Eva Marie Everson is a multiple-award winning author and speaker who hails from the picturesque Southern town of Sylvania, Georgia. She is president of Word Weavers International, director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, Managing Editor at Firefly Southern Fiction, and enjoys coaching new authors through her company, Pen in Hand. She is an avid photographer who enjoys turning her photos into inspiring memes for you to share (with proper attribution). Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida. They are the parents of three fabulous children who have blessed them with the world’s greatest grandchildren.
Caleb: I know you’re current project is set in the 70’s. When you’re writing something set in the past, how do you keep track of the differences in the time periods and keep yourself in the right mindset?
Eva Marie: For one thing, in the 70’s I was a young woman. So I do think back to “this is what we wore,” and “this is what we did.” One of the things I do when I’m writing this particular novel is I listen only to 1970’s music. Because the thing with music is that it will take you back to a time and a place. I’m also watching shows like “Mary Tyler Moore” or “The Bob Newhart Show.” Any show that was popular back in the 70s that was currently the 70’s. The same thing when I write books set in the 50’s or the 40’s, I listen to that music. That puts me there. Then I do a lot of research online. I read a lot of old newspapers that you can find on line, you know, things like that.
One thing I definitely found in interviewing older people is that by and large we really haven’t changed that much. They had the same temptations that we have today. They made the same mistakes that we do today. The only difference is, let’s say for example, if you were a young couple back in the 1940’s and you found yourself expecting a child before you got married, you got married. In those days, that was understood.
Caleb: That really put a lot more constraint on not necessarily the choices that the the characters make, but on the reaction from those choices – the effect it has on the people around them.
Eva Marie: Also there were things that were socially acceptable in those days that are maybe not necessarily so much today. For example we didn’t know in the 1940’s and the 1950’s, and even in the 1960’s, the effects of cigarettes. And so everybody smoked. That was just kind of a common thing.
But even things like when you flew somewhere, you got dressed up. Men and woman got dressed up to fly somewhere. What’s interesting is that I did my own little experiment. Used to, when I would fly I would wear a pair of jeans, a nice top, sneakers, because you’re doing a lot of walking. I started dressing to get on a plane, and what surprised me was the difference in the way I was treated, not only in the airport but once I got on the plain. It’s like all of a sudden they were looking at me differently. I think there’s something to be said for that.
Caleb: Do you have any advice for anyone new to the industry?
Eva Marie: Join Word Weavers! That’s the first thing. We’ve got over 900 writers now, and many of them are multiple published, award winning names that you would recognize, and they started at Word Weavers.
Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s reaching readers, parents, military families, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.
She’s a leading professional within the publishing industry and travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor and mentor. Her blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month and is a Writer’s Digest Best 101 Websites for Writers. She’s a board member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, as well as a regular columnist for AriseDaily.com, Just18Summers.com and PuttingOnTheNew.com.
Caleb: Does every writer need to have a blog and be active on social media?
Edie: Unless something bizarre happens, we all need to have a presence online, whatever that looks like. If you’re already a bestselling author, and you’ve hit the New York Times bestseller list, then of course you’re going to have fans and connections that the rest of us don’t have. But for the rest of us, our fans and our readers are found in the digital universe. With a little bit of qualifier, yes, everybody needs to be online somehow.
Caleb: What are the different types of blogs writers should consider?
Edie: You need to do something that people would be interested in. You also want to choose a topic that’s sustainable. The point of a blog is for name recognition and to build a tribe. You’ve got to have that community base, and a good way to build that is through a website or through a blog. I like to warn people that blogging is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some people hate blogging. It’s important to have a presence online, and if you’re somebody who cannot sustain a once a week schedule for blogging, maybe your best bet is to be on a group blog.
Caleb: How do you go about starting a blog?
Edie: I recommend brainstorming some things that you think you might like to write about, and then writing about 30 posts. And don’t limit yourself in those posts. Just every day write a blog post, and see at the end of those 30 posts what focus you’ve ended up with. Then I recommend starting out with a free site – the WordPress free site or the Blogger free site.
Caleb: What is the general structure of a blog post?
Edie: It depends on the type of blog you’re writing as to how long it should be. If you’re writing a really deep subject – like I have a friend of mine who lost a daughter to teenage suicide, and her blog is all about preventing suicide. So her posts tend to be 1,200 to 1,500 words long, because you kind of need that much to get into that deep of a topic. I have another friend who writes very pithy interesting takes on the world, and her posts are 300 words. So it really depends on your voice.
As the person who owns the blog, you are the host. So it’s up to you to make the posts easy to find in search engines, make it easy for people to comment and reply. So you want to use an open-ended question or a call to action at the end of every post to get the conversation started. Keep in mind that everything you write is for the reader. So we want to try and avoid using words like “you” when we say “you should do this” or “you should do that.” It comes across very preachy and almost condemning. Instead what we want to say is “well, I’ve found in my life it works better when I do this.” You want a very open and safe place for people to come and interact. You want to make them feel valued and engaged.
Caleb: How is writing for a blog different from other kinds of writing?
Edie: People read very differently on the internet or on a digital screen than they do in person. They read about 25% slower and they read for a different reason – they read for information. You need to be able to format your blog in block formatting, which means no indention and extra space between paragraphs. You want to make sure you’re using a sans-serif font. Truthfully, about 65% to 75% of your readers are going to be reading your blog posts on their phones, so it’s got to be easy to read. You want to familiarize with keywords, you want to make sure you know how to do correct titling for blog posts so that it shows up in a search engine. I teach weeks long seminars on how to do blogging. And everything I teach on how to have an effective blog you can find the information for free on my website www.thewriteconversation.com.
