About Ritter Ames:
Ritter Ames is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Organized Mysteries and the Bodies of Art Mysteries. She lives atop a very green hill with her husband and Labrador retriever, and spends each day globetrotting the art world from her laptop with Pandora blasting into her earbuds. Often with the dog snoring at her feet. She’s been known to plan trips after researching new books, and keeps a list of “can’t miss” foods to taste along the way.
What inspires you to write?
I love mysteries and I always want to know what has happened to my characters since the last time I was in their world. Also, my readers are simply wonderful, and they’re always wanting to know what comes next. So do I. To me, books are magic, and I rarely want to know exactly how magic works–but all things considered, writing series mysteries is a natural progression for me to meet all these “favorite” things in my life.
Tell us about your writing process.
I write all over the place, but I have to work near a window or outside in the sunshine–there’s nothing better. I’m more plotter than pantser. Before I start a new project, I spend several days scrawling bits onto paper. Like I’m having coffee with the page and telling it what’s going to happen to my characters and things they’ll say. A very messy process, but it works. I don’t include everything, but cover all the major bases—beginning, middle, and end. Detours, of course, crop up. That’s fine. My notes keep me from getting too far afield.
I probably should mention that I write two very different mystery series. The Organized Mysteries is a traditional-style series. My main protagonist is organization expert Kate McKenzie, and two married moms solve crimes as amateur sleuths (mostly ignoring their husbands’ wise warnings), in a lovely southwestern Vermont venue. I love to relax and let Kate and Meg sleuth around, organize people and snoop in the process, and get a little snarky when no one else is listening to them. I love both of these characters and all their family and friends.
My other series, the Bodies of Art Mysteries, requires an extensive amount of research and preplanning. The first two books were released in early 2016 by Henery Press and a third book will be released in October 2016. This series is a blast to write, and luckily reader feedback tells me it’s a blast to read, too. My characters lead readers (and the author) on a merry chase through amazing European capitals and well-known locales. Everything is written from the viewpoint of art recovery expert Laurel Beacham, but mystery man Jack Hawkes is paramount for each adventure’s fun and success–and their dialogue is fast and furious. Since I have tie-ins to art, art history, European locations, posh fundraising events, and all means of transportation—oh, and escape techniques when main characters run afoul of bad guys—I do a LOT of research.
For the Organized Mysteries, I use small Composition Books for each mystery, brainstorming at the front, writing out the outline as long as it needs to be, and then crossing out everything as I put the info or the idea into the manuscript as a proper scene or chapter.
For the Bodies of Art Mysteries, I have a tray of index cards–at least a hundred per book–that I write and store on my desk each day as I type. I add index cards all the time, as cards I make up as I write one book may not be used until the next book. When an index card is actually used in a book, I clip it with the others that have already been written into the work-in-progress (WIP). I don’t throw them away because I often use the card(s) again to remind me to add a detail in one of the next books. Each Bodies of Art book is written as a standalone, but all are part of a larger five-book series arc, so I must constantly consider both the last book and the next book as I work on the current manuscript. Otherwise, I run the risk of plotting myself into a corner in a later book, or missing an opportunity to tie up an end at its proper resolution.
Beyond that, I use a large double-white board to plot and keep myself moving forward all the time on whichever series I’m writing at the moment. The double board is hinged between the two white boards and big–about 2×4 each–so it can stand up on its on the floor as I work. I use colored markers and different colored Post-It Notes to plot out everything in a more readily visible way than can be seen on the outline. This also gives me the ability to add additional info I’ve brainstormed since I wrote the outline(s), plus I can shift the Post-Its around on the board to change the direction of things.
I do all my writing in Microsoft Word, because that’s what every editor I’ve ever worked for has wanted me to use. I’ve purchased Scrivener, and tried to use it, but while it’s pretty and has the index cards and all, I’ve found the system I already use works best for me. I’m sure Scrivener could help some things about the writing process move faster, and maybe eventually I’ll find out, but for now I feel I work much more smoothly without it. But I do like the idea of having everything in a digital file that I now do on index cards, whiteboard, and Post-It Notes–just to be able to save it all more efficiently if for no other reason.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I am a very fast writer, and while I always have a messy outline to keep me from getting from point A to point Z, I absolutely let the characters take off and lead me on a chase when they have a better idea than I have. I don’t mind rewriting if I need to, and sometimes the only way to see new directions is to just take off and write whatever the characters want to do differently. My subconscious and my characters often surprise me with all the jaw dropping twists the conscious me never imagines when I sit down each morning to write. That’s not to say all of the new ideas get into the final work each time–I edit ruthlessly and have no fear of rewriting huge swatches of text–but I definitely listen when my characters want to take control.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read, read, read the kind of books you want to write. If you can find a good critique group, definitely sign up. Having to account for how much (or how little) you write each week will make you write more. And the more you write, the easier the words come. But going back to my first sentence–read, read, read. Also, don’t try to market until you have the book completed. I know so many writers who have talked about their book for years, but haven’t taken the time to sit down and finish it. It is almost impossible anymore to sell a book that isn’t done. It’s happened, sure, but usually just to already established authors.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I finished a book, started another, and submitted until someone said yes. Writing the book is truly just the first step in the process. Now, I’m with two publishers, and I’m self-publishing cozies and mystery anthologies. The more I get into writing and publishing books, the more interesting it all is. My advice to new authors is to ask a lot of questions, and find Facebook author groups of writers who write the kind of books you do. There’s no one way to do anything in publishing today, but it all goes much easier the more you know before you start.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I’m excited about it. There are so many new avenues, and almost endless ways to learn more about all phases of the publishing game. I think publishing is constantly changing, sure, but what isn’t today? I’m thrilled that authors whose series I loved–but had their series dropped by big publishing–are now continuing these same beloved series through self-publishing. And thanks to self-publishing I’m reading British, South African, and Australian authors I probably wouldn’t have even heard about before, because their books would have been published by publishers in their own countries, and I wouldn’t have had access to those titles. So many choices for authors and readers today!
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Mysteries–both of my series tend to get categorized in cozy, but the Bodies of Art Mysteries is really a light suspense/caper type of mystery. Both are clean mysteries, no gore, PG-language, and fun characters
What formats are your books in?: eBook, Print, 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.