Guest Post: Get to Know Bee Murray & Niobe Marsh

An interview with the USA Today Bestselling authors of Bad Blood: A VamPR Nightmare!

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What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?

NIOBE: I read a LOT of historical novels. Not even sorry, I’m a super history nerd.

  • Memoirs of a Geisha — Arthur Golden
  • Pillars of the Earth — Wilbur Smith
  • River God — Wilbur Smith
  • Aztec — Gary Jennings
  • Mistress of the Art of Death – Ariana Franklin
  • The Twelfth Transforming – Pauline Gedge
  • House of Dreams – Pauline Gedge
  • The Memoirs of Cleopatra – Margaret George
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
  • The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

BEE: Oh my word, this feels like a trick question. I have to pick favorites? Ugh. I read everything from literary fiction to reverse harem romance to memoirs to historical to paranormal to the classics… I CANNOT CHOOSE!

Here’s some that I will read again and again

  • ANYTHING Auryn Hadley writes ever. But particularly the Gamer Girls Series
  • Bewitched & Bewildered Series — Alanea Alder
  • Dresden Files — Jim Butcher
  • I Am Livia — Phyllis T. Smith
  • Demigods of San Francisco Series — K.F. Breene
  • By A Thread — Lucy Score
  • The Song of Achilles — Madeline Miller
  • Sookie Stackhouse Novels — Charlaine Harris
  • Troubleshooters Series — Suzanne Brockmann
  • Hell’s Redemption Saga — Grace McGinty

Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?

NIOBE: For my writing, I usually know who the character is. Sometimes they’re fully formed in my head because I’ve met someone just like them, or they’re just more brash about it. But more often than not, the character grows as I write them. The first chapters I’m getting into their headspace and trying to decide how they would react to the surrounding situations, and by the fourth or fifth chapter, they’ve taken over and are running on their own. It’s such a strange process, and all writers sound utterly insane when they talk about this stuff.

BEE: I often get a glimpse of one or two characters to start. I have a few exercises I go through to kind of flesh them out a little more, but I rarely start to write on a book and have every single character worked out. They come to me as they are: sometimes they have their shit together and other times they are a complete and total mess. I’m there to help them fit into the overall story. When I’ve had to kill a beloved character or if I know something bad is going to happen to one of them, it feels personal sometimes. I try to use a lot of care in bringing them through things.

What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?

NIOBE: For historical writing (which I do a LOT of) most of my research happens during the writing process. I have a history degree, and I write in the eras that interest me the most (or that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a child) so I write a lot from memory, but when there are specifics that need to be put on paper I research — forty minutes spent looking for articles on how medieval people made soap? Sure. Done that.

For Urban Fantasy, I always spend the most time looking at the city I’ve set the action in. Subway maps, street maps, buildings on google street view. I want the reader to see what I see in my head, and I want the people who actually live in that city not to hate me or my book because I got a subway stop wrong.

BEE: I write across genres so some things require more research than others. I am naturally curious and I want to know how everything works. I don’t want my characters to be constrained by what knowledge I already have, if that makes sense? I’ll give you an example. I have a character in an upcoming book who is a mechanic by trade. I am… the least mechanical person you will ever meet. My idea of fixing a car is to pick up my phone and call someone to come fix it. I’ve spent a lot of time watching Youtube videos about car repair and researching types of engines and brands and such so that I can write this guy with authenticity. I don’t need all the technical stuff to make it work in a paranormal romance novel, but I want his character to stand on his own and for his job to be accurate. So. Long answer to this question. I do a lot of research about minutiae and I love it. 🙂

Do you see writing as a career?

NIOBE: Absolutely.

BEE: 1000%. This is what I want to do with myself, and I am working hard to make it happen! 🙂

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?

NIOBE: Historical Romance and historical fiction. My interests are in the ancient world mostly, so that’s what I read. What I watch is different, but what I read hasn’t really changed since I was a kid.

