Transcripts

 

Patricia Rushford: Writing Multiple Genres 8/14/03



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Tonight we're visiting with Patricia H. Rushford

 

Award winning author and speaker, Patricia H. Rushford has book sales totaling over a million copies.

 

She has written numerous articles, authored over 40 books, including, What Kids Need Most in a Mom, Have You Hugged Your Teenager Today, and It Shouldn't Hurt to be a Kid.

 

She also writes mysteries and has four series: The Jennie McGrady Mysteries for kids and the Helen Bradley Mysteries for adults. Her latest releases include: When Shadows Fall, #4 in the Helen Bradley series) and Grave Matters (#15 in the Jennie McGrady Mysteries)

 

Welcome, Patricia!

 

Glad you could be here!

Patricia Rushford

Thanks.

Mary Rosenblum

I have to say that I was really

 

impressed not only with how many books you have written, but also

 

the fact that you have written in several genres including

 

both fiction and nonfiction! How did you get started on this journey?

Patricia Rushford

I started writing non-fiction--via a depression,

 

then got into fiction and love it.

Mary Rosenblum

Wow! Most people find they have trouble writing when they are depressed! Could you tell us about that?

Patricia Rushford

I began by writing poetry to maintain my sanity. Then I realized I might to able to help people so I started writing how too books.

senicynt

Hi Patricia, DO you use your counseling background when writing things like "Have you hugged you child today, or is it understanding the teenaged needs an innate ability that any of us could do?

Patricia Rushford

I used my parenting background more. But I was a nurse before that. Have always been a counselor of sorts,

 

parenting, though gets into real life situations.

 

Experience is the key.

senicynt

So many children are bristly and don't like being 'hugged' by parental carbon units. :-) How do you get past their walls?

Patricia Rushford

Not easy. Sometimes you have to pinch a big tow or whatever and let that suffice as a hug. Mostly it's a matter of trying and letting them know you love them.

Mary Rosenblum

When you started writing fiction, which came first? The adult mysteries or the YA mysteries?

Patricia Rushford

I started with the YA mysteries. Saw an opening in the market and went for it.

 

The Helen Bradley mysteries came out of the YA books.

 

Helen is Jennie McGrady's Grandmother.

Mary Rosenblum

What a great connection! How many readers realize that the two series are cross-connected like that?

Patricia Rushford

After several books my adult readers asked for books with Helen as the protagonist. I had to comply.

Mary Rosenblum

That's great! An adult spin-off from a YA series! And they're both still going strong, I take it!

Patricia Rushford

Many of the kids do. Eventually they find out if they read the book list in front of the books.

 

I ended the series..or I should say the pub did. I am working on two new series now--both adult mysteries.

Mary Rosenblum

Welcome to the world of ended mystery series, sigh! That's right,

 

one is the series you're working on with the State Police officer, right?

Patricia Rushford

It happens. Publishers are doing around four books in a series. I was lucky with Jennie. There are 15 and my fans want more. I'm working on it.

 

With the state police, right. The McAllister Files. First one Secrets, Lies& Alibis--due out next month.

senicynt

How is it collaborating with the Oregon detective? Who does which writing? Does he write portions himself or does he supply the verisimilitude?

Patricia Rushford

My partner in crime is Harrison James. Lends authenticity as these are police procedural--think CSI and Dragnet.

 

I love it. He gives me the case files--writes them out with his police characters, and I rewrite, add in the depth of character...

 

love interests and that sort of thing.

Mary Rosenblum

Very neat. Is he featured as an actual co-author, or just acknowledged on the inside?

Patricia Rushford

We make a great team. And yes--he is the co-author.

senicynt

When you work closely with someone such as Harrison James, does their name appear on the book? Do they work pro-bono or do you split fees? Just curious because I may need some collaboration in some areas and would like to know what the industry standards are.

Patricia Rushford

We split royalties--his name is on the book with mine. Since I'm the experienced author with a track record and he does need a writer, I get a slightly higher percentage.

Mary Rosenblum

That certainly seems fair. But then, he's doing much more than just supplying a few details.

 

Do you feel that the YA mystery market is stronger than the adult mystery market right now?

Patricia Rushford

We share ideas for where the story goes. He does a great deal actually. He's fantastic and very knowledgeable. He also reads my other stuff for authenticity.

 

Mary: re market for YA. It should be with all those kids out thee, but publishers are cutting back on YA books. The sales just aren't as good. Sad because kids love to read.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm surprised. It seemed as if the YA market was hot for awhile...at least in Fantasy!

Patricia Rushford

Fantasy, maybe. Mystery is up there too, but a lot of bookstores don't carry enough books for YA.

senicynt

Does he use actual case files with just the names changed or does he write amalgams of incidents?

