Victoria Heckman Speaks on Writing

Today, author Victoria Heckman answers 10 probing questions into how she writes, why she writes, and her writing journey. She has some surprising answers and a lot of good advice for all writers everywhere. Enjoy!

What is the first thing you had published, and when?

I answered a contest call by Sisters in Crime-Central Coast Chapter.  The prize was publication and then I was hooked! That call saying I’d be published was amazing.

Of all your books, which is your favorite?

It’s usually my newest, but I am proud of the different elements in all the series. I love changing and adding and making the research and work really weave into a story to make the next in the series unique.

Do any of your buried attributes (things you don’t let others see or know about) come out in your characters?

I have had many experiences that I haven’t shared and I am sure those come up.  The two years I worked in law enforcement were the foundation for the police procedural along with my friends at the Honolulu Police Department.  I think more things come out that I wish were attributes!  K.O. is taller than I am and more self-assured, for example.

Why do you write the genre(s) you write?

I didn’t really choose to write what comes out, I just do.  I love paranormal and wrote a short story that I think I’d like to make into a novel form at some point.  I really wanted to write about ancient Hawai’i so did tons of research, but didn’t have a book until I met “Coconut Man,” my main character.  I am researching a new book set in 1860’s in the mid-west, but I don’t have a story.  I am looking at maps and finding people, but nothing has happened yet!

Have you ever started a story and realized it was a genre or age group you’d never written before?

I wrote a ghost story that I still just love, and Malama was a real person in my head who needed her story told. I didn’t know she was a ghost until well into the piece. That was a little creepy and I’ve never tried to find out if she was a real person–she’s real enough to me.

Think of a character who has a unique feature or ability. How did you come up with that unique feature for your character?

Elizabeth Murphy is an animal communicator.  I have always talked to my animals, and really all animals I come across, to a degree.  I saw a class offered in “Animal Communication” and took it thinking it would be a funny story for parties.  Turns out it’s a thing and I learned to do it, so I had to write about it.  That is one of my favorite things, writing what the animals think and say.

What’s your favorite writing snack?

I don’t have one. I write very fast and compact for limited bursts. I just write until the scene or chapter is done.  Sometimes that takes a long time but I don’t stop to eat.  I also don’t write for twelve hours straight. I had to learn to write fast as a mother of young children who might not let me have the luxury of time.  Although the ‘children’ are lovely grown men now, that method has served me well and continues to be the most effective.

What was the hardest critique you ever received?

My editor wouldn’t let me kill off a character. I had a fantastic funeral written, not a dry eye in the house. I fought her for several months.  She won.  It was a bloody 100 page re-write, but I trusted her and she was right. I saved that funeral scene though. Somebody’s gonna need it.

Do your characters ever take over the story and take it in new directions?

Always.  I used to be surprised, or try to get them back on track.  WASTE OF TIME.  I have learned to trust them.  They are living their lives somewhere and I’m just a nosy observer.  I have a path I think we’re on, and I know my subconscious will keep them true to the story, so if I am forcing an issue, it just won’t work.  Most often, a new person, someone I never intended, wanders in (or storms in, more like) and takes it in a new direction. I love the ‘new’ people. Or animals, or goddesses, or whatever as the case may be.

What is the most surprising thing that happened while you were writing a story?

I am always worried at some point that I can’t do it.  Finish, or create, or continue.  But if I believe it is already finished out there in the world somewhere, and I can tap into it, trust that it will come to me, then it does.  I still have that feeling every single book, but magically, for better or worse, there’s at least a rough first draft at some point to work from.  I got that piece of wisdom from Sue Grafton years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. It has seen me through some dark times.  I got the chance to thank her for that a couple of years ago at a Bouchercon. I try to pass it on, as well as the other many kindnesses veteran writers have shared.  Sometimes that ‘miracle’ takes ten years, but hey, never give up.

Thanks, Victoria, for all your answers and insights. I’m so happy you stopped by today. But I can’t believe you don’t have a writing snack! I don’t think I could write a word without a piece of chocolate melting in my mouth…

Victoria’s new book (the second) in her Coconut Man series, Kahuna:Priest, is now out. It’s a fascinating look at ancient Hawaii, and a masterful mystery. Victoria manages to flawlessly weave in the details of ancient Hawaii while crafting a wonderful mystery. When you finish it, you’ll think you’ve gone back in time and lived in that mystical land. Don’t miss it!


Here’s a quick peek at Victoria herself – and the various series she writes:

Victoria Heckman writes several mystery series:  K.O.’d in Hawaii — a police procedural;  Coconut Man Mysteries of Ancient Hawaii — a historical series; Elizabeth Murphy — Animal Communicator set on California’s Central Coast; and Pearl Harbor Blues, a stand-alone mystery. She has many short stories in several anthologies as well as editing and compiling several more. She is working on a historical short project as well as her next Elizabeth Murphy mystery. She is a member of Sisters in Crime-Central Coast Chapter.

Visit her website

or find her on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Kahuna: Priest on Kindle:

Kahuna: Priest Print Book:

About Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle is a professional freelance editor, writing instructor and multi-award winning author of 21 books—6 nonfiction on writing (Write It Right), 6 suspense novels and 7 collections of award-winning short stories. She also has stories in both volumes of "Deadlines", the new anthology from the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Tales from a Rocky Coast, and the SLO NightWriter anthology. Under the pen name Susan Grace O'Neill, she is the author of the Journey With Jesus series: Lord, Let Me Grow (Parables) vol. 1, and Lord, Let Me Walk (Lent). She is currently working on volume #2 of her Skylark P.I. series (a PI with paranormal abilities), as well as 2 YA fantasy series. And she teaches fiction writing in both the morning and afternoon every Wednesday. Email her if you're interested in joining her class. And follow her on Twitter and FaceBook.