Author Interview: Trevor Wiltzen
Mabel Davison is a hardworking, feisty Mama Bear.
She never backs down from a challenge, follows her instincts, and stands up for what she knows in her heart to be right. If you like strong female characters (and who doesn't, am I right?) this is a mystery series I highly recommend.
You can read my full reviews of both Heart of a Runaway Girl and Missed Me here.
Here's the blurb from Book 1:
In a 1980s mountain town fueled by the drug trade, a young couple gets into an argument at Mabel’s Diner. Then the teen girl winds up brutally murdered that night, and the black boyfriend automatically jailed. Haunted by the tragedy, big-hearted, big-haired, single mom and waitress, Mabel Davison steps in and asks questions few want answered. But she’s unprepared for the secrets she uncovers, and now more lives may be destroyed, including her own.
Today, we'll get to hear from Edmonton-based, independent author, Trevor Wiltzen about his writing process and what's next for your soon-to-be favorite waitress.
LQ: Mabel is such a multi-faceted, memorable character. She feels very authentic. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?
TW: Thanks so much for your kind comments. Mabel started as a side character from another unpublished manuscript. I had spent eight years struggling to write that manuscript until I had a revelation. At first, I thought I just needed a professional editor to fix it. But after I had it professionally edited, the manuscript was still terrible. Why? It wasn’t the writing. It was because I didn’t know my main characters well (amazing, I know, after all that time). However, I did know Mabel. For some reason, she just spoke to me. I then put that manuscript aside and started writing about Mabel. The words just flowed out of me. I wrote 70,000 words for the first book and then kept writing. I wrote 80,000 words for the sequel and didn’t stop. In all, over six months, I wrote over 250,000 words (three books) about Mabel. I absolutely loved it. While Mabel isn’t someone I know, it’s someone I would love to know. With her sass and wit and her strength and doggedness of character, I would love to sit down in her fictional diner, write my books, and watch her shine. Maybe because I spent so many years writing in such places, writing about Mabel just feels like home.
LQ: I have fun fan-casting my own series, even if it is just on a mood or Pinterest board. Keeps those creative juices flowing. Which actors would you choose for yours?
TW: This is a great question. I love the movie (and television series) Fargo, but really any movie with great character actors fits the bill. I am not thinking A-list stars here, but the wonderful actors with an every-person look, who can knock your socks off with effortless acting, like they were born to play the parts. While I don't have a specific actress in mind, I think of a Kathy Bates or Frances McDormand type of actress who can transform a role. Mabel is a powerhouse and needs someone who doesn't just look the part but can act it. Alternatively, I would love to cast an unknown actor to play the part.
LQ: Haunting Pasts is now your third book in this series. What significant ways has Mabel changed since your first draft of Heart of a Runaway Girl?
TW: At the start of the series, Mabel is a kind-hearted soul who looks on the bright side of life. But the past year has been incredibly hectic for her. With a nearby mine opening up, tens of construction workers eat at her diner and stay in her motel. Furthermore, she is a single mom of two young boys, having kicked her husband out for drinking. She had never wanted to be a private investigator. She only fell into the profession because she met a young man accused of murder, and no one else was standing up for him. But by asking questions, she put herself and her family at risk. In the second book, she tackles a case about missing girls. The outcome of that case reshaped her town in ways both good and bad and ultimately made her an outcast, which hurt her deeply because she cares so much about the community. Imagine a strong, loving woman who has now faced the darkest sides of humanity, coming to grips with the horrors of what she has seen but then asked to do more. But how much more can one big-hearted woman take?
LQ: What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
TW: I need to get to know my characters before the writing flows out of me. Whenever I struggled the most with writing, I was writing for someone else in mind. The secret of good writing is never to stop. Just keep writing. Write about what you know or what inspires you. Don’t try to be commercial. Just write from your heart.
LQ: What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
TW: I love coffee shops, bars, and diners. I love the hustle and bustle around me. I love to have a coffee (or beer) beside me, maybe a cinnamon bun too (at the coffee shop). I then set up my laptop, take a drink and then go. I think of my characters in a scene and then start writing. I don’t know exactly what they will say or what the scene will lead to. I just throw them in and let them talk or act. I then feel like I am witnessing a movie unfolding, and I must write as fast as possible to catch up. I don’t stop to edit. I write my books in one draft. Afterwhich, I go back to edit (which takes about four times as long as writing them). However, I find my edits are more copy-editing than developmental editing and that the core of my story remains. The second draft is usually the harshest with the most changes, and the final edit may only be a word or two. It usually takes about 30-40 drafts to get my story polished and print-ready.
LQ: What has helped or hindered you most with regard to publishing?
TW: The marketing of it. When I got my first book print-ready, I had no website, social media presence, or marketing plan. I had absolutely no idea what to do, haha. Indie publishing is a beast of a business, and it has a very steep learning curve for any indie author. You not only have to write the book, but you also have to be your agent, marketer, publisher, designer, copy editor, publicist, and more. It’s a massive undertaking that you can only take one step at a time. Knowing how hard this process is, I have started a Youtube channel and am offering advice for up-and-coming authors on how to thrive in this indie publishing business. As a writer, I want to give back to other writers and readers since I love it so much. I feel we are in this together, and if you can learn from my mistakes (and successes), that makes me happy. I highly encourage other writers (published or not) to pursue their dreams and keep writing and publishing. I encourage my readers to connect with me and each other to share our love of books.
LQ: Keeping craft in mind, do you have any favorite blogs or websites specific to writing?
TW: I have made lots of great social media friends. The Instagram bookstagrammer community is wonderfully supportive, and I have met some great people, including you. You have been a big supporter of fellow indie authors, and I appreciate everything you are doing by helping others in this community.
LQ: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?
TW: I am editing my third book in the Mabel Davison series, titled Haunting Pasts. I am also writing a short story about several characters to give away to my e-newsletter members for free. After this series, I have two more unpublished manuscripts and a new series in the works—lots of stuff on the go. Again, if you want to learn more about this business, either reach out to me on my Instagram, watch one of my Youtube videos, send me an email or join my growing e-newsletter community. We are a passionate bunch of writers and book lovers, and it would be great to connect.
Heart of a Runaway Girl and Missed Me are available for order here. Don't forget to sign up for Trevor's newsletter while you're there.