The Creative Process Behind Writing – EM Kaplan

I just loved doing this interview. Emily is a lot of fun and I’m so glad I came across her and her work.

Who you are and what you do?

I’m EM Kaplan—Emily to most people. I write humorous mysteries with a lot of food descriptions—and also epic adventure fantasies with “real” characters. By day, I’m a tech writer. I’m also a mom and a newly certified dance fitness instructor. (I think the appropriate response to that is, “Hollaaah.” I’m pretty sure it was in the instructor handbook.) I just released the second fantasy, Unbroken, in my Rise of the Masks series. Now, I’m working on my third Josie Tucker mystery, tentatively called The Cut-Throat Coed.

Where is your preferred place of writing?

I write wherever I can. That means I drag my laptop around with me a lot. In the kitchen because I was just making a pumpkin pie. Upstairs near the laundry room so I can switch out loads and also watch gruesome crime TV shows—job hazard when writing mysteries. But mostly, I write downstairs near my official work computer. I also work from home, so when I’m waiting for someone to get back to me at my job, I can think about whatever book, review, or blog post I happen to be writing.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Usually, I’m rushed for time, so I dive right in. But that also means I’m thinking about writing even when I’m not actually do it. Driving. Showering. Brushing teeth. When I’m in writing mode, I’m fixated on plot and characters. So…I don’t really have a ritual. Inadvertent neglect of my household cleaning—is that a ritual?

What inspires you?

I love people-watching. All kinds of people are inspiration for characters and situations. Horrible people, especially, because terrible people in real life make the most entertaining characters in fiction. I love a lot of writers. I still read Jane Austen. But I also read a lot of new indie books—I don’t stick to a single genre. Richard Russo. David Sedaris. Neil Gaiman. There are so many unbelievably good authors to read, both traditionally published and indie.

If you blog, do you write post to post?

I do blog— My goal for 2016 is to post weekly. Right now, I’m about every other week. I used to do 60-Second Spotlights on other authors and artists. I started a new thing in October by posting a free, holiday-themed Josie Tucker mystery short story. Eventually, I’ll probably make a collection of them. When I’m writing a full-length book, I aim for 1000 words a day. It’s totally do-able. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Haha.

Do you have another job?

Ah! We could totally be BFFs. I’m certified to teach Shaun T’s new dance fitness program called CIZE (the end of “exercise”) as well as MixxedFit, which is explosive dance with boot camp inspired toning. I’ve been subbing this fall, but I get my own classes starting in January.

That’s not my day job though—I’m also a full-time tech writer at Motorola. I write user guides and brochures. I’ve been there almost a decade, since way back in the Moto RAZR days. In fact, you can find photos of my dog and some of my friends in the user guides.

If you could write yourself a letter. What would you write?

Wow. I think maybe the real question is, would I listen to myself? Probably. I was a pretty anxious kid. Maybe I’d write a message to that girl, just to tell her that things are going to work out really well.

Why writing?

I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. I still have a lot of my notebooks from then although I avoid looking at them. As for why?… a lot of reasons. Mostly because it was a way for a sometimes scared kid to exert control over her environment—escapism in which I controlled the entire universe. Vocabulary, grammar, and other skills came later. And are still coming. Ha!

How do you find time for writing?

My husband (JD Kaplan) and I are both authors. We also have full-time jobs and work from home. Our kids are 10 and 13, so they’re getting more self-sufficient—but they still have a million activities they need to go back and forth to. Still, I do my best writing when it’s quiet, so I write at lunchtime or at night.

Do you journal in some form?

I used to journal all the time. I have a box of old journals in my storage room. Most of that writing was therapy versus than jotting down ideas. I eventually moved my journaling to LiveJournal. Now, my personal journaling has been replaced by Facebook and Instagram, more or less, which means it’s safe for public consumption and usually in short “sound byte” kinds of chunks. Just observations or funny anecdotes. Otherwise, I do have a lot of sticky notes and spiral notebooks with story ideas. I keep them at my bedside and at my desk, too. But I’ve been known to write outlines and lists on the backs of airplane barf bags.

If you could suggest one book that has helped you along the way, what would it be?

I love Annie Dillard for language. If you want to read something just to listen to language, pick up something of hers. Even An American Childhood, which is a memoir. I like a lot of books, but that’s the one that popped into my head just now.

What do you use to write?

I use both a Mac and a PC—the result of being super nerdy and also having married a world-class nerd. We’re not lacking for computers in this family. This means that I like to keep some of my documents in “the cloud” (like on Google Docs) so that I can access them from any computer or mobile device. Speaking of which…because I work for Motorola, I have a pile of Android devices at my disposal. I’ve also had iPhones. Both of these types of phones have super cameras—some Moto phones have 21 megapixels now—which are good for blogging and Instagram, I think.


5 responses to “The Creative Process Behind Writing – EM Kaplan”

  1. Thanks so much for the interview! 🙂


    1. Great interview Em! Nice to see someone else who has to drag their laptop around and do real life stuff. It’s so interesting to see how many writers have been writing pretty much their whole lives. Best wishes on all your endeavors!
      M.T. Magee

      1. Thanks! Likewise to you, MT! 🙂

    2. It’s a big pleasure Emily!

  2. Emily, first of all, I love your work. You create seriously scary bad guys that give me the shivers! Second, some of my best ideas occur while showering. I’m waiting to get electrocuted while dripping onto my keyboard. Wonderful interview! Thanks so much for sharing.

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