I love detective stories. In the course of developing my new blog, I’m resurrecting the posts from the old blog. Here’s an interview I did with author Jackie Weldon White.
Have you ever been captivated by a real life whodunit?
I must confess I’ve been a true crime fanatic since my early teen years after ignoring my parents’ raised eyebrows over a library book selection, Capote’s In Cold Blood. After that it was Rex Stout, the prolific Vincent Bugliosi, and then grand, cantankerous Jack Olsen.
Later I read Tommy Thompson’s Serpentine and Ann Rule’s, The Stranger Beside Me. Rule, a former Seattle policewoman, became a legendary and skillful true crime writer with her personal account of having once worked alongside creep factor serial killer, Ted Bundy.
This week I’d like to introduce you to my friend Jaclyn Weldon White, a former police officer, detective, and administrator turned author. She also writes biography, inspirational chapters, and novels. She’s a musician, master gardener, and craftslady too. Her kindness and support over the years has been steadfast.
I had the privilege of reviewing Jackie’s first book, Whisper to the Black Candle
for Amazon.com. Whisper is an historical true crime chiller about pretty, vivacious Anjette Lyles a murderous con woman who made the news back in the late 1950’s. She ran a restaurant on-get this- Mulberry Street in Macon, Georgia. Who knew, however, that Lyles had other plans than shakin’ salt on the bacon. Her weapon was arsenic. Her motive? Insurance money.
Here’s the interview about writing and the writing life from a woman who has seen so much.
Me: How do you organize your material for your books?
Jackie: Since most of what I’ve done is nonfiction and involves a great deal of research, organization is really important. When I reach a point that I know it’s time to write, I generally take all my research and pile it on the living room floor. Then I go through everything (newspaper articles, legal papers, interview transcripts) and put them in chronological piles. I’ll even cut up the interviews and put pieces into different stacks, matching the times. (The most important thing here is labeling the bits and pieces with the name of the person interviewed. You never want a quote with no attribution.) Then I put each pile into a folder. When I start writing I take the first chronological folder, organize it and put it on paper. First time through, I’m not particular about language, description, etc. I just want the action on paper. Then I go back and edit.
Me: Did your work in law enforcement influence your writing?
Jackie: Absolutely. Detectives prepare investigator reports on every arrest. These reports are then forwarded to the District Attorney’s office and will be used in constructing the prosecution of the person charged. Because of that, you have to be meticulous in including every bit of evidence gathered. You also don’t want to leave out anything that happened. DAs HATE surprises. Because of that, I think I learned to set up my writing in a very logical, almost clerical manner. After all that is done, then I can add the decoration and flourish of descriptions, dialogue, etc.
Me: How did you deal with disappointments and rejections?
Jackie: I learned early on that the majority of query letters would produce rejections. You just have to learn to roll with it. My first book was rejected probably 20 times before I found a publisher. You just keep trying. As for writing blocks, I’m not sure I’ve ever had one. Of course, there are days (or weeks) when I don’t feel like writing. Luckily, there’s always something else I want to do, so I just leave the writing alone for a while. I think another reason I don’t have blocks is that I don’t sit down to write with the idea that what I’m typing at that moment has to be the perfect, finished product. I know I can always come back and edit. I think if I believed I had to write the perfect opening paragraph at a given time, I’d just freeze up.
My theory is get it on paper, then come back and take your time finishing it. It’s surprising how often the right words will flow in doing that.
Me: Thank you, Jackie. I appreciate you taking the time for us. I’m with you on the writer’s block thing. I’ve never experienced it either. Procrastination is another topic entirely.
Coming up: further resurrections of former blog posts.