Please help me welcome my guest author today, Neil S. Plakcy! Let’s take a peek at his bio and then find out more his writing process and inspiration.
Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. His golden retriever mystery series was inspired by his first golden, Samwise. Long walks with his current goldens give him plenty of time to think up new crimes and solutions—and Brody and Griffin provide love, entertainment, and endless piles of fur on the floor.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Neil: I grew up along the Delaware Canal in southeastern Pennsylvania, and so much of the area’s history was all around me as a kid. I wanted to explore what life was like along the canal toward the end of its era.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Neil: I realized that just because I thought something was “historic,” it didn’t automatically make it from the period I was writing about. So perhaps I enhanced my research skills.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Neil: I originally saw this as a two-book series. One set of characters would fall in love and discover a murder, while in the second book a new pair would find romance together and solve the crime. But that kind of cliffhanger just didn’t work, and I realized that I didn’t know enough about the second pair to build a whole novel around them.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Neil: The easiest for me was the lock-keeper, Isaac Evans. I grew up around Quakers and learned a lot about their religion as a kid. I made him smart and bookish, like me, and all that helped me get to know him.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Neil: I had to do a deep dive into 1872, the time of the story, as the canal was fading from prominence and freed slaves were coming north. I also researched my hometown’s history—for example, learning that there was a small Black community there which still thrives.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Neil: I wrote the draft of book 1 of the two-book series, and wasn’t happy with the ending. So I tacked on another hundred pages solving the crime, then had to go back and slim the whole book down, focusing on the two romances. Then a third draft to polish and prepare for my editor, and then a fourth draft cleaning up any errors she found.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Neil: It was a quicker process than usual for me because I was isolated during Covid. For part of that time I was on a sabbatical from teaching, and then later I was teaching online. So I had more time to focus on the book.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Neil: Pre-pandemic, I went to Starbucks every morning to write for an hour before work and reward myself with a café mocha. I trained my brain that when I settled in at that table, I was there to write. When everything shut down I had to buy a coffee maker and become my own barista. I have to fight with more distractions now, but I still sit at a table and write every morning, with a venti café mocha by my side.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Neil: A little and really are my writing tics. I always do a last minute run through for those before I send off to my editor.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Neil: I have three: Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and Jimmy Buffett. I appreciate all of them for their prose, but also for the lifestyles they represent. I want to be an adventurer—even if it’s only in my head!
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Neil: As I’ve said, it used to be Starbucks. Now it’s my kitchen table for writing and revising. I read in bed on my Kindle, for the most part.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Neil: I will be retiring from twenty years as a college English professor this summer. While I relish having more time to write, I think I will miss the contact with students and colleagues. Many of those I work with are creative writers and we share a lot about writing.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Neil: Readers enjoy and relate to my characters. My best-selling series is about a guy and his golden retriever who solve crimes, and people sure do love that dog, and tell me they think of his human as their friend. I also pioneered writing a mystery series about a gay Honolulu homicide detective in which his coming-out process mirrors the crimes he investigates, and I’m proud of winning awards for that.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Neil: I have an equal love for crime fiction and light-hearted or low-angst romance. And those are the genres I enjoy writing the most, too.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Neil: For years, I’ve wanted to be able to support myself with my fiction, which I’m finally able to do. And the second part of success is reaching readers, and hearing back from them how much they have enjoyed my books.
Can two broken men heal each other?
In the aftermath of a failed love, Isaac Evans drops out of college and flees Philadelphia for a lock-keeper’s job on the Delaware Canal in rural Pennsylvania, where he pursues a life of Thoreau-driven solitude.
Prussian immigrant Lenert Tessmer trudges along the canal towpath in good and bad weather, hobbled by his dialect which prevents him from connecting with others. Then Lenert breaks his leg, and Isaac’s Quaker beliefs force him to offer a place where Lenert can recover.
Slowly, these two broken men find solace and healing in each other. But with railroads replacing the canal and narrow-minded outsiders who threaten their country idyll, Isaac and Lenert will have to face their deepest fears to develop a love that will endure.
Fans of MM historical romance will appreciate a fascinating time period, filled with unique details and a vibrant location, and a focus on the lives of working-class men in the 19th century who dare to love other men. This historical MM romance set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania in 1872 has a hurt/comfort theme.
I love a good historical story, especially ones set in unusual places and times. Thanks for sharing, Neil!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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