Caleb: How do you avoid copyright laws with images?
Edie: You can never Google an image and use that image for blog posts. Copyright infringement is not based on whether or not you earn any money off of what you borrowed. It has to do with whether or not you have used something or stolen something that it not yours. So you want to make sure that you only use reputable sites. I recommend Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com.
Caleb: How should someone’s approach to social media change when moving into marketing and branding?
Edie: The biggest thing is that you want to make sure that whatever you’re putting out there isn’t self-serving. In other words, I shouldn’t always be tweeting “buy my book…read my blog…here’s a new article…come to my book signing.” If somebody goes to my Twitter page and those are the types of updates then my Twitter page is nothing but a running commercial for me. There’s nothing of value for my readers. I try to be a resource for the people who follow me on social media. I don’t want to be asking them to do something for me without having done a whole lot more for them first.
Also, people think that social media is a great way to sell books, and it’s not. Social media is not advertising. It is building relationships. Marketing is advertising, and you do some marketing on social media but you build the relationships first.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.
Mystery, Suspense and Thriller – Show Notes
Cherrilynn: DiAnn, can you tell us why you got into this genre, and what you do to get your story?
DiAnn: I would never have started writing if my husband hadn’t dared me. Sometimes we just need that push. What he said to me back in ’96 – he said “Stop telling me that you’re going to write a book. Just do it!” If you’re viewers out there just need that little extra punch, I’m challenging all of you to get started now. I started out writing romance, both historical and contemporary. But my heart was in the mystery and suspense. The biggest reason is this – we live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. And I want to be able to provide stories that show there are trained people out there who are willing to go the extra mile, who are willing to sacrifice, who are noble role models for the readers.
Cherrilynn: Can you tell us the difference between a mystery, a suspense, and a thriller?
DiAnn: Mystery is when you have an investigator – someone who is probing into a crime that has been completed. Who-done-it is the basis. Suspense is like a dripping faucet. “We have got to end this horrible wave of crimes” or “We have to stop somebody before this horrible deadline.” And that dripping faucet, that ticking clock, that hourglass that sand is trickling through – that’s what makes it suspenseful. Someone is in peril. Then we move on to the thriller. The thriller has more impact. “If we don’t find out who’s behind these bombings, then our cities are going to be destroyed.” Or it’s a countrywide, or nationwide, or maybe a people group. A thriller takes in a huge area of concern.
Caleb: How do you come up with your story ideas?
DiAnn: I go with a “what if”. That is my root foundation. I either see a movie, or often media headlines. For example the book that’s coming out in October – Burden of Proof – what happens if the hostage negotiator becomes the hostage? And I just played with that until I could find a character who would have the most to lose, the most to gain, the highest stakes. What does she have working against them? Where could I put them? In this case it was East Texas. Whatever I can toss against my protagonist, I’m going to do it, including the setting. No setting is worth its salt unless it’s antagonistic. Don’t make it easy on your protagonist.
Cherrilynn: I believe you go above and beyond what most writers do for your research. Can you talk a little bit about what you do to research a novel, and what is the most dangerous position you’ve put yourself in to get the details.
DiAnn: All I can say is it’s a good thing I’ve never placed a story on the moon, because I really do try to walk where my characters have walked – do what they do.
DiAnn has traveled to Southern Sudan and ridden along the Rio Grande with the Border Patrol researching the settings for her novels.
DiAnn: I will say that I got smarter about my research, and when I was writing about the FBI, I called the FBI in Houston and forged a beautiful relationship that has extended to a contact who’s helping me now in DC at FBI Headquarters. I’m very blessed, because I don’t want to put anything out there that isn’t true.
Caleb: Where do you start when you’re coming up with characters? What’s the first thing that helps you form them in your mind?
DiAnn: Who has the most to lose? In the book that comes out in October – what if an FBI Hostage Negotiator put her life on the line because she believed the criminal was innocent. What’s that doing to her career? How many sacrifices will she make? You have to open your mind to the possibility of anything happening.
Cherrilynn: I know you had told us that you were an organic writer. How does that play in?
DiAnn: I’m all about character and the “what if”. I never know how it’s going to end. I know that I want to throw a big wrench in the middle. I have an idea of the scenes that I want to put in that novel, but as far as sitting down and plotting – no. To me that destroys the creativity. But I’m not saying that won’t work for you. I would venture to say that no two writers look at the process quite the same way.
Caleb: Do you ever see the ending coming when you’re starting a novel? If so, does the ending usually change as the story progresses?
DiAnn: It usually changes. How am I going to get them there in a way that is credible and unpredictable? Am I going to eliminate the bad guy at the end? Do I want him to simply go through the legal process? The FBI shoots to kill. What’s going to work out best for the story? I have to keep all that in mind.
Caleb: You’ve also written some non-fiction. What was the greatest challenge from switching from the world of fiction to the non-fiction world?
DiAnn: I’m all about putting the reader in the character’s shoes. In non-fiction you’re not doing that. Emotion is there, but it’s a whole different ball game, because you are encouraging. For me, I’m talking about my non-fiction book “Dance of Character and Plot.” In nonfiction, it has to be in order. It needs to be as exciting as a novel, because we want them to take action. And because of that, it was very difficult. Writing non-fiction to me is like trying to teach a class and make it as exciting as possible.
Cherrilynn: If you had one minute to give a tip to a writer, what would that tip be.
DiAnn: Read – write – pray – repeat. If I could add number four, it would be “edit”. Read everything you can get your hands on. Write: give yourself a word count, and stick to it, and do it every day. I don’t care if it’s a hundred words. And pray. “Where do you want me, God?”
DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at ww.diannmills.com.