Patricia Rushford

YA is a fallacy anyway. Kids reading "YA" are ages 9 and up.

 

Senicynt; We actually use case files, but make enough changes so that people aren't recognizable. We're working on a true crime though and that will be factual.

 

This series is fiction based on things that have actually happened.

Mary Rosenblum

I'm curious...does the usual disclaimer about 'all people and events in this book are fictional' disclaimer cover this kind of real crime story?

Patricia Rushford

Very realistic. Ripped from the headlines.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you have to worry about people recognizing events?

Patricia Rushford

We didn't do a disclaimer. I don't think people will recognize themselves. The cases we use are public record anyway.

janp

When planning a series, how many books do you plot before you start the first book?

Patricia Rushford

I usually have four in mind. That means I have the first one plotted out enough to do a synopsis and sample chapters. The others are a simply blurb that I think sound appealing.

wendyhaber

How do you chart your mysteries? Or do you? Do you outline or do you chart everything on dry erase board on a wall?

Patricia Rushford

Wendy: I write out the story via a synopsis. I don't do actual outlines. I get the general story

 

then I start writing. I don;t like to get too detailed. Sometimes I'm surprised at the outcome and someone other than the person I thought turns out to be the killer. :-)

wendyhaber

You mention that the cases you write are public record. Do you mean from newspaper files or do police departments allow you to have access to their files?

Patricia Rushford

My partner has access to the records, so they would be available to the public at a certain point. There are also newspaper files, but mostly we use his information.

sweet_muse

How do you stay professional and focused even when life gets in the way? I am having trouble with that a lot.

Patricia Rushford

Sweet...How do you know I'm professional and focused? :-)

 

I work in my pajamas. I'm rarely focused unless I can get rid of my husband for a while.

Mary Rosenblum

Sweet, we ALL wish we could be professional and focused all the time! Life frequently has other plans! :-)

Patricia Rushford

It's hard. But I write when I can and I do need quiet time. I've taken to putting ear phones on and listening to music so I don't

 

get disturbed by the Mariners games.

senicynt

What is the method you use to keep track of your characters & story lines? Do you keep a character book on paper, use post-its, 3x5 cards, keep a journal, on computer?

Patricia Rushford

Seni...Unfortunately, I don't keep as good a track as I should. I do try to write them down but often in my rough draft I leave out the person's name if I've forgotten it

 

and fill in later. My chart sometimes gets done and sometimes doesn't. I tend to write by the seat of my pants. :-)

paja

Do you have routine that gets you in the write frame of mind?

Patricia Rushford

A routine: not really. Sometimes in the morning I do e-mail and eventually get to my writing. I try to put in four to six hours a day. I'd like to do a chapter

 

a day, but that doesn't always work out. I aim for the computer and once there, I'm there for several hours even though I'm not in the write frame of mind, I get there after I start writing.

senicynt

What ages are YA books written for? Are they the Nancy Drew type stories?

Patricia Rushford

My YA are ND type stories, but with much more depth. There are emotional and spiritual aspects to deal with. Family issues. Social issues. Foremost are the mysteries, but they are multi-faceted.

 

My fans tell me they are better than ND

Mary Rosenblum

I think that today's YA mostly goes deeper than the rather light and superficial Nancy Drew stories did.

Patricia Rushford

I think you are right. They are more in depth.

gskearney

I used to work in a bookstore, and I liked to read some of YA books. They are shorter and some are very good stories. Do you find that a lot of adults also read YA books?

Patricia Rushford

I should qualify that. There are still a lot of superficial books out there--Goosebumps and what were the other ones.? are an example.

 

Absolutely. I like YA books and I have had so many adults reading Jennie--even men.

 

One guy had bought them for his daughter and decided to read one--he got hooked and wrote me a fan letter.

Mary Rosenblum

Cool!

sweet_muse

How long are your YA mysteries compared to you A ones

Patricia Rushford

Sweet... They are about as long as some of your paperback mysteries for adults.

 

I tend to get a bit complex with the plots and it takes a while to resolve them. I'd say the YA books tend to be about 200 pages.

 

Some of my adult books are a but longer.

jared

What's the difference between a YA and adult mystery?

Patricia Rushford

Jared for me it's the protagonist nad not much more. With YA I'm in the head of a 16 year old. With adults, however old the adult is. There are different issues for adults and kids

 

There are some things kids aren't going to think about or do.

janp

Do you find that the genres overlap?

Patricia Rushford

There are also things I donít think kids can handle so I'm careful as to what I include in the books.

mbvoelker

I think that kids like complexity and are turned off by shallow books that talk down to them. Is that your experience? Or am I on the wrong track?

Patricia Rushford

Janp,,,do you mean fiction and non fiction or YA and Adult?

