It’s hard to keep up with him. He writes faster than any writer I know. Before I have the first chapter done, he’s finished three books. This time he’s written a real doozy. Here’s a little taste of Peculiar County:
Growing up in Peculiar County, Kansas, is a mighty…well, peculiar experience. In 1965, things get even stranger for Dibby Caldwell, the mortician’s fifteen year old daughter. A young boy’s ghost haunts Dibby into unearthing the circumstances of his death.
Nobody—living or dead—wants her to succeed. James, the new mop-topped, bad boy at school doesn’t help. Dibby can’t get him out of her head, even though she doesn’t trust him. No, sir, there’s nothing much more peculiar than life in Peculiar County…except maybe death in Peculiar County.
I had the pleasure of reading this book and found it as compelling as many of Stuart’s books. And the writing was superb. Check out my review next week on this blog. But today, we want to take a few minutes and talk to the man himself. Stick around. This ought to be a fun interview!
JC: How do you manage to churn out so many books so fast? What’s your writing day like?
SRW: Generally, I write at least 32 hours a week. Which is too much (and, um, down from about 48). I’ve been slowing down a bit and need to just chill. It’s not uncommon for me to churn out 8-12,000 words a day. Having said that, that’s just the first draft, the fun part. I’ll write from the sub-conscious, rarely a plan in sight. Once I start in on revisions, though? It’s slower going, basically rewriting the prose entirely. (And ever since my teen years, I’ve been a very fast typist.)
JC: 8,000-12,000 words in one day! My gosh. That’s faster than Stephen King. Good for you. Okay, now on to your book. One of the things I loved in Peculiar County was the main character, Dibby Caldwell. She seemed very genuine for a 15-year-old protagonist. I can’t imagine writing in the point-of-view of a 15-year-old boy and wondered what made you decide to get in the mind of a teenage girl (and do it so well!).
SRW: Joan, I started skipping rope, curling my hair, having sleepovers, and listening to boy bands. Sorry. I dunno. Honestly, I just write more from the viewpoint of an outsider, which isn’t that much different from my high school mindset, which I remember all too well.
My ability to write from a teen girl’s POV kinda wigs my wife out. She’s baffled how I can channel a teenage girl and do it so accurately.
Maybe I better start watching sports or something.
JC: Haha. Typical Stuart answer. As a reader, I had no trouble believing the teenage girl you concocted. Maybe you were a girl in your last life :-). The dialogue in the story is really fun. I not only enjoyed the direct dialogue between characters but also Dibby’s internal conversations. She held me captivated. So, how do you go about writing such rich dialogue.
SRW: Dibby’s (and the other characters’) dialogue comes from having grown up in Kansas. Now, I happened to grow up in a Kansas City suburb so people didn’t really speak like that here. But I had plenty of relatives (who lived in the stereotypical small surrounding towns) who did indeed speak like Dibby.
After a while, it became second-nature. I found myself dropping a whole lotta “reckons” and “ain’ts” and “purt-nears.” (Again, my poor suffering wife…)
JC: You did a nice job of describing a typical rural small town, whether in Kansas or the deep South, tell me about your experiences in small towns?
SRW: As I said above, I visited a lot of small Missouri and Kansas farm towns in my youth. It’s completely different from what I grew up in and infinitely fascinating. Everything’s different and even the people move differently. Slower, more relaxed.
Having said that, I wouldn’t want to live in a small town. I like civilization too much. Ouch!
But what a great place to set a book! Such characters and color. And everyone knows one another which at times makes writing the story easier, fewer introductions and such.I aimed for something akin to “Our Town” only played out through my skewed vision of equal parts humor, horror and heart.
JC: Yes, the story felt quite genuine. Not that different from small towns in Georgia. Although there were strange happenings in Peculiar County, the resident witches, the ghosts hiding in the corn stalks. Things we don’t ordinarily see in Georgia. As I read the book, I wondered on what shelf you might place this book? The genre feels very YA with a touch of paranormal and mystery. What would you say?
SRW: I reckon that’s a mighty fine question, Joan, a fair one to boot. (See? There I go again.)
I like hybrids. And this one’s a super hybrid. Peculiar County is a YA (but adults can enjoy it as well), paranormal, ghost story, murder mystery, romance, humor, coming-of-age what’s-it (and I even made sure to include a kitchen sink in there, too).
JC: Yes, adults will enjoy this book. In my opinion, YA is where I’ve found your strongest writing. Indeed, many YA readers enjoy a touch of the supernatural. And, many adults love YA as much as youth. You’ve told me you thought this was your best book so far, tell me what makes you say that?
SRW: The writing. For the most part, I’m proud of it. (I say “for the most part,” because every writer’s never totally satisfied after the book’s finished. Joan, you know we’d spend the rest of our lives perfecting if we could, right?).
I’ve learned things through my previous books and I’ve incorporated them here. Plus—and even though it’s about a teenage girl—I think there’s a maturity that may’ve been lacking in some of the earlier books–a maturity in writing, I mean, and not necessarily in content.
JC: Absolutely there’s a maturity in writing. In my review of this book, I point out a number of places that blew me away with your writing. Congratulations on that! So, readers can expect a book full of great descriptions, particularly of small town life, what else might they expect to find in Peculiar County? (And, Stuart, my friend, be serious…)
SRW: Be serious? What? Joan, you offend me! I’m outta here!
Okay, I’ve cooled off. (JC: HAHAHA)
What can readers expect? Some chills and thrills. A compelling lead character and romance. Nostalgia (it’s set in 1965). A solid murder mystery. No gore or overt scares, but still a lightly spooky ghost story to read during the upcoming change of seasons. Some laughs. Maybe a few tears. Regional dialogue. Colorful characters.
It’s a great, fun read. Now here’s where you can find Stuart. His blog, Twisted Tales, is a delight, full of his sense of humor and great tips. And be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter to learn of upcoming books. He writes so fast, books come out faster than his city-slicker comebacks! Oh, yeah, and check out all Stuart’s books. You’ll see from his Amazon page, he’s quite prolific.
SRW: Thanks for having me, Joan!