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Interview with Marta Stephens 2009

Marta Stephens

If you like your crime fast, with brilliantly developed plotlines and believable characters on every page, Marta Stephens’ latest Sam Harper mystery, The Devil Can Wait (BeWrite Books), is going to be right up your street. Revolving around an investigation into who is dumping the bodies of local teenagers into the river of the city of Chandler, Massachusetts, The Devil Can Wait is a compelling tale with much of its darker basis stemming from truth. ‘The story behind the story is true, involving a quarrel and a cursed black pearl ring that nearly killed the object of a jilted young man’s affection,’ Marta explained. ‘Filled with resentment, he begged her to take the ring as a parting gesture. Within days of accepting his gift, though, the young woman fell victim to a number of life-threatening accidents that came in quick succession. She survived each incident, but evil remained a constant threat to her life. It was only after she destroyed the black pearl ring that all appeared to return to normal. Such was the spark behind The Devil Can Wait … a work of fiction with a taste of the unexplained. When I first heard the black pearl ring story I was an impressionable eight-year-old unable to distinguish fact from fiction. Yet that event seared itself into my mind and eventually gave birth to the book. I’ve always been intrigued by this event and the challenge to turn it into a suspense novel was just too irresistible to ignore.’

Like most authors, Marta touted her work around publishers and had her first in the Sam Harper series, Silenced Cry, accepted by British publishers BeWrite Books, who then took the second instalment, The Devil Can Wait. ‘I’ve been extremely fortunate had already established a working relationship with them over several years. We had moderate success with the first book so I was thrilled when they accepted the next one. There are several more Sam Harper books to come and I hope to complete the next two by 2011. In the meantime, I’d like to invite your readers to visit Sam Harper’s new blog at Sam Harper Crime Scene. Comment on this blog and Sam - not the author - will respond.’

So what advice would Marta give somebody carving out writing career? ‘First and foremost, the writer has to commit to the craft. He or she needs to decide that writing is no longer a hobby but a way of life because anything short of dedication will result in failure. Every detail, large and small, is critical and worth taking the time to get right. I spend a huge amount of time researching information I use in this series as, in many ways, Crime fiction is a study in human nature – how the criminal mind works and what mistakes will lead to his or her capture – and I’ve researched everything from police procedures, investigation practices, forensics, and autopsies to Massachusetts law and weather patterns. I’d also advise writers to find someone whose work they admire whilst always remembering to be true to themselves. Don’t be swayed by advice that leads away from your unique writing voice and style. I work full time, so I make it a point to write, read or research every evening for at least 3-4 hours then spend even more time on it during the weekend. I always start with the crime and work backwards because first I need to understand the criminal’s motive. To do this, I write brief back-stories on each new character who will have a significant role in the plot. Remember, no one knows your book or the characters in it better than you and each character has a story to tell and its these that develop into the subplots that twist, turn, and complicate Sam Harper’s cases. Once I have some of these preliminary steps organized, I begin to write and it’s only after the first draft is completed that I take a closer look at the chapters to make sure my timelines remain accurate. I’ve been influenced as much by film as I have from my reading, so it’s no surprise that readers have found a little of Bogart and Harrison Ford in Sam; that tough, no nonsense kind of justice and dry sense of humor probably comes from my better half, but everything else is pure imagination. Finally, understand at the outset that as much work as it takes to write and have a manuscript published, the real work comes later in connecting with readers and promoting your work, all of which is very important but a great deal of fun too.’

Read Chris High's review of 'The Devil Can Wait' by Marta Stephens

Sam Harper’s Blog: http://www.samharpercrimescene.blogspot.com

 

Parts of this interview have, or will, appear in other publications and in other formats.

 

  
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If you would like to comment on this interview with Marta Stephens in March 2009, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
© 2009 all rights reserved