineage. One leads to Agatha's murderer; the other will change Shannon's life forever.
In the second book in the series, Shannon will be solving crimes in Kansas City.
Our publisher has done a print run, not print-on-demand, and the book is available from bookstores through the distributor, Baker and Taylor, and from Amazon.com.

Many of your previous books have been young adult mystery, did you know when you began the writing process for this one that you had an adult novel?
Our previous novels have been for children, ages 8-12. With The Last O'Neil, we started with the idea that it would be an adult novel, that we would be going a new direction.

How is writing an adult novel different from Y.A?
Writing an adult novel is quite different from writing a novel for children. The voice must be that of an adult. The plots and characters are much more complicated. The plot problem must be important to the character, so of course the plot problem will be vastly different in the two genres. Even the length of the sentences and paragraphs change.

Tell us how the collaborative process works for you. Not many people could work day in, day out, with their spouses.
In our collaborative process, we start by brainstorming plot ideas with the idea of coming up with the whole concept of the plot. Then we narrow it down. What is in chapter 1, chapter 2. etc.? Then what is in each scene—what moves the story in each scene? Once we have the gem in each scene, we start writing. It doesn't matter who writes what part, because after we have passed it back and forth for revisions, it all starts to blend to one voice. Often, the creative process will take us off track from the original idea. We willingly let that happen, because we know that will make a better novel.

How did you two meet? Did you realize then that you were both destined for the same career?
We met in college. At that time we each pursued different careers—Suella as school teacher, Lawrence as chemist. When our children were in high school, we both decided to return to our first love, which was writing.

You've been on both the traditional and self publishing route, explain to our readers how the process differs and which one you prefer.
Our children's publisher, Royal Fireworks, just expects us to write the novels, and they have bought five novels from us. They do everything else, including sending sales reps to school districts to sell the books. We don't have to promote the books in any way.
The publisher of The Last O'Neil, Goldminds Publishing, does want us to do some readings and signings to promote the books, but the majority of the work is done by the publisher, and they have the contacts to get it into bookstore though a distributor. We do not.
We have sold more than 30 articles on how to write to national magazines. For our classes, it became necessary for us to put them together in a textbook for our classes, but for that we already have our buyers—our students.
All of these experiences have gone well for us.

What happens if one of you is really into a story and the other seems to be off the mark - or has this happened?
We don't start a novel unless both of us are excited about writing it. A novel is a lot of work, so writers need a passion for the idea to see it through.

What is a quirky writing habit that you each have that no one knows about you (yet?)
Suella writes with pencil on paper. That's how the creativity came when she was ten and that's how it comes now. She keeps note pads beside her bed for any quality ideas that come during the night.
Lawrence gets his ideas while sitting on the patio. The great outdoors inspires him. He writes on note cards, then transfers it to the computer.

Where can people find your book and what's next for you?
The Last O'Neil can be ordered from bookstores or through Amazon.com. ISBN: 978-1-930584-06-8. Price: $15.95. Distributor: Baker and Taylor. Our website is http://www.walshwritingservices.com/


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