MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: It was a Nancy Drew book, and I think it was called THE SECRET OF LARKSPUR LANE, or THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK. (But, eventually, I read them all.) I loved Nancy's spirit.
The author's name on the book was Carolyn Keene, but I later learned that there were quite a few authors-for-hire who wrote those books, under that name.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I decided in February of 2002, when a friend who knew about my previous careers asked what I really wanted to do. Out popped the answer: "Write mystery novels." Strangely, it had never occurred to me to write that genre I loved to read. I began typing "Chapter 1 of my first mystery on April 18, 2002. It was published in June of 2004, and I've written one book a year ever since then.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I only write mystery novels -- currently labeled "cozies" -- but I've just begun writing a "mainstream" novel of suspense.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: The characters, absolutely.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the story, do you feel like you could solve the crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s mysteries?
AUTHOR: I know that, as the author, I must solve the crime, but I've never thought that I could solve "all the world's mysteries" or even a few. I'm glad, because I like being surprised by Life.
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: I write full time. For the first several months of writing a book I work about 5 hours a day, 5 days a week. But in the final 2 months of the book, I write 7 days a week. My preferred schedule is to write from early morning until about noon. Then do editing, household chores, etc. But in the last 2 months of a book I will work in the evenings, too.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you enjoy doing? What is the most important thing to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: I love to read, to work in my garden, to spend time with my cat and my dog, and to see friends for a casual lunch or dinner. If I see a movie, it's usually on DVD or on TV, but I love to go to the theater to see plays. I manage that at least 6 times a year, sometimes more often. Live theater is my very favorite "night out."
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: My favorite authors (mystery, suspense, thrillers) are Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Joseph Wambaugh, Donald E. Westlake, and (except for his burglar series) Lawrence Block. I was burglarized some years ago and since then I cannot read a book in which the burglar is the hero! No, I don't try to emulate my favorites, except in that I try to write the best possible books that I can.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: DEATH TAKES THE CAKE (my current mystery) is book # 2 in my series of "culinary" mysteries. Book # 3 is completed and will be published in February 2010, and is titled THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING.
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on for several years with it?
AUTHOR: I'm happy to go forward with a series, but when it ends I'll complete a "mainstream" novel of suspense that I've already begun.
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? If so, how do you rein them in, or do you just let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: I know my characters so well when I begin writing that they, and I, are on the same path. But if a character seems reluctant to do something, then I will re-think that aspect of the story until I've found a way to be true to the character. "Reluctance" in a character is a signal to me that I need to find a better way to accomplish my intention.
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know? If so, do you let that person know they were your “pattern”?
AUTHOR: There are bits and pieces of myself in more than one character, but most of the qualities are made up. For example, my heroines are better than I am at several things.
MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you have to suffer through first? Were you ever tempted to give up? What do you think made the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: When I submitted my first mystery novel to my agent, I began writing book 2 in what I hoped was going to be a series. I told him not to give me information along the way as to who was rejecting it, but to tell me all that when -- IF! -- he was able to sell it. That first mystery sold in about 4 months, and then I learned that 3 other publishers had rejected it before Berkley Prime Crime bought it. The agent had submitted the book to 4 publishers at once. I was lucky that Berkley bought it because that's a really wonderful company, and they've been a joy to work with.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I've been to Malice Domestic twice, and to Bouchercon once. I'd like to go to more, but I don't have time. In addition to writing one book a year, I teach novel writing in the UCLA Extension Writers Program (under my legal name, Linda Palmer) and I also take an occasional assignment to rewrite screenplays for producers. Also, I traveled so much for so many years that I'm very happy to stay home with my pets, my garden, and my computer.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: The publisher sends out books to be reviewed, but I also contact Internet sites to try to arrange reviews. Also, I arrange my own book signings, and the speeches I give. In addition, I spend at least an hour every morning answering mail that comes to me through 2 web sites. What a joy it is to hear from readers! I answer every letter.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: Internet groups, such as yours, have been wonderful for me! I think the Internet is the best way to reach people who might be interested in reading one's work.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: The publisher says that the books are selling well. They've gone back to print more. Twice a year I get an accounting, and a royalty check.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: I've been enormously lucky in the kind reviews that I've received for each of the books, but my favorite was not from a professional reviewer but from a reader in Australia. She said that she appreciated the fact that one of my continuing characters (in my first series) "was not a perfect 10" but had a physical challenge. He was a dwarf. She then told me that she had contracted polio as a child and was confined to a wheelchair, but that she was able to forge a very successful career for herself in business with a major company. I had created that character as a tribute to a dwarf I'd known -- a really wonderful person. It never occurred to me that the fact of his physical challenge who mean something personal and positive to readers.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: No awards, except many letters from readers that I treasure, and am honored by.
MLC: Is there any one certain thing that a reader has written to you that made you just want to jump up and shout “Yes!!!!”?
AUTHOR: What thrills me is that so many of those who write to me feel they can relate to my characters, who feel a "kinship" or share similar feelings.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING, which is book # 3 in the current series, will be published in early February 2010. At the moment, I'm working on a new book, not part of the series. I'm writing this one "on spec" so I don't know what will come of it. All I know is that I'm enjoying this new challenge.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: What I'm writing now: a "mainstream novel of suspense" with a male protagonist. Only my agent knows what it's about, and he is very enthusiastic. I don't know if a publisher will want it. I'm gambling on myself again, as I did when I started writing my first mystery novel seven years ago.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Yes: read and read and read the very best books in the genre in which you want to write. Study how the best writers do it. Then write and write and write and don't give up. If possible, I believe in taking a novel writing course taught by an author who writes novels for a living. I did that.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: Yes. In the back of DEATH TAKES THE CAKE, behind the recipes, the publisher put the first chapter of THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: That I would continue to be published.
MMLC: Please give us your website url and your email address where people can contact you.
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.