The Antidote to Shocking Twists

Sheila McGraw Author Interview

Sketchy Characters follows a young woman that ends up homeless and jobless due to a hurricane, becoming entangled with a missing friend and a murder mystery. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Marilyn is the manager of an apartment complex and a part-time artists’ model. She is single and has no family; however, she has close friends, especially Fran. For my purposes I wanted the protagonist, Marilyn, to be completely unencumbered but forced to fend for herself. The hurricane accomplishes this by taking her home, job, car, and scattering many of her friends far away as they flee the rising water. Fran also goes missing and the hurricane initially appears to be to blame. Marilyn’s single, unencumbered status gives her flexibility to react to circumstances quickly without the considerations of a spouse, kids, a house, etc. It also creates internal conflict because she needs to find a way to support herself and she begins to question her life more, namely what she wants from it. From that point forward it was off to the races and the plot picked up momentum.

There is a lot going on in this novel for Marilyn. How do you balance story development with shocking plot twists? Or can they be the same thing?

Certainly, they can be the same thing. Every plot twist, whether shocking or not, should propel the story forward, otherwise the shock and the twist is simply gratuitous and doesn’t belong in the book. Which is not to say that story development must gain momentum through shocking plot twists, as obviously there are many other ways to advance a plot, but a bit of a shock judiciously applied keeps a mystery-lover reading—it’s a waker-upper. Of course, shock can become tiresome if the book is simply a repetitive, crazy rollercoaster ride. For me, the antidote to shocking twists is humor, especially when a character recognizes the shock and comments on it in a wry way. Plus I love a good sprinkling of funny observations, sarcastic dialogue, and the odd joke, throughout.

A life drawing by Sheila McGraw, Prismacolor pencils on paper, 2008

Are there any emotions or memories from your own life that you put into your character’s life?

I’ve lived in Houston since 2006, which is where the story is set, and I experienced Hurricanes Ike and Harvey up close and personal. (I included Ike and Harvey in the book’s Acknowledgements as a joke.) The devastation done by hurricanes could be called indescribable, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to draw on those experiences and give describing a hurricane a shot. Weather plays a big part in writing a novel and having grown up in Toronto, I also felt at home describing the snowy scene in Detroit.

Also, the protagonist is an artists’ model and she and her friends are artists. I too am an artist and I’ve been on both sides of the easel—long ago as a model and throughout my life as a life drawing aficionado. I paint and draw in oils, watercolor, pencil, and pastels. I also illustrate children’s books and the covers of my novels. The illustrations for the children’s book Love You Forever, is the art for which I’m most well-known.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am currently working on two books. One is middle-grade fiction set in New York City, which will have many black and white illustrations. The other is another Houston-based mystery novel. Hopefully both will be out within a year and I’ll be back in touch with Literary Titan for your outstanding reviews.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

A devastating hurricane.
A frantic search for a missing friend.
A brutal double murder…

When chaos blows up Marilyn’s life, and she’s forced to go on the run from ruthless killers, she can’t dodge a cast of sketchy characters that ooze into her orbit. There’s a crooked lawyer and his wealthy clients, an internet scammer, a pair of suspicious hipsters, and a serial killer targeting the artists at Marilyn’s life-drawing group. Throw a couple of good friends and a sexy and protective detective in the mix, and it’s not all bad. Even so, it’s survival of the smartest and most resilient. As the action moves full speed, and the twists and turns keep coming, Marilyn must tackle the circumstances of her new, near-impossible normal.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on April 30, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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