Writer’s Toolbox

Author Q&A

Here we present our exclusive collection of Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors.

Annamaria Alfieri

Annamaria AlfieriAnnamaria Alfieri is the author of historical mystery novels such as City of Silver and Invisible Country.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

I try to write every day, but even if I cannot, I keep my story in my thoughts. When I stop work, I stop in the middle of sentence, in the middle of a paragraph, even if I know what the next words will be.That way, when I take up the work again, my "pump is primed." For me, I don't edit myself as I go along. I write fast as I can to get the story out there. Then I rewrite and rewrite and polish and polish. This works for me, because it keeps me from second-guessing and hating what I am doing. There is always PLENTY of time for self-criticism later. Reorganizing later can be a big struggle for me, but I find it better to power through rewrites than to get mired up in self-criticism during a first draft. Trying to polish as I go along only leads to tightening the creative spigot and robbing the story of energy. At least it does in my case.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

Music is an essential aid for me. Many writers want silence, but I put together a playlist for a story as one of my very first steps. Because I write historical novels, I have to do a lot of research. I play the music while I am reading about the time and place of the story. That way, those songs easily bring me to the scene, literally of crime, in my case, since I write mysteries. Then, when I am drafting the story and editing it, I can get my head back in time and far away in place, just by starting the music.

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

Sister Mary Catharine O' Connor, head of the English Department of the College of St. Elizabeth taught us the importance of details that appeal to all of the reader's senses. Whenever reviewers call my work vivid, I bless her memory. Also, I once heard the recipient of an Edgar Award for best first mystery thank his wife for telling him, when he was discouraged, that "a real writer wouldn't quit." Persistence is anybody's best ally, but for writers it is the first requirement.