Louise Ure spent a quarter of a century in advertising and marketing in the United States, Singapore and Australia before finding her true love: writing crime fiction. Her debut novel, Forcing Amaryllis, won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel of 2005. Ure currently lives in San Francisco.
What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. Not just a bookworm, I was more of a booksnake. I devoured books like chocolate. And while I always swore that I would someday write a book, I didn’t take that challenge until just after the tragedies of 9/11, when I was discussing with a friend all the things we’d really like to do if we knew our time was short. And I came to realize that time is short for all of us, terrorist threat or not. I didn’t want to look back at my life and say “I wish I had.”
Was the journey difficult?
I had it easier than most, I think. I met a wonderful mentor who worked with me in a writers’ group, wrote my first novel in less than a year, and sold it almost immediately.
But the people I admire most are those who toil through six or eight unsold manuscripts, who learn and perfect their craft, and who don’t give up. I don’t know that I have the self-confidence to do that.
Too many to count. But the best advice I can give is to write from the heart.
Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast, wrote: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” Your head will take it from there.
Where does that inner drive to write come from?
The French writer, Colette, said it best: “We write to live life twice.” I agree.
To rewrite something that actually happened and make it better. To provide the perfect dialogue you didn’t have when the argument took place. To change the ending, so that everyone lives happily ever after.
How do you keep readers turning pages?
Some authors do it with fast-paced plots — twists and turns that keep the readers wanting to know what happens next.
I think it’s equally important to do it with your characters. I can’t care about what’s going to happen unless I care about the person it’s happening to. And creating multilayered, emotionally-impactful characters is one of the best parts of writing.
How often will you revise your work?
It’s never ending.
I start my writing day by re-editing the pages I wrote the day before, and I usually do five to eight complete revisions of my work before it’s ready to send to an editor. But I also find that I want to continue revising the work long after it’s published! Someone once said that a writer is a person who would like to edit the words on his tombstone.
What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
Ideas come from everywhere … from newspaper articles and song titles and stories told by friends. But my two best sources are “what if” and my mother’s magic kitchen drawer.
“What if” is the question I ask when I’m stuck on a plot point or a scene. What if the only witness to the crime was a blind woman? What if she’s a natural born liar and no one believes her now? What if she’s the only one left to fly the plane? Sooner or later, you’ll stumble across an image or an idea that is intriguing, interesting, and begging to be written.
And my mother’s magic kitchen drawer. For over fifty years, she’s tossed all the odd papers into this unassuming wooden drawer. Interesting news clippings, recipes, notes from friends, unusual photos. And every now and again, she’ll put something out and sent it on to me. It might be an article about the desert Southwest bandit who put the shoes on his horse backward, so the posse wouldn’t know what direction he was going. Or it might be a reminder that on the Feast Day of San Juan Batista, it’s considered lucky to get your hair cut, as it will then be guaranteed to grow back full and lush and long. Whatever the clipping is, it’s exactly the right thing to add to my manuscript that day.
What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
There is no such thing as writer’s block. But there are four great excuses for not writing:
Loss of Nerve
Elizabeth Hay wrote about those four things in A Student of Weather, citing them as reasons for her protagonist’s inability to paint. They’re equally true for writing.
So every day, I figure out which one is bothering me the most. “Bad Temper? You again?” And I start writing.
Do you have a favorite book?
I think I fall in love with a new book every day, but some of my favorite writers are John Updike, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, James Lee Burke and Cormac McCarthy. They are, at heart, storytellers, but they have a magical command of language in telling those stories.
Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
Mornings. The earlier the better. Before my mind gets cluttered with news and errands and real life.
What is one saying you live by?
“Rock is dead. Long live Paper and Scissors!”
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MY WORK:
Please visit Louise Ure’s website at: www.louiseure.com
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