Interview with Nancy Cupp, author of Driving in Traffick

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I like to get up early (4:00 am). I have a cup of coffee, read for a half-hour, then I write until about noon or until the inspiration leaves me. The morning is all mine. I love the quiet before anyone else is up, the air is fresh and cool. I never set an alarm, my cat always knows exactly when it’s four am. So yes, I write every morning.

How hard was it to sit down and actually write something?

It was not hard at all. I usually have a story or two percolating around in my head all the time. I just let the story work itself out and then I write it down. My characters tend to have conversations all on their own (does that sound like voices in my head? Oh dear!) When they have things worked out I start working on the story.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

I certainly like my alone time. I do enjoy people, although I tend to be quiet most of the time. I prefer to call myself a careful observer of people, rather than shy or withdrawn.

Do you set a plot or prefer going where ever an idea takes you?

On my first book, Hold On, I had no idea where the story was going. I just started writing and let the characters take over. It turned out to be a murder mystery, much to my surprise. I didn’t even know who the murderer was until late in the story. Now I usually have an outline to follow, it goes much faster that way. Sometimes I write a rough draft of the ending first so I know where I’m headed.

What, according to you, is the hardest part about writing?

The story writes itself. The hard part is the editing, polishing, and especially marketing. I am fairly new to social media, which is key in marketing a book. I’ve faced a lot of challenges learning how to set up a web page, blog and using new computer programs. Amazon and Facebook ads are also a learning process. It is important to keep track of what works and what does not. So really, writing is not hard. Becoming a webmaster, advertising specialist, PR person, editor and a lot more is the hard part.

Do your novels carry a message?

I think all books carry some kind of message. A message doesn’t always have to be profound to have an impact. Sometimes it can be rather subtle, or it may not even be what the author intended. Reading is individual. The story is there to entertain, excite, or touch an emotion. The reader will get the message he or she is ready to receive.

How much of yourself do you put into your novels?

Probably more than I realize. Sometimes I think all of the characters in the novel are some part of me. It is hard to separate your writing from your life experience. After all, we write what we know.

Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

I was a truck driver for ten years. I would drive down the road for hours every day and think up stories. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I didn’t have the time or energy to write them down. I finally retired from driving, and that is when I became a writer. I have a wealth of experiences to draw on because of my career. I think working can be good for a writer, but it is very hard to find the time and discipline to keep writing.

Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?

Sometimes. I often let things gel and develop a bit before I write down the idea. If I write it down on paper right away then I tend to quit thinking about it. If I think on an idea long enough, things I didn’t know are revealed to me. Things like the backstory for a character come to me that way. Why did they do what they did? You can be writing a book without going near a pen and paper or computer for a long time.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

Yes, I’m in the outline stage for the third book in the Margret Malone series. But I’ve also got a teen novel almost finished. It is a different genre than my other books, and I’m looking forward to this new area.

Do contemporary writers have the kind of animosity that competitors in show biz seem to have?

I don’t think so. In my experience, other writers are more than happy to help with things that I’m stuck on. Many writers have dedicated their web pages to helping fellow writers with marketing, book covers and pretty much anything else you could think of. It is not unusual to have writers teaming up to promote each other’s books.

Writers usually have a particular Muse, but some have a different Muse which inspired different books—does that apply in your case?

Absolutely. I have a series that is one Muse, but I am starting in an entirely different genre, and that is a very different one. I think I have a whole legion of Muses just waiting to be released.

Do any of your family members make occasional cameos in your books?

Yes, it is never exactly that person, but rather some small part of their personality. I find that my friends are quite excited when I use their name for one of my characters. Even when that character is nothing like the person, they like that I thought of them for the name.

Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?

My characters have all of my bad habits. Some of them have my hobbies and preference in food as well. You write what you know, and my habits are deeply ingrained. It would be hard not to include them.

Which character, created by you, do you consider as your masterpiece?

Blaize was created as a minor side character, but then I decided to do a novella to develop her backstory more. I found that she is a remarkable character with a lot of resilience. She is interesting and talented, as well as beautiful. She is African American, (I am white) so exploring her world had been educational for me. I plan to make her the main character in my next book. I worry that I might get it wrong since I have no experience as a black person. But I think it is important to explore other races and cultures. What better way to get to know someone than living in their world for a while?

Do you blog?

I blog when I have the time. I haven’t put nearly enough effort into it because I’ve been so busy with all the other aspects of writing, publishing, and marketing. I have changed the content of my blogs several times. I can’t seem to decide on what is the best theme to work on.

Do you mentor?

I can’t say that I mentor, but I would love to. I am involved in several Facebook groups of writers helping each other. We are a group that mentors each other. The support has been wonderful. I think it would be interesting to work with kids that want to be writers.

If you were given a teaching opportunity would you accept it?

I would accept a teaching opportunity if I thought I could influence someone to develop their craft. How exciting to watch someone learn and grow. Actually, right now I am still learning and growing myself.

What advice would you like to pass onto young writers of today that is unconventional but true?

Don’t get in a hurry to decide what you are going to do with your life. Take your time to learn about many things before your specialize in any one area. The best stories come from things the author has lived, not from what he learned in college. But go to college anyway! Last of all, don’t get married right away. You need to do stuff first.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

I take a bad review with a grain of salt. You can’t please everyone all the time. If you carefully read between the lines of a bad review there is usually some helpful information there. What is difficult is getting reviews at all. Most people don’t want to put their opinion in writing. Many think they will be judged on what and how they say things. Even a very simple, I liked it, or I didn’t like it, is helpful. Usually, it isn’t even necessary to leave a name. Unfortunately, Amazon has a policy where reviewers must have an account with them to leave a review.

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