L.A. Jacob (00:00:11): Hello and welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. I am your host, L.A. Jacob. This month we will be talking with Nancy Wood, author of the Shelby McDougall Mysteries, available from Paper Angel Press.
Here are some other things that are available from our sponsors. Available in the Dragon Gems Program from Water Dragon Publishing this month is L.A. Jacob continuing with her Storyteller’s Tarot, with the Seven of Swords available this month. From Water Dragon Publishing is Angels Found by Ryan Southwick and Hunter by Morgan Shalut. And on May 1st is The Insane God by Jay Hartlove. How do you Spell The Sound of Crickets by Paula Bruni and Jori Post will be available at the end of April from Unruly Voices. Coming up our interview with Nancy Wood.
Shelby McDougall is facing a mountain of student debt and a memory that she’d just as soon forget. An ad asking for a surrogate mother offers her away to erase the loans and write her karmic place in the cosmos. From author Nancy Wood comes the Shelby McDougall Mysteries Now available in audio editions narrated by Jen Broda. Listen to Nancy Woods’s suspenseful world solving mysteries of kidnappings, stolen fertility, genetic experimentation, and surrogate motherhood. The Shelby McDougall series Due Date, The Stork and The Found Child, in addition to Treasure Hunt, a Shelby McDougall Story all written by Nancy Wood and read for you by Jen Broda are available in audio editions from Audible, Amazon, and Apple iTunes.
Today we have Nancy Wood who is the author of a series of books having to do with Shelly McDougall and her mystery stories, Due Date, The Stork, The Found Child and Treasure Hunt. Welcome, Nancy, to Small Publishing in a Big Universe.
Nancy Wood (00:02:38): Thank you for having me. It’s nice to be here.
L.A. Jacob (00:02:41): The first question is, what is your most recent book about?
Nancy Wood (00:02:44): The recent book is the third book in the Shelby McDougall Mysteries and it’s called The Found Child and it is the third book in the trilogy. I set out to write a trilogy. Third book wraps up Shelby’s story and in it, she really comes full circle. When the series starts she’s very young, in her early twenties and when it’s finishes she’s in her mid-thirties so she has a lot of adventures and personal growth during the series. I wanted it to end on a happy note ‘cause in 2020 we needed happy endings. I had toyed with it ending in a much darker place, but I decided ultimately and I’m very happy that I chose the happy ending.
L.A. Jacob (00:03:29): Happy endings are good to have.
Nancy Wood (00:03:31): Yes, yes, I agree. I agree. The series does offer opportunities if I decided to continue writing about Shelby because I did set it up. So, there is, there are more stories to tell for Shelby. Not quite there as a writer yet to get back to writing them.
L.A. Jacob (00:03:48): Yeah, that was one of the questions that I had is whether or not you were going to continue with this character and with more books on her. That’s a TBA I guess.
Nancy Wood (00:03:58): That’s a TBA. I have been thinking about some short stories. Treasure Hunt is the book that you mentioned at the beginning. That is the short story. So I can see more short stories. I like writing short stories, but they’re a lot harder for me to write than full length, compact compressed and hard to weave a complete story with middle, end, and some personal growth in 20 pages.
L.A. Jacob (00:04:24): What was the inspiration for the series?
Nancy Wood (00:04:28): When I was first starting to write full-length books, I went to a commercial workshop. I had written a book about adoption. It was women’s fiction, and it was slow and it was kind of cumbersome and somebody at the workshop suggested that I turn it into a mystery and by the end of the workshop I had my 250-word pitch and book blurb. I had my character, I had my setting. So, it was a flash of inspiration for that workshop participant just launched me in a whole new direction. I had never really read mysteries or thrillers before that. And so, I launched into reading all the first Edgar Novel winners…
L.A. Jacob (00:05:11): What is some of your favorite authors or mystery titles that inspired you?
Nancy Wood (00:05:16): One of the writers that really inspired me, her name is Cornelia Reed and her character was Madeline Dare and she wrote a series of three books. I don’t know what happened to Cornelia Reed. She doesn’t have a website anymore and she hasn’t written anything else, so I think she did it. And then she moved on to other things, but she won the Edgar Award one year for first novel and her writing is snappy and compressed and tight and her character is funny. She was able to use humor really well. So I studied her first chapter in each of her books, but it’s another one of my favorites is Nevada Bar, who writes the Anna Pigeon series set in the National Parks. Oh, of course, Sue Gra and the Kinsey Mill Home series, which right now I’m actually listening to all the audiobooks in order because I always go back to my favorites for inspiration. I’m a member here in Santa Cruz of a group called the Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. And there are nine of us, and we all write different types of books. So, we represent cozies and thrillers and pot boilers and recipe chefs and sleuths. So it’s, that’s been really fun to get introduced to just a wide variety of different types of mysteries. Mystery writing can take you in any direction you wanna go.
