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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Robert and Miranda Walker

In December I reviewed a pair of mysteries written by husband and wife tandem, Robert W. Walker and Miranda Phillips Walker. The writing styles were distinctly different and so I thought I'd drop by their place to see just how a couple who shares coffee and toast every morning can have such contrasting styles. Here's our conversation.

Myshelf: I've often heard that all kinds of artists are quirky and can be temperamental. What's it like with two writer's living under the same roof?

Rob: Let me field this one, Rob says: Writers are notorious for living inside their heads much if not most of the time; when they are "supposed to concern themselves with a meal," who has time? In fact, time has passed and there is no chance now for a roast at 4 having been cooked at 3:50 for an hour and fifteen. When on vacation, you are even thinking like your series character, wondering why not have him or her do a stint here where you are vacationing? Asking questions of the place from the POV of your character. So yeah, a spouse often feels neglected. So tensions are inevitable and no story is worth anything if there is no tension

Miranda: Let me finish this one, Miranda adds: But since we are both living in our heads for the duration of our efforts to create good fiction, no one holds it against the other; we both understand where we go and why we are there. We are quite patient with one another when it comes to doing our work. The work is, after all, more important than a pot roast. I mean I could kill him at times but no... not really.

Myshelf: What are the biggest professional challenges to a husband/wife writing duo?

Rob: Well frankly, so far, we have not collaborated, perhaps because we do want to remain married. Collaboration is not something Miranda is at this time interested in; she wants to fly on her own, and I can respect that. I gave her some editing help on her first book, but it's all her in The Well Meaning Killer.

Miranda: As far as doing collaborative book signings, now that has been a lot of fun. We often sell the other's book, but we make it a game to see which of us sells the most. Doing husband and wife interviews like this and articles has been great.

Myshelf: Do you critique one another's work?

Rob: Only after getting it down, after the rough draft is completed. That's true of both of us. But I will also ask questions Miranda of a medical nature as I am working on a novel. Often it's just the thing as Miranda is an ER Nurse and she knows her stuff.

Miranda: I also pick Rob's brain for police procedure and law enforcement questions as he has done so many crime novels. In the case of finding anything questionable in a scene, sure we discuss these and resolve problems.

Myshelf: What writer's have inspired you?

Rob: I am a huge fan of the classics—all of the classics and I teach literature so I get to revisit them quite often. Mark Twain and Shakespeare, however, are my favorites and most inspiring. Both men understood human nature absolutely.

Miranda: Like Rob, I've always loved reading and really have too many favorites to even begin to list them. Of course I loved The Hobbit and Conan Doyle and Dickens. A writer learns her craft by reading and studying the styles of others, determining how they raise passions and emotions. Of course, I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew.

Myshelf: Do you have any contemporary favorites?

Rob: Dean R. Koontz, Stephen King, any writer with the first name David.

Miranda: Well I do love Charlaine Harris and John Sanford.

Myshelf: I know that you're active on the conference circuit. Care to comment on the value of writer's conferences.

Rob: Conferencing is excellent for networking. Nothing like face to face with other writers, being on hand at panel discussions, demonstrations, law enforcement lectures, and mixed with food and drink... are you kidding? I love conferencing and pitching book ideas to editors and agents on hand.

Miranda: Rob is right and what can I add except to say my first conferences were eye-opening and inspiring. You go home loaded with inspiration to go to work on your next project. Not to mention getting to meet some of your favorite authors. David Morrell for instance gave me so much advice.

Myshelf: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Rob: Write a mystery. Sit down and just write a mystery as it is the fastest, easiest way to learn how to plot a novel. Seek out a college or university where a professional author is teaching a creative writing class and take the class. Finally, spend at least four years just working on craft and reading how-to books on craft and the publishing business.

Miranda: Never let anyone convince you that you can't do this. Listen instead to the positive voice inside you, your own instincts. Go to as many conferences as you can, and if you ever have the opportunity to take a class from a professional writer, take it. Of course, read good how to books like Rob's Dead On Writing and David Morrell's book that demystified the process so well.

Myshelf: This is your space to say whatever you'd like.

Rob: Writing and seeing your work published is a great gift and accomplishment, but the chief thrill a writer gets from his work—other than making money with words—is hearing from readers who loved the book. Nothing more exciting in the world than to have that kind of vindication for all the difficult labor of love.

Miranda: Rob's so right. I get a huge thrill out of someone say at the ER where I work, having read the book, telling me they were up all night unable to put it down. It is a thrill like nothing else.


Now read Dennis's reviews of the Walkers' books:
Dead On by Robert W. Walker
The Well Meaning Killer by Miranda Phillips Walker

2010 Past Columns

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