Today we welcome Sunny Frazier, a mystery writer who specializes in astrology. She has incorporated this unique talent into her creation of the character Christy Bristol around whom her mystery series is built.
1. Sunny, I’m a fan of your book “Fools Rush In,” and I’m definitely going to read the sequel. I know that you are a Central Valley author (like myself) and draw from this area in developing your plots and characters. Can you tell us a little more about what led you to create the Christy Bristol character?
Christy is a composite of myself when I was much younger and many of the women I worked with in law enforcement. We were support staff, not sworn officers. We were the backbone of the Sheriff’s Department, yet seldom given credit or recognition (or even decent pay). All the police procedurals I’ve read featured cops and detectives. I wanted to give the “pink collar” protagonist a chance to solve crimes.
2. Your astrology experiences also inform your characters. What first led you to this particular passion?
I talk about it in FOOLS RUSH IN. I was 19, saw a book in the dusty window of an old bookstore. I was just drawn to it: Astrology in the Age of Aquarius by Alexandra Mark. When I asked to see it, the bookseller asked “Do you do astrology?” I answered “Yes” although I’d never seen a horoscope. I just knew.
3. What is your writing day like? I know that you use a kitchen timer sometimes, to clock your time spent on your creations. What other special habits have you developed?
Ah, the kitchen timer! It really works, you know. I feed the cats so they’ll settle down, get a cup of coffee and just start wherever I left off. It’s always good to leave off when you don’t want to so you can’t wait to get back to the plot. I allow myself to look at email and eat. Much of my marketing is done on Sunday, when emails are slow. Guess everyone else is enjoying the weekend. Housework comes in last on my list. The cats don’t seem to care.
4. Could you tell us a bit about when you first began writing and what kinds of inspiration you drew from early on?
Actually, I was attracted to journalism. I was the editor of the high school newspaper, wrote for military publications while in the Navy, got a BA in Journalism on the GI Bill and was hired as a token female for a small newspaper in Fresno. When I found out I wasn’t expected to be any good, when I scooped the men for front page articles, when I was paid less than the male summer intern because I “should have a man” to take care of me, I decided to switch to fiction writing. Things have changed now, women seem to dominate what’s left of the newspaper industry. But, journalism is good experience and I think my background shows in my writing style. Also, I don’t do much rewriting.
5. I know that you participate in writing groups, both online and in person. What advice would you give to new writers about this kind of group support?
Writing groups are fine, but books aren’t written by a democracy. I think a writer needs to have a vision and fight for it. Of course, listen to advice and suggestions, but it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. I try to show writers how to make their sentences stronger, but I would never insist on plot or character changes. Remember, only one name is going to appear on the book.
6. In formulating your story ideas, do you find that your real life experiences help create your plots and characters?
All of my novels start from some case I worked while with an undercover narcotics team. I steal from my own experiences, but they are too good to pass up. I do astrology on the real people I base the stories on or I make up a birthdate and see where the pseudo chart guides me. This is totally cheating I suppose. I’m sure I have an easier time than authors who have to come up with plots.
7. Having seen you here and there on the “web,” I know that you blog and contribute quite a bit online. When did you first begin using the Internet to market your books, and how much do you think these experiences impact your book sales?
A year ago I made a New Year’s resolution to take the time to investigate cyber sites and blogging. My blogs came straight from a monthly newspaper column I wrote called “Write On!” When the paper folded, I simply took the articles and pre-posted them on the sites. A new one comes up monthly and I’m good for 18 months. I’ve got about 35 sites I post on, but I’ve got a “system” and it’s no real work. I’ve also got a reputation, often controversial. When sparks fly, I contact my friends and ask them to get my back. I have incredibly loyal friends.
My blogs demonstrate my “voice” and I get lots of sales. Plus, if people order through me, I give them 3 months of their horoscope future. Then my character, Christy Bristol, chats about what she sees in the charts on her Face Book site, The Christy Chronicles. She can be snarky and she’s heard there’s this author who is writing about her. She doesn’t think I exist.
8. Many of our readers are potential writers, so I’m sure they’ll be interested in your journey to the publication of your first book. Would you share some of that with our readers?
I started with short stories. After winning over 35 prizes, people began to get curious to see my stuff. The solution was to put them in an anthology, “Valley Fever: Where Murder Is Contagious.”
Then I joined Crime and Suspense ezine and entered a contest. We had to write an entry for the Deadly Sin of Avarice. My story won me a spot in the Seven Deadly Sin Anthology, 49 flash fiction stories published by Wolfmont Press. I published FOOLS RUSH IN with Wolfmont, then met my new publisher, Billie Johnson, at the Public Safety Writers Conference and published WHERE ANGELS FEAR with Oak Tree Press. I love having a huge say in the publishing house and I help pick manuscripts and help the other authors with promotion.
You never can tell. I nearly skipped Left Coast Crime, Hawaii, yet I did major sales there. I also made friends with the Canadian authors at the conference and have been invited to speak at Bloody Words 2011 in Victoria, BC. I also sat next to the president of the Sacramento Chapter of Sisters in Crime and just got back from speaking to her chapter and selling out of books. I contacted Killer Nashville the other day and they know who I am and seem excited to meet me (I’m excited to meet them). Boise’s Murder in the Grove paid me to give my Guerrilla Writers Short Story Workshop and Hollywood agent Ken Sherman just contacted me—he remembered me in my camouflage fatigues doing the presentation. But my main support has got to be the Public Safety Writers. We meet every year in Vegas, but I also hook up with members between conventions. They are an incredible group. My kind of folks.
10. Are you currently working on another sequel in the Christy Bristol series? If so, what can you tell us about it?
A SNITCH IN TIME is set in the foothills of Fresno County, very strange and “colorful” people up there. I couldn’t make up stuff like the Turkey Testicle Festival and the Buzzard Tree in the school yard. Christy goes up to visit her friend Lennie and gets stuck because there’s been a murder and she’s hijacked to type up reports. Yeah, the Sheriff could use us anyway they saw fit. She gets so irritated with this disruption in her life that she decides to solve the murders just to get back home. Boy, could she use Dorothy’s red shoes for this one!
11. Can you share a little bit about your family experiences?
I grew up in a military family, spent formative years on Midway Island. After high school I joined the Navy during the latter part of Vietnam and got really cool duty stations like Newport, RI; Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; and Orlando. Like father, like daughter. My older sister became a nun, I write about her in the books. She was clairvoyant, it plagued her all her life. She died at 42 from breast cancer. My sister Cathy is an awesome nurse in San Diego. She is paying my career expenses and loves to go to convention cities with me. She gets to see the city, I get to see the inside of conference rooms and the photos she takes. Bummer!
12. The Dames enjoy pets. Do you have any pets, and if so, what would you like to share about them?
Oh my goodness! I have nine cats, more or less. If they show up at my doorstep, they get fed—fixed if I can catch them. Gotta tell you the names: Gemini, Squirrel, Kitler, Kit Carson, Sylvie, Sneaky Pete, Petey, Oliver and The Artful Dodger. Kitler is currently on the Kitler Cats site, so cute. These are cats with the black mustaches. She’s posed by a bottle of Marilyn Merlot wine and looks drunk. So cute! I’m hoping she doesn’t go all Hollywood on me.
Great questions, had a ball answering them.