“Assembling the Puzzle of Mystery Writing: A Spotlight on Claire Applewhite”
Agatha Christie may be one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, but I doubt her background includes being an internal auditor. She may have created the infamous detective Hercule Poirot, but you would probably never find her seeking out fraud in a corporation. These, however, were the responsibilities of a different mystery writer before her work really caught on. This author is Claire Applewhite, and the detective work she had to do as an internal auditor actually has helped her better understand how to construct a well-written mystery novel. As she put it, “Writing a mystery is simply approaching the puzzle from the assembly stage instead of the solution.”
Claire Applewhite was not a writer who enjoyed the luxury of instant success, hence her corporate daytime job she held for about five years. Her first novel published was worked on for seven years. The Wrong Side of Memphis, as it is called today, had two other titles and a few rejections before it saw the light of publication. Dismissal from publishers is not uncommon to up-and-coming writers, but Applewhite actually embraces the opportunity for revision. She reminds fellow writers, “Negative reviews are just as hard to accept as those rejection letters!” The final, published, version of her debut novel is a representation of the work when it was ready to be released. Even after quite a few edits, Claire is confident that writers must “see the rewrite as your friend and embrace it.” Even if you have all the makings of an enthralling novel, the rewrite is necessary to make it flawless.
In terms of the writing process, it is also fun to find out what established authors have to say about their tricks and outlooks on certain subjects. Character development, for example, is a skill that needs to be reworked for different genres. In mystery writing, Applewhite shares that “there must be a villain and a victim, and each one must want something very badly.” But you won’t find Claire crafting these characters during the hours of a normal work day. In fact, she admits that her best drafts are often put together between 4 and 6 am. However, no matter what, she agrees that “It is important to produce a steady result every day, to get your mind in the habit of knowing that it must be “on” for a certain period of time.” Certainly advice college students could use every once in a while…
It is easy for a published writer to give advice to aspiring writers, but it is another thing to go out there and do something. Applewhite had the opportunity to actually mentor an unpublished fellow mystery writer, and like in many relationships like this, she admits that “I received more than I gave.” It is important for all writers to pay attention to the works of others especially in genre writing, where conventions play a huge role. In general though, Claire reinforces how important it is for all writers to read, and read everything. Through this, it is easier to discover your own voice, and Applewhite, “heard it said that a writer must write a million words to find their ‘voice’.”
Applewhite has since written three mystery novels including her debut, and three romance novels. Writers today have the advantage of electronic promotion publicity, which Claire admits makes things much easier. This is all a huge help, but she prefers the individual contact that can only come from in-person book signings. She shares, “I don’t think anything will ever take the thrill out of a book launch at a bookstore where I actually meet and talk with people who buy and read my books.”
True dedication from an author to her fans will certainly never go out of style.
For more on Claire Applewhite and for information on how to purchase her works, please visit her website at www.claireapplewhite.com.