MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: It was Mystery of the Old Clock—the first Nancy Drew. What drew me in? I wanted to be HER!!
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I wanted to write a mystery the minute I read my first one. Becoming a writer seemed like a pipe dream, though, so I put it aside. When I turned 40, when I was telling my own children they needed to find something they loved to do and figure out how to get paid for doing it, I dusted off that dream and set to work making it happen.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I used to write literary and mystery short stories and in fact it was one of the literary stories that drew the interest of the editor who went on to sign me. I don't write short stories anymore. Too busy writing novels.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: Neither. They come simultaneously. I cannot do one without the other.
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 certainly have to feel like I could solve the crime I invent, but there is no way I could solve a real murder. Like writing, solving crimes involves lots of training.
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 retired from my day job after becoming ill. I have Lyme disease and fibromyalgia. But I was working very hard to get published while I was working fulltime and used to write everyday. Now, the illnesses decide when and for how long I write. But I have been feeling better after two years on antibiotics and hope to regain some energy. Then maybe more writing, less THINKING about writing. LOL.
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 handwork—cross stitch, quilting, appliqué. I also used to do folk art painting but something had to go!! I am a really good cook (my grandfather was a chef so it's in the blood) but being on my feet for hours is difficult right now. But it will get better! When my energy returns I hope to cook and bake more and paint again as it is very relaxing. The most important thing in my day-to-day life is getting as much done with the energy I have. And of course my husband, my hyper dog, and my three wonderful cats.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: I have so many favorites I couldn't say. Certainly Carolyn Hart, Ruth Rendell and Elizabeth George have to be the top three. I believe you have to follow your own way, not "be" someone else. That's how I developed a certain "voice" for my work. That doesn't mean I do not admire many many writers, but I think trying to emulate someone else can lead to all sorts of problems.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: I am starting a new series. I would love to write a standalone, however, but I'll have to make NAL a whole lot more money before they let me do that! I have an idea and have started a book that I think would be awesome. They're not so sure. LOL.
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: My current series—The Yellow Rose Mystery Series—has 5 books and is going on hiatus to make way for the new series. But once I am well again, Abby will be back! My editor has no problem with that as long as I can write one book in each series a year, which I am unable to do right now.
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: They don't drive me crazy. I take them in the wrong direction and hit the wall. That's all about me as the author, not them. I love all my characters. In every book I hit that wall and have to go back to where I took them in the wrong direction. Then things flow very well again.
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've been asked this question a lot, and because I have a degree in psychology, I use that as a basis for character creation. I do not base characters on real people. Never have.
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's all about luck. And luck, as someone smarter than me said, is when preparation meets opportunity. And added to that, half of luck is just showing up. Showing up means rejection and I had more than a hundred for all my various works. I can honestly say I was never tempted to give up. This is a journey I had to take. I think at times my husband would love for me to give up because he doesn't understand the passion I have for writing. I'm not sure many people understand that who haven't written in hopes of getting published.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I have attended all the big conferences—Malice, Bouchercon, Left Coast—and several smaller conventions as well. I have had to put that on hold because of my illness. Traveling is very difficult.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: I use lots of forms of promotion and had a publicist for the last few books. I don't have one for Pushing Up Bluebonnets. We'll see how that goes. The publisher promotes mostly by buying good placement in book stores. I usually get a rack at the end of the aisle when the book first comes up. I am also widely available and that's the best publicity of all—books being easily available.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: It all works and it all takes up too much valuable writing time!
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: My editor always lets me know what's happening the first month. I was thrilled when the last book broke the B&N top twenty for paperbacks when it came out last January. That's pretty awesome. And the first two books in the Yellow Rose series have gone to multiple printings. That's a good clue I'm selling books!
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: There were two. One was the "top pick" review I got in the Romantic Times Book Review magazine for my first book. The second was a review I got by Cindy Chow—you can read it on B&N—for Shoot From the Lip. She understands that my books may be "fun" but that there are also some very big issues being explored between the lines. Cozies are misunderstood in that way. Some folks think they're just fluff, but these books are about our society. They are very topical and there's more there than a lot of people realize.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: I won lots of amateur awards, the biggest being the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' award for best first mystery. I'd love to win a professional award but don't know if that will ever happen.
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: To be honest, every time I hear from a reader I do that. No one has ever written an unkind word to me and I am so grateful for reader support.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: Bluebonnets is this year's book. My work in progress is the first in the "Cats in Trouble" mystery series. It's titled The Cat, The Quilt & The Corpse and will be out in January 2009.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: A novel of psychological suspense.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Learn your craft, learn how to accept criticism without defending your work, and never give up.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: Pushing Up Bluebonnets uses a "what if…" beginning that I have had in my head for a long time. There is a first chapter of the cat book at the end of Bluebonnets, but I hope I have created a new voice. This series is pure amateur sleuth set in a small fictional South Carolina town.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: New York Times Bestseller list!
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.