 

MBV I think you are right. kids seem to love that I don;t write down to them. I write the YA books the same way in which I write the adult.

 

At the same level. I understand though that most people read at a 6th grade level, so that's about right. :-)

Mary Rosenblum

Sad but true!

sailor

A friend who had a romance novel published was asked to, and did, write a Nancy Drew. Seemed strange to me that an editor would do that. Mystery has never been my friend's genre.

Patricia Rushford

Not strange, really as writing those ND novels was pretty well spelled out. They had strict guidelines as I recall.

 

Some writers do work for hire and are flexible.

Mary Rosenblum

Janp was asking about genres in general...if they don't tend to blur together.

Patricia Rushford

A lot of writing assignments are dependent on who you know.

sweet_muse

rRegarding Nancy Drew novels, Carolyn Keene is on all of them....How can that be if different people use that name?

Patricia Rushford

Genres can certainly merge on different levels. Mysteries certainly do. You can have a mystery that is actually a romantic suspense. It's hard sometimes to define what a book actually is. Mainstream fiction, women's fiction, there are so many to choose from.

 

I donít know the details--have forgotten actually, but ND books have been written by a lot of people. The publisher owns the name and

Patricia Rushford

hires people to write the books.

Mary Rosenblum

It's work for hire, Muse.

 

You don't own the rights, you're just doing a job for the publisher.

Patricia Rushford

Right, Mary.

senicynt

6th grade reading level? Wow. What are the best selling story lines now for YA? Or is there such a thing? Mystery, fantasy, SciFi, comedic?

Patricia Rushford

Depends on the kids. When I go to schools, most of the kids tell me they like mystery and adventure. Some fantasy and Sci0fi. Harry of course.

paja

You mentioned the depth of the stories. How do you address spiritual issues?

Patricia Rushford

I donít really address spiritual issues, other than what is normal and natural for the character. I think spirituality is a part of whom we are, as well as intellect and emotion. I like a well rounded character. Morality comes into play as well. My characters tend to be moral, but certainly not perfect.

 

A lot of thought goes into making decisions, etc.

Mary Rosenblum

They're real people, in other words.

Patricia Rushford

Yes, Mary.. real ordinary people and thatís what makes them appealing. Kids oftten tell me how well they can relate to Jennie, who mouths off occasionally at her mom and makes mistakes.

 

I've never been one to create holier than thou people.

Mary Rosenblum

Do you think that realistic characters..real people...are even more important in YA fiction than in adult fiction?

Patricia Rushford

Not more important, but as important. Personally, I tend to toss books that have characters who are too good or unbelievable.

Mary Rosenblum

Me, too.

senicynt

How many threads run through your YA books? Are they complex or basic? I tend to like those 1,000 page novels. The short stories go too fast.

Patricia Rushford

Thread? I have the main plotline--a mystery, and usually a subplot which might have something to do with a social issue. There are also threads dealing with the various players. In

Patricia Rushford

a mystery you tend to have quite a number of suspects and clues. Lots of threads that have to be

Patricia Rushford

tied up in the end.

senicynt

Do you ever write role-playing types of story shorts? My son & extra sons would have marathon role playing weekends based on short bits of stories. Admittedly, they'd get a bit loopy by 4:00 am. ;-) But it was clean fun for them.

Patricia Rushford

I have done some role playing--love it -- but haven't written any. Have thought of doing screen plays, but not enough time.

senicynt

Have you dabbled in SciFi? fantasy?

Patricia Rushford

No fantasy, unless you count the fantasies involved in all fiction. I just haven't done any of that. My niche is really mystery.

paja

How do you know how to market your stories, especially if it seems to blend genres?

Patricia Rushford

I think you have to pick a genre--even if it's general. Like my romantic suspense, Sins of the Mother. I would tend to market it to romance reders and mystery readers.

 

Mysteries, whether they are cozy or police procedural are still mysteries.

 

I market to anyone who reads. :-)

wendyhaber

I'm so happy you are here tonight and I'm excited to learn from you. You are writing the same type of books that I want to write. Please tell me about the parenting books you write and how you started writing nonfiction books.

Patricia Rushford

Seriously, the publisher can help with where to -place a book marketwise.

 

With non-fiction I basically took the attitude, how can I help people through their various difficulties. I wrote Have you hugged

 

your teenager Today in 1983, It's still in print. Why?

 

Because people still have teenagers and still have problems with them. I look at my audience

 

as though they are sitting across the table from me wanting to know how to cope. I take my

 

experiences and my knowledge, research and true stories to teach people how to deal with their problems and come out smiling in the end.

sweet_muse

What advice can you give a young writer who feels discouraged lately because she is missing deadlines and feels like she has come undone?

