About P. A. Duncan:
P. A. Duncan is a former commercial pilot and aviation safety official (aka a bureaucrat, but one with an overactive imagination), who loves history, politics, and spies. Somehow, she merges all three in her fiction about recent history and current events. She is proud of her 30+ years of public service in the U.S. government's Federal Aviation Administration.
A graduate of Madison College, now James Madison University, Duncan lives and writes in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where she also cheers for the New York Yankees, watches F1 and NASCAR, and delights in spoiling grandchildren.
What inspires you to write?
I've always had stories to tell, and stories about historical events and figures are what piqued my interest in history and politics. I wanted to write stories like that. I feel I have something to say, and I express it best in fiction. That is the driving force behind my writing. However, my inspiration for writing goes back to the stories I enjoyed in TV shows like "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "The Avengers"–the John Steed/Emma Peel version.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Oh, so many. James Joyce, Seamus Heaney. Margaret Atwood, Sara Paretsky, the late Sue Grafton. Neil Gaiman, Robert Galbraith (and yes, I know who that really is), Heather Cox Richardson, David McCullough, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, etc. And it goes without saying Alan Furst and the incredible John le Carre.
Tell us about your writing process.
I generally get a concept in my head, and the characters start "talking" to me. I'll write a series of unconnected scenes around the concept, which, I suppose is my version of plotting. Then, I go back and develop the transitions. I consider myself a hybrid: a plotter and a pantser. I use Scrivener for what plotting I do, and it's my favorite writing tool.
I usually have several different books in various stages of completion going at once. When I get bogged down or blocked in one, I switch to another.
I've found the biggest help in my writing is a commitment to write something every day. My goal is at least 500 words a day, but the reality is some days are highly productive and some days aren't. Rather like life.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Yes! We have conversations all the time. One character I considered killing off "told" me in no uncertain terms it was not his time to go, and I took his word for it.
Quite often, after writing dialogue, I read it aloud in the characters' accents to hear how it sounds–is it real or stilted, does it reflect their personalities? It's great fun, until I forget that the grandkids are here, and they want to know to whom I'm talking.
What advice would you give other writers?
Tell your stories as you want them to be told, especially show your characters how you see them. I went to a talk by mystery writer Sara Paretsky, wherein she described a conflict with an editor who wanted her strong female protagonist, V.I. Warshawsky, to be more girlie and how Paretsky set the editor straight about the character. Paretsky made me realize I was being dishonest in portraying my own female protagonist. That led to a lot of rewriting, but now that character is authentic as herself.
Try to write every day, to develop a life-long habit. And love your work; show that love by using professional editing to help you improve your writing and to present your best work.
Finally, write because you want to.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I have had a lot of short stories traditionally published in literary magazines and anthologies. I tried the same route with traditional publishers, but the only offers I received were ones from hybrid publishers who wanted me to pay them to publish my work. And, the feedback these publishers were providing wasn't helpful but rather "happy to glad" changes. I was still on the fence about self-publishing. Fortunately, I have several authors who are my mentors, including one who knew I had publishing experience (I was a magazine editor for 11 years.) and who assured me I could successfully self-publish. I do, but I hire professionals for the aspects of publishing that aren't my strengths, i.e., I can't critically edit my own work, so I hire a professional editor; I'm not a graphic artist, so I hire cover artists or find pre-made covers that work with the story. I pay someone to give me marketing advice.
The aim is when I see one of my books next to a traditionally published book on a bookstore shelf, I can't tell visually which was self-published and which was traditionally published. That quality assurance extends to the inside as well.
Explore both publishing avenues but always realize there is nothing wrong with self-publishing done professionally.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we will eventually see agents fall by the wayside. They like to refer to themselves as "gatekeepers," that is, keeping out the riff-raff. However, it's all so subjective on their parts. An agent once told me if he'd had a fight with his wife, he wouldn't look at a book written by a woman. Besides the overt sexism, I wasn't interested in dealing with his bias.
I believe eventually, self- or independent-publishing, the term I prefer, will take precedence, but only if the self-published author approaches the process as if he or she were a traditional publisher–focusing on professionalism.
What genres do you write?: Historical thrillers, Historical Espionage Fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.