Hello! Today I’m happy to be bringing you a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for the novel A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron. Ms. Byron sent me a guest post to share with you. Links to the book on Goodreads and purchase links can be found at the end of the post.
Ellen Byron’s Guest Post
I’m not just a mystery author, I’m a mystery reader. In a big way. I read pretty much all of Agatha Christie’s novels by the time I was fourteen. My favorite current authors are Louise Penny, Jacqueline Winspear, Rhys Bowen, and G.M. Maliet, to name just a few. I try to read one book by every mystery author I befriend, so my TBR is through the roof! Well, through the virtual roof since I’m trying to adapt to a Kindle to save space and money. But my all-time favorite book is a classic – Wuthering Heights. I spent a good number of years with a literary crush on Heathcliff. Until recently, that is…
Here’s how I came upon the book. When I was a moody, disaffected teen who could have used a heavy dose of anti-depressants, my family vacationed in Vermont. We eventually happened upon The Haunted Mansion Bookshop. Housed in a spooky Victorian home across from a cemetery, the used bookstore was run by a man with only one arm. As I wandered through the dusty, packed aisles, the one-armed man approached me and used his remaining arm to hand me a book. “I think you’ll like this,” he said. The book was Emily Bronte’s classic tale of passion, Wuthering Heights, and boy, was he right. Emily Bronte’s gothic romance blew me away. I fell madly in love with Heathcliff, the passionate, brooding breakout star of the novel. Could there be a hotter literary hottie? Not to fourteen-year-old me.
But my attitude toward Heathcliff recently changed. I re-read Wuthering Heights because I wanted to use my personal obsession with the book as back story for a character. And the way-older-than fourteen-year-old-me had a completely different reaction to the original anti-hero. Heathcliff is a horrible human being! He’s physically and emotionally abusive, callous, cruel, and basically a stalker. I realized he made a terrible role model for sexy male love interests in my books. It was sending the wrong message to my characters and readers. So Bo Durand, the eye candy in my debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, may look a little like Heathcliff with his jet-black hair and deep brown eyes, but he’s sensitive and kind. Women attracted to him had better be prepared to take a back seat to Bo’s autistic son, Xander, the light of the divorced detective’s life.
Still, Emily Bronte’s passionate prose never ceases to move me. And when you’re together as long as Heathcliff and I were, you can’t just go cold turkey on each other. He’ll still color my characters. My men will always be a little mysterious. Occasionally, one or two may brood. I could never do a total 180 on the relationship because then the men in my books could become something that Heathcliff never was: boring.
WRITING FOR TELEVISION VERSUS WRITING MYSTERIES
I’ve been a television writer for (puts hand over mouth to hide how long) years. Mostly I’ve written for sitcoms like WINGS and JUST SHOOT ME. I recently finished a lengthy gig writing the animated Nickelodeon series, FAIRLY ODD PARENTS and BUNSEN IS A BEAST. I’ve written pilots for all the major networks and some cable ones as well. People often ask me what the difference is between writing for television and writing mysteries The answer? Everything.
First of all, I have a partner for writing television – we’re a female writer/producer team and that’s how we’re marketed by our reps. My CAJUN COUNTRY MYSTERY series is totally my own thing. But if I sold it to a network or studio, my writing partner and I would pen the script adaption of it together.
Writing for television is a social occupation. Writing novels is solitary. Although I’ve done dramas, my career has mainly been in comedy, so I’ll focus on that. As a sitcom writer-producer, I’m part of a staff that can be anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen or more writers offering various levels experience. I’ve worked on staffs that have fifteen writers. We work as a room to break stories. With most shows, once a story is broken, it’s assigned to someone on staff who goes off and writes a first draft. If there’s time in the production schedule, the writer will get notes and do a second draft. The entire staff then punches up the script, adding jokes, fixing story problems, etc.
When you’re in production, you’ll have three trains running – a story train, a production train, and a rewrite train. Multi-camera shows like BIG BANG THEORY are almost like plays. You go to run-throughs, and then come back to the writers room to rewrite based on what worked and what didn’t. There’s a studio run-through and a network run-through, and you have to address the notes given by the various executives. Then you shoot the show before a live audience. Sidebar: (BIG BANG THEORY follows a model where scripts are group-written in the room by the staff.)
My mysteries are totally my babies until they go to the publisher. It’s just my computer and me until I have a draft I want to share with beta reader friends. Once that’s polished, I send it to the publisher, who responds with developmental and copy-edit notes. I get to revise and polish up until the book goes to print – and now with e-books, I’ve even made changes a year after publication!
I love having the combination of both writing experiences in my life. It provides a wonderful balance, and exercises different parts of my brain. Have I mentioned I also write plays and am a freelance journalist? But we’ll save that for another post…
Thank you for joining me today for a stop on the Great Escape Virtual Book Tour for A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron! Below are the purchase links, a link to Goodreads, the Rafflecopter Giveaway, and the Author’s Links. If you wish to visit other stops on the tour, click on the banner at the very end and that will take you to the main tour page which will provide you with a list of tour participants.