Patricia Rushford

Sweet

 

Are you talking about me?

 

Advice... well, no matter how hard things are, you keep plugging away.

 

When I went through a toxic reaction to chemo and fried my brain, I could

 

hardly put one word in front of the other. But I had deadlines and had to keep going. I did

 

miss a few deadlines, but my editors were understanding. I'm better now, but there are

 

still days when the brain doesn't seem to want to go anywhere but back to bed.

Mary Rosenblum

Patricia, I think you have just said something that is the core of being a professional writer, which is, no matter what...you write.

Patricia Rushford

Keep working--even if nothing makes sense. Even if you have to go to a coffee shop for an hour or two

 

to get away.

 

Right. You keep writing. But

 

Also take time to heal. Don't push yourself too hard and give yourself time to just take care of you.

Mary Rosenblum

Very good advice, Patricia!

Patricia Rushford

Iím off my soapbox now. :-)

janp

Pat, You are established and may be able to call the shots as far as saleable work but when you started did you write for the market or for yourself?
í

Patricia Rushford

Jan,,,Trust me, I donít call the shots...never have and probably never will.

 

BUT it's important that you write for yourself as well as for the market.

senicynt

What happens at Writer's weekend at the beach? When is it? How much? Where?

Patricia Rushford

Writing non-fiction put bread on the table, but I never did books that weren't on my heart.

 

If you go to my web site you can find the brochure.

 

We have a keynote speaker and lots of classes

 

Fee is very doable and the beach is always nice.

 

I can't remember the exact amount but it includes food and lodging.

 

It's small, and intimate and everyone is important,. we d a lot of hanging out--talking writer to writer, and helping the less experienced writers with projects as well.

Mary Rosenblum

It sounds great, Patricia! That kind of get away workshop is wonderful.

 

If you ever want someone to teach SF classes, let me know. :-)

Patricia Rushford

Talk to me, Mary

Mary Rosenblum

I certainly will! :-)

janp

I don't believe we have that web site. Would you mind giving us the name?

Patricia Rushford

web site is www.patriciarushford.com/weekend.htm

 

Hey don't forget to check out the book section. I've been working on the web pages for my new books and they are getting way cool.

navarrejudy

What is your favorite book? One that you've written. And who is your favorite author?

Patricia Rushford

Favorite book? Wow. That's like asking, "who is your favorite grandchild?" I love them all for different reasons. I probably love the one that's just come out.

 

My fav author... again, difficult to answer. Madelaine L'Engel, Eliz. Montgomery, Katherine Patterson.

 

I love the author I'm reading at the moment. :-) f

Mary Rosenblum

I'm like that, too. I can never come up with ONE author when I'm asked that question!

Patricia Rushford

It's really hard. I do a lot of reading and enjoy so many.

sweet_muse

When is your favorite time to write?

Patricia Rushford

I like to write in the summertime when I can be outside. I love to write when I go to Brewed Awakenings for a latte. I write best

 

in the morning, afternoon and evening, when my creative energy decides to play. And when a deadline looms. I

 

used to write best in the mornings, but that's changing.

Mary Rosenblum

You teach writers workshops...what do you feel is the most important thing for aspiring writers to work on?

Patricia Rushford

When I finish the chat, I'm going to have to write because I've been playing around with a computer all day. :-)

Mary Rosenblum

Me, too, actually, Patricia!

 

I'm in the middle of a final draft!

Patricia Rushford

Mary...I think a person has to work on what they really want to do. That's what makes writing fun.

senicynt

I find my best time to write is on COOL days and winters. Summer is too hot and too many chores.

Patricia Rushford

I tell students not to try really long projects unless they have a lot of time. And people with jobs need not to get discouraged. Sure

 

you can work on a novel if you want. Maybe an hour or two a day, if that's where your heart it.

 

but often the task becomes overwhelming. I think it best to work on something you know you can handle

 

with the time you have.

Mary Rosenblum

Patricia, this has been great! I really appreciate your visiting with us.

Patricia Rushford

Winter is good, but I tend to get depressed. So, I go to the coffee shop and sit in front of the fire.

Mary Rosenblum

And I will certainly talk to you about your beach workshop!

 

You've offered a lot of good advice, and it has been a pleasure.

Patricia Rushford

It's been fun, thanks. Anytime!

Mary Rosenblum

I hope you'll come back again some time!

Patricia Rushford

Absolutely.

Mary Rosenblum

We'd love to have you! Thank you so much for coming! We appreciate it!

 

Good night and good writing!

Patricia Rushford

Same to you

Mary Rosenblum

I'll watch for your books!

senicynt

Thanks for coming Patricia!

Mary Rosenblum

ditto from all of us!

Patricia Rushford

You're welcome.

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