L.A. Jacob (00:06:35): What kind of mystery is this would be this, this wouldn’t be a cozy?
Nancy Wood (00:06:40): A cozy, no. It’s kind of a, there’s no cozy, you know, the dead body has to be in the first chapter so there’s no dead bodies and mine, it’s more of a suspense thriller slash suspense mystery. It falls into that category.
L.A. Jacob (00:06:55): What is your favorite scene in any of the three books that you have?
Nancy Wood (00:07:01): Oh my gosh. I think my favorite scene comes from the last book. Not only do I solve the mystery that’s part of Shelby’s life for the last dozen years, but I also set her up as a private detective and give some more information, description and insight into what she does as a PI. And so, one of my favorite several chapters was when she tracks a wandering fiancé to Las Vegas and follows her around. I just had really a lot of fun constructing that. I feel like I was able to dig into what she would do as a private detective, and I was able to give the setting of Las Vegas and what a bachelorette party would do in Las Vegas. So, I did a lot of research and reading about that and I think that was one of my favorite scenes to write. And as I read it, I really liked the detail I was able to put into that. I feel like it really comes to life off the page.
L.A. Jacob (00:07:57): Great. Well, that’s in The Found Child, correct? What is your usual work schedule while you’re writing?
Nancy Wood (00:08:03): Before I retired I had a really amazing work schedule. I would get up early in the morning and try to write for an hour before I went off to work, knew that by the time I got home it wouldn’t happen. So, I would try to do it early in the morning and I found that that time worked really well when I was just getting up and having my cup of coffee and I was kind of still in tune with what I had written the day before. I had a, a habit of stopping in the middle of a paragraph or the middle of a scene so I could pick it up easily. The energy would keep flowing the next day. That worked really well for me. I, I was able to, I don’t remember the word count, but I was really able to get in a solid hour before the day started. That was great. And I had all this unstructured time. Well, I don’t know, I just would go days without doing anything and I thought, oh gosh, when I retire, I’m gonna just be do do do do do. But it didn’t happen that way.
L.A. Jacob (00:08:59): Do you find it more difficult now that you have all this, like you said, unstructured time?
Nancy Wood (00:09:04): Yeah, yeah. And I have, since The Found Child was published, I haven’t done any writing, so I’m kind of not, I would say I’m looking for a new project. I’ve done a lot of journaling, a lot of reading, and I’ve been thinking about a short story as I mentioned before, fun to have a, a collection of Shelby short stories that kind of fit into the years in between the three books. But I haven’t quite figured out how that would work.
L.A. Jacob (00:09:32): Now I understand that your story is in the contemporary times.
Nancy Wood (00:09:36): It is.
L.A. Jacob (00:09:37): How did recent events such as Covid or the other things impact your story?
Nancy Wood (00:09:45): It impacted my story quite significantly that the last one, The Found Child, I had set the book in 2020 and as I was finishing the book in the spring of 2020, I realized I really couldn’t not address Covid. So, I went back through the whole book and I introduced social distance, family bubbles and masking and all the things we had to go through last spring and last summer because the book took place in September of 2020. So, after I finished all that and I submitted the book, the fire hit the huge fires here in Santa Cruz County tore through the county, and my character was living up in the Santa Cruz mountains where the fire was very prevalent and many people lost their homes. So I, I had to go back in and rewrite for the fire. I did a lot of rewriting to address current events.
L.A. Jacob (00:10:37): Did it take you twice as long then to…
Nancy Wood (00:10:39): I was able to weave it in pretty, pretty well. I use a technique in my writing where I color code after I finished the draft. It takes me a long time. I did like 10 different drafts. I color code all the paragraphs, I tease out the themes. So, I had about six themes in this story and I was able to tease out all the themes and then I color coded all the themes to find out how often they fall out or come back into the book. Mm-hmm.
L.A. Jacob (00:11:58): I understand that your books are available in audio?
Nancy Wood (00:12:03): Yes, the audio books were narrated by Jen Broda and she just did a fantastic job bringing Shelby’s voice to reality. She modulated so well and uh, Shelby grows and transforms. I could pick up these subtle changes in the way she was narrating the character and I, I can’t really articulate it, but it just, it worked really well. The process was very interesting at the beginning. She asked for a description of who the main characters were and who would show up in what books and the timeframe. And she was able to make Shelby just sound older. You know, our voices change as we, as we get older, or things change in our lives. And it’s just really fascinating to me how she was able to do that.
