Saturday, March 21, 2009

Author Q&A with Louise Ure, Edgar-nominated author of 'The Fault Tree' and 'Forcing Amaryllis'

Author Louise Ure spent a quarter of a century in advertising and marketing in the U.S., Singapore and Australia before finding her true love: writing crime fiction. Her debut mystery, 'Forcing Amaryllis,' won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel. The second book, 'The Fault Tree,' (January 2008 release in hardcover, March 2009 release in trade paperback, St. Martin’s Press) is a finalist for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. A third stand alone, 'Liars Anonymous,' will be out in April 2009. Although she’s a San Francisco resident now, all her books to date have been set in her home state of Arizona. “I don’t see things clearly until I’ve lost them,” Ure says

About 'The Fault Tree':

When Cadence Moran, a blind auto mechanic in Tucson, Arizona hears a murder happen just down the street as she leaves work, she unwittingly steps into the crosshairs of a killer who thinks he’s been seen and now wants to stop the only witness.

“I wanted to take Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark and update it for the 21st century, with a heroine who is as courageous, inventive and capable as women are today," Ure says.

How did you get your start in writing?

I started writing on a dare. I was having drinks with a girlfriend not long after the September 11 attacks and she said, “If it all ends tomorrow, what will you most regret not having done?” Writing, I told her. She dared me to fulfill that dream so I enrolled in a night class at a local bookstore the next day. Five months later I had finished 'Forcing Amaryllis.'

What does your writing routine look like?

I can’t even think clearly until I’ve done at least two crossword puzzles, so that’s the beginning of my day. Then I’m in my office by 7:30 and stay there until about 4, with a half hour off for lunch. When I’m writing the first draft, my goal is 2000 words a day. If I get that accomplished before four o’clock I use the rest of the day for emails, promotion planning and catching up on blogs. It’s a seven-day-a-week proposition for me. I lose too much steam if I take weekends off.

What are you working on next?

My third book, 'Liars Anonymous' comes out in April. It’s another stand-alone set in Arizona, this time about a roadside assistance operator who has to unravel the mystery of a murder that she hears on a late night call. She’s a damaged hero, as many of my characters are, carrying the burden of knowing that she, too, committed murder several years ago.

The next book, 'Doing Hadley Time,' is in its gestational stage now so I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much about it.

What made you decide to write this novel?

I’m the only writer I know who starts with titles. When I saw a gardening tag about how to force an amaryllis bulb to blossom I thought “Hmmm … 'Forcing Amaryllis.' That’s a great title. I wonder what the book would be about.”

The same is true for The Fault Tree. In February 2003, I was listening to the radio report of the crash of the Colombia Space Shuttle and the NASA scientist they were interviewing said they would do a fault tree analysis on the data. “It’s one of the best methods of identifying and graphically displaying the many ways something can go wrong,” he said.

That was a book I wanted to write: a study of all the ways that things got so bad, and why they went so wrong. Of course, my “fault tree” would be a real one – a eucalyptus in the backyard where the young protagonist was sent for punishment – rather than an engineer’s flowchart.

What challenges did you face with this book?

The most difficult challenge was to write the book from the point of view of a blind person, and have no avenue to describe anything visually. But the farther I got into the story I more I realized what a wealth of sensory information a blind witness might be able to convey. Maybe she smelled antifreeze from a leaky radiator. Maybe she knew he was wearing corduroy pants because she heard the wales rub together as he ran past.

And to make sure I got the details right, I did everything I asked my blind protagonist to do, although I did it with a blindfold on. (You really can do a tune up on your car with no sight.)

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?

For me, the self-censor is a powerful force. I’m always questioning whether the idea is big enough, whether the writing is good enough. And some days those doubts make it difficult for me to keep writing at all. The best advice I got to counteract that self-censor came from author Gillian Roberts who said, “Today is the worst writing you’re ever going to do. Why would you want to put that off for another day?” It was somehow freeing to know that tomorrow’s writing could only be better. And it gets me another 2000 words down the road.

Where can we find your work?

My books are generally available in all major retail bookstores, libraries and online booksellers, but I have a special place in my heart for the independent booksellers who do so much to help introduce new authors to their customers.

For information about Mystery Writers of America and the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award nomination:
Louise Ure’s website:
Louise Ure’s blog site:

EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

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