Meet Award Winning Mystery/Suspense Writer: Alice K. Arenz
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How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?
When I was a kid, I loved making up stories for my dolls and paper dolls. Even when my brother and I played with the neighborhood kids, it was cool to collaborate and create a storyline – just part of being a kid. When I was twelve, I started working on my first “novel,” The Adventures of Christopher and Christina. The handwritten pages made their way through the rows of study hall students in our small school. People from seventh grade through sophomores and juniors would return the pages to me at the end of the period and ask when the next installment would come. It made me feel pretty cool. It also made me realize this was something I’d like to do with my future – although, at the time, I didn’t really think in terms of years and years down the road.
As for the “call,” I’d have to say that I recognized it before I graduated from high school. I thought it would be neat to become an actress who wrote all her own roles. So I enrolled as a Speech and Theatre major in college. That didn’t work out very well for me as I’m a super introverted introvert. When we had to “perform” in Oral Interpretation class, I’d get so nervous I wanted to barf – it wasn’t at all like the plays in high school where you’re surrounded by people. I was on my own in front of the class. But it was the teacher’s comment that I was “a shy little trinket who’d be better at staying in the background than the forefront” that really got to me.
When it came time to prepare for the final – a “special” timed performance – I was at a loss of what to do. I prayed and cried, then prayed some more. Then I found myself in front of my typewriter with a two-page “story” that was about a woman who’d just lost her husband in Vietnam and couldn’t figure out why all the peace demonstrators were using violence when they said they opposed it. The story stunned me, but I recognized it as the answer to my prayer. But now I had to convince the professor to allow me to perform it in class.
I remember he laughed when I asked for permission. He glanced at the pages and sort of tossed them back over the desk, not reading them at all. He said it would be okay, but I needed to find something to go along with it to fill up the designated time frame. So I found a poem – I wish I could remember the title – about how war was this ball had been let out of a box and that it destroyed everyone who touched it. Very powerful stuff – in 1972 as well as today, huh?
Anyway, I acted/read the poem first, then followed it with The Sounds of Silence, which is what I named my story – yeah, I know, not very original. And you know what? The class was spellbound . . . and so was the professor. When the period was over, he took me aside and set up a date to put my performance on video to “use as a teaching technique to show others what Oral Interpretation is all about.” I was beyond surprised. Even more so when I received my grade for the final – a triple A+!
My life took a different turn after that. I quit college and became a wife and mother a couple years later. But I never, ever stopped having the urge, the desire to write. As a matter of fact, my ex constantly complained that every scrap of paper in the house contained pieces of stories and ideas for even more. By the late 70s I was learning and submitting, and continued to do so until my first book was accepted just a few years ago.
Wow. What fun. Please explain what genre you write in.
Since I have always liked to read primarily in the mystery/suspense genres, it seems natural for me to write the same sort of stories.
My first two published books, The Case of the Bouncing Grandma and The Case of the Mystified M.D., are what’s known as cozy mysteries. This subgenre is best described as a mystery with a lot of humor thrown in, which makes them lighter in context. But don’t get the idea that you lose the mystery in the process, because you don’t. You just get a little different spin on things. I always tell people that I guarantee they’ll make you laugh. ;)
How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?
I don’t set a goal when I’m writing – I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer and follow the inspiration I’ve always said comes straight from God. Sometimes the words flow so quickly I’ve no idea what I’ve written. Other times getting more than a sentence out is frustrating. That’s when I know I haven’t been listening to His guidance closely enough.
As for how long it takes . . . that all depends on the story and what’s going on in my life. I wrote Bouncing Grandma in about four months, suffering from the worst headache I’ve ever had. A year later when it was accepted by Sheaf House and I was asked to add ten thousand words, it was like pulling a tooth that wasn’t ready to come out. It took a couple months to finally see where I was being led.
You recently had a book published. Would you take this time to describe it to us? How and where can readers buy your books?
The tag line for Mirrored Image is: Their faces were the same. Will their fates be as well?
The uncanny resemblance of a murder victim to eccentric newspaper columnist Cassandra Chase, gives Detective Jeff McMichaels the haunting suspicion that there is a link between the two women . . . a link that may only exist in the murderer’s mind.
What is the spiritual message in your book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?
I don’t know how to answer your first question – it’s not something that I think about as I’m writing as some authors might do.
As for what readers can expect to get out of reading my books, I’d have to say a good, clean mystery/suspense with believable characters and situations – and proof that writing a novel with a Christian world view doesn’t mean you have to skimp on anything!
Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through?
Sure, giving up sometimes seems like the thing to do. I’ve been down that road before, didn’t really write for almost seven years – but it never took away that . . . compulsion to create. Characters would form in my brain and clamor to get out, and trying to keep them quiet wasn’t always an easy task. The more I’d pray for God to take this away, the more He seemed to be insisting I come back to it.
No one can tell you that being a writer is an easy road. It’s not. And no matter how much you think you’re prepared for all the pitfalls and disappointments, you won’t be. I know because I’ve been there. And you know what? I’m sure I’ll be there again.
Who’s inspired you the most?
Would you explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?
Actually, my publisher chose me. True story. We knew each other online through ACFW and a couple writer’s loops. She knew my story, a bit of my background. One day while we were exchanging emails about her newly created small press, she asked me to send her “copies of my books.” I sent her The Case of the Bouncing Grandma, Mirrored Image, and An American Gothic. A couple weeks later, she’s calling me to accept Bouncing Grandma and we’re discussing how the whole thing was definitely a God thing!
And no, being published doesn’t mean I can sit back and relax. It means I now have to work harder.
Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out?
My web site is http://www.akawriter.com/.
Thanks for asking me to join you today!
And thank you, for being here. It's been a privilege.
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