MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: I believe it was The Mystery of the Blue Pelican, which was the first of the Robin Kane Mysteries. I was eight, and Robin was thirteen. I remember liking the adventure, her independence, her crush on her best friend’s older brother (which I totally related to) and the fact that her parents seemed to barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill almost every night.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I can’t say that it was a decision. I always knew I’d write novels, and after a lifetime of reading everything from Agatha Christie to Jeffrey Deaver the decision to write a mystery was inevitable.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I don’t write novels in any other genres, though I dabble in creative nonfiction essays from time to time.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: My instinctive reaction to this question is to say “both.” But the truth is it’s a combination of character and situation, rather than plot. A black-leather-wearing, smoking, drinking tough gal isn’t suitable for a cozy mystery featuring crafts and cooking. Likewise, my protagonist, Sophie Mae Reynolds, would be the wrong character for a police procedural. So once I have the characters and situation worked out the plot details emerge.
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 can see how asking the questions and doing the research my characters do would result in solving the crime as they uncover information piece by piece. But solving all the world’s mysteries is way beyond my ken!
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 think of writing as my day job – though sometimes it takes up my evenings and weekends, too. I try to write – or rewrite – every day, but usually not all day. Much of the writing “job” is marketing, promotion, networking and blogging, 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: Cooking and gardening are high on the list. And all the home crafts in the books I’ve either done for a while or do on a regular basis. Soap making, food preservation, and spinning yarn are all activities I enjoy. I make a lot of crazy things from scratch – like butter. In Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, out this month, the backdrop is cheese making and other “milk crafts.” But the most important thing in my day-to-day life is balance, which means I try to fit in exercise, golfing, socializing, and family around it all.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: This is always a tough question because there are so many wonderful writers out there. Whenever Laurie R. King has a new book out, I snap it up. And I love reading Craig Johnson and C.J. Box because they live and set their books in Wyoming. I was born in Wyoming, and their characters are right on the money. Others include James Lee Burke and Dana Stabenow. I don’t try to emulate any of them though.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: Something Borrowed, Something Bleu is the fourth in the Sophie Mae Reynolds Home Crafting Mystery 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 have a vision for the series that includes several more adventures for Sophie Mae and her various sidekicks.
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: Sometimes they go in an unexpected direction. I usually let them run for a while because some really interesting things can happen then. If it’s not interesting enough or doesn’t fit with the rest of the book, then that tangent goes into a “dregs” file, which I mine from time to time for ideas.
Much worse than when they run off on their own is when they dig their heels in and try to stare me down, refusing to do anything I’m asking of them.
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: People say Sophie Mae is me, but she’s not really. We’re interested in the same things, but she has a crazy strong sense of justice and is willing to do things I’m not. And I’m probably more serious and wonky than she’d ever dream of being. Two incidental characters in the series started out as someone I knew, but soon came into their own. Now they don’t even remotely resemble the people who inspired them.
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: It took what I hear is typical: ten years. Over a hundred rejection letters from agents hit my mailbox over the years. I expected that, though, and honestly was never tempted to throw in the towel. Finally an agent wanted to represent a book I’d submitted to her, so I contacted the other agents who had my manuscripts to let them know. Suddenly I had three other offers of representation. I went with the original offer, with the caveat that she also shop another manuscript I’d written. The first book that she was interested in never sold. The second manuscript was Lye in Wait, the first Home Crafting Mystery, and it sold within two months.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I go to Bouchercon on occasion, and I love Left Coast Crime.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: My publisher, Midnight Ink, is very good about getting out review copies and working with the media. However I do the majority of promotion. I know very few authors that don’t have to promote their own books to some degree.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: I always do a tour in the Seattle area since the books are set in a fictionalized town north of there. A strong online presence is necessary, perhaps even more so than in-person appearances. So I started a blog that’s about the writing life, cooking, and the home crafts featured in my mysteries. I’m also in the usual venues out there like Facebook and Twitter. And sites like Mystery Lovers Corner are indispensible when it comes to connecting mystery readers and writers.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: Every time a new book comes out the sales of all the books in the series increase. The Kindle versions are doing well, and then there are the French and large print editions, too.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: I am so grateful for all the nice reviews my mysteries have received. The best to my mind right now is when Judy Coon at Booklist said of Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, “This series continues to add depth to its engaging cast of characters, and the home-crafting details remain a delight and an inspiration.”
I love that she recognizes the character arcs over the series and enjoys the crafting aspect of the books as well.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: Lye in Wait was a finalist for the Foreward Magazine Book of the Year Award, but that’s it.
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: I had a reader e-mail that after reading the series she realized a lot of domestic crafts are pretty simple. She tried a couple of the recipes with success and wanted to try spinning next!
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: I’ve just finished the fifth book in the series, tentatively titled Wined and Died. It features mead making as the home crafting backdrop to Sophie Mae’s investigations. It will be out sometime in 2011.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: I’d write what I’m already writing. The series was sparked by my own interests and my own life. That hasn’t changed since the books have been published.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Be persistent. Write every day. Never stop learning more about your craft. And then be persistent some more.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: What do you do when you learn a murder might be committed, but you don’t know who the victim is, who the killer is, or how they plan to do it? Armed only with the last name of the large family who owns the Grendel Meadery, Sophie Mae races to discover the answers before it’s too late for one of them.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: Oh, gee. How ‘bout all of them spending several weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List?
MMLC: Please give us your Web site url and your e-mail 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.