Debra R. Borys has over ten years experience freelancing for a wide assortment of clients. Her experience ranges from fiction to articles, feature stories, press releases and radio spots.
Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Debra.
Debra: I spent eight years volunteering with the homeless on the streets of both Chicago and Seattle. In addition to having short stories published, I am also a freelance writer who specializes in fiction projects—editing, ghostwriting, and collaborative work. 10% of any author profits from Painted Black will be donated to the Night Ministry in Chicago and Teen Feed in Chicago to promote solutions for homelessness.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Debra: In Painted Black, I called upon my real life experiences as a volunteer with homeless kids and adults to bring life to the characters and setting of the suspense story. My goal was to lure the reader in with a great suspense plot and characters the reader cares about, yet nudge their empathy button while they are reading so that they come out at the end with a broader understanding of homelessness. My hope is to show people that homeless people are just PEOPLE — who just happen to be homeless — not someone to fear or despise.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Debra: Painted Black is intended to be the first in a series of suspense novels featuring reporter Jo Sullivan as she helps the homeless kids she meets get out of serious jeopardy and try to recover from the blows life has dealt them.
In Painted Black, Jo works with a graffiti artist to try to find his missing friend, a fifteen-year-old girl named Lexie Green. When Jo and Chris investigate Sloan and Whiteside’s funeral home, they put themselves in danger of becoming part of a bizarre collection of freeze dried corpses.
What’s the hook for the book?
Debra: The original idea for the Painted Black suspense plot came from a news article I read years ago in the Chicago Tribune. It was about a new method of preservation being used by taxidermists who freeze dried people’s pets to produce lifelike replicas that would last indefinitely. One person they interviewed stated that freeze drying could be used on people as well, and compared the process to cooking pizzas in an oven. He sounded so bizarre and unconcerned about it. In my research, I actually found an article in a mortuary magazine about a firm that did preserve a man in this manner.
How do you develop characters?
Debra: The street characters in Painted Black are inspired by the people I met on the streets of Chicago. In some cases, they are loosely based on specific encounters I had, or may be composites of people I grew to know fairly well. Jo herself is perhaps a reflection of the person I would like to be, good hearted and tough, someone who wants to make a difference in the world even if it can only happen one person at a time.
Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Debra: While Jo Sullivan is the “main” character and the one I plan to carry the series, it is graffiti artist Chris (known by CRY as his tag) who seems to capture everyone’s heart. He’s a sixteen-year-old kid just trying to survive on the streets as best he can. While he may resort to questionable methods sometimes, his caring nature and loyalty to his friends tug at your heartstrings. He is a perfect example of so many real life homeless kids I’ve met.
Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Debra: I discovered a great software program called Storylines, which is part of a powerful set of tools found in the Writer’s Café. The ways the program helps are too many to detail here, but what I find most helpful is a virtual corkboard which allows you to pin or rearrange “index cards” in rows and columns that can be customized like a storyboard. I refer to it often when I want to see how the overall tension is building and what scenes need to be written next.
Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
Debra: My Jo Sullivan series books will always be told from three different POVs. Jo will always be the main one, of course, since she is the continuing character. The second will be the street kid Jo is trying to help, and the third will vary depending on the story. However, books that hop from one head to another in the same scene drive me crazy, so I never switch POVs within the same chapter.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Debra: The darkness and immediacy of living life homeless on the streets of Chicago adds a tension and tone that makes it clear there is more at stake for these characters than just solving a mystery. They are fighting for more than a solution to finding the missing piece of a puzzle; they are struggling to survive and thrive despite the darkness they fight against.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Borys gives us a glimpse into the vagaries of street life for teens without wallowing in sentimentality or false compassion. The mystery here is not who did it, but how finding the truth will change the life of a street kid we’ve come to care about. There are no innocents in this Windy City, just real people trying to make a difference.
— Latham Shinder, author of The Graffiti Sculptor and professional memoir ghostwriter
What are your current projects?
Debra: I am mainly working on the second novel in my the Jo Sullivan series, Bend Me, Shape Me. However, I also spend a full work week on freelance projects or looking for freelance projects. I am editing a business ebook, ghostwriting a series of mystery stories, editing a collection of sci-fi stories, and just recently signed up with a personalized novel company to write novels that can be personalized with the reader’s details.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Debra: Details and news are always available at my websites: www.debra-r-borys.com and www.paintedblacknovel.com. The book can be found for download or purchase at many locations, including Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com.
Thanks for joining us today, Debra.
Debra: Thank you once again for this opportunity.