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I became a fan of C.B. Blaha after reading her amazing novel, Dominoes. I’m always looking for a good suspense read and this one didn’t disappoint. I’m very familiar with the area she writes about and have visited it many times. I contacted her and asked if I could write a blog about the book. Enjoy!
I’m originally from a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I attended Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania (which was actually Seton Hill College at the time) with a major in Theatre and a Minor in Art. I moved to California in 1984 and resided in the San Francisco Bay Area until March of 2000 when I relocated to the High Mojave Desert and acquired my teaching credential. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never seemed to be able to focus long enough to write an entire novel until now. I’ve written many things that I haven’t published, one of these being a children’s book which I wrote when my son was very small.
My enthusiasm for writing was spurred by my fifth grade English teacher, Ms. Schank, who often said to me, “Write the book, and I’ll get it published.” Unfortunately, Ms. Schank passed away about a year and a half before I started Dominoes, but I feel as if she was still encouraging me from the great beyond, so I dedicated my book to her. Another teacher who greatly inspired my desire to write was my eighth grade English teacher, and I suppose I will dedicate my next book to her.
What made you decide to write Dominoes?
My writing of Dominoes just happened. One day, I sat down to my computer and started writing about the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, CA. I had been there several times, and my intention was to write a short story, but my characters quickly took hold and essentially told me that this was going to be much more than a short story. As the characters developed, they more or less dictated the plot. So, nearly seven hundred pages later, I thought the story was finished, but it’s not. I tried to start a completely new novel, but the characters from Dominoes kept telling me that we weren’t quite finished. So, I am now working on a sequel where some of the old characters remain, but new characters are developing quickly.
Sounds like the characters dictate the plot. Would that be right?
I worked out the plot within the writing of the novel, so I didn’t really know where it would go until it had some essence, but even then it would sometimes veer off in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. As you know, there is a kidnapping in Part 1, and while my mind was focused on the resolution of that issue, other things were happening elsewhere in the story leaving many loose ends that needed to be tied up. I bounced many of my ideas off of my mother, and we would sometimes speculate on the direction in which the story was headed. After I finished Part 1, I started keeping brief notes on the plot development in each section, and I would read over them every morning to help me decide who would be the subject of that day’s writing and what would most likely happen to them. The plot would sometimes change directions in the middle of my writing because the characters would move it away from my original intention. One of the threads that runs through all four parts wasn’t added until after the first draft was finished, but it really adds emphasis to the surprise ending, and this is the only plot twist that was implemented without my characters’ consent, as it were.
Have your friends and family been supportive of your writing?
So far, I’ve gotten very positive feedback from all of my friends and family members who have read Dominoes. There aren’t that many people around who are bothered by the amount of time I spend writing, but I have to admit that it did subtly annoy my significant other on a few occasions.
Do you have a favorite character? If it’s made into a movie, who would you like to play the part?
My two favorite characters are the twins, Ardina and Sophia, but I had the most fun writing Ardina and Tony because they were completely over the top most of the time. I also had a blast writing the homeless people, but seeing the whole novel come together was absolutely thrilling because some days the writing would more easily fall into place than on other days. If I were to pick an actress to play the twins, I’d choose Alexandra Daddario, and Seth Rogen would do well as Tony, but he’d have to shave his head. Ellen Page would make a good Sally, and of course, I’d need to find a Tom Petty look alike to play Horace. That’s as far as I’ve thought out the movie version of Dominoes, but there are plenty of good roles in this story.
What do you like best about writing?
I love watching the movie version unfold inside of my head. In a certain sense, my characters come to life, and I often discuss them as if they were real people. When my sister asked me to tell her about Dominoes, she started commenting on one of the character’s actions as if these things really had happened then caught herself and said, “Wait a minute! She’s not real.”
What’s your least favourite thing about writing?
I intensely dislike editing my own work and formatting it for physical publication. I find this to be extremely time consuming and boring, so it will be a happy day when I can afford to pay other people to do these things.
