I first met Bobbi A. Chukran over fifteen years ago as a fellow member of an online think tank for artisans learning to market themselves on the internet. This was back before there was a facebook, a myspace or even before the world wide web was generally established. (Okay. Now I’m feeling old!) We all worked in different mediums from writing, to painting, to making handmade jewelry. I credit this group for making me a successful artist and launching my art business. I’ve watched Bobbi grow as an artist down through the years: as a gardener, a painter, an author and everything in between. I was proud for her when her first play won an award and went on to be performed by students in various high schools here in America. Now it is my honor and pleasure to introduce Bobbi and her newly launched book here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Bobbi A. Chukran, although I recently published a mystery novel under the name B.A. Neal. I thought using a pseudonym would make it easier for me to branch out into different genres. I’m the author of LONE STAR DEATH, a new historical mystery novel, an award-winning playwright and an author of previous non-fiction books and magazine articles. Right now I’m focusing on the novel and short story writing.
When and why did you begin writing?
I always enjoyed writing in school, and was encouraged by my teachers to do more of it. I remember finding an old copy of The Writer magazine when I was in middle school, and entering a poetry-writing contest. I wrote a lot of poetry back then, most of which was dreck. I didn’t win the award, but it was the first time I came to the realization that writing was something that people got paid for and did as a job.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when a high school teacher told me I was good and that I should pursue it. I wrote for the school newspaper and wrote little stories at home, but also considered myself an artist. My first article was published in a craft magazine back in 1976. I guess that’s when I first thought about doing more writing. I wrote non-fiction for years under the name Bobbi A. McRae, then decided to try my hand at fiction.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
It’s a historical mystery, set in 1880s central Texas. It features a feisty, headstrong young woman, Samantha Slater, who is 19 years old. She comes to town for a job as a typewriter operator, but ends up in the middle of a murder mystery that she can’t resist investigating. In the process, she gets into a lot of danger of her own, and learns a lot about herself.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had almost finished several romantic suspense novels and a contemporary mystery when the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman show came on TV. I was fascinated by the costumes, characters, small town, and decided to start a whole new book set during that time period, except in Texas. I researched it for a year, learned about a lot of the real people and events going on at that time, and eventually came up with a few characters. I had always been a fan of westerns, and it seems that there was always one on TV in our house, so I guess it’s no surprise how the book turned out.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to write a lot of dialogue, since I also write plays. I start with a few characters talking to each other and before long, they take off. I do preliminary planning, a rough plot, but it always changes.
Can you tell us more about the plays you write?
In addition to writing short stories, I also write the plays for young people. They seem more like “me” than anything else I write. They are silly, use puns and plays-on-words and feature quirky characters. They are inspired by classic tales, but with a twist. My goal is to turn those into books for young readers. Unfortunately, writing plays is a long, hard road because in order to get anywhere, you must first have a production. Only then can you seek publication (unless you publish it yourself). Once it’s published, it’s liable to get more productions through schools, churches, etc.
December 2011 I published one of my plays, THE JOURNAL OF MINA HARKER, a comedy spoof of the classic DRACULA story, as an e-script for the Kindle. Getting people to read plays is a hard sell, but I’m glad I did it because it got my feet wet with publishing e-books.
How did you come up with the title of your novel?
I started out with LONE STAR STATE OF DEATH, because the titles of many of the mysteries at the time were based on puns. When I extensively revised the book and republished it in May 2012, I shortened the title to LONE STAR DEATH.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
First of all, I just want it to be a fun reading experience, a little escape from everyday life. Secondly, a theme emerged that I didn’t plan–that our family is not necessarily those we’re related to by blood.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not really–it’s mostly fantasy.
What authors have most influenced your life?
With mysteries, it’s hard to say. I read a lot of Barbara Michaels’ books when I first started and I love the way she combined everyday stuff with fantasy stuff. Her newer books are much different. I love the sparse style of Robert B. Parker. I read a lot of books, all over the genres. Right now I’m obsessed with reading older short story collections, because I’m convinced I’m a better short story/novella writer than a long novel person. My next books will be novelizations of my fantasy/comedy plays. I’m excited about them, because they are a more cohesive collection than my other writing.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?
Not really. I’ve taken some good workshops from good authors, but basically am self-taught.
Who designed the cover of your book?
I did. I used the photo that was on the cover of the previous edition and redesigned it for this one. I bought rights to all the artwork, so it was easy to do. It helps that I have years and years of experience as a graphics designer, printshop experience, desktop publishing experience and an art degree. Those were my “real jobs” for many years. The Kindle cover and the printed cover are a bit different. I used the same photo on both, but the overall design is different.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
It takes a long time to get anywhere with writing. Don’t wait. Sit down and write. I’m developing a new product I call BUTT GLUE. You apply it, then sit down. Just kidding, but it is something we all need. Take a lot of notes, start with a short story or flash fiction story first. Those will boost your confidence. Don’t be afraid to write strange things. It took me years before I would “let myself loose” with my writing, and I’m still learning. If you like fantasy or science fiction, then write that! Don’t try to write a mystery just because you think they’ll sell. Your heart won’t be in it otherwise.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just, have fun with the book–don’t judge it too harshly because it’s just a story!