Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Guest Blogger - Peggy Webb

The Magic of Being an Author

Peggy Webb

I’m delighted to be a guest blogger today. When Pamela asked if I would talk about the magic of being an author, I jumped at the chance.

In a twenty-five year writing career, I’ve taught private seminars, convention workshops and college courses that delve into the creative process. I’ve given aspiring writers and college students the tools they need to turn an idea into a completed work of fiction. I’ve dissected the writing process six ways to Sunday in an attempt to understand – and make my students understand – how all the elements of a story come together in a way that compels the reader to keep turning pages.

Always, though, there is the element that can’t be dissected, analyzed, taught, bought or learned. The beauty of magic is that no one knows how it happens, or why. It simply does.

And so, I won’t discuss magic. I won’t argue whether my sixty-five plus books are the product of a muse who sprinkles me with fairy dust or the brain children of a fertile imagination. I will present anecdotal evidence and let you draw your own conclusions.

My most recent magical manifestation can be seen in my Southern Cousins Mysteries. Elvis was supposed to be a ghost. I’d spent all day plotting the first mystery with the Elvis ghost as the centerpiece. Then my dog had to go outside, my muse started singing Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hounddog, and KAZAM! Magic happened. I knew Elvis was a sleuthing basset hound who couldn’t keep his opinions to himself.

Another big hint came when Elvis (the dog, not the real McCoy) started talking to me. Late at night, of course. While I was in my gown with no pen and pad handy. Naturally I rushed to my office to take dictation.

This is not the first time I’ve heard voices. Early in my career I spent a sleepless night arguing with the voices that my hero was NOT a soccer coach; he was a lawyer. You know who won, of course. The voices. When I finally caved in, I told the hero who wouldn’t shut up and let me sleep that he’d better be the best soccer coach ever! And he was.

The book was a delight to write. I might even say, “The book wrote itself,” which, of couse, is another way of saying, “It’s magic.”

When “books write themselves,” I’m merely a body at the keyboard whose heart, mind and soul have disappeared into the magical world of my imagination. I can hardly type fast enough to keep up with the flow – that amazing, endless stream of conversation and poetic description that pours forth.

When I say, I disappear, I’m not kidding around. One fine August day when the temperature in Mississippi climbed to one hundred and the air was so hot birds refused to sing, I sat at my computer shivering in the winter storm raging through the pages of my story. I got so cold I had to put on a sweater and heavy socks.

When the mailman tooted his horn, breaking the spell, I raced outside and nearly fainted with heatstroke. Might I also add I became the talk of the neighborhood? Here’s a writerly hint: if you want people to leave you alone, wear winter garb in hundred-degree weather.

And then, of course, there’s the amazing magic of Driving Me Crazy. I had stopped writing to take care of Mama, who never ceased pestering me to go back to doing what you love best. After she died I put together a synopsis (about two older women taking care of their feisty, dying mom) then contacted beloved editor and long-time friend, Tara Gavin. She fell in love with the Mama character (guess who?) and bought the book on what would have been my own mother’s birthday. Additionally, I wrote the book in five weeks while I was teaching nine hours at Mississippi State University (a round-trip commute of a hundred-forty miles three days a week).

Don’t tell me there’s no magic!

Let me hear about your magical experiences. I’m here all day and would love to chat.


  1. Peggy,
    This a wonderful blog and I want to know the title of your mama books? LOL there is magic to writing. So many times I've sat at the computer and do not know who has taken over my body but suspect it's one of my characters.
    Now tell us how you plot out your books?

  2. I REALLY need to get the Elvis book! Been wanting it since Malice


  3. Thank you, Anonymous. The currently available Southern Cousins Mysteries (starring Elvis and the Valentine gang, which includes a fiesty Mama) are titled Elvis and the Dearly Departed and Elvis and the Grateful Dead.

    I plot the Elvis books (as many of many fans call them) on two levels - solving the current murder mystery and continuing the over-arching story of the recurring characters. Each book has its own victims and suspects. I weave the thread of murder through the hijinks of the Valentine family as they go about the wonderful, funny, heartbreaking business of living. Because I'm naturally comedic, the books always tickle my funny bone. I hope they tickle yours, too.

  4. Humor is so hard for many people, it is great yours flows naturally!

  5. Thanks, Terri. The first book of the series, Elvis and the Dearly Departed, is available now in paperback. The second, Elvis and the Grateful Dead, is in the bookstores in hardcover.

    I've already finished books three and four, and am happily plotting books five! Where did the time go?

    I hope you have as much fun reading the Elvis books as I have writing them. When I read them in galley form, I laugh so hard I nearly fall off the sofa. That's part of the magic of writing. It's almost as if a giant, magic hand in the sky wrote these books.

  6. What a terrific article, Peggy. Thanks so much for it!

  7. I love the magic that happens when I'm writing. It's that glimmer just beyond normal vision, out of the corner of one's eye, the music no one else hears, the banter of people who don't, technically, exist. There are times I'm so immersed, all I can see is the world I'm writing, not the world I'm in. It's magical to be so transported, and I'm lucky I get to do this.

    Thanks, Peggy -- great blog.

  8. It DOES feels like magic sometimes, doesn't it? I agree with everything you said. Sometimes I sweat blood writing a scene, and other times the characters write it for me. Wonderful blog, Peggy.

  9. Callie, Toni, Vicki....many thanks for stopping by.

    By the way, the musician in me LOVES Toni's comment about the magic of writing being "the music no one else hears."

    May the magic be with all of you!


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