For my first Q&A, I am so excited to feature one of my favorite thriller writers – and agent sibling – Carissa Ann Lynch!
Carissa’s books are simply can’t put down-able. I burned my way through three of them while on vacation recently and can’t wait for her next book – The One Night Stand – to come out in March 2020.
One of the greatest things about reading author interviews is how very different every writer’s journey to publication has been and how writing habits vary. Carissa’s answers both surprised and motivated me. Enjoy!
Tell us about yourself and your books.
I started writing books in 2012. My start in the industry was a little different than most—I knew absolutely nothing about publishing, and my original plan was to go to Kinko’s and get twenty copies of my book printed (for myself) and then tuck it away in my trunk. It was called “This Is Not About Love” and it’s the only book I’ve ever written that didn’t fall in the mystery/thriller genre—it’s a women’s fiction book about three women who are all in love with the same man. In the process of fighting over him, they realize that they have a lot in common with each other and they eventually become friends.
My sister encouraged me to try to get it published but I had no idea how to do that. I ended up submitting it online to several small indie publishers and signing on for two books with a small publisher in Texas called Sarah Book Publishing. They closed shortly thereafter, and I moved onto another small indie publisher. I didn’t sign with my agent and Harper until 2018, but by the time I did, I’d written nearly a dozen books and a handful of short stories. Most of my books fall in the thriller/mystery genre for adults, although I have written a few YA thrillers as well.
My first book with One More Chapter (an imprint of HarperCollins) came out in February 2019, and in many ways, it felt like my debut. It’s a thriller called My Sister is Missing. I’ve enjoyed experiencing both the indie and traditional sides of publishing. As an indie author, I had to work very hard to grow my readership—one reader at a time, seriously! It helped prepare me for the social media and promotional side of publishing. I don’t rely on anyone to promote my work because I’m so used to doing it on my own (and I’m very grateful for the team I have now at One More Chapter).
How long, on average, does it take you to finish writing a first draft of a novel? What does your writing schedule look like?
It takes me about two months to finish the first draft of a novel, but I tend to write on the short side (it’s my Achilles’ heel!). I usually have to go back in and add more details…so, the editing side of things can take a couple months as well.
I write on a schedule, usually 1k-3k words per day. But when I finish a book, I give myself a large chunk of time off before I start the next one. I’m a night-writer. I usually only write late at night, after 10pm.
How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
I learned a few things while writing my first book: First, it’s way harder than it looks, and second, I fell in love with writing. It was similar to reading, but I got to choose what happened on the next page! Thirdly, I learned quite a bit about my writing style—I am a fast-paced writer. I write fast and furiously because if I lose my momentum, then I have trouble keeping interest and I’ll move onto another story idea. I have ADHD and it’s important for me to focus intensely on a project while I work on it. I also have to be careful not to rush and not to undercut my word count.
As time has gone on, I’ve learned more and more about myself—the themes I want to include in my books, the writing styles I admire most…each book I write provides new insights and tools.
Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it while on a deadline?
I usually don’t get writer’s block, but I do get stuck on certain scenes sometimes…when this happens, I usually spend some time reading some of my favorite lines and passages from other authors. Something usually inspires me to get back in there and try again, but if not, I go out and buy some random books by authors I don’t know (usually, in a genre not my own) and I wait for inspiration to hit. Reading usually solves any blocks I have.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? What do you wish someone had told you before you got into this industry?
My advice would be not to get hung up on one book. I know it’s hard to move onto something else when your book isn’t selling, or you can’t snag an agent, but sometimes, the best thing you can do is set it aside for later and work on something new.
I didn’t gain much confidence in my writing until I’d hit my third or fourth book, and it’s still something that is growing and changing all the time…so, don’t get stuck working on one book for years that isn’t selling. Challenge yourself with something new for a while. And please don’t measure the success of your career on how well that one book does. If I had done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I wish someone would have told me about the querying process, and I wish I would have understood the major differences in indie vs. traditional publishing from the get-go. But, with that said, I wouldn’t change a thing: I feel like my extra time in the indie sector helped prepare me for what lay ahead, and I met some tremendous writers and readers along the way.
Also, I wish someone would have told me that it’s okay if your first book doesn’t get a spot on the shelf or hit a list! Most debut authors don’t. There are so many ways to measure success and I think it’s important not to get too caught up in the short-lived thrills in this business because you really can’t control those.
Focus on the writing—that is the one thing you CAN control. And be kind to everyone—it doesn’t matter if someone is an NYT bestseller with a mega book deal or a self-published beginner. We are all writers here and we need to support each other and be kind. Kindness goes a long way in this business, and it makes the entire process so much more enjoyable for all of us.
ABOUT CARISSA ANN LYNCH
Carissa Ann Lynch is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of My Sister is Missing, Without a Trace, Like Follow Kill, The One Night Stand, the Flocksdale Files trilogy, the Horror High series, Searching for Sullivan, Midnight Moss, and This Is Not About Love. She resides in Floyds Knobs, Indiana with her family and collection of books.
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