1. Tell us about your latest book, Eden Palms Murder,
Here’s the 25-word pitch I give to agents, editors, or readers who ask this question.
People frequently ask me which one of my books is my favorite. That’s an easy question. Eden Palms Murder (A Key West Mystery) is my favorite because my latest book is always my favorite! It was published by Five Star and imprint of Gale, a part of Cengage Learning. The purpose of fiction is not to teach or preach, but to entertain. Writing Eden Palms Murder entertained me for several months and I hope it will entertain the reader for several hours. It’s a fast-paced thriller that will keep you turning the pages. So take the phone off the hook and keep the lights on.
2. Share a little bit about how you came up with the idea for Eden Palms Murder.
Most of the year I live in a small city in the Midwest, but in the winter my writing studio is in my home office in the Florida Keys where I live for months when Iowa turns to ice and snow.
I loved Key West the first moment I saw it. I felt as if I had lived there before in some long-ago past life. I could find my way around without a map whereas in Iowa, I still get lost and sometimes have to go back home and start out again with a map and better directions. So with this new/old background, story ideas concerning boats, midnight drug runners, moonlight swimming, and fascinating people came unbidden. Descriptions came as easy as looking out my window and jotting notes.
Ideas for a book don’t come in one neatly wrapped package. I’ve drawn on many things in creating Eden Palms Murder.
Sunsets, shrimp boats, homeless beach sleepers, homeless shelters, music, dancing, black-market thieves, mansions, tents, and talkative Key West cabbies at the International airport.
3. Can you tell us what you’re working on now or what’s coming up next?
My next mystery also will be set in Key West, but I won’t tell details. Telling before writing makes the writing seem less essential. The tentative title of my next mystery is Killer in Control. I can give you the 25-word pitch.
HAVING SHOT AN UNARMED CRIMINAL, POLICE SGT. KITT MORGAN FACES LOSING HER CAREER TO A GRAND JURY DECISION AND HER LIFE TO A KEY WEST SOCIOPATH.
It’s almost as hard to write those 25 (okay, so 26) words as it is to write the book! It’s a drill I learned from Lori Wilde’s book Got High Concept? I recommend using it to every novelist.
4. Where do you find your inspiration for writing?
I sit down at my computer every morning because I find that morning is the best time for me to write. I plan to stay there for at least three hours. I have a choice. Inspiration or boredom. I never choose boredom. I put something on that blank page. One line. And then another. And another.
5. What is a typical writing day like? Do you have any habits or established routines that work best for you?
First I sit down at the computer with a loose plan for what I hope to accomplish that day. I don’t read my e-mail yet. That’s a real no-no—totally distracting. Reading e-mail is delayed until I finish the day’s writing goal. If possible, I reread a few pages that I completed the day before, and then I go on from there. If I remember to do so, I stop every 30 minutes or so and rest my eyes and think. Thinking. That’s the hard part. I always try to stop writing when I know what’s coming next. That makes it easier to start the next morning.
6. So far the fat lady hasn’t begun to sing. How do you stay motivated?
I have a strong preference for writing as opposed to not writing. And I always have a few ideas churning in my head or on a back burner in my mind. I get those ideas from newspapers, TV, overheard conversations (that one’s really fun). Writing is a strange occupation. You can quit and nobody notices. Or you can start again and nobody notices that either. BUT if you quit and nobody cares and start again and nobody cares, you’re in big trouble. Having a backlog of ideas keeps me motivated.
7. Is there a genre you haven’t tried yet, but would like to?
Not really. I’ve written children’s books, adult romances, nonfiction on social concerns, poetry, short story. Mysteries are my favorite. They are what I like to read—and write. Mysteries are what I liked to read as a child.
8. Can you tell us a bit about how you promote your work? Any tips other writers might try?
For me, promotion is the hardest thing about writing. It’s awfully close to bragging. My parents instilled in me that bragging wasn’t necessary, that if you’d done something wonderful, people would notice. Ha! I differ with that thought.
Five Star has been great about sending out review copies of Eden Palms Murder. And they allow me extra copies to send to reviewers of my choosing. I subscribe to several on-line digests for readers and writers and I always announce any new book I have coming out, when, where, how to get it, etc.
When invited, I speak at schools, colleges, libraries, writer’s conferences, club meetings. So far I haven’t twittered, face booked, or U-tubed. Also, I’ve done little bogging. I sign every e-mail and letter with my name, title of most recent book, and url for my website.
When possible I attend writer’s conferences and conventions. Once when I was at the spring MWA convention, I was surprised to see a line of people waiting to talk to me. Whee! That was my first thought. Then I learned that those people thought I might be Dick Francis’s wife and they wanted to know where Dick was. Letdown!
9. What is your most cherished reader reaction to your work?
I like to hear that the reader enjoyed the read and that they couldn’t guess the end until they reached the last page.
10. Who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
My parents have been the biggest influence in my writing career. They both were college graduates and I heard correct English spoken at home every day. My elementary school teachers influenced me to learn to spell. A college English teacher also was a great influence. After frustrating me with a semester of Cs, she gave me an A on a final paper and wrote: you have just a spark of talent. At that time my goal as a music major was to play trumpet in a girl’s band. I did that. But when I grew tired of the traveling musician life, I remembered that teacher who said I had a spark of talent and I began using it. Slowly. Very slowly at first. And as I began reading analytically, Phyllis Whitney’s books showed me the way.
11. What part of the craft of writing has improved since you wrote your first book?
Mercy goodness—all of them have improved. Maybe the most important thing I learned to do was to put the creation of character before the creation of plot.
They go hand in hand, of course, but at first, I thought plot was what held a story together.
12. Do you have a favorite saying or expression from your neck of the woods?
I won’t trade an ounce of morning for a pound of afternoon.
Eden Palms Murder