L.A. Jacob (00:12:51): Being that you’ve got audio, trade paperback, how was your entire publishing experience with…
Nancy Wood (00:12:59): I was with another publisher for a couple years for the first two books and then Steven invited me to submit and I did. And I haven’t looked back. It’s been, I was able to disengage from my previous contract. I really, so appreciative of what Paper Angel Press does for authors. To hold the book in your hands is just a beautiful thing. The layout is beautiful, the covers are amazing. Paper and font are so substantial and that’s been such a pleasure the way that Paper Angel Press markets and helps authors is interested in your career as a writer and your career as somebody on social media trying to reach out to readers. It’s really, it’s phenomenal.
L.A. Jacob (00:13:46): The other thing I understand is that you were a technical writer?
Nancy Wood (00:13:50): A gazillion years!
L.A. Jacob (00:13:51): How did technical writing actually helped you when it came to fictional writing?
Nancy Wood (00:13:57): Well, it’s kind of an interesting thing. It helped and it hindered, it helped because it gave me the discipline of sitting down and just writing something whether I wanted to or not. It really, it gave me the practice of writing and it gave me the ability to, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will sometimes make up things that all technical writers do at some point because the software isn’t quite ready. So, you just kind of figure it out as you go along. But the other thing it, it was a hindrance in is I, it gave me, sometimes I have the tendency to over describe, to say too much because I wanna explain everything. But in reading of course you need to hold things back and not, uh, you need to not give everything away to the reader all at once. So, I had to do so much editing to take stuff out.
L.A. Jacob (00:14:52): Do you plan it out on paper, or do you plan it out in your head or do you plan it out at all?
Nancy Wood (00:14:57): Oh, I plan it out on paper. I knew the story arc of all the different books and then I planned it out chapter by chapter and sometimes I would go down plot lines that didn’t actually work with the character, so then I had to undo them and kind of undo all the places that would get me to that plot line. So especially for the second book, I had a really hard time with that one and I wrote it and rewrote it, and I wrote it so many different ways. So, well, I did lay it out ahead of time and then I would veer off the course and I would get lost.
L.A. Jacob (00:15:31): What is your advice to new writers, especially writers coming at it from a technical background?
Nancy Wood (00:15:39): I think the hardest thing and the most critical thing is to practice and do it every day. Just make it, get yourself in the habit because like anything at practice you’ll improve. It’s so important to just, I think, to just churn out words and then discard and keep writing and keep writing and keep writing. And another thing that, it was a funny piece of advice, but for me it really worked. I found authors that I like and when I was learning how to do this and I would sit down with a piece of paper in a pen and I would copy their first chapters and I did that maybe five times for the chapters I like, I just repeated it. And it was interesting that the exercise of doing that really gave me more insight into how to put a sentence together, how dialogue works. It doesn’t work, it, it’s very interesting. It’s different handwriting something than typing
L.A. Jacob (00:16:35): It. Now how can people contact you?
Nancy Wood (00:16:38): People can go to my website, NancyWoodBooks.com and NancyWoodBooks gmail.com and that’s where I am. People can find out about my books, learn a little bit more about me, and then there’s blog there.
L.A. Jacob (00:16:52): Thank you very much for your time and thank you very much for all of the great advice and the methods and madness that you use for, for writing your books.
The Insane God by Jay Heartlove. A meteorite fragment cures a teenaged trans girl’s schizophrenia but leaves her with visions of ancient warring Gods, annihilating each other in space. As the Earth hurtles towards the cloud, that is, the shattered bodies of these eternal enemies, their eons old conflict is rekindled on earth to divide and destroy humanity. Can she and her brother stop the spread of global disaster? The Insane God from Jay Hartlove is available now in hardcover, trade paperback, and digital editions. For more information, waterdragonpublishing.com/product/insane-god.
L.A. Jacob (00:17:23):Thanks again to our guest, Nancy Wood. Next month, we will have author Jay Hartlove.
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This podcast was recorded and edited by yours truly, L.A. Jacob. Executive producer is Steven Radecki. Transcription services provided by Sleepy Fox Studio.
This month’s episode was sponsored by Paper Angel Press and its imprints, Water Dragon Publishing and Unruly Voices. You can hear our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, and most of your favorite podcast services. Visit our marketplace for more information about books that are mentioned on this podcast. Thanks very much for listening and talk to you soon.