Authors share writing secrets
by Courtney Warren
Mar 02, 2014 | 4047 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Musician and DMI instructor Tricia Walker speaks to visiting authors at Friday’s book signing.
Musician and DMI instructor Tricia Walker speaks to visiting authors at Friday’s book signing.
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Creativity was flowing as three Mississippi authors visited the Delta State University campus Friday.

Charlaine Harris, Dean James, and Carolyn Haines came to DSU for two morning lectures and a panel discussion, then visited the Ellis Theatre and the Delta Arts Alliance for a book signing and short readings.

The event was sponsored by Graduate and Continuing Studies and put together by Beverly Moon.

Harris, a New York Times bestselling author and writer of the "The Sookie Stackhouse Series" presented and promoted her newest book, "Cemetery Girl: Book One, The Pretenders," the first installment in a three book series of graphic novels.

Harris is originally from Tunica and calls herself "a true daughter of the south" and said Mississippi left a mark on her forever.

Dean James, a double alumnus of Delta State, ’80 and ’81, and the author of over 20 books, presented and promoted his new book "The Silence of the Library" written under the pseudonym Miranda James.

"The Silence in the Library" is the fifth books in "The Cat in the Stacks Series" and is about the town librarian Charlie Harris, and his Maine Coon cat Diesel.

Carolyn Haines, author of the “Sarah Booth Delaney Series" and professor at the University of South Alabama promoted her new book "The Seeker," written under pseudonym R.B. Chesterton.

During one of the lectures the authors discussed the importance of reading.

“Reading is fundamental to being a writer. You need to read good books and you need to read bad books and learn to tell the difference between the two … I got to travel all over the world as a child through books,” said James.

James also discussed what he enjoyed reading as a child — Nancy Drew mysteries being one of his top choices.

James also mentioned he liked writing about amateur detectives because they are relatable.

“Nancy Drew was fun because you can put yourself in the story. I love creating obnoxious people and killing them. You get in trouble if you do that in real life,” he explained.

Harris added writing is an outlet for people to get their frustrations on paper and express themselves.

“Horror writers are some of the most jolly people. They have Hawaiian shirt contests at conferences and it’s because they have no pent up anger. I love the idea that I’m giving people a vacation. Some people say it’s escapist and yes it is. But what’s wrong with that,” she said.

During the panel discussion the authors were asked questions by three Delta State professors, Dorothy Shawhan, Susan Allen Ford and Karen Bell.

One of the questions asked was can a teacher teach fiction writing.

Haines, who teaches graduate and undergraduate fiction writing classes at the University of South Alabama, where she is an assistant professor and fiction coordinator, answered, “You can teach the craft of writing but you can’t teach the voice or give a student a story. Writing is very hard. You must be compelled to write. The most gratifying thing is to say something and turn the light on for that student. You have to have the inner fire for it because it’s very hard.”

The authors also discussed their critiquing strategies and why critiques from other authors are helpful.

Harris said, “The more editing I have the better.”

She also explained she has two friends that are writers whom she speaks with almost every day and they have become her first readers.

James said writers must learn what is constructive criticism and what is destructive criticism.

When asked why they chose to use a pseudonym, both James and Haines said a lot of that choice involved marketing strategy.

James explained that sometimes when a book doesn’t work well you could use a pseudonym and have a fresh start.

He also said, “because my name is Dean James I’m almost invisible on the internet because when you search for me you get a dead movie star. You change your name to reinvent yourself and give yourself a fresh start. You can also choose names because of where they’d be placed on the shelves, though that sometimes doesn’t work. It’s never been a secret that I’m Miranda.”

Haines explained she chose her pseudonym to let her readers know they would be reading something different than her Sarah Booth Delaney books.

“It signaled to the audience that this was something different. You do not play with readers expectations,” said Haines.

After the panel discussion the authors went to the Delta Arts Alliance for a reading, book signing, and reception.

Rori Herbison, executive director of the DAA, said, “It’s events like this, days like today, that make me extremely proud to work in the arts. Today celebrated all the arts can be and its many intricate forms and beauty. Celebrating the literary arts inside our exhibition space surrounded by synergistic visual arts—that’s a great day. We were honored to host Charlaine, Carolyn, and Dean and their many fans, all while allowing our guests to view on the current exhibit, The Antiquarian Photography Show. We are hopeful this will be a perennial event and a continuing partnership with the Delta State University Continuing Education.”