Thursday 18 October 2012

The Write Way with Gregg Olsen

Today on the blog, I am happy to have Gregg Olsen, author of the Empty Coffin series, telling us his writing secrets!
Betrayal, the sequel to Envy in your Empty Coffin series was released in September. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Thank you for asking! Again there are more dark doings going on in pretty, but creepy, Port Gamble, Washington. It starts when UK-based foreign exchange student Olivia Grant meets her untimely end (spoiler!) but at Taylor and Hayley Ryan try to figure out what happened to her, the begin to find out more about themselves – and the source of their paranormal powers. It’s a mystery…so that’s all I’ll say. 

The two main characters are twins, what made you choose them to lead the story?

I’ve always been fascinated by twins – mostly because I am the father of twin daughters. My girls are young women now, but it wasn’t that long ago that I had that front row seat to the complexities of twins growing up. Parents do the best they can to make things “equal” and fair, but there are always jealousies and conflict that’s unique with a best friend/rival who looks just like you. Hayley and Taylor Ryan aren’t my daughters, of course, but there are moments in Betrayal and Envy that are ripped from the pages of their diaries – not literally, of course.

What kind of research did you need to do in order to write this book?

In a very real way, I feel like I’ve been researching this kind of story my entire life. At the heart of it, the series is about a family immersed in crime – something I know a little bit about. I’ve been to crime scenes, talked to cops, interviewed killers. Since I consider the town of Port Gamble a character in the series, I did spend a fair amount of time there getting the lay of the land. I wanted to plot a series grounded in a real place and I’ve done my best to nail it. The houses in the books are as they are in real life. Hayley and Taylor live in house no. 19 – and it is just as described. I like the idea of my characters living in a real place. Just makes the experience of writing about them and (I hope for readers too) seem all the more believable. Even when the fantastic happens!

Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?

I do as much rewriting as I can, but I have to admit that I’m always racing to the finish. I’m always trying to get to the finish before my editor has a heart attack because I’m late. I polish as much as I can, but I’ve had able editors on the books who’ve been very helpful in making each page the best it can be.

How long did it take you write the first draft?

The first draft for Betrayal took about four months. Seems longer!

When writing, what is your daily word target?

I’m glad you asked that. You obviously get it. Books are written a few words at a time. I need to hit 1,000 words a day in order to get where I want to be.

Does the writing become easier with each new book you write?

Yes and no. Sometimes. I’m not sure. J I guess I could tell you that sometimes it feels as though the words are flowing easier, but it is always the same amount of work to get the job done. Also, it’s always a challenge to make sure that everything is just as it should be. You ask yourself over and over: Is this going the right way? Am I getting the words on the page in the way that will make the reader want to turn that page to the next?

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on another YA novel and a true crime. I have an adult thriller coming out from Constable and Robinson in January. It’s called The Fear Collector.

Which authors inspired you while growing up?

So many. But I always go back to Stephen King and later, Dean Koontz. I loved the kinds of books those two wrote – scary and creepy….and also emotionally satisfying. Carrie by King was a particularly important read for me.

Do you have any advice for aspiring and unpublished authors?

I give the same advice that others have given to me. If you want to be a writer, you have to practice. Writing is a craft and that means you’ll make mistakes as you learn to get better. Don’t worry about failing a time or two (or an hundred times!). You have to pick yourself up and start over. Don’t give up.
Thank you Gregg for such fabulous answers. Betrayal, the second book in the Empty Coffin series,  was published by Splinter on the 22nd August and is available via Amazon. 
Gregg Olsen has a huge readership in the US and beyond and has been compared to Joseph Wambaugh and James Patterson. He is the author of eight true crime books including Cruel Deception and Starvation Heights.  His fiction includes Heart of Ice, and Closer than Blood which charted on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists on publication. The Bone Box was number one on the US’s list of best-selling e books on publication in April. He also contributed a short story to Killer Year, an anthology edited by Lee Child.

To find out more about Gregg Olsen:

Twitter: @Gregg_Olsen


  1. Great questions and answers, thanks to you both.

  2. Wonderful "write way"! He offers aspiring authors sound advice and inspiration. :)

  3. Great post, thanks Viv and Gregg. I've got the first two 'Empty Coffins' on my TBR - can't wait to get to them! :)

  4. Fantastic interview and some very thoughtful answers - I really must look into this series! :)


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