BEE: I read as much as I can in all my non-existent spare time. I average about 100 books a year. I love getting to read ARCs from some of my favorite author friends. There’s something really special about reading for someone you know. As far as genre: I read a bit of everything. I am attracted to tropes often more than genre. Enemies-to-lovers is probably my all-time favorite trope. I read nonfiction and fiction. I love paranormal/urban fantasy (with or without romance) when I want to escape. I adore a good romcom with all those meet-cute moments. My romance heat levels lean towards steamy-scorching hot, and I love a variety of groupings. MMF romance is one of my favorites in the world of steamy. Mythology and underworld stuff makes me so happy. I rarely read horror, but I expanded my horizons last year and actually wrote a properly scary story for an anthology. 🙂

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

NIOBE:My husband is a… noisy guy. So I get up early to write in silence before he wakes up, and then the rest of the time it’s noise and music and everything else. I can write through movies, conversations while contributing to them, music, whatever. I prefer ambient noise/classical or lofi soundtracks as background noise, but I’m not precious about it.

BEE: There is no such thing as silence in my house unless I want to only write at 2am, but then the cat just meows at me like the needy little booger that he is. I have different writing playlists and usually write to music. Niobe actually introduced me to lofi last year, and that has been awesome. I have developed a few playlists based on what type of scene (sexy, action, sad, etc..) that I’m writing. My end-of-year Spotify report is always really weird.

Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?

NIOBE: Several… ugh. I have three on the go right now for three different pennames and genres.

BEE: I always have more than one going at a time because I write under multiple pen names, but I try to divide it out so that I spend certain days hyperfocusing at one at a time. Note that I said try, lol. This does not always happen.

Pen or typewriter or computer?

NIOBE: Pen and paper for desperate late night ideas, or things I don’t have *real* time for. I used to write in notebooks on my lunch breaks when I had a full-time job, but I’m always scribbling notes. Computer feels more… permanent. If I’m putting it into a document, it must be written at some point. That’s my rule.

BEE: Notebooks for doodling out characters or if I get stuck, endless Google Docs for everything else! 🙂

A day in the life of the author?

NIOBE: Some loose amalgamation of the following:

  • Sprints/writing
  • Procrastination/“research”
  • Scrolling pre-made cover sites to break through writer’s block (I haven’t really perfected this yet, I usually just end up buying covers)
  • All the iced coffee
  • Admin work — promo posting, making graphics, creating release plans
  • Obsessively checking sales pages and reviews/rankings

BEE: I work my day job during the week (and sometimes weekends) so my days are rarely typical. For Saturday, my schedule runs:

  • Breakfast/Review WIP
  • Procrastinate/Research/Social Media/Graphics Design
  • Sprints/Writing/Outlining
  • Social Media Brainstorming (aka bugging Niobe)
  • Parenting Break! Grocery Story/Errands/etc…
  • Sprints/Writing/Outlining
  • Promo/Sales Check
  • Re-read WIP progress
  • Chase Plot Bunnies
  • More Sprints
  • Final Sprints

Advice they would give new authors?

NIOBE: Keep writing. Did you release a book? Awesome. Write the next one. And the next one. And the next one. Hone your craft. No matter how talented you might be, there is always something to learn, and some roadblock to jump over. Keep learning and be humble about it, ffs.

BEE: Find an affirmation that works for you and print that sucker out and stick it next to where you write. Mine is “No Dreams, Just Goals” and I have that where I can see it anytime I sit down at my desk. This inspires me because dreams feel out of reach, but goals have steps to achieve them. After you do that, write. Write whenever you can. I have some days where I can bang out 15k words in one amazing day… and then go three days writing nothing longer than a text message. Don’t hold yourself to impossible standards, just get the words on the paper and let yourself fall into the world you are building. Tell the story that won’t let go of you.