What about your cover art?
I did the cover art myself. The picture for Part 1 was taken in the Angeles National Forest. We were driving around with my box of dominoes when I saw a big chunk of pyrite up on an embankment. So, we stopped, and I climbed up there with my box of dominoes, positioned a few of them on the rock, and took several pictures. Some kind of gnat-like bug inhabited the area around me, and they were flying into my face and buzzing around my head, but for my cover’s sake, I suffered through the indignity. Later, I downloaded the pictures onto my computer and played with the photo options. The photos for Parts 2 and 4 were taken inside of my house, and for Part 3, we went into a Joshua tree grove and probably took about fifty pictures. After I chose the picture I wanted, I super-imposed dominoes onto the desert floor before applying artistic effects. So, for the cover of Dominoes Complete, I simply made a window pane of the four pictures. The paperback version, however, has an old paper overlay that covers some of the window pane hiding most of the cover art for Part 3 which is one of my favorite covers, but I’m still pleased with the paperback cover.
Are you a writer who likes silence or music playing when you write?
I need absolute silence to write. Currently, I don’t have an office in my house, so this sometimes poses a problem. My desk is just outside the master bedroom in an alcove on the landing of the second floor of my house, and when people are around making noise while I’m trying to write, I have a tendency to get a little cranky.
What about the editing process?
Originally, all four parts were written as one complete novel which was edited and revised once before I initially started publishing the parts as ebooks. At first, I published the parts separately because they were book length on their own, and I later published the entire novel as one ebook. This past summer, I combed through the book, revised and edited a few more things, and published it as a paperback. I also updated the ebooks with these revisions. My mother was my first editor, my son pointed out a few things when he read the book, and I was my final editor, but by the time I felt the need to do this, over a year had elapsed since my completion of the book. So, it was all in the family for this first go around. The hiatus from my work allowed me to see things with new eyes, and I feel that the changes I made help the novel to read more smoothly.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
My advice to new writers is to get your ideas down on paper, or more likely into your computer, without being hypercritical about mechanics. I have to admit that I am one of the worst followers of this advice, and I have to force myself to not read and reread everything immediately after I write it, but I’m getting better at allowing the ideas to flow from my brain to my fingers to the keyboard without interruption or loss of my train of thought. Mechanics can be dealt with later.
Books and authors. Favorites?
I used to be a huge science fiction and suspense fan, but I’ve moved more toward crime thrillers and mysteries such as the books written by James Patterson and Janet Evanovich. However, I like a good family drama as well. One Hundred Years of Solitude byGabriel Garcia Marquezis one of my favorite books, but I also used to enjoy reading Tom Robbins, and many other established authors. Some of the newer writers have published wonderful novels, and I’ve read a few, but I find it difficult to read when I am working on my own novels. I’ve purchased lots of ebooks, but I prefer books in a physical format.
Tell me what else you like to do.
I live my life outside of writing as an elementary school teacher. When the idea for Dominoes struck me, I was on medical leave, so I had time to write each day and I truly lived like a writer with a deadline because I knew that I would never finish the novel if I didn’t do so before I returned to school. At that point, I lived to write, so I didn’t have much of an alternative existence. These days however, I do manage to attend a few concerts, visit museums, read a little, travel a bit, and cuddle with my kittens. I’m hoping to establish a sane schedule that allows me to enjoy life more as well as reach my writing goals.
Would you share what you’re working on now?
As I already mentioned, I’m working on a sequel to Dominoes. The current title is Jacks, and it will be more about picking up the pieces, but there will still be plenty of twists and turns. I’ve also started work on a shorter selection involving the hierarchy of a species, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Thanks and I hope everyone rushes out to get the book. It’s that good!
Here’s some links for more information:
Facebook: CB Blaha
Facebook Book Page: https://www.facebook.com/cb.blaha?ref=hl