Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fault Lines Editor Margaret Lucke Answers Our Questions

Editor and author, Margaret Lucke joins us today to talk about Fault Lines: Stories by Northern California Crime Writers, a short story anthology published by the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is the author of three mystery novels: A Relative Stranger (nominated for an Anthony Award), House of Whispers, and Snow Angel. She has taught writing classes for more than 20 years, and she has published two how-to books on the craft of writing.
Margaret will be appearing at the Book Passage bookstore this Sunday at 4pm on a panel called "A is for Anthology: the Writing and Publishing of Short Stories." Also appearing on the panel are Robin C. Stuart, Deborah Lacy, JJ Lamb, and Judith Janeway. 

What do you want to tell readers about the anthology? What can they expect when reading it?
Sisters in Crime NorCal has long had a goal of producing an anthology to showcase its talented members, and we’re very excited to see it become a reality. Fault Lines contains 19 stories of crime, justice, guilt, and innocence. There is plenty of suspense, a touch of humor, and fascinating characters that readers will be glad to meet. Some of the stories are by well-established writers, while others are new voices. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, Fault Lines has stories you’re sure to enjoy.

Not only are you the editor of the anthology, but you also have a story in it. How did it feel to be both a writer and an editor? Was switching hats hard?

While this is the first anthology I’ve edited, I have a lot of experience as both a writer and an editor. Both of those functions are necessary to produce the best possible story. They require different kinds of skill and attention, they are two sides of the same creative coin. So when I go from one to the other, I don’t think of it as switching hats so much as flipping one hat inside out.

In this case, I wrote my story, “Two Hundred Miles,” well before the editing process for the anthology began. Reading it during the editing phase was almost like reading someone else’s tale. But at that point I had other people read it with their sharp editorial eyes.

What was your biggest challenge with this anthology?
Wrangling all of the many tasks and details. In addition to being the editor, I’m the chief project wrangler, coordinating the entire project, from chairing the first planning meetings to arranging for some of the publicity. SinC NorCal choose to act as its own publisher, and that has meant become familiar with the demands and techniques of indie publishing. 

But I did not do it alone. One of the most rewarding aspects has been working with a wonderful team of talented and enthusiastic people—our submissions manager, the selection panel, the proofreaders, the interior designer, the cover coordinator, and many more who contributed their efforts and ideas.

What was the most fun?
Celebrating the publication of the book! We introduced Fault Lines at Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in March and had a festive book launch party last month at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. It was very exciting to finally hold a copy in my hand after all of the hard work.

But much of that work was fun too. I enjoy editing and helping authors achieve their stories’ full potential. And working with the team—the brainstorming, the idea exchange, all of the assistance, support, and friendship we gave each other: that was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the project.

Where did you get the idea for the Fault Lines theme?

It seemed like a natural theme for a Northern California anthology, and it was one of the first decisions that the planning team made. The most obvious reference is to the earthquakes and seismic activity and susceptibility that many people associate with our region. But the phrase Fault Lines has various meanings and nuances, and a writer’s imagination could take it in many directions. These stories explore the faults that exist not just in the earth but in people—the flaws and failings that lead us to commit grievous acts against someone else, and the guilt and culpability we bear. They also examine the lines that we draw to connect clues, expose secrets, establish bonds, and lead us to justice.
What short story writers inspire your work?
Oh, so many! A well-crafted short story is a small treasure. They make different demands on a writer than a novel does, and I admire writers who can do them well. In terms of mystery and crime stories I’ll mention the one of the classics—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. For a more contemporary short story master, there’s Lawrence Block. And of course all of the authors in Fault Lines.

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your writing?
It’s impossible to single out one best thing. Here are a few things that I love about being a writer:
* The spark and excitement when a new idea takes hold.
* Getting to know my characters as they gradually reveal themselves to me.
* Coming up with just the right plot twist.
* Those (rare) days when the writing goes so well that time flies and dinnertime arrives five minutes after breakfast is over.
* The many interesting experiences I’ve had while doing research and going to conferences.
* Friendships I’ve developed with fellow writers.
* Hearing a reader say, “I loved your book.”

What are you working on now?
I’m putting the final touches on House of Desire, a follow-up to my haunted house mystery, House of Whispers. While attending a fundraising party in a grand San Francisco Victorian, reluctant psychic Claire Scanlan runs into a mysterious young woman in old-fashioned garb whom no one else can see. When a murder occurs in the mansion, the invisible girl—a time-traveling “soiled dove” from the 1890s—is the only witness. To find her and solve the crime, Claire must risk a perilous journey into the past from which she may never return. The book will come out later this year.
I’m also putting together a series of handbooks of fiction craft, based on the writing classes I teach. The first one, on creating characters, is almost ready to go.

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