I would also advise new authors to be patient with themselves and their craft, invest in quality craft books when they can, join indie author groups that share information, read a TON in your chosen genre, and be wary of people who say they have it all figured out or can make you into something instantaneously. There are a lot of scams out there that look for baby authors (and established ones) and just remember, if it feels too good to be true — it probably is. Write, revise, write some more! You’ll get there. Also? Friend me on Facebook. 🙂

Describe your writing style.

NIOBE: I like to hope that it’s cinematic… I see the action of the book like a movie in my head, and I hope the reader does, too. That’s my goal.

BEE: Emotional? Maybe? I love writing feelings. Whether that be the angst in enemies-to-lovers or the sharp, witty dialogue of a rom com… I want to write so you can feel it. I aspire to write in a cinematic way but I don’t know that I always do.

What are they currently reading?

NIOBE: Research for my next historical fiction series — Gladius: Living, Fighting, and Dying in the Roman Army – Guy de la Bedoyere

BEE: Rise of the Iliri by Auryn Hadley

What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?

NIOBE: Blurb first, then outline. Getting the blurb out of the way BEFORE I write the book saves me a LOT of heartache. After the book is written, there is way too much in your head and too much information makes a blurb sound like a synopsis.

I’ll never tell anyone how to write or make a process, because every author is different. I’m a plantser— I plan, I plot, but I leave enough room in the outline that things can change. That way when a character goes into the weeds, it’s not as traumatic. I write in chapter order, otherwise I might actually die.

BEE: Niobe has converted me into a plantser. Kind of. I try to outline out, even if it’s just a few points, what the whole book looks like now. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Then I write the scene that is screaming loudest in my head. It is very, very rarely Chapter 1. I hate writing blurbs and probably should write those first but I don’t. LOL

What is your writing Kryptonite?

NIOBE: I have a REAL problem not writing enemies to lovers. It’s just… it’s a thing.

BEE: Enemies-to-Lovers and deconstructing tropes in unexpected ways. Two words: sealion shifters. 😀

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

NIOBE: Both? I think every author struggles with “writing to market” and I’m no exception. I try to tell the stories in my head while hitting the tropes that readers crave. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it super doesn’t.

BEE: I try to find a hybrid that works for my creativity. If I just sat down with a market report and was super analytical about everything as a way of choosing my next project, I’d probably quit. I can’t do that. But I can tie in what is popular in the market and what I like most of the time. My brand is “Romance with a side of mischief” so I’m all-in on being the quirky author BFF style of writer.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

NIOBE: Stop buying covers. Oh, wait… that’s advise I need to follow NOW.

BEE: Stop agonizing over it and write the damn book! Also applicable today.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

NIOBE: It honestly depends on deadlines. And my interest in the topic/level of other distractions. I can reliably produce a novel every month… but sometimes the words just don’t work and I end up crying for most of it.

 BEE: I can usually do a novel in a month, but I prefer to drag it out a little if I can.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

NIOBE: I don’t know if it’s a block, but it’s real as hell. For me, if I can’t see the story playing out in my mind before I start writing, then I can’t write. I’ve had DAYS of nothing where I’m struggling to get the projector threaded to play the movie. Sometimes it plays right away, other days, it’s on fire and the building has to be evacuated.

BEE: I believe in ADHD? That’s my struggle. There are days where my creativity just shuts down and maybe that’s writer’s block, but there are far more days where I am battling too many tabs open on the screen and in my brain. That sucks productivity out and makes me feel crappy usually, so I have to reset myself regularly. Typically, I have to remind myself that my brain works differently and expectations that I will just be able to sit down and power-write for hours are simply not realistic. The practice of writing in 15 minute sprints has been hugely helpful for me and has made it so my ever-present-goal of one million words per year is achievable.

Bee Murray
Niobe Marsh
I am happy to be one of many Silver Dagger tour hosts sharing an interview with authors Bee Murray and Niobe Marsh.

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