Writer’s Toolbox

Author Q&A

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

Deborah Coonts

Deborah CoontsDeborah Coonts is the author of the Lucky O' Toole Las Vegas Adventures series.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

I'm assuming you mean besides drinking heavily and whining? To be honest, I have this box—sort of eighteen inches cubed, like a moving box. Every time I read something interesting, I copy the article or tear it out and toss it into the box. The articles could be anything: something specific to Vegas, the setting for my series, or they could just be an interesting job or fact or character. When I get stuck in a story, I'll pull the box out, sit cross-legged on the floor, poor myself a large glass of a flirty little Pinot Noir, and start going through all the stuff I've saved. You be surprised at how much that sort of thing will jump start my imagination. If this doesn't get me going, then my problem is usually with a character—either I've asked them to do something they would never consider doing, or I've put them in a situation that doesn't fit their personality. At that point I just have to delve into the back stories I've created for these imaginary friends and make sure I'm letting them be consistent with who they are. I know, sounds crazy...probably is. I had this French chef hold my third novel, SO DAMN LUCKY, hostage until I let him be who he wanted to be. You'd think I could dream up less difficult imaginary friends!

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

They only one I use on a regular basis is who do I feel like killing today? And how? Yes, I do find writing to be somewhat cathartic.

I don't really use writing prompts—not at this point in my career. For my novels, I usually set them during a specific event in Vegas—for instance, the Adult Video Awards and the Swingers' Convention. Or fight weekend. Or a UFO Convention. You get my drift. So my first prompt is when and where does this story take place? Then I imagine the characters who might populate such an event--and what kind of mischief they can get into. Simple as that. :)

My method, if you will, is to sort of get a running start everyday by reading what I have written the day before, building up a head of steam, then using that momentum to propel me into new territory.

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

Don't write what you already know—that's boring. (Of course, this is case-specific. I was a tax lawyer—not scintillating.)

Write what you want to know.

Much more fun. I believe I heard James Rollins trot out this advice at a writer's conference or book event—can't remember which. BTW, he also does the box thing I referred to in #1 above. I was sorta relieved to hear I wasn't the only one who did that....