MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: I don’t remember the title, but definitely one of the stack of Nancy Drews I hauled in my bicycle basket from the tiny library at the Presbyterian Church, the only lending library in Falfurrias, Texas.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: Here’s the truth. After a tragic death in my family, I knew I wanted to write something, but I didn’t know what. I was on a plane a year or so later when the lady next to me asked about children and I described the way the family was before. Then, without missing a beat, I updated the missing child adding the life I’d thought she would have. There it was, a big fat lie. That was the moment. Isn’t unraveling lies what mysteries are about? I thought, “What if a mother couldn’t take the loss of a child and made up a life for her, say in another town. Then what if someone found out?”
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: Mysteryshrink Humorous Take on the Day, Mysteryshrink.com Non-fiction Psychology.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: Characters. I come from that kind of family.
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: Absolutely not. I am swept away, awed by what characters and other real people can accomplish. I’m stunned when I discover a twist I can make. As far as the world goes, in this part of my life, it’s more important to me to touch some lives under the heel of the movers and shakers than to solve the big problem. Growing up on the Texas-Mexico border, my heart and efforts are directed to the people there. As the violence has escalated, the needs have too. The problems of the world? Way over my head.
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write full-time, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: I’m a psychologist doing therapy about half-time. I write in restaurants, sometimes for hours at a time. (If you like this idea, tip $5 per hour.) I accomplish the most when I travel. My favorite spots are Cabo, San Jose and Mexico City. It is a wonderful privilege to go to a different setting and immerse myself.
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 my psychotherapy work as well. I’m married to one of my school professors who’s also a psychologist. Our dogs, Crazy Dog and Sammie Davis, Jr., keep us in line. I watch a pile of true crime and see most decent movies.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: Okay, my favorite is more of a genre unto himself. Tim Dorsey. The man is hysterical but his stories are more like capers. After wild man, Ruth Rendall.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: Part of a Series.
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 plan on going on. I have at least three perking plots and one near finished book at the moment.
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: Oh, never. I went into psychology because I like twisty people, the crazier the better. I do write from an emerging outline. To keep myself in line.
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: Being a psychologist, I am frequently asked if I get my characters and plots from my cases. The answer: No. I have plenty of material and characters in my family.
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: The first book I worked on (about the mother unable to accept the loss of a child) is on the shelf. I know. I know. When someone at a conference said, “You will end up putting your first effort aside," I wanted to leap up on the stage and choke him. After all this work, I’m going to set this book aside?
But it happens. As a science major, I didn’t take any English at college. Thus, I spent a couple of years learning how to write fiction…an on-going issue.
I think the difference was, I finally had a product. As it turns out, given the level of change required by the publisher, not as much of a finished product as I thought.
On rejection: Only a crazy person would purposely set herself up for so much rejection. You have to embrace that you’re a nutcase. But this isn’t a bad thing. When someone tells you “you are nuts” writing a mystery…turn into the skid and say, “Yes, I know. And I think I’m getting worse.” Admitting you’re crazy stops a lot of that boring speculation.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I love the Pitch and Shop Conferences. I’ve found smaller conferences more useful, especially when you can send in a manuscript partial for critique. There are lots of fun people doing what you’re doing and it’s great fun to share stories.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: Every author has to promote her work. Most publishers do not even want to talk to you unless you have a marketing plan for yourself and to guide their efforts. This a really important issue. I do not have a marketing or sales cell in my body, which makes this an important area any writer should think about. It’s hard. Or, at least, it is for me.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: Book festivals, mysteryshrink blog.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: Not a clue. I watch books go up and down on the publishers selling list, but I’m not clear on where I fit. My favorite report on book sales is when I meet someone and they liked the book. It’s especially fun when I’m told which part most interested them. Their favorite element may have been a part I didn’t give much focus and the feedback helps me understand the reader.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: From several independent reviews which can be seen on Amazon. Why? Because they liked the book, reported much laughter, and they got what I was trying to say.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: Southern California Writers Best Fiction. Most of my national awards have come from speaking gigs. I love stories. I love telling stories.
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: Yes. In the early part of TOO RICH and TOO THIN, Not an Autobiography, a homely young woman (Fat Ruthie) has been talked out of her marriage to a Hispanic blue collar worker by her mother who wants Ruthie to marry “up” now that the family is wealthy. In the end these two get back to together and I loved hearing how many readers were hoping and hoping…and got their wish.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: Next project: Jessica LeFave is in Las Vegas presenting seminar on Love Addiction when her best friend and lawyer crashes bloody into the ballroom where she’s teaching. The friend woke up with his arms around a murdered stranger. The story blends in some heavy learning (heavy as in “ouch”) on the dangers of love addiction while an obsessed murderer stalks Jessica.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: The truth about what happened to my family when my mother died of a sudden asthma attack when I was in high school. For starters, my father remarried a few months later, I married and divorced my stepbrother, brother ran away to Guatemala, my other stepbrother kidnapped his two year old living with his sixteen-year-old ex-wife...I’d like to step into that world and tell it all, pain included.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Do it because you love it. For no other reason. There was a line in the movie about Virginia Woolf in which (paraphrase) one of her sisters says something like, “Don’t you see? Virginia lives two lives. The one she has here with us and the life she’s writing.” Hey, you can’t get better than that!
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: TOO RICH is the teaser all the way through. These characters are crazy but with heart.
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 Random House would come to their senses and give me a call.
MMLC: Please give us your Web site url and your e-mail address where people can contact you.
Mysteryshrink is my pay-it-forward, sharing what I’ve learned that really works psychology wise…and humor is the most important part.
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.