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 title, and I was sucked in by the picture on the cover…a girl creeping down some dark basement stairs, flashlight in hand. Shudder! I went on to enjoy Conan Doyle and Christie, and my favorite, Edgar Allen Poe.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: It wasn’t a decision so much as a lifelong intention. I finally found myself in a position with money in the bank and time on my hands, so I went for it.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I’ve written horror screenplays for Dimension Films (Miramax), and adult fare for Playboy and recently HBO. But everything I write has a comedic slant to it (which sometimes gets me in trouble). Fortunately with the books it’s all up to me—no producer to please—and I can be just as silly as I want to.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: The characters. They determine the plot.
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: Um, that would be “no” on all the world’s
mysteries, though I try, I try. Someone said, “The fact that we can
announce the mystery is the mystery.” In other words, where does our
self-awareness come from?
But I do find that writing a fictional mystery and solving a made-up crime can be empowering in a micro-cosmic kind of way.
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: My writing schedule, when I’m doing it, is a go-for-broke situation. Up with the birds, working till I drop. But lately I’ve been so busy trying to promote the books I’ve already sold that I haven’t had time to be very productive on the writing front. (It’s a good thing I have two future books ready to go.)
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 read a lot of spiritual books, and science books with titles like “Quantum Physics for Blondes.” Plumbing those pesky life mysteries.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: Strangely for a comedy writer, I read a lot of serious mysteries. I love the suspense, and they teach me about structure. As for names…all the usual suspects!
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: It’s part of a series featuring my detectives, Terry and Kerry McAfee. They’re identical twins, but completely opposite in temperament. Kerry’s the older one by a minute and a half. She’s responsible, law-abiding, and frankly sort of a wimp. Terry is a wild-child lesbian biker who’s been in prison for drugs and is completely fearless. They’re devoted to each other, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot of tension between the two of them.
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 want them to go on forever, they’re so fun. But eventually the sun will implode and I’ll have to stop.
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: For me, the whole exercise is one of the characters going off in their own directions. I don’t work from an outline. I really, really envy people who do, but I’m always gratified to hear about another author who says she wings it, like Tess Gerritsen. I do a little fist-pump and say “Yay for our side”! I think it’s about 50/50 out there—right-brainers vs. left-brainers.
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: I was halfway through the second book before I realized I’d patterned the McAfees after Pippi Longstocking, the Strongest Little Girl in the World. Like her, they’re skinny, freckled redheads, capable of amazing feats. As a child, I would gaze at a picture of Pippi, who’d be holding a steer in the air with one hand, the other hand poised casually on her hip, and think Whoa…look at that! (This was probably at the age of four, when I was a little confused about the line between fiction and non-fiction.) Pippi started me on the road to feminism.
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 didn’t take long. I wrote three books
in two-and-a-half years and got a deal on all three. I had plenty of
rejections along the way, but every time I thought, “Well, someday people
are going to ask you if you got a lot of rejections, and you’ll be able
to say Yes, but I soldiered on. One problem I had was summarizing my
wacky books for the agents…in synopsis form they sound like they were
written by someone on crack!
As for being discouraged, there’s always that devil sitting on your shoulder, whispering in your ear: “How does if feel to be deluded—enjoying yourself? You know you’re wasting your time and money, don’t you, Loser…?”
You just have to kick him in the little red ass when he does that. I think the fact that I had three finished books was the clincher in getting a deal, three being a magic number. Also, I’d self-published the first two, so I could offer up a bunch of positive reviews.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I’ve been to LCC 2004, Bouchercon 2006, and the now defunct Conmisterio. I love meeting readers and writers in person, but I question whether it’s the most effective means of promotion in the age of the Internet. I guess you should do both, but I hate leaving my husband at home.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: I’m so glad you asked! I’m preparing an all-out marketing assault on the reading public in the next couple of months to promote The Vampire of Venice Beach. I’m going to give away books via a series of Web commercials. Keep your eyes peeled for Jennifer Colt’s Bookapalooza!
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: See above.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: Pretty well, thank you.
MLC: hat has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: It would have to be the one from Wordcandy.net: “The Butcher of Beverly Hills is the only book I’ve ever read that can truly be considered a worthy successor to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.” (Self-explanatory, I assume ;-)
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: Butcher was a finalist in the PWA/St. Martin’s Press Best First Private Eye Contest, 2002.
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: When I get emails from readers saying that they’ve embarrassed themselves in the coffee shop, or on the train, or in a plane by laughing so much. I looooooove to hear that.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: The Vampire of Venice Beach: A Novel, will blast off on March 27, 2007.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: Just what I’m currently writing. I never wrote it to please anyone but myself, and fortunately Broadway Books agreed with me.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: I’d have to go with the above: please yourself. And try to be original. Remember how many of us there are out there and ask yourself, “Does the world really need another (fill in the blank)?” Be brutally honest—will what you’re offering stand out in the crowd?
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: I love the teaser the publisher came up
The sleuthing sisters are plunged into a nefarious world where dentists specialize in prosthetic canines, club-goers swill blood-red cocktails, and a charismatic fanged psychopath rules the scene. Will a host of distractions—death threats scrawled on their Harley, vampires climbing through their skylight at night, advances from Kerry's sometime love interest Detective Boatwright, a houseful of new puppies—keep the twins from getting their ghoul? Not bloody likely.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: Is this a trick question? Genie Man, make me a bestseller. I’ll scour your magic lamp for you, baby-sit the little genies, anything…I want people to read my books and laugh!
MLC: 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.