MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: Like so many others, my first mystery was a Nancy Drew. I loved the courage of a girl. I don’t remember the particular book, but I think I read most all of them published at the time. What I liked about them was it took me into another world and challenged my problem-solving skills. Led me to try to figure out the mystery adventure.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I started to write Dance On His Grave as a true crime, then realized I needed it to be a work of fiction. As I studied the plot, mystery seemed to be the best genre for it. I’d read a lot of mystery, but had little clue how to write. It took me a couple of years before I got it ready to market.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I’ve written an essay published in The Story That Must Be Told: True Tales of Transformation, published by Helping Hands Press, and I have a brand new book coming out late this summer which is a historical fiction set during WWII. The book is A War Of Her Own, published by Crickhollow Press.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: That varies for me. With Dance On His Grave, the plot came first. Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets—the characters. Dead Wreckoning, again, the characters. Also a biggie for me is setting. Often the setting takes precedence for me, and I want to create a story that takes place in a certain setting. For instance, A War Of Her Own—setting was vital. Orange, Texas, and the shipyard there became vital to the war effort.
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: Oh, gosh no! Sometimes I think I know who the killer is and learn halfway through the book I was wrong. Then I have to go back and lay new clues! I do enjoy solving mysteries, though, and usually figure out who did it before the end of a book I’m reading or a movie I’m watching. I am VERY suspicious and watch everything that’s going on. I’m hard to fool!
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: My day job is writing! It’s also my night job! Yes, I try to write something every day. When I’m drafting a first draft I set daily goals for myself. But when I’m re-writing, I pick it up all hours of the day and night and work. I get up early to write—then find my husband getting up earlier, too! So, I just about have to leave the house when doing the first draft!
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: Casinos of any kind! I love penny machines and quarter video poker!! I’m not a big spender, I budget my entertainment for the days I’m there and stop at the bottom of that—but I find them so much fun. I am always trying to improve my skill. I’m still waiting on the Royal Flush!
Next, I guess I’d have to say food! My main focus is to eat what I want to be! (You Are What You Eat) I focus on creating delicious and healthy meals for my husband and me.
Something else I enjoy is watching television. We love the reality shows, particularly So You Think You Can Dance. I love to see those kids coming in from the streets, showing what they can do, and making something positive out of their lives!
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: I’d have to say Nevada Barr and Dean Koontz. Emulate? My voice is more a blend of the two.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: Dead Wreckoning is my latest book in the Sidra Smart mysteries. Yes, it is the third of the 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: Right now, I can’t really say. I’ve found after writing three in the series, a need to take a break, else my fear is the fourth wouldn’t be unique enough to maintain the quality of the first three. Likely I’ll write another, but in the meantime, a character in the third book has now demanded her own series, so I’m working on Boo Murphy’s SWAMP SLEUTH.
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: Well, I can’t just let them run off on their own, but I must give them as much free rein as I can and still maintain control over the plot. These characters can really get pushy, yes. And often, what I thought they’d do or say doesn’t fit what they think of the situation. That’s the balancing act an author must maintain. It’s like training a dog; you can’t let them know they're the boss!
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 guess if my sleuth is patterned after anyone, it would be me. We share some of the same weaknesses and strengths.
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: Oh gosh! About 129 rejections! And no, I wasn’t tempted to give up—well—maybe for brief periods of time, but what ended up happening is every rejection just propelled me onward. I’m a Taurus, so rejections made me dig in my heels and work harder. In the process, I landed a couple of agents that didn’t live up to their commitment, so I decided to go with a small indie press. The difference is finding that needle in a haystack, that right combination of timing and opportunity.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I do, as many as I can afford to attend. I tend more to area writer’s conferences. I loved Hard-boiled Heroes and Cozy Cats in Texas, but they haven’t met n a couple of years.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: I do all my own promotion. Publishers these days are struggling to survive, which leaves little money for individual authors—unless you’re Sarah Palin or Laura Bush, of course!
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: I spend LOTS of time and money marketing. I try to maintain a heavy presence online, maintain booths at book festivals, art events, local fairs, & newsletters. I have an article on my blog at www.sylviadickeysmithbooks.wordpress.com titled If A Hen Dips Snuff. Half my hits are for that one blog where I talk about marketing ideas. The main focus of the article is that marketing can be fun. I encourage authors to not make it a chore, make it a challenge and have fun doing it!
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: Actually, they do pretty well. Never as much as I’d like, but for a small press book, I can’t complain.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: The best reviews I receive are e-mails from fans that have read the book and liked it well enough to let me know they did! I love fan mail.
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: All three of my mystery books have won writers awards from writers’ groups. Just recently, I was named the recipient of the Barbara Burnett Smith Mentoring Authors SAGE award, given on behalf of the foundation named after the well-loved mystery author. That meant a lot to me because it is awarded to writers who go the extra mile to mentor other authors. Paying it Forward is quite important to me.
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, many! The latest is this morning when I read on DorothyL, where a reader said my books are as good as any, better than most, and should be picked up by a large publishing house.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: My next project is due out in a few weeks. It is a break away from mystery—but of course every book is a mystery of sorts! A WAR OF HER OWN is a historical novel set during WWII in southeast Texas. My new publisher, Crickhollow Books, has done a marvelous job with editing and design. The official launch date is September 2, 2010, but it will be on the streets in August. I have a special opportunity going on right now where the first 50 people who pre-order the book from me receive $2.00 off and free shipping of the autographed copy.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: I pretty much write what I want. If I don’t have a passion for my tale, I don’t feel like I do it justice. So I just don’t bother.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Keep your butt in the chair and write!!! Don’t give up. Let rejection or writing problems spur you onward! Join a good critique group!
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: Sure! Bea Meade starts with a strike against her even before she’s born. Now twenty, married and the mother of a four-month old baby, instead of a good night’s sleep, Bea spends her nights feeling alone in a half-empty womb, a womb both a graveyard and a birthing chamber. Her most critical need, however, is for her husband to come home with his paycheck so she can pay the rent. Instead, he comes with a tale of unfaithfulness and of a woman pregnant with his child.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: To be a guest of the Oprah show! Plus, heck, go for it! I’d love to receive a Pulitzer for writing!
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.