Welcome, Debra! I’m looking forward to getting to know you a bit better. What is your book about?
The Opposite of Dark is an amateur sleuth mystery about a young woman’s quest to discover the truth about her past as she tries to learn who killed her father. The story opens when the police tell Casey Holland that her dad was murdered the previous night. The problem is that she buried him in an open-casket ceremony three years earlier? Compounding the problem is her strained relationship with her mother whom she hasn’t seen in 17 years, and the mysterious man who’s been following her.
How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?
The idea for Casey actually came more than 25 years ago, while I was doing temporary clerical work at our local bus company. One day, I was typing away when a young woman walked in wearing a leather mini skirt and jacket. It turned out that she was an undercover security officer who rode the buses in trouble areas. I thought that would be a fascinating job for a character in a mystery. I was working on my Alex Bellamy series (Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption) at that time, however, so a number of years passed before I started writing about Casey.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
The desire to explore a character who would choose this kind of work was the reason I started this series. The more I wrote about Casey, the more complicated and interesting she became. By the time I’d finished my third or fourth draft of The Opposite of Dark, I knew I wanted to further explore her life and the many changes she was going through in other novels.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters of this book?
When I first began writing about Casey several years ago, I think we had more in common than we do now. Like Casey, I wasn’t interested in marriage, I was studying criminology, and my parents were divorced. However, I’ve grown older while Casey’s stayed young so our interests and concerns are quite different. She’s still building her career and attending school, and looking for love. I’ve been there, done that, so I look at her from a different perspective and see almost nothing of myself in her now.
What is your most unusual character?
I’ve been told that I create interesting secondary characters, and one of the most memorable ones for me is Vincent Wilkes. He’s an architect who worked for Casey’s father and then took over his firm when Casey’s father died. Vincent lives in the old house where he works and keeps two large iguanas and several different species of lizards and snakes in his office. He likes reptiles better than people.
How long did it take you to write your book?
Honestly, I think this book took at least ten years to write, which resulted in twelve drafts and three editors in total. I wasn’t working on the novel everyday or even every year, as I was writing the two Alex Bellamy mysteries, numerous short stories, and working a day job while raising our kids. It took another ten years of submitting the book (including two years spent with an agent) before the book was picked up by a publisher, and that was publisher #32, I think!
How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?
I’m a fan of outlining, so I know a fair bit of what’s going to happen before I start writing. I’ll know who the victim is, how the crime was comitted, and who did it, although this can change. As I’m writing, I start to clearly define the reason for the crime, which is why I sometimes change the killer. Most of my outline is created for the first third of the book, where I’m setting up subplots and figuring out the first plot twist. The middle of the book has a little less outlining and by the last third, I don’t do that much outlining because what I’ve created dictates how the story will end.
What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?
Well, I’m a lot older! I wrote my first book 25 years ago, but I’ve also become a better writer, and have gained a lot more confidence in myself, professionally and personally. The feedback has been mostly positive and it’s really encouraging to receive fan mail from a reader. Also, my youngest child is seventeen now, so I have more free time to write, especially after leaving day jobs behind sixteen months ago. I’ve gone from being a part-time hobbiest to a professional, full-time writer.
Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?
In the morning, I make a cup of coffee and download emails, then visit Twitter. It takes only a few minutes, and basically launches my workday. I rarely write without something nonalcoholic to drink. I’ve come to realize that I inevitably reach for a beverage when I need to pause and think about what I’ve just written, or am trying to work out what I want to say next.
What are you working on right now?
This month, I’m finalizing the third installment in my Casey Holland series to send to my publisher by deadline. I’m also working on the first draft of book five, and book four is with a colleague who’s reading the whole thing through.
What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?
I’d advise writers to use patience and not expect too much right away. Promotion means engaging with others and building a rapport with potential readers. It means building a solid, longterm platform through social networking, blogging, and designing your website. It can seem daunting, but if you limit your time each day, then you won’t risk burnout. And burnout is a big factor for writers who are also actively promoting!
Where can people learn more about your books?
The easiest way to learn all about my books would be to type Debra Purdy Kong on amazon, and try the samples offered. My publisher also has a website with reviews and links to Nook, Kobo and iBooks at http://bit.ly/i983XE I also have a Casey Holland Facebook fan page, which will post updates about upcoming books, at http://tinyurl.com/6nqn9ds
Click here to read: Excerpt From “Opposite of Dark” by Debra Purdy Kong
December 27, 2011 at 2:01 am
Great interview, Debra. I really enjoyed learning something about you. It was a true pleasure reading your interview. Good luck with THE OPPOSITE OF DARK! Sounds terrific! See you on Twitter!
December 27, 2011 at 8:58 pm
Enjoyed learning more about you before I met you. Love the insights you bring to the writing life ….
December 28, 2011 at 10:01 am
[…] Debra Purdy Kong, Author of “The Opposite of Dark” with Pat Bertram – “One day, I was typing away when a young woman walked in wearing a […]
December 28, 2011 at 10:39 pm
You sound so busy and productive. Thank you for the warning about not burning out.