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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Bonnar Spring discusses her writing career and the plot of her new thriller, Disappeared.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed author Bonnar Spring about her life and career, what inspires her writing, and the creative work that went into her new thriller, Disappeared.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I grew up in Texas, always a reader. Often, the first thing I tell people about my childhood was that I learned to read in kindergarten and never stopped.

Bonnar Spring, Disappeared, Author Interview on The Table Read
Bonnar Spring

The restrictive policy of the library in my hometown (only fourteen books per card!) led me to become omnivorous—my brothers’ science fiction and adventure, my mother’s mystery classics, my father’s, well, those books he hid on the top shelf behind the hardcovers.

The #1 Writing Tool

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I wrote my first story when I was eight or so—twins and a secret passageway, very Nancy Drew. I’ve been scribbling ever since. Through college, it was mainly non-fiction for school newspapers and journals, but then I started writing short stories. Their ‘shortness’ appealed to me because, with a job and young children, I never managed the bandwidth for novel-length ideas.

When did you take a step to start writing?

Thirteen years ago, on the cusp of a Very Significant birthday, I joined an online writers’ community. Back then, we didn’t have Zoom or Crowdcast and the instructional material was dry, bullet-point lists, more like lecture summaries than in-depth instruction . . . BUT the groups chats were eye-opening. I’d seldom talked with other writers before, and the exchange of ideas was electric! That’s when I first heard about the write-your-novel-in-a-month challenge—National Novel Writing Month, usually shortened to Nanowrimo. I gave it a try. And finished my first novel-length manuscript (Yes, it sucked, but it was a coherent story from page 1 to The End.)

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How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

This is a story of two manuscripts.

#1   Like many other authors honing their craft, the manuscript I completed during that first Nanowrimo—The Black Desert—was a hot mess, even after revision. The story is about what happens when a woman vacationing in Morocco goes missing. It failed to attract an agent, but helpful suggestions (the book really should start in Chapter 4/the title sucks/too many digressions from the action) continued to improve the manuscript.

#2   Meanwhile, I wrote another thriller—this one set in Guatemala—making use of skills I’d gained re-writing The Black Desert. The story started at the right moment (not in chapter 4); the pacing was much better. And from the beginning, I knew the title needed to be Toward the Light. A young woman, a Guatemalan expat who grew up in the US, returns to her native country to kill the man who murdered her father. Toward the Light quickly attracted an agent. We polished the manuscript for a year before submitting it, and it sold a few months later.

So manuscript #2 found a home within two years.

Back to #1 . . . The Black Desert became Disappeared. Third person became first person. Past tense became a more lively present tense. The stakes became clearer and more desperate. The relationship between the main characters became sharper. After I was satisfied with the revisions, Disappeared sold in two weeks—thirteen years after I first typed The End on the first draft!

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Disappeared?

I’ve traveled quite a bit—from hopping in the car with my mother and brothers for open-ended road trips across the US and Central America to hitchhiking through Europe as a teenager. I taught school in Senegal and trekked to Machu Picchu.

But when I arrived in Morocco on vacation with my best friend, I felt like Dorothy landing in Oz. I’d never been in such a tantalizing place. The spark of idea that inspired Disappeared was a visceral reaction—almost a panic attack—I had when we landed in Casablanca. My friend’s suitcase never appeared on the baggage conveyor belt so, leaving me in the baggage claim area to guard the rest of our luggage, she went in search of information.

Disappeared by Bonnar Spring The Table Read
Disappeared

Alone in a milling crowd speaking a language I didn’t understand, I waited and waited . . . What if—I worried—she got lost, if something happened to her? What if she disappeared in the airport? How could I find her? How could I even start to look when I was supposed to stay with the luggage—which I couldn’t carry by myself and couldn’t leave? If I left, how would be ever find one another in this unfamiliar place?

Reading Never Goes Out of Style

What were your biggest challenges with writing Disappeared?

Getting Moroccan history accurate while inventing fictional incidents and characters.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Julie, who tells the story in Disappeared, experiences the same overwhelming panic I felt that day in the Casablanca airport. Julie recovers (probably faster than I would have!) and it’s a good thing. If not for her investigation and tenacious search, her sister—and several other innocent people—would be dead!

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

There’s not a single antagonist in Disappeared. It’s an ensemble cast of people doing that most banal evil—‘just following orders.’

What is the inciting incident of Disappeared?

In the first chapter, Julie’s sister Fay doesn’t return to their hotel one afternoon. Julie is, at first, paralyzed with uncertainty and fear. Besides the unfamiliar language and confusing officialdom, Julie remembers Fay’s odd behavior their first day in Morocco when police stopped them on a lonely road. Julie questions the hotel staff and snoops through Fay’s belongings enough to figure out where she’s gone—although she has no idea why. When Julie narrowly eludes a knife-wielding attacker, she realizes she is in danger if she passively waits in town so she flees the hotel in pursuit of her sister.

What is the main conflict of Disappeared?

The conflict is in two layers. There are the dangers Julie encounters while searching for Fay. There’s also Julie’s anger at Fay’s lies and—as she sees it—her betrayal, which is in direct conflict with Julie’s absolute need to save her sister’s life  

Did you plot Disappeared in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I’m a plotter and, honestly, I’m such a slow writer that, if I didn’t have a good idea of the book’s direction, I’d probably never finish.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Disappeared need?

I can’t count the number of edits I’ve made. Nor can I count the number of agents and readers who offered suggestions over the years. The writing community is generous.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Expressions become clichés because they get over-used. My advice is often repeated, but it remains true and it is the simplest way to write.

All writing is re-writing.

You can’t revise a blank page.

You have to write (to quote Anne Lamott) your “shitty first draft” and go from there.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I’ve completed another thriller. This one is set in my own backyard—the White Mountains of New Hampshire. While it rests (so I can begin re-re-revising), I’m trying my hand at my first mystery.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

There’s nothing in the world like opening a box of books you’ve sweated blood to create, seeing a cover image, a title, your name.

I’ll tell you the funniest thing that happened with my debut novel, Toward the Light. My granddaughter, who was then about four years old, saw the box of books and asked about them. I told her I’d written the book. She picked one up and flipped through the pages, scrunched her mouth into a suspicious pout. “Did you really write ALL THOSE WORDS?” she demanded.

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Website: https://bonnarspring.com

FB:         Bonnar Spring

               Bonnar Spring books

Twitter:  @gretagarbo42

IG:          bonnarspring   

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