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  • Author Michelle Cox Talks Inspiration, Organic Outlines and Motherhood
This blog was featured on 04/20/2018
Author Michelle Cox Talks Inspiration, Organic Outlines and Motherhood
Written by
She Writes
April 2018
Written by
She Writes
April 2018

This month Michelle Cox will release A Promise Given, the third book in her Henrietta and Inspector Howard series. Get to know this mystery writer’s process and discover how she tackles her writing routine.

SW: What was your biggest inspiration while writing your book?

My biggest inspiration for this book was probably all of the great period dramas I’ve watched over the years, including The Pallisers; Upstairs, Downstairs; Mr. Selfridge; Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries; and, of course, Downton Abbey. The whole Henrietta and Inspector Howard series borrows from these, but none more so than A Promise Given because so much of it takes place in England. It’s very period and very Englishy!

SW: Which authors have most influenced your writing?

In my younger days, I was certainly influenced by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden), Jerry West (The Happy Hollisters), Louisa May Alcott, LM Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables), Catherine Cookson, and JRR Tolkein. Later on, in college, I became enthralled with Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, both great character writers. From there I moved onto Anthony Trollope, whom I think, btw, is one of the most underrated English writers, and Jane Austen. There’s a lot of subtlety in Trollope and Austen, which I think I needed to be older to understand and appreciate.

SW: What is your favorite scene in your book?

All of them.

No, seriously, how can I resist the wedding night scene? Even though I edited it about 847 times, it’s still probably one of my favorites because there is so much emotion there, so much tension that has been building across the books. And let’s face it, I’m kind of falling in love with Clive myself . . .

But I also really like the scenes between Clive and Captain Foley at Castle Linley for some reason. I think because I got to be quintessentially British with the banter that went back and forth between them. These scenes were very easy and fun to write, and I like Foley’s little secret story and how it measures up against Clive’s own marital situation.

SW: Describe your writing style in three words.

Vintage, literate, visual.

SW: If you could co-write a book with any author, who would it be?

Wow, that’s hard! Someone living, I presume? If so, I guess I’d have to say, Lauren Willig or Kate Morton. I really love their books, and I think we have similar styles or themes. How fun would that be?

SW: What is your writing process?

My process is to get the kids on the bus at 6:50 am, and then grab a cup of coffee and march up to my office. I spend about ten minutes checking all of my social media to make sure there are no disasters waiting for me and then open up Word. I try to write 1000 words a day on whatever manuscript I’m on, or if I’m in the editing stage, then maybe I’ll spend an hour or two doing that before moving on to other writing tasks for the day: blog, newsletter, articles, ads, reviews, promotions, contests, interviews, etc. I take a few ten minute breaks throughout the day, but mostly I work solidly on “book stuff” until the kids bang through the door at about 2:30 pm, at which point I have to take off my writer hat and go back to being mom.

In terms of how I write, I’m definitely a plotter. I always write a rough outline before I begin a book so that I know basically how each plot line is going to progress and end. After that, I write the first few chapters and then stop and review the outline to see how far off I’ve veered. Usually, I have to keep altering the outline as I go, as new ideas come to me. It’s really an organic type of document that is always evolving, but I have to have something that I at least start with and a basic concept of how the book is going to end.

I try not to do a lot of editing as I go along, because I’ve found it bogs me down too much. Each morning I read over what I wrote the day before and maybe make some quick edits, but the real purpose of reading it is to get me back into the story. I tend to leave off most of the descriptive material as I’m writing the first draft so that I can focus on just getting the action and the dialogue down. Anything I need to look up or research, I type an “XXXXX” so that I can go back later and fill it in. I never stop to research while I’m writing. It’s way too unproductive. Once the first draft is complete, I go back in and fill in all the details, editing, oh . . . about a million times . . . until I think it’s good enough to give out to my little group of beta readers.

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