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Interview with Whitney Skeen

How did I become a writer?

Like many, my interest in writing came from a love of reading as a child. To me, the writer is a magician with unique powers to transport the reader to another place, time or circumstance. A writer can create that which does not exist – anything from a character that reminds you of your sister, to a world unlike anything you’ve ever imagined. With a few words, an author can place you in someone else’s mind and allow you to see the world through their eyes. Like I said…it’s magic. Who wouldn’t want to be magic?

How do I develop my plot and characters?

Ideas for plot and characters for my first novel came from events and people in my own life. I live on the coast of North Carolina, and one day my husband, sons and I beached our boat on an uninhabited island near our house. A sign positioned in the sand said, “Missing Beagle named Chaucer.” Having three dogs of my own, I imagined what Chaucer’s family must’ve been feeling with their dog gone. Then I wondered where a dog would go and how he would survive for days on an uninhabited island. What had lured him away from his people?Finally, I imagined a lonely boy who loved Chaucer more than anything and was desperate to find him. With that, “The McFarland Files” began to unfold in my mind.

Share some challenges I face as a writer.

One of the most significant challenges I find as a writer is that I am always “working.” Even when I am not sitting at my computer, I am on the lookout for unusual settings, an interesting person or character trait. As Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

About my protagonist:

It is common for teenagers to feel as if they don’t “fit in” with their peers, but Hank “formerly-known-as-Boomer” Boyd really doesn’t. He isn’t your normal fourteen-year-old. His intelligence and feelings of intellectual superiority have led him to struggle with making friends. He’d rather be researching a topic in forensic science than playing video games or hanging out with friends. And of course, there is the matter that he doesn’t have any friends.Hank has a great deal of anxiety that dates back to kindergarten and is exacerbated by a tragic event that occurred in sixth grade. Meeting Hannah provides an opportunity to reinvent himself.

How does my antagonist create conflict?

The starring antagonist in Hank’s life is Dillon Buckley. He does what he can to harass and wreak havoc in Hank’s life. Hank is not Dillon’s only victim, but he is his most consistent one. Dillon has had it out for Hank since first grade when the unfortunate boomeranging incident occurred.

What are my current and future projects?

I am currently working on two sequels to my first contemporary teen mystery where Hank and Hannah explore new mysteries and crimes in and around Vista Point.

Do I have a routine I follow when writing?

I usually write for several hours in the morning. I keep a notebook and memos on my phone when I have an idea, hear a memorable quote or think of a change I want to make to my stories or characters. In general, when a story idea comes to me, I start writing with only broad thoughts of where I want to take my plot. It’s certainly not the most efficient way of writing, but it is what works best for me.

What is my advice for aspiring writers?

Walter Dean Myers said it best: “Just write.” I would modify that: Just write but don’t worry whether it is right. I have several writer friends who are obsessive plotters with lovely, neat, volumes of notes, plot points, and research, but they are paralyzed when it comes time to actually putting their story on paper. If you never start a novel, you will most definitely never finish. When I first began writing, I wanted to tell the entire story on the first page. It took a lot of discipline to remind myself that stories need to unfold, point by point, character by character, word by word. I think many beginning writers feel overwhelmed by the notion of letting their story unfold and must control the tendency to spew the entire plot out in the first paragraph of their novel.If that’s your tendency, write a synopsis first so you can get it all out, then go back and BUILD your story.

What is my preferred method for readers to contact me?

Tweet me @whitneyskeen

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